Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yankee Stadium: A Red Sox Requiem

I had the good fortune to visit the Yankee Stadium for the final game the Red Sox will play in those hallowed halls. It was a wonderful day thanks to Yankee Mike’s generosity and the good folks at the Yankee Stadium club buffet (I think I am still full), but it didn’t have the ending I would have preferred. Oki left a ball up in the zone to Giambi and he sent it on a 2 run 420ft trip. The game was down hill from there.

But even more interesting than the 3-2 loss (that was ALL THE BULLPEN’S FAULT) was the atmosphere in the park. I know it was a day game and I know it was the 3rd game of a series… but WOW what a difference. This is the first time I have ever visited the stadium when the Yankees were out of the running for the playoffs (oh and before anyone says anything… they ARE out of it. It’s over. Sox won 2 of 3 and made it look easy. Sorry pals) and I have never seen so many Sox fans cheering openly in hostile territory. What a disappointing way to have such a storied rivalry end in one of the places it was made famous. A third place team beats the team that is 6 games ahead of them. Not epic at all.

As a Sox fan, there is really only one thing I can think about the Yankee’s situation:

It’s hilarious.

Call me bitter, but the Yankees not making the playoffs and being unable to give the blue toilet a proper October goodbye is just the funniest thing to me. Kinda like a big “haha who cares what you did 60 years ago… you suck now!!” but like for 3 months. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

But I digress. It was a good day, a great series and a mediocre sendoff for a place I have loved to hate.

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 11, New York Yankees 3

I followed last night's action on my phone while rocking out to Nine Inch Nails in New Jersey. When I saw the aftermath of the Pedroia grand salami, I jumped so high I almost landed on top of the guy next to me in the pit. Less than an hour before we go for all the marbles...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Sign Pro Athletes Should Not Be Allowed to Speak in Public...

...without consulting their PR reps first, anyway: the Gambler thinks that a.) the Yankees imposed instant replay on baseball and b.) that "[Mistakes are the] beauty of the game." Better dial back the crazy there, buddy. But then there's this beauty of a quote:
“For every human individual out there, we’re all playing our best. We make errors. It’s part of the game,” Rogers said. “We don’t get a chance to go back — ‘I want a mulligan.’ — It’s not the way it works. It’s not the way it should work.”
Definition of mulligan: "a free shot sometimes given a golfer in informal play when the previous shot was poorly played." Maybe Rogers doesn't play golf, or keep up with popular slang, or think before he talks, because "check[ing] video on so-called 'boundary calls,' to determine if a fly ball went over the fence or if a potential home-run is fair or foul" (the purpose of the instant replay) doesn't give a player another chance to hit just because he wanted a home run instead of a double.

Ok, I'm done shooting this barrel of fish.

Kotsay Trade Goes Official

I guess the Braves don't care too much about Mark Kotsay: they just traded him (officially) to the Sox for a minor league outfielder who's playing (albeit playing pretty well) in low A for the Spinners. Kotsay, of course, is practically the definition of an average player this year (101 OPS+), but then again, he's having a much better year this year than he did in his final season in Oakland.

Kotsay Goodbye, Sox Say Hello?

Yeah a bad pun on a Beatles song… but I really didn’t have much else and it’s late.

Anyway, the Sox may have landed (or are still in talks depending on who you ask) Mark Kotsay from the Braves for an (as of yet) un-named minor league pitcher.

No bad news here. With Drew now on the DL, Kotsay is a MUCH better option that Joe Thurston as long as his much maligned back holds up. Also, if they ever need to give Bay the day off, Kotsay, Coco and Jacoby could be the fastest outfield ever. Bottom line is that the Sox just got an outfield band-aid that can hit a bit and field a bit. Not bad for a steal after the trading deadline.

Damn… maybe I should have gone with “Kotsay Up in the Moment”.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 3

The pinstripe panic will

Memories of Yankee Stadium

Inspired by what (we hope) will be Boston's final trip to this iteration of Yankee Stadium and this thread on SoSH, a few of the memories that come to mind from my trips to what DC once called "Hitler's Blue Toilet Bowl." Feel free to add your own reminiscences in the comments...
  1. June 9, 2002: My first trip to the Stadium. Alan and I make the drive down from Boston to see Barry Bonds hit dingers off of Roger Clemens, in a matchup that today might be called the Battle of the Ass Injections. No homers to be had, unfortunately; Clemens gives Bonds three intentional walks and a hit by pitch but wins the game. The next day, someone in the Giants organization (manager Dusty Baker, I believe, but I could be wrong) calls Clemens "Roger the Dodger."
  2. June 30, 2004: A friend of mine from college, a Yankee fan who grew up in southeastern Massachusetts, also lives in Brooklyn; I go to a number of games with him over the course of 2004 and 2005, including one where we sneak down to field boxes in left field and I marvel at how close home plate looks from 350-odd feet. On the night in question, I went to the Stadium wearing hat and jersey, figuring I'd be safe (we were sitting in the dry section of the bleachers). The Sox lose badly; on the way out, Yankee fans tell me that my beard and long hair make me look like Johnny Damon.
  3. Some time in 2004 or 2005: Yankee Mike, who has season ticket connections, invites my then girlfriend/now wife (a Yankees fan) and I to a game against the Devil Rays. The Rays did their usual roll over and die act, so it wasn't much of a game, but before the game we ate in the Stadium Club for the best culinary experience I've ever had at a ball game. The roast beef at the buffet made up for all of the times I had to walk around the Stadium instead of walking past the Stadium Club entrance.
  4. April 28, 2005: The first stop on the Alan Bachelor Party Tour, a five day, five game run of New York (Yankee Stadium), Washington, Baltimore, Philly, and New York (Shea). The Angels beat the Yankees; during "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a gentleman behind us changes "If they don't win it's a shame," to "If they don't win it's cuz they suck," a modification I've tried to keep alive to this day.
[With thanks to Joy of Sox for the SoSH link]

Monday, August 25, 2008

Watching History Unawares

I was in the gym this morning, pounding away at one of the elliptical machines, when a TV broadcasting one of YES's classic games caught my eye: Boston versus New York, clearly at Fenway. A date flash across the 22-inch screen; from 15 feet away, I thought I saw June, 1972. The score read 5 to 3 in favor of New York. 'Odd choice for a classic game,' I thought, but settled in to watch as someone (Fisk, as it turns out) hit a single that sent Yaz to second. I knew the Red Sox would end up losing this game - it's YES, after all - but it seemed like a good piece of diversionary history: intellectually interesting, but ultimately unimportant.

Not long after, Fred Lynn knocked in Yaz with a single to left. Hobson flew out to right for the second out and with runners on first and second, George Scott came to the plate. I knew Scott was a big part of the '67 team (something I used to help write off my growing confusion about why I knew the names of so many of the players on a team that supposedly played a good 15 years before I started watching baseball); I'd learned more about him after digging up his card from a box of baseball cards I'd gotten from my grandfather. 'Boomer,' I thought. 'Right-handed power-hitter in the classic slugger mold. Let's see what he can do.'

Not much, as it turns out. Watching Boomer swing was a bit like watching someone built like David Ortiz swing like Dustin Pedroia: monster cuts with a backswing so fierce it spun him out of the batters box, with none of Pedroia's twitch to help him catch up to the ball. Gossage nailed him to the wall in three pitches and the game cut to commercial.

YES skipped the top of the ninth; the Yankees singled, but couldn't put anything together against Andy Hassler. Rubbing a little forshadowing salt in the wound, one of the commercials was for the replay of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS; the TV broadcast the Aaron Boone homerun and I suffered a chest spasm. Five years and two championships later and that game still rubs a little raw.

Dwight Evans started out the bottom of the ninth with a flyout to left; Rick Burleson walked. Jerry Remy came to the plate and all of the sudden, the thought that had been lurking in the back of my mind, the realization that - as those of you who followed the Sox in the 70s have no doubt figured out by now - this game didn't take place in 1972. I was pretty sure Jerry Remy wasn't playing in the majors in 1972 and even if he was, he was out in California, not in Boston. Remy singled, Jim Rice came to the plate with the tying run on second, and YES flashed the game date on the screen again. Straining my eyes, I finally saw what had eluded me for the past 15 minutes through the blindness of distance and - perhaps - a willfull decision not to see. The date on the screen was October 2, 1978.

You know the rest, of course: Rice sac-flied Burleson to third for the second out and Yastrzemski, in what must have seemed like a microcosm of the whole season, popped up to third, ending the game and stranding the Sox in second place. Bucky Dent would go on to become a byword for Red Sox futility by virtue of having homered the winning runs in the seventh; the Sox didn't see the top side of third place until 1986 and have yet to match their 99 win total in the thirty years since. As the Yankees celebrated around home plate, I climbed off the elliptical machine. The historical significance of this supposedly unimportant game had suddenly hit a little too close to home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

We Can Rebuild Him...We Have the Technology

Our new catching acquisition has been battling back problems all year. Somehow, this fact does not inspire confidence.

Part of me wanted to write a Six Million Dollar Man spoof in honor of Buchholz's return to Portland, but since I've never watched the show, I kept the reference to the title. You'll thank me later. Instead, some thoughts on what I've seen 'round the Internets about Clay's downswing:
  • A few days ago - before the fateful final start against Baltimore - I spotted an article (that I now can't find, of course) about Buchholz finding a hole in his mechanics during his side sessions with John Farrell. As a professional fixer of sorts, I like hearing rational reasons like "correctible mechanical problems" and since Buchholz gets a lot of good will for pitching that no-hitter, I want him to succeed. As a result, I develop an almost irrational faith in the potential of the fix: the coaches know the problem, so they'll fix it. Clearly, not so much. These fixes take time.
  • The Herald quoted Kevin Cash and referenced Jason Varitek in two separate articles on Buchholz published today; both catchers spoke about the importance of pitcher confidence. The intimation of both articles is that Clay lacks the confidence in his pitches; Francona even cited an incident against Baltimore where Buchholz shook off a fastball because he felt he wouldn't succeed. As Jonah pointed out over at Soxlosophy, the pitcher is meat: the catcher should be making the calls that determine the course of the game. If the pitcher doesn't have the confidence to throw the pitches his play caller demands, it's time to step back, to the lower-pressure world of the minors if necessary.
  • In the article that brings up Varitek, Tony Massarotti voices our worst fear: that Buchholz is a flame out, a reincarnation of Kevin Morton, whose stellar debut with the Sox in July, 1991 (five hit, one run complete game against the Tigers) marked the high water mark of his 16 game major league career. But I think the comparison is inaccurate. As some of the partisans at SoSH (which incidentally has a good discussion of the whole confidence issue) continue to point out, Buchholz's BABIP continues to be about 60 points higher than average, which makes him one heck of an unlucky pitcher. Morton's BABIP was three points below average, which - if nothing else - means that his numbers were a reflection of his abilities: he really wasn't that good a pitcher.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Josh Beckett Needs Tommy John Surgery

Best of luck to Yaz on his recovery.

You know what I love? Some good fear mongering (that's why I chose that inflammatory, if potentially misleading title). Take a potentially bad situation (Josh Beckett and his tingling fingers), throw in a worrisome lead up (Beckett goes less than three innings in his prior start, then admits to the press that his fingers are numb), a tension-filled situation (race to the playoffs, problems with the ace of the staff with the well-deserved big game hunter reputation, and an unsure position in the AL East and Wild Card races), and a lack of solid communication by the team about Beckett's true condition, mix 'em all together, and guess what: you've got a concerned fan base. What's a good paper to do to address the needs of their audience and maybe stir up some ad-selling controversy at the same time? Why, interview an expert, of course!
Dr. Robert Shalvoy of University Orthopedics in Providence does not know the specifics of Beckett's numbness, but he fully understands the ramifications of the pitcher's symptoms.
Shalvoy, who obviously has not examined the pitcher, said normally these types of symptoms take six weeks to go away.
Shalvoy, who has preformed ulnar collateral ligament surgeries, described Beckett's issue as "prime symptoms" for a pitcher who has needed Tommy John surgery to repair the damage.
So, to review: this doctor says that a patient he hasn't examined may need Tommy John surgery even though he's only had access to the same minimal symptom reports that the rest of us have seen? Really? I realize the guy is an expert with an impressive resume, but a complete diagnosis of a complex ligament problem from a TV interview seems a little hard to swallow. And really: who prints an opinion like Shalvoy's without any sort of counterpoint? Fear mongering, man, I tell ya.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Worried About the Rays? Hell Yes.

I do love those Red Sox South games. Apparently Jason Bay does, too.

Here's a classic case of "Do as I say, not as I do." Unfortunately, it seems like the Shelton Little League team didn't apply that helpful dictum to their celebrity phone call...

Wicked Good Sports' Rich Levine posted an article yesterday wondering whether or not Red Sox Nation is preparing itself to worrying about losing the AL East to the Rays. Beyond the tough phrasing (who gets ready to worry about something? My mother is a chronic worrier and even she doesn't get ready to worry about something: if she finds something that concerns her, she worries about it. End of story.), there's the fundamental question: when do we start worrying about the Rays?

Let me answer Rich's question with a question of mine own: when were we not worrying about the Rays? Robin may have laughed at me at the time, but I called Rays in third before the season started, with the caveat that they could take second with a strong bullpen showing and some weak competition. Well, guess what happened:
  1. Three key members of the bullpen (Wheeler, Howell, and Balfour) have been pitching out of their minds this year. Balfour in particular has been absolutely ridiculous: 6 runs in 39 innings with 57 strikeouts, for a gaudy ERA+ of 309. As a team, their bullpen has held opposing batters to an OPS+ of 87, which in relative terms is like having a team full of Julio Lugos.
  2. The Yankees are flops so desperate they're bringing back Carl Pavano. The Sox are - as charitably puts it - so full of question marks that it's tough to tell how they'll hold up in the post-season, carrying around a .453 road winning percentage like a lodestone around the neck.
Even if you wrote off the predicted numbers, signs of impending apocalypse should have entered the brain after the Rays swept the Sox the first time in St. Petersburg, and full-on concern should have appeared after the second sweep a few months later. The Sox haven't been particularly good road team in 2008 (understatement of the year), but getting blown out by what's clearly a good team in two straight sets should be a sign that the Rays are a threat. So yeah, I'm worried about the Rays. I've been worried about the Rays all year. I'm pretty much assuming they'll win the East, because they took two key injuries without losing stride and I look forward to another run with the Wild Card, even though surrendering the AL East may well mean a first round blowout on the road. Get used to the idea, Rich: in 2008, the Rays are a very real threat.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cannon Fodder: The Sox Versus the AL-Best Arms

Yanks Fan Sox Fan writer Paul SF posted an analysis today of something that's been on all of our minds since Halladay's complete game effort on Saturday: doesn't it seem like there's something about the league's better pitchers that consistently makes Boston's offense look foolish? Check out his article for the full analysis, but it turns out that sinking feeling in your stomach isn't just a symptom of a myopic focus on the outcome of a single game: the Sox really don't hit the best pitchers as well as their competitors. As Paul points out, that's going to be a particularly big problem once/if we hit the playoffs, when we'll be facing the best of each team's rotation in each series...unless the hitting heat these veterans displayed last year comes back with a vengeance. Then we should be ok, no?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Book Review: Eric Seidman - Bridging the Statistical Gap

A few months ago, I received a copy of Eric Seidman's recently-released book, Bridging the Statistical Gap, that the author graciously agreed to send to me. As you can probably guess from the title, Bridging the Statistical Gap is a book about baseball statistics, but with a twist: looking to show "more casual fans that they're already very close to understanding the ultimate goal in sabermetrics but just don't realize it yet," Seidman wrote his opus hoping to lessen the gap of understanding between baseball fans. Think of Bridging the Statistical Gap as a field guide to the motivations of your modern stathead and you'll get the idea behind the inspiration.

For the most part, Seidman succeeds in his quest, primarily because he knows where to start. The book begins with a discussion of batting average - long a battleground between statheads and traditionalists - and why it (or slugging percentage or on-base percentage or isolated power or on-base plus slugging) is not the be-all end-all of statistical measurements of hitters. But as a part of his bridging philosophy, Seidman doesn't throw batting average out entirely; he brings up the slash line instead, incorporating batting average into a larger statistic that gives a slightly clearer picture of a batter's abilities, letting the novice take refuge in the familiar while offering him or her the opportunity to learn about more indicative numbers.

Seidman continues the theme of building on known quantities to reach unfamiliar ground, using the familiar metric of the quality start to introduce his own statistic (the adjusted quality start) and discuss new ways to measure the win/loss records of pitchers. As with the batting average discussion, the chapters on pitchers are full of clear explanations and examples of Seidman's ideas in action. Your head might spin a bit from all of the number tables, but the ideas have the power to stick.

The remainder of the book focuses on practical examples of statistics in action, albeit in the type of estoric situations number geeks love: Michael Jordan's year in minor league baseball; a new look at the old debate on clutch hitting; Cy Young and the greatest pitchers of all time; insight on what makes a great playoff pitcher. The point of all of these chapters is the same, though: anyone can understand (and dispute, if they choose) the methodology. Anyone can read the results and use the numbers in their own arguments about best and worst, taking part in the rituals that fans enjoy. Bridging the Statistical Gap doesn't have all of the answers and it doesn't answer all of the questions, but it does a great job of starting up a dialog that lets anyone participate.

Friday, August 15, 2008

In Honor of the Rainout...

...And the chicken of hot fiery death Indian food I had for dinner waiting for this showdown to wash away: how about some Beatles.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Now Broadcasting Live from My Dreams

Super ESPN chick Erin Andrews and super NESN babe Heidi Watney together at last. In the words of the venerable sage and philosopher Garth Algar: SHWING!

But then again... maybe this is what's causing Varitek's marital woes.

Dice-K for Cy Young?

Sean McAdam on Dice-K's Cy Young chances: "There are guys who have won more games -- there's Mussina, there's Saunders, there's Lee, all of whom I think have to be thought of ahead of Dice-K -- but if he continues to pitch at this clip and ends up with 18 or 19 wins, and only maybe three or four losses, he has to be in the conversation." I'm inclined to disagree: Matsuzaka's certainly been a cornerstone of the 2008 rotation, but Cy Young front runner? It seems like a stretch.

Looking at the current AL leader boards, Dice-K isn't in the top ten for ERA, WHIP, innings pitched, K/9, strikeouts, ratio of strikeouts to walks, or - most telling of all - ERA+. He's third (after Cabrera and Burnett) in walks allowed. He's got the second best winning percentage and is tied for fourth in wins, but he gets 5.32 runs of support a game and for pitchers, wins are a meaningless statistic anyway. If we want to put a Red Sox on the short list, we should really be talking about Lester - ninth in ERA, six in innings pitched, fifth in games started, sixth in ERA+ - but even his numbers pale in comparison to better candidates. Really at this point, there shouldn't be much debate. Unless Cliff Lee (first in ERA, third in WHIP, first in BB/9, six in innings pitched, eighth in strikeouts, first in strikeouts to walks, first in ERA+) hits some sort of (pitching) brick wall in the next few weeks, there's no reason why he shouldn't win the award.

Jonathan Papelbon: "The Incredible Hulk, But a Little Stronger"

I do love me some Papelbon video, because the guy is probably about as crazy (in that fun way that makes for good TV) as Kevin Millar. Note to the Comcast guys: asking him about safe topics like Mannys is all well and good - MDC has mechanics problems, it's a relief to see Manny Being Manny somewhere else - but that's not why I'm watching. I want to see more of the personally directed questions, because that's where Paps gets to shine. For example: asking him about Chad Johnson contemplating a legal switch to Ocho Cinco and whether or not Paps would do the same was brilliant, because now we know that Cinco Ocho is actually a surpressed personality appears only on the mound and at casino tables. We know the strengths of the talent, people. Let's use them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Does the Color of Your Sox Matter?

With Lowell going on the DL, the Red Sox are put in an interesting situation. I’m not talking about roster moves or who is going to pick up the offense… I’m talking about the lack of racial diversity in the lineup. Wednesday night, the Red Sox had a 100% white infield. That’s almost unheard of in the diverse landscape of today’s Major League Baseball.

Think about it. The Sox have Ortiz, Lowell, Coco, Lugo, Cora and Ellsbury as the only non-white (fully white… I think there is some mixing in there) position players on the Red Sox roster. The pitching staff isn’t any better with only Delcarmen, Lopez, Oki and Dice-K fitting the diversity criteria.

Race is a touchy subject and as a New Englander, I approach the issue with some trepidation and a whole ton of liberal guilt. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t make an observation right? I mean look at this team and the moves they have made over the last few years: replacing Pedro with Schilling, Hanley Ramirez for Beckett, Lugo gave way to Jed Lowrie and most recently Manny was traded for Bay. You could make the argument that Theo was trying to create the master race on Yawkey Way!

But only if you were an idiot.

This doesn’t mean ANYTHING really. I just thought it was interesting that a town (Boston) that gets a bad rap about racism suddenly has a team that looks like they could have come over on the Mayflower… ok maybe not… but you know what I mean. Boston has some race issues in its past that it is still trying to get over and maybe having a team that looks like the Anti-Celtics racially isn’t the best idea marketing-wise.

I guess my biggest (and only serious) criticism is that the front office has lately taken some big steps in the Asian markets (getting Dice-K for big bucks) while neglecting black and Latin fan bases. Is this a purposeful act? Absolutely not, but I still think some of the Sox management should tap into an ever growing fan base. And isn't baseball the game that brought all peoples together? Can't we bring that back?

Besides, it’s kinda sad to see Papi have nobody to complete is 7 step hand shakes with after a big homerun.

Patriots 19, Texans 17

I know we said we weren’t doing game blogs…but in a game that had a 10 run lead blown, a 4 run blow save and a rookie knuckle ball pitcher that gave up 8 runs and didn’t get the loss… it is hard to pin down what the most messed up part of the night was.

Papi hit two 3 run homers in the first inning. Read that again and remember that the Sox had to COME BACK and win this game. Now pick up the pieces of your brain. Thank God for Youk (also 2 HR) and his go ahead bomb. These two goliaths combined for 11 of the total RBI and should be feasting on Texas long horn continuously as the week progresses. Too bad the pitching didn’t follow suit.

Zink might have been overwhelmed by the Texas offense, the bright lights of the big leagues or the fact that he was spotted a 10 run lead… but he fell apart quick. That’s only trumped by the awful outing by Aardsma and Delcarman. These two looked like late scratches from the Western Mozambique Olympic softball team rather than major league pitchers. Not what you want to see when October rolls around.

But if you really want to highlight who I felt bad for, it was a tie between:

Kevin Cash who was the only starter without a hit.
Feldman who’s ERA absorbed the 10 run barrage.
Any poor sucker dumb enough to bet the under.

What a wild one. Let’s hope next time the Sox don’t play down to the level of the team they are trouncing. It’s just embarrassing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Paul Byrd and the Survival of the Fittest

Does Bobby Kielty know something we don't? Last August, he signs a deal with the Sox and ends up a hero in the World Series. This year, after obtaining his release from the Paw Sox in July, he resurfaces a month later by signing a deal with the AL Central-leading Twins.

Word just came out that the Indians dumped Paul Byrd on the Sox for cash or a player to be named. Byrd's 37 and having a subpar year, but as ESPN points out, he's won his last four appearances - with an average Game Score of 62.5 (which is excellent) no less - and he's got a solid 4.06 ERA in Fenway over 31 innings. In other words, I like where this idea: cheap acquisition who might do some good in the back of the rotation.

Next question: Does the Byrd acquisition mean Buchholz is finished in the majors for the season, or that the Sox think Wakefield has more shoulder damage than they've let on? I don't think so; I think this trade is part of a larger strategy. With Wakefield's injury and Clay's spate of ineffectiveness, Boston has two open rotation slots in the middle of a playoff run. Wakefield is out for two starts, but Buchholz has the opportunity to redeem himself, Byrd has the opportunity to establish himself, Colon has the chance to return to form, and one of the many minor league callups (be it Zink, Pauley, Bowden, or Hansack) has the chance to step up and make a mark in a fluid situation. It's more of a survival of the fittest type of pitching arrangement that gives Boston some options in a time of weakness, the opportunity for retreads to put up solid numbers for a future a contract hunt, and for the Sox to show off younger talents to up their trade value rather than a definitive changing of the pitching guard.

Best Sox Brawlers: Revised

Wicked Good Sports has a list of their top 5 Red Sox brawlers from the past two decades. Everything looks good - Greenwell seems rough enough around the edges; we've spoken many times about how Tavarez was crazy (and even saw him go into full action mode once for no apparent reason); Trot Nixon's "dirt dog" moniker stems as much from his willingness to charge into any fight (particularly against the Rays) as it did from his body-destroying style of outfield defense; but the list falls flat at Rich Garces. Really? El Guapo was the best you guys could come up with out of twenty years of players? I can tell you who jumps to mind as a much better alternative with less than sixty seconds of thought: Tom Brunansky.

In case you're not vigorously nodding your head, here are some points in Bruno's favor:
  • The 'Stache. When you're looking for a group of guys to back you up in a fight, you can never go wrong with someone who's got a well-developed lip covering. I'm working on a theory that a good mustache is worth at least six months of training as a boxer.
  • Slugging Power. Brunansky won't ever stand out as a phenomenal hitter, but he was certainly someone poured out of the classic slugger mold. Sluggers are big guys, big guys are good to have in a brawl.
  • The Nickname. Who would you rather have guarding your back? A guy whose nickname means "The Beautiful One," or a guy whose nickname makes him sound like a mob enforcer?
Runner up/sixth man for the team: Gabe Kapler. Ask the Pride of Worcester about the Hebrew Hammer's fighting skills.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The True Psychology of the Wild Buchholz

If this report is true and Manny really wants to go to the Yankees, he knows what will happen any time he comes to Fenway. If he's happy with shooting his Boston legacy in the foot, more power to him.

I was just wondering recently what happened to Devern Hansack; now it looks like he might be taking Wakefield's rotation spot for his next two appearances. An ERA over four in the minors ain't no great shakes, but the WHIP and K/BB ratios both look pretty good. We can certainly use the rotation help right now...

Speaking of which: let's talk (some more) about Clay Buchholz. We know he's unlucky; that statistic hasn't changed since last week. What's caught my eye this week was the Globe's article/interview with the troubled pitcher, which focuses on Buchholz's bad habit of relying on his offspeed pitches to get him out of trouble. Hitters around the league know this habit; they watch and wait for the offspeed stuff like music fans counting the days until Scott Weiland's latest tumble off the wagon, and they let it go flying by. Very quickly, Clay gets into bad counts, everyone starts thinking fastball and next thing we know, he's blowing through three run leads. Clearly the situation requires a new strategy, but unlike Robin I don't think Clay's goose is cooked just yet: no one denies that his stuff works really, really well when it's in the right sequence...and we all know he knows how to sequence properly. The trick is to adjust the sequence, to get, as Buchholz put it himself, "ahead in the count a bit more often where they don't have a choice to swing at off-speed stuff." It'd be great if he could do so this year, but like Lester in 2007, I think the adjustments will take a few months to really take effect.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Feat of Clay

Question: Who is 0-5 since is his recall from AAA ball?

Answer: The same guy who got the Red Sox a no-hitter last year.

I answered that question… but the rest here are up to people who know better… cause I got NOTHING.

Clay Buchholz is a disaster right now and it makes you wonder… is this guy only getting the starts because of some past glory?

Now I am not any sort of sentimentalist, but I can see why you would think that a guy who could go 9 solid without letting up a base knock would be good in the following season… but what about flukes? Could that have been the aberration and this the norm? Clay has a devastating change, a good solid fast ball and curve but he can’t seem to locate any of them. He doesn’t look like he trusts his stuff enough to just throw it across the plate.

And then there is the “I’m frustrated cause I just walked the last 2 guys” pitches he throws. Those tend to go 400+ feet and end with poor Clay looking like his dog just died. Is this going to be common slope with him?

Maybe it’s the lack of options then. Maybe there isn’t anyone better to throw up there every 5 days. Now with Wake going on the DL and missing at least 2 starts (boy does that suck) the premium on starting pitching is even higher.

Then again why did we go with Buchholz over Masterson? Wasn’t Masterson doing a lot better before he was thrown into the bullpen? Don’t get me wrong, I think Masterson is doing great in the pen, but would he be more valuable pitching his 6-7 innings in one game rather than stretched over a week?

So if anyone has any answers to these pressing questions I’m all ears, because as it stands right now, the youth at the back of the rotation looks more like crap then Clay. Ugh.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Can Someone Explain This Brian Giles Mess to Me?

This whole Brian Giles thing was fun, wasn't it? Even if it did seem to come out of left field. Yesterday, we had the report that the Sox had claimed Brian Giles from the waiver wire, causing all kinds of speculation: why would Boston want a solid-hitting outfielder when they have a full lineup and a full bench? Were there plans in the works to replace Coco? Is there really something going on with Papi's clicking wrist? The Providence Journal hit a conspiracy nail on the head yesterday and today when they speculated that the move might be a block to keep Giles from ending up in Tampa Bay or LA, citing Giles' partial no-trade clause to Boston as a block; presumably the clause would be a sticking point that would keep the Sox from having to worry about doing a deal they didn't like.

ESPN now reports that Giles is likely to veto the trade, which I guess means the strategy worked: as long as the status quo doesn't change, Giles will remain with the Padres, no matter how many times they dangle him on the waiver wire. But I'll admit that the first thing I thought of was some sort of complicated flipping where the Sox acquire Giles just to shoot him off to somewhere else (Kansas City, maybe? For Mahay?) to get some more relief pitching. Not sure if it'd even work - I suspect there's something about waiver rules that would complicate things - but it's a slow day between games...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Manny Breakup Reaches 8th Day, Insanity Dominates

An off day and a columnist's mind turns to thoughts of a left fielder in Los Angeles. Shaughnessy isn't the only one, either: a week later and the sports media that covers the Red Sox is still talking about Manny. Not about the validity of the trade, mind you - except to talk up how well Jason Bay's been hitting or find some definitive statistical proof that Big Papi's lineup protection is a myth - but how well Ramirez has been hitting, how happy he seems, how everyone loves his antics, how the Dodgers will start selling hats with fake Manny dreds attached. Look, we get it: it hurts he left, it hurts that (it seems, at least) that he played his team for personal gain, and it hurts he doesn't suck now that he's playing somewhere else, that karma or poetic justice doesn't seem to apply. The use of "breakup" in the title of this post wasn't just a dig at the frenzy that continues to buzz a week later: Manny's departure has all of the hallmarks of a really nasty end to a relationship, right down to the malicious gossip (Manny's quote about the team - and, by extension, RSN - not deserving him, Schilling's response) and the pain seeing your ex at the club the next weekend, flirting with a group of charmed guys and getting free drinks from the bartender.

But as anyone who's been through a bad breakup knows, the only cure to the bad breakup hangover is to cut the other person out of your life and move on. That's why I don't get it: why Schilling's getting riled that SOSH isn't interested in painting Manny as a bad guy, why Shaughnessy continues writing columns of invective, blaming a guy he never really liked for going somewhere else. The story's over, guys. Time to move on.

In Search of Some Metal Relief

Some cross-pollination of interests: I really love metal. Robin also loves metal. The Red Sox need relief pitching. Pat Neshek is a relief pitcher; a pretty good one, too. Pat Neshek loves metal (and real metal, too; his choices for entrance music include selections by Lamb of God and Chimaira). Sounds like a match made in heaven...

If only he wasn't on the DL for the rest of the year...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Here's To Pie In Your Eye, Jason Bay

Not entirely sure why the clip on this page starts with the Papi pie to the face and concludes with three minutes of Jason Bay wiping off his face instead a bit of a lead up to the pie attack, but that's not what's important: on a scale of one to ten, where one is Manny pushing Youkilis (more sweep under the rug and not fun at all) and ten are the Manny / Papi / Cabrera complicated handshakes of awesomeness from 2004 (or maybe Kevin Millar doing Manny's press conferences), random pies to the face has to be at least a seven. Maybe an eight. It's also the funniest thing this team's done all year, a throwback to the lovable idiots of yesteryear who made that August hot streak a thing of beauty and glory that will live forever in our minds, growing in fondness with time. So yeah: more pies to the face. More random pranks. More Big Papi. Let's make this team of professionals fun on a human level.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jon Lester Is Pretty Damn Awesome

This post on Joe Posnanski's blog caught my eye because I attempted (unsuccessfully) to acquire Ziegler for my fantasy team yesterday. Named after A's reliever Brad Ziegler, it's a good illustration of a new statistic in development.

Clay Buchholz may not be living up to his promise at the moment, but he seems to be the victim of extremely poor luck: his BABIP for 2008 is an astronomical .364, over 100 points higher than his 2007 total (which was far lower than the .300 that defines "average"). Statistics say there's a better pitcher in there somewhere; maybe he'll show up before Colon comes back and makes the point moot.

Jon Lester, on the other hand, seems to be a golden god - or so says Peter Bendix over at Beyond the Box Score. Bendix points out that Lester's problematic stats (ERA, K/9, and the oh-so-worrisome BB/9) have all improved - not only since 2007, but in the twelve starts since his no-hitter, which seems to be a statistical turning point. Bendix suggests Lester might be the best pitcher in the AL, which seems a little extreme until - to tie the two ends of this post together - we note anecdotally that Lester does seem to have become the Type B pitcher ("An extreme ground ball pitcher who keeps walks down") Posnanski talks about in his Ziegler post and, more importantly, that Lester's Ziegler number for his last thirteen starts (starting with the shutout) is 122.4, higher than list-leader Brandon Webb's 112.6. Seems like Bendix has a good point...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Jed Lowrie is a Lugo Upgrade, Please Keep Him

Bit of a slow news day, I guess, because the Herald decided to remind us of the existence of Jed Lowrie, "plugging" - as they put it - the hole at shortstop left by Julio Lugo and his DL stint. I think the Herald's being a little generous: saying that Lugo's departure left a hole in the lineup and on the field implies that we're actually missing the only player in Keep Your Sox On history who's managed to get his own hate tag. So much for Lugo, but besides being a breath of fresh air, how good has Lowrie been in comparison?

Surprise, surprise: that breeze you're feeling isn't imaginary. Lugo's hitting 19 percent worse than the average player in 2008; Lowrie, 2 percent better than average. Limiting the data to the 13 games he's started since Lugo's blessed departure (the length of time, I feel, that he's really been able to start proving himself), Lowrie's BA/SLG/OBP looks even more attractive: .317/.400/.415, far above what Lugo's put up for the year. Terry Francona calls Lowrie "Bill Mueller-esque," a comparison that - beyond its connotations for a possible Green Lantern-like passing of the Pro moniker to Lowrie at some point in the future - speaks well for Lowrie's success as a hitter, particularly taking Mueller's better years into account. There's also Lowrie's error-free defense, with its (much) higher fielding percentage topped on the same range factor. Overall, it's a compelling package for an upgrade, further floated by Lowrie's age: he's 24. Lugo's 32. Lugo's best days are behind him; Lowrie's got reams of potential. Maybe Lugo will be part of a late-season deal when he comes off the DL? Is that too much to hope?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mark Bellhorn Lives!

Quick observation of joy: I'm in Providence, on a weekend jaunt enjoying what turns out to be one of the coolest cities in New England. More specifically, I'm at the Trinity Brewhouse, enjoying a local amber lager with a sandwich, when what should I see in front of me but a local sporting the jersey number of one Mark Bellhorn, one time member of the 2004 Red Sox and founding member of the Robin is Psychic Social Club. After congratulating the gentleman in question for his good taste, I returned to my meal, secure in the knowledge that there will always be a place in Red Sox Nation for second basemen with average defensive abilities, long hair, a twelve o'clock shadow, and a batting eye that's too sharp for the umpires of this flawed, flawed world. Hail Ding Honk!

Manny Questions are Answered in this Q and bAy (and other bad word plays)

To break this whole Manny trade and Bay pickup deal-e-o I’ve decided to go internal. I will interview… myself… in this in-depth Q and A. Please sit back and enjoy.

Q: Did this Manny deal REALLY need to get done?

A: Oh hell yes. These last few weeks were the final straw in Boston’s love affair with Man-Ram. He can hit the stuffing out of a baseball, but he can burn bridges just as effectively. Besides feuding with teammates (Youk), knocking down team officials and his imaginary injuries… Manny has SAID a ton of stupid things this year too. You can’t have those distractions on a winning team.

Q: Was it a great deal?

A: Oh hell no. You can’t get equal value for a Hall-of-Fame hitter. It doesn’t exist. Plus, throw in the fact that to get a team to take a needy disgruntled player you needed to give up 2 other major league ready players AND pay the rest of his salary… it looks like the Sox got 100% fleeced.

Q: Did they?

A: Not really. Getting rid of Hansen is adding by subtracting. His 5+ ERA and uncanny ability to make blowouts close games will not be missed. Brandon Moss is kind of a sore spot because he would work well in a few places and was a solid 5th outfielder… but it’s still a backup. And as I stated before… you needed to get Manny out of town. So getting Jason Bay is some really good return on a desperate deal.

Q: What Soundgarden song where you thinking of when the trade was announced?

A: Limo Wreck.

“Building the towers, belongs to the sky
When the whole thing comes crashing down
Don't ask me why”

Q: What feelings were going through your mind when the Manny trade unfolded?

A: Well if the song in any indication, I was ready to write off the season and the team for the foreseeable future. I felt everyone was giving up for no reason. Why not join them?

Q: What was the most shocking moment for you in this whole ordeal?

A: Hearing about the secret meeting between Theo and Sox veterans where everyone agreed that Manny needed to go. Wow. This blew me away. ALL the vets invited wanted him gone? That’s almost unbelievable that nobody was coming to his aid. There must have been so many behind the scene things with Manny that nobody knew about or maybe the idiot savant routine gets old if you are around it all day.

Q: Who got too much blame in this ordeal?

A: I think Theo got a bit too much crap from the fans and media. What the hell was he supposed to do with a player who didn’t want to play? Manny put the Sox in an un-winnable situation that wasn’t going to go away like the last few debacles. This was the end of his contract and the Sox almost got stuck getting nothing for him. Good on Theo for pulling the trigger and getting at least a bat back.

Q: Who deserves more ire than they received?

A: Scott Boras got off with a slap on the wrist in my mind. He barely got a dirty look and he should have gotten at lease 4 or 5 evil stares. This guy takes over Manny at the beginning of the season and Manny being Manny becomes Manny being Madonna for a half season. You don’t think Boras wasn’t saying “Manny you are the best, but they don’t respect you. Are you gonna take that?” on a daily basis? Boras doesn’t get paid if Manny can’t land a fat contract with free agency… so why make him happy in one place? Screw that meddling bloodsucker.

Q: Funniest joke from the Manny trade?

A: Well there are a few:

Manny traded to Moon. Blocked deal when he found out that it wasn’t made of cheese.

Manny to Seattle. Blocked deal when he found out that Sonics season tickets are nonexistent.

Manny to Green Bay for Brett Favre. Yeah, but where are we gonna play him?

Manny to Mars. Blocks trade when he finds out women are from Venus.

Manny to Dodgers so he can play with Nomar and Derek Lowe. Oh wait… no joke… and they are managed by Joe Torre. See? Real life is way better.

Q: So after you talked yourself into the deal, what Soundgarden song popped into your head?

A: Fresh Tendrils:

“Long time coming
It seemed to take me through

Long time coming
Many served the few”

Q: So after his first game, what do you think of Jason Bay?

A: Wow… umm I hate these rush decisions. I mean come on! One game? What a small sample size. Sure he scored both Sox runs, but what does that mean?

Q: No really. Are you now a Bay fan?

A: Hmmm tough to say. I love him… but am I in love with him? I know it’s too soon and he is just a rebound star. But wow… that Canadian grin, sharp ringing triple and sexy OBP? Please Jason, lets get some Molson and just go crazy on each other. Just you me and a bag of bats… call me?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Red Sox Nation Missing Manny

Somehow, I don't think Jason Bay will ever make a commercial like this one:

Ok, enough dwelling in the past. Time to welcome our new number five hitter with open arms and retire the Manny Ramirez tag until he signs with the Yankees this fall. Eek.

Manny and Jason Bay: The Morning After

Robin was so overwhelmed by grief that he had no choice but to drown his sorrows last night in copious amounts of alcohol; he'll be back in action tonight. Instead, now that I've had a few hours to process, I'll give my thoughts. I'll start with a story:

Four years ago yesterday, I went to a party at the house of a friend from college in Swampscott, Massachusetts. Not seconds after I got out of the car, DC ran up and gave me the news: the Red Sox had traded Nomar in a three-way blockbuster deal that replaced our beloved OCD-laden shortstop with some guy from Montreal we'd never heard of. My jaw dropped and in shock, words traveled from brain to lips without filter: "How the **** can they trade Nomar?"

Thanks to advances in Internet technology, the end of trade season's falling on a workday, and an assemblage of friends with itchy text message fingers, Manny's impending demise in a Boston uni was easier to track, but I felt - I still feel - how I felt that weekend day in 2004: "How the **** can they trade Manny?" The answer's rhetorical, of course: hitting stud or no, it's clear Manny was unhappy in his current work environment. The press was against him, he'd bashed management far too many times to really hold their support, and from what we can tell from the papers, his teammates were tired of him, too (Interesting side note on the teammates thing: a friend I talked to this morning speculated that Papi's long absence might have removed some of the shielding that keeps Manny from being too much Manny). The end result was the logical solution and finding a replacement of any kind is an added bonus. Heck, we should be glad he's in the NL, on a team that's had a lot of trouble making it past the first round of the playoffs.

Will this trade kill our hopes for a 2008 repeat? Part of me hopes that this desperation move will be some more history repeating, spawning yet another magical August run up to October that will again make Theo look like a genius and Manny another addition to a string of players (Nomar, Pedro, Damon) who the Sox dumped at just the right time. However, there's another part of me that knows that Nomar was having a poor year in 2004 (WARP, to pick a good overall statistic, was far below his 2002 and 2003 totals), while Manny is hitting better in 2008 than he did last year. We won't really know until November, but yesterday's desperation move may be the dumbest thing the Sox have done in a long time.

So happy trails, Manny. We'll always have 2004 and 2007, the power combo with Big Papi, the high five on the Millar catch in May, the game winning single in 2006, the walk-off homer from the second game of the 2007 ALDS...on and on and on. Eight years of memories, some fun, some wacky, some glorious, some all three...we'll look back on them and forget the bad times like they never happened. Good luck in LA.