Thursday, April 30, 2009

Color Me Unsurprised: Dave Roberts Joins NESN

NESN announced that they just hired Dave Roberts as a studio analyst. I read the news and I thought, "well, of course. I bet that job was waiting for him the day he announced his retirement." Then I started thinking about it a bit more and while I don't begrudge the man his job, I did start to think about how odd this announcement would look out of context. Think about what your reaction would have been - if you had one at all - if NESN put out an announcement that they had hired a former baseball player who had played 45 games in a Red Sox uniform five years ago and amassed a stat line of .256/.330/.442 over the half season he was here. Put a name to the numbers and it all makes sense, but only - only - because of one Earth-shattering decision the guy made during one game a half-decade ago.

Like I said: I neither begrudge Roberts his success that would doubtless be his in any venture he would undertake in the greater New England area nor that one decision so important it earned the moniker The Steal in well-placed capital letters. Instead, I marvel at the amazing repurcussions that one action can have. It's like fairy-tale level fortune. But then again, it feels more and more like that entire post-season was full of that kind of magic, right?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Julio Lugo Watch: Day 1

I guess our luck had to run out eventually, although I won't lie: I was moments away from tweeting a paen to our bullpen when Lopez had his misstep.

More important than the outcome of one game, however disappointing, we've got Lugo's return! Yay! To celebrate the occasion, I think we should do a tally of how our purported starting shortstop did on his first day back.

Remember the old, bitter joke about Julio Lugo: how he isn't on the team for his glove, and he isn't there for his bat, so why is he there? Well, the glove part still seems to hold true: Lugo had an error in the third on a bobble and a miscommunication with Ellsbury in the fifth that led to a double. Getting back into the swing of things on a cold night after missing most of Spring Training might be the sole reason for the problems, but I think Lugo's lost the right to claim the benefit of the doubt.

Lugo did drive in a run and score another with his bat, but his error in the third cost the Sox two runs (one run scored on the play, another scored when a home run knocked in De Rosa a few batters later), so the score is even...and the errors cost Penny and the bullpen some pitches. I'd say a down night overall.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Hey, Kason Gabbard's back! For cash! The pitcher, who left for Texas a bit less than two years ago as a part of the trade that brought Eric Gagne to fame and fortune in Boston, is making his triumphant return to Pawtucket after flaming out at the major league level in spectacular fashion in 2008. Yesterday's Okajima miscues aside, the bullpen has become the rock upon which the Sox have built their current win streak, so Gabo likely won't find a home back up in the majors any time soon, but I like this move for two reasons:
  1. Once again, we've gone from an embarrassment of pitchers to an injury and some questions. Having a backup with some proven ability can't hurt, particularly at a low price.
  2. Anything that goes towards erasing the Eric Gagne tenure in Boston is fine with me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Beard Wins All

A quick survey of Twitter's redsox tag a few minutes after the game ended reveals the power of a rallying cry: a good half of the hundreds of Tweets (including my own submission) had some variation of "Yoooooouk!"

I was thinking earlier today about how while baseball has a rep as a slow, boring game that can't compete with timed sports for consistently-sized doses of action, it does have one major action-oriented advantage: until the last out is recorded, it's impossible to predict who will win. There are qualifications, of course: baseball blowouts occasionally swing the other way, a football team may have an untimely fumble or a coach who can't manage the clock, but you're still far more likely to see a team dribble or kneel out the game's allotted time than you will see a closer get three tension-free outs.

Really, when you come right down to it, I think baseball has the advantage in excitement for tight wins: watching the clock tick down in the hands of experienced managers bleeds the tension out slowly. Victory comes with less risk and thus less of a endorphin-flooding reward. In baseball, however, every pitch is a risk, every out a hard-fought battle for survival that may mean nothing or everything in the next few minutes. The anticipation hangs on endlessly, because there's truly no way of knowing how things will end. Will the next batter bring the break the game needs to finish, or will he go down in defeat with the others? You watch and hope and wait, and sometimes, like Kevin Youkilis did tonight, the batter comes through and we get to go home happy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jed Lowrie and the Case of the Missing Arm Bone

The news about Beckett is excellent, even if the pitcher himself isn't pleased about it; the news about Lowrie has the potential to suck a high hard one, particularly if it means taking a bone out of his wrist.

Hold on a second: they want to take a bone out of his wrist? How much damage did Lowrie do to himself last year, anyway? Seriously? I'm glad the guy's got brass balls that would make Bronson Arroyo jealous by playing through kind of pain for this long, but let's all take a lesson here: if you're hurt, take care of it. Dragging ass for almost a season and then risking the removal of a bone from your arm because your wrist is ahurtin' isn't worth the loyalty you've proven.

If the worst is true and Lowrie and his dumb choices have taken him out for the better part of two seasons, I have a choice to make: since Green is still hitting above his (admittedly mediocre) career totals and Julio Lugo is the starter in waiting, do I give Lugo another chance, or become a Green man and help the mastermind fulfill his criminal dream? It's been almost a year since we started calling for Lugo's head and he's got a long way to go before he proves himself worthy...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Monument to a Win

The stuff of legends: in a Ruthian piece of self-confident prediction tinged with the sort of rewarding self-sacrifice that has etched a place for Wakefield in the annals of Red Sox lore, Timmy goes to Francona yesterday before the game and tells his manager not to take him out, no matter what. Afterwards, he goes out and pitches a complete game on 69 111 pitches, erasing a personal ten-year win gap in Oakland, saving the bullpen from further work on a game before an off day, and doing his part to get a win.

Others could probably draw contrasts between Wakefield's actions and the stereotype of the selfish athlete that supposedly infects our times, but I'm more jazzed about how a win like this one - at the end of a tough road trip, after a dizzying losing streak, as the spectre of a damaged season started to raise its head - is a pure and simple demonstration of the triumph of the group-supported individual in a team sport. The team did well, making spectacular defensive plays and blowing open the score with blows significant to both the game's score and the collective offensive slump of the past couple of weeks, but Wakefield took that support and did even better, performing his job to the levels of near-perfection. It was a good day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time to Hit the Offensive Panic Button?

So, here's my first post, and it's not gonna be pretty, Red Sox junkies.

My Week 1 assessment: The offense--despite Youk's hot bat--is brutal.
Is it too early to panic? Probably, but let's talk next week.

Eric is the usual stat junkie, but let's just roll over some of the difficult, beard-scratching facts that we must face after 8 games (nearly 5% of the season):
  • Red Sox are ranked 24 out of 30 in Batting Average at .237
  • With an On Base Percentage of .318, Slugging of .388
  • Red Sox are ranked 27 out of 30 in Runs Batted In (27)
  • Red Sox are ranked 1 out of 30 in Ground Outs (97) and Assisted Outs (97)
  • Red Sox are scoring an average of 3.63 runs per game
Right now, we're 4 games back with 2 meager wins. Ouch. We should be playing in Petco wearing camo uniforms with this kind of lackluster performance. Ironically, the Padres are ranked slightly better than the Sox right now in offense. Put that rotten scrod in your fish taco, AL East lovers.

Can you blame it on the scheduling (home for 3 games, then road games across with timezone shifting in Anaheim and Oakland)? The WBC? Is Mike Lowell's hip a liability? Will Drew return to first-half 2008 form? Can Ellsbury be a real lead off guy? Is it just me, or does Ortiz's timing look way off?

I was at Fenway for the home opener last Tuesday and Beckett was in post-season form (I'm talking the 2007 post season domination, not the shaky 2008 oblique strain challenge). It was awesome, and I expect (pray for) more of that this year.

Pedroia hit a nice bomb over the Monster. Tek (Tek!) had a dinger batting left-handed and it went past Pesky's pole. Things were April gray, the tight wooden seats in right field were damp with New England moisture and exicted anticipation. And the Sox played like the kind of playoff contending team the experts were predicting. Solid pitching, timely hitting.

Since then, I've watched way too many guys left on base. The timely hitting seems to be circling Fenway stalls looking for Remdawgs (no longer called that by the way, now called Monster Dawgs-- here's why).

While I'd like to be able to stay calm and give myself the "it's a marathon, not a sprint" pep talk, 4 games back in this division is none too comforting right now. It makes it harder though seeing how real the Rays are again, and the potential for that team in the Bronx to pitch its way in to the playoffs. Meanwhile, Adam Lind in Toronto along with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis in B-More have started to really light things up. Can those teams contend? I don't think they have the pitching, but still, this first week makes you reevaluate all of your assumptions.

I have to stop the madness, take a breath and remember that every offense goes through slumps. I just didn't expect it to be so freaking soon.

Let's go Wake!

Is the WBC Tainted?

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I started thinking about how the sixth year of a decade has been a pretty tough one for Red Sox teams for the past 90 years: two World Series losses that formed part of the legend of futility, mixed with some cellar dwelling and a post-AL Championship hangover. 1996 featured the terrible start. 2006, as we remember all too well, was the year that a team with a hot start and post-season potential suffered injuries and massacres to limp into third place in a finish that was painful to behold.

2006 was also the year of the first World Baseball Classic. I enjoyed the games at the time, but when Varitek, Timlin, and other players started pulling up lame in the middle of the season, I could see why some could cast blame on Bud Selig and his crazy ideas. Three years later, we've another WBC. This time, one of our starting pitchers played a starring role, helping to capture another title for his home country while pitching a buttload of innings - almost five innings per start - a time when most pitchers are still stretching themselves out. Now he's fighting arm fatigue and a stint on the disabled list. I'm not saying the WBC is completely to blame, but it's certainly a very easy scapegoat and Dice-K on the DL will be another nail in the coffin in the minds of many fans.

Thoughts on the Beckett Suspension

I missed the pitch that started this whole argument, so I'm getting everything second hand - and strangely enough, the official source of all things baseball isn't making the video easy to find - but the more I read about the circumstances of Beckett's suspension, the more I have to wonder: what the flying crap is the league office thinking? Beckett's word against Scioscia isn't much in the way of evidence - although I find it telling that it's Scioscia and not Abreu who's making the big fuss about Beckett being a headhunter - but when the league comes back and gives a ruling that seems to overrule the umpires, that's saying something. I could understand ruling a reverse for a matter of dispute involving scoring, but on a slipped pitch seemingly thrown in accordance with training because a late-placed time out call...does someone in the discipline office have it in for Beckett?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nick Green, Supervillain

Ladies and gentlemen, I have uncovered a conspiracy of such vast and frightening dimensions as to render the curse of steroids upon our favorite sport a mere footnote in the annals of history. My life may be in danger for daring to shed the light of truth upon this foul den of malfeasance, but I feel it is my duty as a fan to reveal to you know what I know: Nick Green is not the mild-mannered utility player he seems. In fact, the 30-year-old journeyman has been gunning for the starting shortstop position all along!

You see, while you and I were speculating on the outcome of the Julio Lugo/Jed Lowrie competition for shortstop, Green was quietly insinuating himself behind the scenes, preparing to strike. First, he took out Lugo with a kneecaping cleverly disguised as a torn miniscus, placing himself in the backup position to young Lowrie, who emerged from the fray as Boston's seeming best hope for the right side up the middle. After a decent interval to alay suspicions, he struck again, disabling Lowrie's weak left wrist, sending him to the DL, and securing the top spot for himself. Cleverly done to be sure, but not cleverly enough! for I've figured out the pattern, Mr. Green, and uncovered your dastardly deeds for all to see!

Seriously though: I'm glad to see Lowrie's complete and utter post-Spring Training collapse has a root cause. Next time Lowrie goes into a slump, how about we check on his wrists a bit sooner, mkay?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Welcome to Paradise

I find myself suddenly enjoying the anticipation of seeing Nomar twirling his bat and patting his wrists after every swing, even if he's on the other side of the diamond. I also find myself liking the new road uniforms, blue text and hanging socks and all.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

On the Plus Side...

...Kevin Youkilis is absolutely destroying the ball right now: .625/.647/.750 in his first 16 at-bats. I'm going to enjoy this streak while it lasts, even though I wish the rest of the team was hitting even half as well.

Pitching Pennies

I'm not sure if I should be happy that they're scheduling West Coast road trips so early in the season so we can get them out of the way, or pissed that they're scheduling West Coast road trips so early in the season and thereby pretty much deny me the opportunity to watch a full game. Today I'm favoring the later: it's pouring rain here in New York and the idea of watching people play on a sun-drenched California field seems particularly enticing. You know what would help, though? If pitching Brad Penny in the role of stopper didn't feel like such a panic move.

I know the Sox brought him on as part of the experiment that if successful could spawn an arms limitation treaty, but I feel like - because he's such an unknown factor with his return from injury - that he's supposed to be a secret weapon the Sox unleash when they're ready to bury an opponent for a sweep. Instead he's trying to be the first Boston pitcher in a handful of games not to give up a mess of runs in a single start.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Good to Get the First Blowout Out of the Way Early

Hooray for the mutability of the early season, when a team like Baltimore - lowly, lowly Baltimore - can find itself in first place after trouncing the Yankees for a brace of wins. Good for Baltimore for proving they're not the AAAA team we all expected, but it makes me think of visiting Camden Yards in 2005 while the Orioles were on one of their rare first place runs and getting heckled by fans who should have known the hammer was about to fall.

Speaking of hammers falling, it's good to know that Scott Kazmir still seems unhittable. It's deceptive in a way, because while Kazmir really isn't that good against Boston, seeing him shut down the offense is an expected return to status quo that one wouldn't expect from his 3.02 ERA in Fenway or 3.62 ERA against the club. No worries about the loss, though: it sets up a nice rubber match for this afternoon and we can see Matsuzaka translate some of that WBC mojo into a Rays shutdown.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

And You Say They're AL Champions?

One down, 161 to go. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Why don't you Rayhawk this!

I could gloat some more - and believe me, no matter how much I could end up looking the fool tomorrow, I'm enjoying the time in the sun right now - but I'll let the facts speak for themselves:
  • Their team could only scrounge together three hits (one apiece for their top three hitters) and seven total base runners against three different Boston pitchers.
  • Every member of our line up except Cherub Rock got a hit today and we left as many men on base as they had base runners.
  • Their starter - who, in one of those terrible crossovers between real life and fantasy rooting, was one of my starters - barely lasted five and a third innings and was really only in control for two. He also fueled the Jason Varitek power surge that might just make us all look like fools real soon.
  • Our starter had one inning where things weren't clicking and was otherwise the generally nasty Beckett we know and love. Very early, I know, but if Beckett, Lester, and Matsuzaka create a good competitive rivalry, 10 strikeout games might become a wonderful regularity.

Cherub Rock Indeed

I think - and I can't be sure, because fancy new DVR technology doesn't work either (seriously, guys: what the hell are you doing over there?) - but I'm pretty sure Jacoby Ellsbury's walk in music is "Cherub Rock." If that's the case, well done to whoever is up in the music booth. Continues to Fail

And yet I continue to subscribe. This time around, I laid out the extra cash for the premium package, for two reasons:
  1. I love the DVR concept in all of its forms and knew the option to pause a game would be very useful during the season.
  2. If I'm watching the Red Sox, I want to listen to the guys on NESN, not the randomly selected feed that the service happens to want to serve that day. The difference is important enough that I was willing to pay more to be able to choose my feeds.
Well, it's Opening Day Part 2, the Sox are on...and there's no audio feed from NESN. None at all, with no explanation of the problem, no status message, no email alert, no attempt to connect with the fans on the web page, nothing. So I'm listening to the Rays announcers and wondering why I keep getting suckered in.