Monday, April 30, 2007

Off Day, and Some Awards, Too

Two quotes from Gordon Edes' article about yesterday's Sox-Yanks tilt (italics are mine):

Alex Cora: "We're playing good baseball and we're making a statement..."

Julian Tavarez: "They're (the Yankees are) going to get better, so you've got to take advantage now."

It gives me a feeling of shiawase to read that at least two guys on the team, one seemingly reserved and quiet, the other bombastic, outspoken and hot-tempered, get what I'm trying to say: some games do mean a little more than others. That's exactly what I was trying to say in my post yesterday morning, and it's nice to know that, maybe, I actually know what I'm talking about, if only a little bit. Great bounce back yesterday from Saturday's uninspired performance.

Despite the fact that I have been ripping on Dustin Pedroia for some time now, I do feel kind of bad for him. He really seems to be stressing and forcing himself to get a big hit every time he comes up. If he could just have 120-130 slappy singles and 20-30 doubles, hit around .260, we'd all love him because he has great energy and seems fairly slick in the field. But for now, I think Cora needs to be in the lineup more. He's been an everyday player most of his career, and he has provided such a spark the last week and a half.

Institutional arrogance- that's what's to blame in this situation, I think. Pedroia has been the hot prospect, touted by Theo and Tito for so long now, protected by them from trades, that they feel like they have to make this work or risk looking stupid. We've seen it with Delcarmen, Hansen and now Pedroia. When you won't trade certain guys at the deadline in a pennant race for a Roy Oswalt-type player, then the guys you're holding on to better produce. In my opinion, we keep rushing guys to the Majors to show the fans, who might have been clamoring for them to be traded for proven commodities, that they are ready for the big show. It does a disservice to the prospect, it hamstrings the big club and it frustrates the fans.

But, as we sit here on an off day, with our Sox at 16-8, the best record in baseball, and four games up on second-place Toronto and six and a half up on the Yankees, I feel pretty good about the team. Not great yet, but pretty good. So, on that note, some April awards...

Biggest Pleasant Surprise
Hideki Okajima- this was sort of like finding out last year that Mike Lowell could still hit 20 homers and drive 40-some doubles. Darkman (wink-wink, Peter) sort of felt like the "throw in" for our Japanese deal, but man, he's been absolutely awesome. After that first-pitch homer in KC, he's been the bee's knees.

Biggest Not Pleasant Surprise
Daisuke Matsusaka- I'm probably in the minority here, but I'm just not that impressed yet. I really thought he'd be nearly unhittable the first time through the league and that it wouldn't be until everyone had seen him once that he might run into trouble. I'm not sure any of us knew he had such glaring control issues out of the stretch. He's had moments of looking awesome, but I think most of us already anticipate the "Dice Inning," as I call it.

Biggest "I'll Prove Matty's an Idiot" Performance
Josh Beckett, obviously- I'll be the first to admit that he's been terrific this year. He's 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA and a WHIP of just over one. He just seems different, too, like he's matured a lot in just one offseason. I'm almost sold...
(Honorable mention to JD Drew, for not making me hate him. Yet.)

Biggest "Matty's Probably Right About Me" Performance
Wily Mo Pena- despite the granny against the Orioles, Wily has been Pedro Cerrano come to life. Why in the world anyone ever throws this guy a fastball is beyond me. At this point, it's not even about the Arroyo trade, because for once, our pitching staff is almost living up to the hype. At this point, it's about the fact that if the ball moves one millimeter off it's straight path to the plate, you better believe a flailing, off-balance, ridiculous swing is sure to follow.

Best Game of the Season
Friday, April 20 vs. New York Yankees- I said it then, and I'll say it again- one of the biggest regular season wins in years. To halt the Yanks' winning streak at Fenway, and to do it by coming from 6-2 down in the eighth against Rivera, well, that was a statement game. By coming back from deficits in the next two games, we showed that it was no fluke. This game laid the foundation for the season to come. Plus, they wore those sweet green jerseys.

Worst Game of the Season
Opening Day vs. Kansas City Royals- I know some might say the 10-3 loss to Toronto, but the Opener was the worst because Schilling looked bad, the bats were quiet and there was a day off the next day. So we all sat around and thought to ourselves, "Man, if Schill can't beat Gil Meche and the Royals in seventy-degree weather on Opening Day, maybe this is gonna be a lonnnnggg season..."

Best Chance to Replace Trot as Matty's Favorite Red Sock
Jonathan Papelbon, I guess- only because I have his player t-shirt now. But it's sort of crappy having a pitcher as your favorite player, although a closer is better than a starter because he can appear in more games. As for the position players, nobody has grabbed me yet. I like the really scrappy, get dirty guys, so I love Cora, but he's not playing enough. If Pedroia ever starts hitting, I could warm to him, believe it or not. Lowell's great, but probably gone after this year.

Worst Chance to Replace Trot as Matty's Favorite Red Sock
Doug Mirabelli- it's irrational; I understand that. But I just can't stand him. I don't know why. He catches Tim-may well, hits the occasional homer, starts the occasional controversy. I should like him but I just can't. I just can't is all, ok?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pass the Advil

The Patriots just acquired Randy Moss from the Raiders. This on the heels of drafting a hard-hitting, fast safety, Brandon Merriweather, from The (dreaded) U, best known for, and last seen, stomping the shit out of some guy from Florida International during that infamous brawl last season. I just keep telling myself that the Patriots know what they're doing. Whenever I stop saying that, my head starts to hurt.

Wasted Chances

I was going to write about yesterday's game immediately after its depressing conclusion, but frankly, I was so mad that I couldn't. Also, I didn't see the need to write a whole venom-laden post that would sound ridiculous and overwrought the next day, a post I'd probably want to remove from the blog. So I decided to wait till today to address it.

That said, I'm still really angry. I know, I know. The Sox weren't going to win all 18 games against the Yankees. We all know that, and anybody who tries to remind me of that is risking a severe neck punch beating, because I hate stupid people who say stupid shit like that. So save it.

That said, man, did we let one get away yesterday. Against a reeling, disheveled, shell-shocked team, we really fucked up. Against a team with a staggeringly tired bullpen, we knocked out their third-rate, double-A starter and put them in a position of needing nine innings of relief. Against an overpriced, posting-fee disappointment (theirs, not ours), we looked listless and feeble. Against a team as back on its heels as we've seen it in the last 12 or 13 years, we couldn't do what really great teams do: we couldn't twist the knife. We let them breathe for a second. Now, with Tavarez going today, there's a very real possibility they take two of three and we leave New York only up 4.5 games.

I know it's only April; but I also know that the last few years when we've started hot and the Yanks have started slow, we've never buried them. Entering yesterday's game, they were ripe for the burying, but nobody stepped up. Not Wake, with his six walks, not Papi snoozing through two straight doubleplay at-bats, not Lowell booting two fairly routine plays (one a tailor-made 5-4-3 twin-killing), not Drew who is an offensive freefall and not Francona who waited too long to start pinch-hitting. Only Coco showed much fight in him, getting tossed for arguing (correctly) that Bruce Froemming's 8th inning strike zone, in the middle of a rally, was a fucking joke. (Thirty-seven years behind the plate is enough, Bruce. You need to hang it up, because not one of those three called strikes caught the plate. But I guess Posada pulled his glove back far enough over the black to fool your tired eyes. Maybe next time, Bruce, concentrate more on the balls and strikes and less on the fact that you're "mic'd up" for a God-awful FOX broadcast.)

It's pretty well-known that I am one of the Sox' toughest critics and a very curmudgeonly fan. So I'm probably being too harsh, or expecting too much. But last year, when we had injury and performance issues, the Yankees came to Fenway and absolutely buried us, left us for dead. That's what good teams do, given the chance. We had our chance this weekend, and, regardless of what happens today, we showed we weren't really up to it. Will we be up to the challenge later in the season when the Yanks are healthier and, presumably, trade-deadline fortified? I don't know, but man, I'd love to be building a bigger lead now, when we have a gift-wrapped opportunity to do so.

I reread parts of "Faithful" a couple weeks ago, and amidst the mediocre three month portion of the 2004 season, Stewart O'Nan keeps insisting that some games are more important than others. They all count the same, wins or losses, but some games just mean more. That game yesterday wasn't just another win or loss. I put a lot of stock in symbolic wins, or statement wins, whatever you want to call them. The first four wins against the Yanks this season told them that no lead is safe, that we'll keep coming no matter what. Yesterday was our chance to make a statement that we'll keep the pressure on all season, that once they fall behind us, there's no catching up. But in the moments in which that message was ready, no voice was found to pass it along. So here we sit, on the verge of losing this series, on the verge of giving them a reason to lift their heads a little, to look over the standings tomorrow and say to themselves, "See, that's not so bad." I don't know about you, but I was hoping they'd be saying to themselves, "Man, we are in serious trouble..." I guess we'll find out today what the Red Sox think they should be saying.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I Should Yell at the Weak More Often

You will all be happy to know I defended Curt Schilling, bloggers and fans alike, while at the same time, eviscerating Dan Shaughnessy (who wrote a real barn-burner today in the Globe, by the way) and, slightly less so, Gary Thorne, on the Dan Patrick Show yesterday. He finally took my call and after the obligatory "5'10, 170" and the ding, I said that untalented journalists, who are already insecure because they're covering a sport they dreamed about playing, take major exception to stars finding new ways to communicate directly with their fans (like Curt's blog) because that basically renders the journalist irrelevent. I said it was a shame that ego trumps professionalism so routinely in the field of sports journalism and broadcasting. Dan responded by saying that, basically, he has no problem with athletes blogging, or talking directly to fans, but that he does see how that could freak out older, more traditional journalists. Afterwards, I felt kind of dirty for calling a sports talk radio show, but the feeling passed pretty quickly. It's not like I'm Angry Bill or anything. Yet.

One last thought on Thorne-gate, from the unfortunately named Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun...I really liked his column today.

Obviously I didn't get to the game last night, as I'd hoped to do. My apologies for letting Jere down. Although he did run my sweet photo of our TV showing the Wednesday game. Anyway, I didn't even see that much of the game last night, just the first and then the eighth and ninth innings. Call me crazy, but I rather preferred to spend the time cooking dinner for, and eating with, my wife. I did get the game on in time to see the uprising against monosyllabic O's closer, Chris Ray. Having been to Camden Yards many, many times, I can tell you from experience that VERY FEW guys have homered into the visitor's bullpen. That was a hell of a shot by Wily Mo. I've been ripping him privately and publicly for some time now, so it was nice to see him prove me wrong, as most of the guys I rip usually do.

Speaking of, my boy Josh Beckett is 5-0, just as I predicted he'd be. Thank God I've never left that guy for dead, nor suggested that the Red Sox could find better ways to spend $30million. Yup, I'm proud to sit here today and count myself among Josh Beckett's biggest fans. Never doubted him for a moment. Charter fan club member here...(whistling as I walk away quietly, trying not to look like the biggest asshole in the room...)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Thorne-y Issue. Ha Ha.

Somehow I missed this whole conversation between Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer. (Click the link to read a great transcript over at Joy of Sox. ) I remember the part where Palmer says the Sox aren't in the business of giving contract extensions to 40-year-olds, then I must have gotten up for beer/talked to wife/heard kid cry/otherwise became distracted before Thorne attributed to Dougie-boy the "fact" that Schilling's famous sock was painted red, not stained with blood.

Let me address a couple points here- first, I'm not a big Dougie fan. Everybody knows this. He seems like a real Douchey McGee (I think maybe it's the stupid Brazilian bikini wax goatee he has- that thing makes me so mad). I can totally see him (in my mind at least) saying something stupid or joking to a reporter to A. fuck with the reporter and B. fuck with a teammate; I can also see him being shady enough to not man up and say, "Yeah, I said it as a joke. Stupid reporters have no sense of humor; sorry, Schill!" Like I said, I have no real knowledge of Doug's character and am basing most of this on my bias against his facial hair grooming and low batting average. Maybe that's why Thorne picked him as his "source;" maybe he figured nobody likes Doug anyway, so it'd be more believable that he's the guy dishing dirt behind others' backs.

As for Thorne, I always thought he was a pretty decent hockey announcer and a moderately interesting, moderately mediocre baseball guy. He never seemed to get all the facts or players straight and never seemed that good at calling action as it quickly happened. That's why it's ironic he was better at hockey, a much faster-paced game. I think the speed of the game covered up his mistakes and didn't leave much time for him to just talk. With baseball, as I remember from his days on ESPN and have been reminded of being in the MASN area, he has a lot more time to try to tell stories, which he's not really good at. Let me rephrase- he's a great story teller; he comes up short, though, when those stories involve real facts- he never seems to get them right. I'm not even sure his knowledge of the game is that great- last night's trivia question asked which three players had hit 40 or more homers in each of the past three years. He guessed A-Rod as one of them, only about the most high profile, most watched, most obsessed over player in the game. EVERYBODY knows he didn't hit 40 last year. Except Gary Thorne. (And seriously, Adam Dunn has hit 40 or more three years running? That can't be right...And also, if I'm producing a game, I give the announcers the answer- I thought the question was to stump the fan at home, not the possibly stupid and easily embarassable announcer.)

But I just can't get myself into the lather that other people are reaching over this for four reasons:

A. I'm not a lawyer and am not fascinated by the slander/libel/whatever aspects of this issue.

B. When it comes to his image, Schilling is the little boy who cried wolf sometimes. That in no way justifies what Thorne said, but Curt knows he provides a lot of ammo to his doubters/detractors/haters.

C. I'm so used to sports reporters or broadcasters not having a good handle on the facts, or having paltry knowledge of the game they're covering or just plain saying something dumb, that what Thorne said neither surprises nor shocks me.

D. I don't really care one way or the other if it was paint. All I care is that we won. I never elevated Schilling onto the pedestal that so many did. Even in victory, I frequently took exception to the fact that, in a world in which our men and women are being sent to their deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a world in which firefighters pull kids out of burning buildings, in a world in which some underpaid person is going to help my kids learn to read, Curt Schilling is not a "hero." He's a guy who, apparently through the awesomeness of modern medicine, went out and did a job for which he is more than fairly compensated. Did I appreciate his efforts? Oh God, yes. Would I have held a grudge against him if he'd said, "Yeah, I probably could've pitched, but I didn't want to risk not being able to walk properly for the rest of life..."? No. That's his decision. Fifteen million dollars does not obligate someone to permanently disfigure them self for the sake of team and Nation.

All that being said, Thorne did fuck up last night. I'm not gonna be one of the people calling for his head, but if he doesn't lead off the telecast (I always think of Harry Caray or Pete van Wieren when I use the word "telecast," like it's only something a "superstation" can provide) with an immediate retraction and apology, well then I will definitely have a bigger problem with it. And he can't bury the retraction on page B-17 either, it needs to be the first thing he says, even before "Good evening! Alongside questionably gay pretty boy, Jim Palmer, I'm Gary Thorne." Well, if he actually said that, I'd wait a minute for the retraction. But you get my point.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just Call Me Sir Linksalot

I should give myself about three Big Ry's for updating so infrequently, but I just haven't felt that motivated the last week or so. Not that the weekend wasn't very exciting and satisfying; it just seems that during Yankees' series, there is so much useless blibble-blabble floating online that I didn't feel the need to add to it, especially with more pedestrian "Yay! The Yankees sux" type talk. I really had nothing to add to the proceedings other than vague and most-likely missed Anti-Flag and Charlie Brown Kwanzaa references.

Add to that the fact that I'm wicked tired, and that we've hardly done anything exciting in the last week or so, and well, you get a pretty boring blog, a situation I'm now compounding by adding this boring post about how boring things are. Last Thursday we actually got a babysitter (Big Ry himself, as a matter of fact) and went out for our fourth anniversary. Yay us. Then on Sunday we went to the big ol' Punkymoms BBQ Bash, where I very nearly lost my mind in the presence of more than a few uninteresting adults and very more than a few rampaging tots.

Also, a little baseball team of mine is playing tonight and tomorrow night in Baltimore, but, alas, I shan't be in attendance. For several reasons, not least of which is the games being scheduled so closely to tax day, but honestly, to get from Alexandria to Baltimore on a weekday for a 7pm start would require me to do one of two things: leave at three, get to B-more about three hours early and have to kill a lot of time without being able to kill it at the Rat because I have to drive, or leaving just an hour later at four, and needing at least 2 hours, if not more, to fight rush hour. Then, I wouldn't get home until about 1am. Am I sounding really old, lazy and curmudgeonly here? I feel like it this morning. Besides, I'll get both games on tv. But if you do feel like heading to Camden Yards, there's plenty of good tickets available. Field Boxes by the Sox dugout were still open as of a little bit ago. So go. I don't care, I'll look for you on tv.

Speaking of tv, watch this if you haven't already seen it, or if NBC hasn't taken it down yet. Peyton Manning is still a major league douche, but this is pretty funny nonetheless. And this is great, yet horrifying all at the same time (make sure you watch the one called "Betrayal"). And with that, I think I just set a personal record for most links in post. Finally, I'll leave you with perhaps the most profound question I've heard asked in quite some time, courtesy of some random guy on Bill Simmon's ESPN chat last Friday: During ceremonial first pitch tossings, why does the ceremonial tosser sometimes wear a baseball glove? Now that is the reason Al Gore invented the internet.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

That's Just a Bit of Cracker Tricknology...

Thanks to FOX sports' decision to start their Saturday games at 4pm, I got to see about an inning and a half of the game before going to Georgetown to do a wine tasting. Thanks to T-Mobile, and the weird phone I have that I don't really fully understand, I was able to see a bare-bones version of ESPN's GameCast to follow the game. It's sort of like watching in slow motion. But as the Sox took the lead, then held it, my trusty little phone kept telling me good news. Amazing what the year 2007 can do.

Josh Beckett is 4-0. He put down fifteen out of seventeen after coughing up the four runs in the first two innings. Is it possible that he's learned how to pitch?

I wish I'd seen Papelbon strike out Jeter in the ninth. It's not nearly as dramatic on the screen of a phone as it is watching him swing and miss and shake his head in that "I'm not perfect?" kind of way.

And since I've turned this into a USA Today-Larry King-esque sort of dealy, I'll just say that I'm not really looking forward to Morgan and Miller tomorrow night. But I am looking forward to a sweep. Aren't we all? As Curt would say, it's time for the Yankees to "straight panic, bitches!"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Got the Fuckin' Numbers

One of the three or four best wins since October 27, 2004. A full four Big Matty's. And it was so subtle and surprising the way it happened, with the sudden rush of production from the bottom of the lineup. All of a sudden, it was 7-6 Red Sox. I know it's an April game, and I don't want to get carried away, but April or not, that was a Bill Simmons Signature Stomach Punch Game for the Yankees. In the only game of the series that (maybe) favored the Yanks pitching-wise, they get exactly what they want from starting pitching, as Pettite fared well. You hand your pen a four run lead. You hand MO(rtal) Rivera a three run lead. You get production from Captain Hayfever (what someone called A-Rod on Simmons' chat today, as in, "He makes a big impact in April and May, but come September and October, you're breathing easy.") You are getting ball and strike calls handed to you left and right(of the plate) all night by Randy "How can I get A-Rod up with a chance to win it?" Marsh. You are riding your own 6-2-deficit-turned-dramatic-win whirlwind. Then BAM! Your indomitable, incomparable, lights-out pitcher has ANOTHER hiccup versus the Red Sox, his 11th blown save against us. AND WE DON'T EVEN USE OUR CLOSER! That is a textbook Stomach Punch Game.

I gave up on Coco. I admit it, and if he's reading, I apologize. That game was a fucking sweet way to spend a Friday night, and I'm glad I hung in the whole way. I called my dad when it was 6-6 because I just knew he'd turned it off when it got to 6-2 Yanks. Sure enough. Then, in the 9th, when Marsh blew yet another 3-2 call, bringing Lip Gloss to the plate with a chance to take the lead, I, for a moment, wished I hadn't called my dad. I would've felt really bad if I'd gotten him to turn off whatever he was watching with my mom just in time to see the Yankees retake the lead. So he got to see what the rest of us got to see: We took their best punch, got up, and knocked them out. On their legend's watch, even. Again.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

But I'm Not Dead Yet...

No, I haven't given up on the site. Between traveling to Pittsburgh for Easter, then getting sick and back to work, I just haven't had time to do much. That will hopefully change this weekend. Plus, I'm enjoying my free MLB Extra Innings preview on digital cable, at least till Sunday, when it ends. I wish I could justify $159, but man, that's a lot of diapers and stuff.

Nine observations from my time away:

1. A 27-degree windchill is inexcusable weather for anybody's opening day, unless Saskatchawan has a new team I'm not aware of. Really lousy, Pittsburgh, really lousy. I didn't even get any good pictures because my hands were too cold to operate my camera phone. That said, the beer stayed cold for a looonnnggg time.

2. I always liked Brendan Donnelly, even when he was with the Angels. Maybe it was the glasses, or the herky-jerky windup, or just his whole attitude. Staring down certified douchebag Jose Guillen at the home opener was awesome. We've been lacking some attitude in middle relief and it's good to see. Also, nice job by Dice-K backing him up last night by drilling Guillen, then throwing under Ichiro's chin. Last year, every time Schill or Beckett tried to throw inside, they'd miss over the plate and somebody would crank it out. Other than that, I'm kind of sick of "Dice-Mania."

3. Last night's performance by young Felix was about as dominating a one-hitter as you'll ever see. Even the walk to Pedroia, I thought the ump missed a strike-call on 2-2. Really, not a very hard hit ball all night. And he just made some guys look horrendous. Crisp's three at-bats were the worst, most uncomfortable looking at-bats I've seen in a long while. On the whole, a really pathetic display. Lots of first-pitch swinging, too. Have we abandoned the whole working the pitch-count thing? Who's the hitting coach? Nomar?

4. Yes, if Josh Beckett keeps this up, I will write a very nice piece about him at some point. But I'm talking like a 9-2 start, ok? So don't get too excited.

5. Papelbon's save Sunday night should pretty much put that whole debate to bed. If you don't want him back there in the 9th, please exit the bus now. You're not wanted here.

6. Too much candy really does make kids super-hyper and unable to sleep for more than an hour at a time. See: Easter Sunday, my in-laws house.

7. Damn, but Tina Cervasio on NESN is fucking stupid. Bring back the Frede! Also, I don't get the whole Hazel Mae thing, either. Just me I guess...

8. Baliseauto.com- you are no Marty's RVs, that I can tell you.

9. If you're ever in the Butler, PA area, I offer this dining suggestion for your enjoyment: Snack 'n Pack. It's a 6-pack carry out joint with a little dining room. Pretty much everything is fried, including, I think, the chairs, cups and napkins. Really great eats. I highly recommend this sampler for two: six Pepperoni Balls, an order each of fried cheese sticks and broccoli bites, and an Italian Wedge to share. A couple beers, served in frosty mason jars, and you're in and out for about $30, plus tip. A must-see in a never-see area.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reversi

Another 7-1 game. Fortunately, the Sox were on the right end of this one. Yes, I'll admit Josh Beckett pitched well. No, I didn't enjoy saying that, as my contempt for Mr. Beckett is well known. However, I enter this season with an open mind as pertains to him. If he pitches well, then I will jump on his bandwagon faster than three balls can eat up Mike Lowell. If he doesn't, well, I will be forced to rerun/update/make meaner the post from last summer where I found other things the Sox could've spent $30million on. But for now, here are the scores for last night's game; and remember, these are in no way based in any way on any kind of first hand knowledge of the game.

The game only scored this high because it's the first win of the season; still, it is just the Royals, so don't anyone freak out too much. I give it:


That said, I give Mike Lowell:

Three errors? He only made six all last season. And did anyone else see, in the main Globe story about the game, that Pedroia said he covered himself in Vaseline? I know it was cold, but he's not exactly summiting Everest here. He's playing second base in Kansas City in April. I picture him taking the field today as some Redsox-colored version of the little brother in "A Christmas Story." "Pedroia, why didn't you turn two out there?" "Because I can't put my arms down! Waaaaahhhh!!!" Somebody get Dustin another couple layers, huh? Poor guy only weighs about a buck-forty-five. Maybe he can sit in Youk's back pocket between pitches to stay warm.
Alright, kids. It's almost Burgher Time. Try not to miss me too much- I'll try to post throughout the weekend, but I'm not sure how much of a chance I'll get, what with my busy Vaselining schedule to get ready for the 40-degree temps expected at PNC Park on Monday. Oh, and I'll try to get a pic of a real "Pittsburgh Hot" girl at Hi-Tops, too. It's almost like seeing the Beatles in Liverpool...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ferris Bueller Day

Thanks to my friend, Chris, who came up with choice seats for today's businessman's special at RFK, I sort of blew off work this afternoon to, you know, enjoy the businessman's special. We started out nine rows behind the first base end of the Marlins' dugout, on the aisle. Chris left in the 6th to get to work, and I moved down to the first row behind the dugout, which was about the best seat I've ever had for a game. Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez figured prominently in the contest, Sanchez getting the start, looking good early, then leaving in the 6th after giving up a 3-run shot to Ryan Church Lady that got the Nats within two. (Church's "theme" music, when he comes to bat, is "Crazy Train" by Ozzy. I bet every white guy in every major league locker room has a pretty serious Rochambeaux tournament at the beginning of the year to decide who gets to stride to the plate accompanied by that song...) Hanley was on base all day, lacing a triple to the gap, then reaching twice on errors, scoring a couple runs in the process. Then of course he botched a tough chance in the ninth. Miggy Cabrera launched another homer, his second in three days. The Nats ended up coming from two down in the bottom of the ninth to take the game 7-6, with old Orioles failure Jorge Julio blowing the save. It was cool and overcast, and the crowd was announced at not even 19,000, but still, it was real baseball (as close as the bottom of the National League gets, I guess) on a Wednesday afternoon, so I can't really complain. Took some more lousy pictures. Here they are...



An un-zoomed view from our seats. Pretty ritzy.



Teddy Roosevelt and George Washington bringing up the rear of the "President's Race." This is what they do to keep the fans "excited," like the Sausage Race in Mill-e-walk-a, or the Pierogi Race in P-burg. This Teddy never wins apparently. He rapeled down into the stadium on opening day and still lost. I hope he was a better president than he is a bobblehead racer.



This is Anibal Sanchez making the slow walk after giving up Churchy's dong. Even when he takes his hat off, man, his hair looks perfect. Pretty weird. No hat hair whatsoever on that Sanchez.



Ryan Invader Zimmerman about to walk, loading 'em up in the bottom of the ninth. At this point, I was hoping for a walkoff homer, because I've never seen one in person. Alas, it was a Dmitri Young walkoff near foul ball bloop single, that, had it been caught, would've scored the tag-up runner from third anyway, so the left fielder let it drop on the off chance it dropped foul. Which it didn't. Nats win! Here they are literally exploding out of the dugout to make the charge across the diamond to hug Young over by first base. I call that the "'04 Game Fiver Pigpile."



Finally, here's a shot of a very, very, very (you're gonna have to trust me on this one) dejected Hanley Ramirez getting ready to leave Washington and go to some other city to not play for the Red Sox. Bye Hanley! We hardly knew ya...



And not to jinx it or nothing, but I'd say the Sox are well on their way to a two Big Matty night. We'll see.

Turn and Burgh, Baby!

First of all, Ryan, I'm not 100% in love with your tone, ok? And the Sox are in Balty the 25th & 26th of this fair month.

Alright, moving on. The off day yesterday did absolutely nothing to calm me down over either Schill's Opening Day cryfest, nor over Josh Beckett's impending meltdown today. Fortunately (or not depending on your perspective) the game will be unavailable to these two eyes due to the fact that, as well chronicled here, we lack DirectTV (another reason why I refuse to celebrate Arbor Day- trees- go to Hell!) and because I refused to renew my MLB.tv subscription on the computer. Why, Matty, would you cut off your only chance to watch the Sox on a regular basis? Well, I'll tell you my four reasons:

1. Our computer chair is really uncomfortable and our "office area" is not conducive to making a very comfortable encampment around the computer.

2. Most evenings, my wife is on the computer administrating/chatting/proselytizing/running her Punkymoms.com website.

3. One of my favorite things about MLB.tv when I first got it lo so many years (3?) ago, was the fact that all the commercials were shown. I can put up with a grainy, herky-jerky, freezing up picture if I know that, eventually, there's a Marty's RVs commercial at the end of that technologically inept rainbow. Or Lincoln-Mercury of Raynam, whose wonderful jingle I still get stuck in my head from time to time. Or the sweet Jack-in-the-Box ads when the Sox would play out west. Now? Just silence and ads for MLB.tv, which you already have if you're seeing the ad. Pretty shitty.

4. No choice in announcers. If you can choose home and away feeds for the MLB Radio dealy, why not for the TV part? Doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the announcer choice, either. Sometimes you get the home guys, sometimes the road guys. And believe me, there's a lot of crappy announcers out there.

So I figure your next question is, "How, without a reliable source of game footage, are you going to accurately assign the appropriate number of Matty's or Ry's to each Red Sox game?" The answer is simple- it won't be that accurate or appropriate. Matty's and Ry's will be determined by a BCS-like complicated formula factoring in Sportscenter highlights, other bloggers' comments, reputable and disreputable, reliable or unreliable print and on-line news resources, and my own biases for and against various players on the Red Sox and other teams. This, of course, may present some inherent contrasts within the rating scale. If Sportscenter leads their show with footage of Papi hitting a walk-off off Mo Rivera, then that's probably worth four Matty's. But if JD Drew does it, and Sportscenter runs it fifteen minutes into the broadcast, and I've already fallen asleep and miss the clip, and then find out about by reading the Globe the next morning, who still employ Shaugnessy, well then, that might only be worth three Matty's and maybe even one Ry, because, man, I can't believe Drew is wearing Trot's number.

Nobody has worn 21 since Fat Fuck left, and they just give out Trot's old digit like it's cool? Couldn't they have told him they lost the 7 or something? It's like this- if you wear a number 8 jersey, it's a sweet throwback, a tribute to Yaz. But now, if I wear my number 7 shirt, I don't look like a guy paying tribute to Trot's awesome time in Boston, I look like a guy who can't afford a new shirt. Like everybody who bought a $250 Damon road jersey, then used a magic marker to cross out the "A" and replace it with an "E" after he went to New York. I hate free agency sometimes.

Oh, speaking of players changing hands, I realized that our middle infield could feature not just last year's ROY, Hanley Ramirez of course, but also Freddy Sanchez, last year's batting champ, who we gave up for, basically, Jeff Suppan, who before making a memorable mockery of baserunning, was completely useless for us for three months in '03. Then again, if we'd resigned Orlando Cabrera after '04, like EVERYBODY knows we should have, we could have avoided the Renteria signing, which means we would never have traded him, which means we would have never had Andy Marte, which means we would have never traded him for Coco Crisp, et al. Then everybody's favorite (at least Jere's) favorite Canadian, Adam Stern, might be in center field, and without Beckett's and Lowell's and Crisp's big contracts, we might be primed to make a run at Ichiro, which would mean that we never really needed to sign JD Drew in the first place. Which at the end of nearly every day, will probably be my point.

Remember how Theo keeps saying we have to hold onto our prospects, we have to build for the future? Well, all I know is that we've given up Freddy Sanchez, Anibel Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez in the last three years, as well as Cla Meredith and Josh Bard, who have quietly made themselves into good players. We've gotten back a three-month rental who did nothing, a questionable headcase starter, an aging, slow, but serviceable and likeable third basemen and Mirrabelli again. And we've kept Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen and Dustin Pedroia (who becomes wicked dispensable since we'd have last year's batting champ playing 2nd base). Those were the untouchables? Really? And people think I'm crazy to question Theo... like I'm supposed to lay off him because he got lucky when Millar and Mueller had career years in '03, then made two good moves getting rid of Nomar to bring in Cabrera, and getting us Dave Roberts. But then we sign Renteria, who we didn't need because we could have chosen between the slick-fielding, clutch hitting sparkplug shortstop WHO WON A WORLD SERIES WITH US or the hot-shot prospect everyone's been talking about for years. Then to get out from under that mistake, we trade Renteria to Atlanta for Andy Marte, who Theo touts as a superstar third basemen in the making then we immediately trade that ballyhooed prospect to Cleveland, with others, for Coco Crisp (along with David Riske [KC's closer for now] and Josh Bard [(already covered]) who we wouldn't have needed if management hadn't misjudged the open market value of one of the most popular players to wear a Sox uni in the last 20 years, Damon.

So I'll let the SoSHy and Retrosheet folk rip all that nonsense apart. That's fine. There's just been so many mixed signals coming from 4 Yawkey the last few years. We are building for the future, but keeping the wrong prospects. We are in first place in late July but can't spend any money. Then we spend $170 mil on Dice-K and Drew. Meanwhile, we have a AA backup for our .230 hitting catcher, questionable middle infield defense, a lumbering, strikeout prone fourth outfielder who we didn't need, but got anyway, by trading away a "surplus" starting pitcher. It all seems so random, I frequently wonder what the plan is. We basically came into spring training either lacking a fifth starter or a closer. That's inexcusable for a team with a payroll as big as ours. Instead of a $70mil right fielder, maybe there's better ways to spend that money. Unless the Sox had to sign Drew to placate Boras so that they could sign Dice. Then that makes Dice basically a $170mil investment. Either way, I question seriously the direction and wisdom of this front office. Ironically enough, as I was preparing to write this post, what should appear in my email, but a photo of the Red Sox trade deadline war room, as it appeared at 3:55PM last July 31. It was sent to me by the friend of a friend of a drinking buddy of some guy that knows the janitor at 4 Yawkey. Very reputable, this source. Here's the photo:



And finally, speaking of Freddy Sanchez, we'll be leaving tomorrow for Pittsburgh where we'll be spending Easter weekend. I'm not sure how much time I will have to update things here. I think I've done enough damage with this post to last a few days. I've got tix for the Pirates home opener against the Cards on Monday, where Freddy is on the DL and it should be, according to weather.com, 43 degrees and partly sunny at gorgeous PNC Park. Yay baseball.

Monday, April 02, 2007

If You're Keeping Score at Home...

For the 2007 season, I'm unveiling a new ratings system upon which each Red Sox game will be judged: The Big Matty's and The Big Ry's. Let me explain:

This is a Big Matty
This is a Big Ry

Pretty easy to tell which is good and which is bad, right? So, wins will be judged on a scale of 1-5 Big Matty's and losses on a scale of 1-5 Big Ry's. Because I'm a winner, and Ryan's a loser. That's the basis of the scales. Of course, there will be Half Matty's and Half Ry's given out as needed, and they can sometimes mix. For instance, say the Red Sox won Game 7 of the World Series, but Youkilis suffers a career-ending burn by getting doused with flaming hot nacho cheese while diving into the stands for a pop foul, then that game might get five Big Matty's and two Big Ry's. Get it? Good.

As for the season opener against Kansas City today, I award it.....


3 1/2 Big Ry's

This was Opening Day. The Red Sox shit the bed. Schilling was pounded. Rookies were lacing him like a shoe. Okajima gave up a titanic dong on his first Major League pitch. I was only going to give it 3 Ry's, but once you factor in Lugo's 3 K's, the fact that Tek looked really feeble, Pedroia's baserunning, and, ahem, Hanley Ramirez going about 19-19 with 20 runs scored in DC, well, I added the extra 1/2 Ry. Could've given it four, but don't want to skew the scale. After all, Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS would have been a full 5 Ry's. So, not time to "straight panic" as ol' Schill would say, but not an auspicious beginning. We looked kind of old and slow. Hopefully, things will pick up. Because if we play like we did today regularly, then oh man, we're gonna run out of Ry's.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

An Open Letter to a Clueless Owner

Dear John Henry,

In this article, you end a moderately interesting interview with the Boston Globe's Amalie Benjamin with this little nugget pertaining to a possible Clemens return to Boston...

"But if he comes, it will be for one reason -- it will be for the fans who gave him a standing ovation last time he pitched at Fenway -- the fans of New England who love the game and adored him even when he wore a Yankee uniform."

This proves, once again, at least to me, that this ownership and leadership is completely without an idea as to how real fans think. In the past, you've gone on and on about all the new seating options (which most fans can't afford), you've put the team exclusively on cable (which some fans don't have), you've signed players in a dizzying, random manner at times, then tightened the checkbook just as randomly at other times abandoning players valuable to the team and its fans, and now, you, the principal owner of the team, say that if Clemens is signed, it will be for the fans who "adored him even when he wore a Yankee uniform."

Do you mean the fans who were burned to the core by the deceit and betrayal of someone who played the game as selfishly (and yes, as greatly at times) as anyone who's ever worn the Sox uniform? Do you mean the fans who spend their birthday money to road-trip to Philly, or sit in the cheap seats in Baltimore, or the ones who spend five hours sitting at their computer when Fenway tix go on sale on the off chance they can drop twice the league average price for a ticket to sit, leaning around a pole, staring into dead center field? Do you mean those fans, Mr. Henry? Because I assure you, THOSE FANS HATE ROGER CLEMENS. Do you honestly believe that anyone who calls them self a true fan "adored" anybody who ever wore a Yankee uniform? Does it escape you that ALL of New England was leaping out of their skin in joyous rapture when Clemens was sent to an early shower in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? Do you honestly think there was one person who felt badly about that?

Or maybe you mean the "fans" who can afford to sit in the prime seats, the ones who snack on tuna tartare and sip white wine, the "fans" who come late and leave early and are just there because it's "the hottest ticket in town." Do you mean those fans, Mr. Henry? If those are the fans you mean, then just say you're doing this for the corporate sponsors longing for another big name to promote and the long-time season ticket holders who are only there because the same people who died and left them all their money had the good graces to leave them their season tickets, too. Don't for a second pretend that you're doing this for the real fans. It's a typically disingenuous move from the spin-controllers on Yawkey Way to make a patently unpopular decision, while trying to convince people that it's what everyone wants. Believe me, it's not.

So please, Mr. Henry, don't do us any favors. If you really want to do us a favor, tell your overrated whizkid/lapdog of a GM to stop signing overpriced, well-known malcontents like JD Drew and instead start spending the money, the money we were told last season you couldn't afford to spend in the middle of a pennant race, on some middle relief and some quality depth at catcher. But please, sir, do not put me in the position of ever again having to root for Roger Clemens. I love baseball, and I love the Red Sox, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Don't make me try.

Sincerely,
Someone's who's been a Red Sox fan a lot longer than you,

MattySox


Hey, Welcome to Philly- You Suck!

"Hey Papelbon- you suck! I said, You suck. Hey, I'm talking to you, I said, You Suck. Don't pretend you can't hear me, Papelbon. You suck..."

It would be completely normal to assume that this was your stereotypically loutish, semi-illiterate Philly fan (stereotypes sometimes exist for a reason, people) giving the business to our young, fireballing closer, but not so. This was your stereotypically loutish, semi-illiterate Philly fan giving the business to ME on the patio of the McFadden's Bar at Citizen's Bank Park. I was wearing the Papelbon t-shirt I got for Christmas, and some of Philly's finest took exception to it. So that's what I listened to for five minutes straight. This guy was sitting with three friends, and man, did my buddy, Ryan, and I wish we had a few more with us. Most of the Philly fans we met were pretty cool. They use shorter sentences than I'm used to, and they frequently confuse the "facts" with the "fiction," as did the guy who tried to convice us that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were a better one-two punch than Manny and Papi and that the Phillies were gonna win the World Series. But, fortunately, I came packing Philly kryptonite. The following exchange was used to great, silencing, tongue-tying effect on multiple assholes:

Him/Her: "....you suck, and hey, did you just pahk ya cah?"
Me: "Yeah, really original...Hey- you live around here?"
Him/Her: "Yeah..."
Me: "Cool, 'cause we're just visiting for the weekend. Where do we go to see the Eagles Super Bowl trophy? Can we go see that somewhere? Your Super Bowl trophy?"
Him/Her: "Uh...................................................................oh, whatever..."

Whatever, indeed. Citizen's Bank Park is ok enough. Not that impressive in any way. The seats are pretty narrow for a new stadium (either that or I've put on more weight than I thought since last season). There isn't a cool downtown view like PNC in the 'Burgh, or Camden Yards or Fenway. It's got your typical red bricky exterior. Inside, it's lots of blue seats and this weird erector-set looking contraption with the Liberty Bell on it that lights up and flashes (probably looks better at night) when a Phillies dude hits a homer. So we got to see that light up when Pat Burrell absolutely crushed/smoked/mashed/destroyed a Matsusaka fastball well into the left-field seats. The light up bell was kind of lame, like a stage prop if Spinal Tap had been from Philly. On the plus side, I had two completely tasty, grilled (that's key) Italian sausages with peppers and onions on a decent roll for an acceptable $5.25/per. The beer selections throughout the concourse looked pretty mundane, but since we were only a few sections over from a big, fake Irish pub right in the stadium, I enjoyed a couple nicely poured pints of Guiness (in a plastic cup, though) before the game, and one with FiNY later in the game. The only weak part is that you can't take a beer bought in the pub back into the stadium proper. As the game was finishing, a band was playing on the pub patio, so you could make an all day sorta thing out of a trip to the Park. Which is good, 'cause there's NOTHING else around the stadium except for two basketball arenas, a football stadium and acres and acres of parking lots. It's a new stadium, but it's done in the '70's/80's "let's put the stadium as far from downtown as we can so parking is easy, getting there is easy and there is absolutely no downtown buzz or energy whatsoever around the stadium. Get in, get out, and spend as little money as possible in our city, please. Thank you, sincerely, your really dumb city planners." Finally, one funny note- upon entering the stadium, everyone is handed a "Fan's Code of Conduct" pamphlet. I don't know if that was because they were playing the Red Sox, or if that's normal. But it was humorous anyway.

So I took a bunch of pictures, most of which look like crap because I was using my camera phone, and I'm not exactly sure how it works properly, so know that going into this little montage. Click on 'em to make 'em gi-normous...



This is the approach from the parking lot to the third base gate. Like I said, red bricky and kinda boring. That's my buddy, Ryan on the right in red t-shirt...



This was the view from our seats. They were pretty decent, albeit narrow, as I said. I wish my camera had a better zoom...



I just thought this usher had really sweet, feathered hair. This was pretty standard for the day. Tangent Alert: I thought there were a lot of physical similarities between Philly folk and Pittsburgh peeps. For instance, all the girls who worked in the McFadden's were what I like to call "Pittsburgh Hot." It's a phrase I coined to describe a girl who was probably pretty average- so-so face, so-so body. Then someone offers her ONE plastic surgery- either have her Picasso-esque face rearranged a little, or get breast implants. Invariably, a "Pittsburgh Hot" girl goes for the implants. You can figure out what the end product looks like. To see "PH" girls in their natural environment, go to a bar calle Hi-Tops next to PNC Park. I think a bottle of Rolling Rock is like $75 there, but nobody seems to care. (Note- the above stereotyping does not apply to my Pittsburgh-born-and-raised wife, who is what I call, "Anywhere Hot.")



This is a blurry shot of Big Papi digging in against some pitcher named "Eaton," which led to a funny exchange between Ryan and I as to whether or not it was Mark Eaton, the 7-footer who used to play for the Utah Jazz. We were pretty sure it wasn't, but after this Eaton gave up six earned runs in three innings, we were also pretty sure Mark Eaton could've done better. Papi took this clown deep to right for a quick one-zip lead.



If you look dead center of this picture, I'm pretty sure that's '80's singing sensation Eddie Money holding the fancy camera. Same hair, at least. See what I mean about Philly? Maybe he and that usher go to the same salon...



This is Varitek about to touch home plate after he took "Don't Call Me Mark" Eaton way back to right. Tek is about to high-five some guy wearing no. 75, so obviously I don't know that guy's name. I think it was Moss, or Scales or something. Look in the Pawtucket media guide, you should be able to find him in there.



I just realized I got no pictures of Dice-K at all. However, this picture of Ryan will suffice, since this is his reaction to Matsuzaka's pitching performance. He walked four batters, skipped two of his first three pitches to the back stop, gave up a shot to Burrell that sounding like a gun went off, and generally looked not as good as $103mil would lead you to believe he is. That said, he covered first base nicely at one point. Very smooth.



This is me. I was giving a really cheesy, two-thumbs up salute to the camera and the Sox' 6-3 lead, to match the really cheesy, two-thumbs up look on my face, but let's just say Ryan isn't winning any photo-journalism Pulitzer's. Neither am I, if you've been following along to this point, actually.



Finally, here's a picture of me and FiNY sharing a pint. She was the only one of the three NYC Sox bloggers I was able to meet up with. Talked to Mighty Quinn on the phone, but never got together. FiNY was supercool, gave a bunch of shit right back to some Philly fans, and didn't get too upset when I asked Ryan if I "needed to crouch down" to have my picture taken with her. It was nice to finally meet someone whose blog I've read for so long. Rock on, FiNY...

All in all, not a bad way to spend a partly sunny, partly warm Saturday afternoon. Got me pretty psyched up for the regular season, which, starts today! Yay baseball.