Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Naughty & Nice

I call these three the "killer z's". Okay, So Riske's name doesn't end in a z like Seanez & Tavarez, but it should. These three have practically killed us the past two days. Seanez and Tavarez nearly blew the game Sunday, giving up 4 runs with two outs in the ninth. And Riskez pretty much gave it away last night. Of course some of the blame goes to...

Our manager, who seems to be having some bullpen management issues. Granted, we've lost Timlin to the DL, Foulke is still not 100% reliable, and Pap can't play all 162 games And don't even get me started on this basket case:

But why dwell on the negative. There have been some bright spots --

Manny DelCarmen and Jermaine Van Buren. The boy from Hyde Park and the ex-President looked sharp out on the mound last night - holding the Blue Jays scoreless. Some cause for hope...as are these guys -

Two guys thought to be past their best days. Loretta started out cold, but is now on a 14-game hitting streak. And Lowell - everyone considered him the price we had to pay to get Josh Beckett. Today, he leads the league with 23 doubles! It just shows that some players thrive in the high-pressure Boston atmosphere, and some wither up and commit errors...

And my two favorite pitchers I have to throw in here -

These guys have been incredible. Josh Beckett was ready for the bigger stage, and Papelbon has blown me away. Definitely on target for Rookie of the Year.

And just because it's my blog and I'll post what I want, here's the brightest spot of the weekend (or any weekend) --
Longest homerun ever hit in Petco Park on Sunday! Yeah, Mark!!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

AP Photo by Winslow Townson
I'm stuck working, but I wanted to take a minute to salute the real heroes on today's Memorial Day. We might not all approve of the current military action, but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate the real danger our troops face every minute of every day. Appreciate it - and thank them for it. These are the REAL heroes in America today, not a bunch of ballplayers. So take a minute today and say a prayer for their safe return home.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Weekend highlights

AP Photo by Winslow Townson
I'd say Curt Schilling's 200th career win is a pretty big highlight! I have to admit, when he came back out on the field for his "curtain call," it was pretty emotional. Most of his victories came elsewhere, but Curt seems to have really connected with Red Sox Nation. On some level, I think he knew when he came to Boston, he had a chance to achieve legendary status. And of course the "bloody sock" sealed the deal. Last year was pretty dismal - I think none of us really realized what those appearances in the '04 off-season cost him in terms of his health. But, now he finally seems healed and healthy. And maybe ready to lead us on to another WS??

Meanwhile, two RS cast-off shone today. Josh Bard (now of San Diego) and Edgar Renteria (now of Atlanta) each had TWO home runs in their respective games. Why can't we get players like that? 8-)

And, out west, ho-hum, Bonds finally hit HR #715. And life goes on....

Non-Baseball Note:
I saw X-Men 3: the Last Stand today. Good popcorn movie. The special effects and make-up are of course outstanding. Kelsey Grammar is a good addition as the Beast. And Jean-Luc - er, I mean Patrick Stewart - looks very hot in the first scene! Phew!

If you go see it, please note: STAY UNTIL THE END OF THE CREDITS! There's a little bonus scene right at the end that you MUST see!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Curt & the Fat Man

AP Photo by Charles Krupa)

Man, it's just painful to look at this picture. No matter how you feel about David Wells, you'd have to be totally heartless not to feel badly for Wells after last night. He made his first real start after off-season knee surgery and tons of hours of rehab this spring. He finally made a start last night, only to be hit on the same knee by a line drive (by Travis(&**#) Lee in the 5th. According to reports, it's a deep contusion - not career ending. But this image made me ill. Imagine , doing all that work, struggling to get back, and in your first game, nailed. What a bummer.

Luckily, the boys stepped up - and won! Yeah! Lowell got another double, Ortiz is back, and I swear Youk is going to win a gold glove this year! He's been on SportsCenter's top 10 plays twice this week.

Tonight: "Mr. Curt" goes for his 200th career victory. I've got a good feeling...And after a huge storm here that knocked out my DirectTV for the entire pre-game show, it's back up - NESN locked and loaded!

And let me introduce you to the oracle...

This is Agatha. Probably the sweetest kitty in the world. She tells me that her favorite player this year is Coco Crisp. She can't wait for him to come back. And she says Curt will get the victory tonight. Of course, keep in mind, her favorite last year was Edgar Renteria....

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Turn frowns upside down

(AP Photo by Elise Amendola)

One of my favorite interviews during the celebration of the Red Sox victory over the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS was the one with the MVP, David Ortiz. He said that what had inspired him was the sad faces of the fans after the game 3 loss. He wanted to turn those tears into smiles. Well, that's how I feel about Big Papi today. That picture above makes me so sad. He left the bases loaded in the 8th last night against the Yankees, but the whole game was a downer for him. He's so clutch that we sometimes forget that he IS human, not a homerun hitting android (although he does seem like that at times!). And this picture makes me think it's hard for him to deal with, too.

I hope that the next few games will provide him with a turn around. Hey, we've got four games against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays! I know they relish their roles as Sox Killers, but I think a good old-fashioned thumping of them is what we need. So, come on guys, let's swap that picture above for this:

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Not going batty

Dear Red Sox:
Poor Tim Wakefield. Every time he pitches, you all look like this at the plate:

And last night was the same story. 13 left on base! Manny's bat seemed to be the only one willing to cross the picket line - he had a three-run homer. But the rest of you guys looked pitiful! What did Timmy do - run over your dogs? I hope he goes nuts and uses a baseball bat on YOU! Let's get it together.

You've got the chance to at least win the series over the NYY tonight. Okay, so maybe Matty Clement has been spotty - so now's the time to pull your weight. And they've got Randy "On the Verge of Collapse" Johnson on the mound - you've got to hit him early and often.


Thank you for your attention.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Grebes

From yesterday's episode of the PBS series "Arthur" - courtesy of the wbz4 website:

Monday, May 22, 2006

Notes from the weekend

  • Missed blogging this weekend. We had graduation - hard to believe another year is gone. There's always a let-down - there are some kids you'll really miss, others that you breathe a sigh of relief. So many emotions. I just came home from the 9am ceremony, and vegged the rest of the weekend. Oh, and watched some baseball, of course!
  • You know that I love to keep a scorecard when I watch baseball. Well, I discovered this weekend what a challenge that is when going by National League rules. Yesterday, Tito used every single player on the active roster! There were double switches, straight up switches, players changing postions. Man, my score card is a mess!
  • David Wells to return for Friday's game. After his comments this weekend about steroid use and Bonds, don't you miss this guy?
  • Yankees arrive today for a three game set against the Sox - and the weather actually looks like it might cooperate! The fans on the pre-game look starved for some live baseball - and I'm starved for some true NESN coverage. When you have to listen to announcers from some of the local stations when the Sox are out of town, you realize how good Remy and Orsillo are. Luckily, I still get the pre- and post-game shows - so I still get me some Eck!
  • Interesting stats: Of their huge payroll, $35 million of the Yankees money is sitting on the DL right now. As the Soxaholix pointed out today, it puts Red Sox fans in a tough position. If we win, it's, of course, they're playing their AA club. If they win, we look like idiots. I love the blogger who pointed out that we love to chant "Yankees suck" - but it's not as much fun when they really do suck!
  • Finally, the PBS series "Arthur" today featured three Sox players - Damon, Renteria and Timlin. They played three members of Arthur's favorite team, the Grebes, who hadn't won a world championship in 86 years. His friend Buster becomes convinced that he's bad luck for them. Then he meets the three players in the grocery store, and they encourage him to come to the final game - they need his support. Oh, their characters were Playmon, Bateria and Winlin. My fav part - "Winlin" quoting Emily Dickinson to Buster!!

Friday, May 19, 2006

No Lead is Safe

This past week has shown us that no lead is ever too large. Sunday, the Minnesota Twins ended the first inning of their game against the White Sox with a 7-3 lead. But the WS kept chipping away - and they came back to win the game 9-7. Tuesday night was that amazing game in the Bronx. After two innings, the Texas Rangers had a 9-0 lead over the Yankees. But the Yanks didn't concede - they kept grinding it out, and won it in the bottom of the 9th on a homer by Posada, 14-13. And last night (Thursday), Pittsburgh led Cincinnati after one inning, 6-0. But again, as one writer said, the Reds "realized who they were playing" and came back to win 9-8.

It's an important lesson. Never give up. Yes, the odds may look stacked against you, but if you persist and take one small step at a time, you can beat those odds. I use this line alot with my Weight Watchers members. It's tough to look at the number on the scale, and see a lloonngg way to go. But think of the smaller goals, the baby steps that will get you closer to that magic number. Just do the right things, follow the program, and then repeat it the next day. You WILL have success!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fan Psychology

Here's an interesting article from the Association for Psychological Science Observer. It's called "The Science behind Fanatic Behavior." It's got some fascinating points - about how fans are ardent because the sense of community created. This is good news for some of us:

Higher identification with a team is associated with significantly lower levels of alienation, loneliness, and higher levels of collective self-esteem and positive emotion.
I think Theo might have read this study, because this sounds like the reasoning behind the whole "Red Sox Nation" thing:

In fact, marketers over the past decade have notably targeted the sports fan psyche by using relationship-building marketing strategies, says Jeff James, associate professor of sports marketing at Florida State University. Rather than exclusively trying to attract new fans, they are attempting to build longer lasting, closer relationships with existing ones.

"It's moving from 'I'm a fan of the team' to 'I'm a part of the team,'" says James.

Go read the article - you're sure to see yourself in it!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Beth on Bonds

Wow, two days of rainouts have left me desperate for some baseball. I even found myself watching the Braves - although I turned it off before Francoeur's walk-off grand slam.

I have to comment on Barry Bonds and his pursuit of the all-time home run record. He's one short of Babe Ruth's record of 714 - and controversy has swirled around him. Major League Baseball has said it won't celebrate him when he passes Ruth - that they'll celebrate when he passes Hank Aaron. Fans on the road have been brutal to him - he's had a fake syringe thrown at him, had people jeering and catcalling him, and holding up cruel signs (some of which are pretty clever, actually!). The only people who seem to like him and want to celebrate with him are the hometown San Francisco fans. They missed their chance to celebrate #714 this week - Bonds went through the recent homestand without a homer, his last homer coming in a game at Philadelphia over a week ago.

Why is there such ambivalence? Some have claimed it's racism - that people don't want to see a black baseball player pass arguably the greatest white player ever. Hello - is not the all-time leader also an African American?? No, I think the problem is much more fundamental - people don't like Barry Bonds, not because of his color or his talent - but because he is not a nice man. Selfish, self-centered. The whole world revolves around him. One needn't look further than his tv series "Bonds on Bond," during which the cameras follow him and allow him to pontificate to the camera. When he was going through the whole BALCO mess last spring, he totally alienated me - and I consider myself to be a fairly typical, forgiving fan.

But my feelings were cemented this weekend when I read a column by Tim Dahlberg in the Fresno Bee, called "Giants get win, absent Bonds loses." Dahlberg details the Friday night game in SF, when the Giants rallied for four runs in the 9th to win. But instead of celebrating on the field with his teammates -
While music blared in the Giants' clubhouse and players chatted excitedly among themselves a few minutes after a big win against the hated Dodgers, the surly slugger was heading home.
Dahlberg who, one assumes, spends a bit of time in the clubhouse, writes:
Bonds plays when he wants, associates with teammates only when he wants and takes himself out of the game when he wants...But Bonds is Bonds, a player so egocentric that you wonder sometimes if he knows he has teammates.
That's the basic problem I have with Bonds. The incredible ego, the incredible selfishness. He clearly has used "the juice" at some point. I'm not sure if his records should be asterixed, but I do question whether we should be celebrating him. In the same way I question whether Jason Giambi should be taking curtain calls at the Stadt and being voted Comeback Player of the Year. Give him a bloodtest for HGH instead!

I don't think every player in baseball needs to be cute and friendly and nice, but I don't think they need to go out of their way to be unlikable and disagreable. To display the kind of disregard for teammates and fans that Bonds has is setting up the wrong kind of role model for young fans. Bud Selig needs to call Mr. Bonds in for a little chat - look at the good it did David Wells on several occasions!

In the meantime the Giants have hit the road again - and my fondest wish is that one of the opposing pitchers will toss him a meatball, Bonds will hit it out of the park -- and we can move on with our lives.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday nights at Fenway

Okay, second try at this post.

I've just been watching "Friday Night at Fenway" on NESN - their latest idea for generating revenue. Basically, it's an extra half hour on the pre-game show. And sponsored by some local corporation. I missed the debut last week - so I was interested to see it this week. The most fantastic part was of fav Gabe Kapler showing off the RS new workout/rehab area - and demonstrating some of his - er, the - equipment. Man, he's got an awesome bod -
Yeah, baby!

A few thoughts from the Yankees-Red Sox series this week. Three games vs. the Yankees - and we came away with two wins. Wow. The series captured all the highs and lows of a series between these two rivals. Basically, two blow outs - one in favor of each opponent. The third game was incredible - nauseating, exciting, disgusting, fun....I'm so glad Wakefield finally got some run support and a win - his record should be so much better than 3-4.

Matsui got injured in last night's game - pretty gruesome footage of him breaking his wrist. I almost feel bad for him - his streak of playing in 518 consecutive MLB games ended. I guess it was a point of pride for him. He joins Sheffield on the DL - the Yankee outfield now is Damon-Crosby-B Williams. And Damon is saying today that he injured himself on that spectacular catch vs. Mirabelli. Aww. Yankee land is abuzz - they are apparantly scrambling to replacement outfielders, since Matsui is said to be out at least three months.

Bright spots: Loretta starts hitting; Lowell continues his hot streak; Papelbon is "so intense;"
Wake showing good form.

I think I might <3 Mike Lowell. He's come out so hot this year - and great story about him on the pre-game show. He overcame testicular cancer just as his career was heating up - he won the Tony Conigliaro award a few years ago for overcoming adversity. And I don't know, that salt-and-pepper look is --- *hot*!

Oh, the game is ON! Let's go Red Sox!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Beauty School Dropout

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It's always interesting to track former players on your favorite team, and see how they're performing in their newest gigs. It's been especially time consuming this year, trying to keep track of how former Red Sox players are doing. They're all over the country and in both leagues.

Pictured above, of course, Edgar Renteria. ER was a key member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, and made the last out in the World Series. The Sox acquired him - at a high price - in the off-season, and he played 2005 with Boston. Unfortunately, he never seemed to find a groove in Boston - committing tons of errors and not producing at the plate. His performance led the Front Office to unload him on the Braves, even paying a portion of his salary to get the Braves to take him.

The result? He's opened the season in Atlanta with a 22-game hitting streak (actually, it's 23 games, since he got a hit in the last game of 2005). He's still committing errors, but they don't seem to be having the same impact. Was last year just an aberration in a great career? Did he never get comfortable in Boston - or in the American League? Is he just a "National League kind of guy"?

The whole situation leads me back to an age-old argument. Is the American League the tougher place to play? Purely anecdotal evidence would lead you to make that conclusion. Look at our former players who've gone over to the NL. Bronson Arroyo - who was our number 4 or 5 starter - is pitching incredibly for the Reds and may be their ace this year. Renteria, I've mentioned. Dave Roberts having a good year with San Diego. Nomar hitting well for Los Angeles. Heck, even Mark Bellhorn who was booed out of Boston last year for not "producing" is having a great year in San Diego, practically one of the key players on their team this year.

I'm sure I'm biased, but I think the AL - and the AL East in particular - IS a more difficult place to play. Especially in Boston - where you're constantly scrutinized by the media, fans and bloggers. I love when they interview Mark Loretta or Mike Lowell after a game - and you can see the incredulity on their faces when they talk about playing in front of a packed house every night. It must indeed be a shock for those former Marlins on the team!

Yet these NL vets are rising to the challenge. Lowell is a doubles machine these days - his last eight hits have been doubles. Gonzalez is finally finding his groove - hitting a home run last night. Loretta is also finding his swing. And they're all awesome in the field.

Maybe the difference for these guys is that they're veteran players. They've played on the big stage - I sometimes forget that Lowell and Gonzo were World Champions with the Marlins in 2003. And it must be so exciting for Lowell - who so many had written off - to prove those critics wrong. We're certainly benefiting from his resurgence!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Millar's Tale

One of the things I love about baseball is some of the characters who inhabit the game. Growing up, I remember the stories about Bernie Carbo and the stuffed monkey he carried around with him. Of Bill Lee and his many semi-illegal activities. Wade Boggs and all the crazy rituals he went through before every game (they didn't call him "chicken man" for nothing!)

But my favorite character in recent years is Kevin Millar. He was the one who really captured my heart during the 2003 season - he was one of the reasons I started following the Sox again. Sure, Johhny Demon - er, Damon - was the face of the franchise for a while. But Kevin was the voice. He was always the loudest in the clubhouse - you could often hear his voice during those NESN "locker room uncut" segments post-game. He was the go-to guy for interviews when Pedro or Manny were "unavailable." Who can forget his euphoric rampage down Yawkey Way (in full uni) after the Sox captured the 2003 Wild Card slot - at one point, he was pulling beers behind the bar at a local tavern!

But I think the biggest thing he did was instill confidence in the team before game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. Down 0-3, Kevin was the one rallying the troops. "Don't let us win tonight" he cautioned - because that will start the steamroller. And he was right. We won game 4. Pedro pitched game 5 - Schilling and the bloody sock in game 6 - and now it's tied. Derek Lowe in game 7...And the rest is history. And it was Millar there the whole time, cheerleader, loud-mouth - and one of the most endearing figures in recent club history.

I was so glad of the reception he got last night. A wonderful standing ovation - followed by boos when he got a hit! A salute to the past - and now on to the present!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Fenway Faithful

Some of the most interesting images shown by ESPN and NESN during Monday night's game were of the crowd in Fenway. It was 46 degrees at game time, it was damp and rain was threatening. Yet, there they all sat, huddled in parkas and under blankets. When you grow up in a baseball-mad region, you're used to such pictures - people go out to Fenway no matter the weather - and especially when the Yanks are in town.

Yet the same can't be said about other regions and other teams. A glance at yesterday's box scores yielded some interesting stats. The Phillies played the Florida Marlins - in Florida. Dontrelle Willis (one of the most dynamic players in the game) pitched. Their park holds 36,321 - and how many attended? 6,017. Some others:

Seattle @ Minnesota - 11,796 (capacity 46,564)
Detroit Tigers @ Kansas City - 9,597 (41,070 cap)
Chicago White Sox @ Cleveland - 17,845 (43,415)
Milwaukee Brewers @Houston - 12,258 (41,900)

Compare this to New York Yankees @ Boston - 36,339 (capacity at Fenway is 36,108)

I know it's only the beginning of May. I know that the races are barely starting, and the teams are still in early season form. But there are still good games being played. It's an opportunity to see players while they're still fresh, while they're trying to impress new managers and new fans. I just find it stunning to see so many empty seats.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Beautiful Knuckler

As someone who tries to watch the game with some attention and intensity, watching a knuckleball pitcher is an interesting challenge. You can't predict where it will go, what speed it will attain, and whether the batter will "wave at it" or not. I can't imagine being in the box and trying to hit it. I quote McCarver (ugh) here: "Hitting that thing is like trying to catch a butterfly with a pair of tweezers."

The pitcher pictured above - who throws a knuckleball well - says: "When it's working, it's a lot of fun. I can imagine the batters saying to themselves, 'I can't hit that thing.'" Tim must have had a lot of fun last night, because his knuckleball was definitely "working." He may not have gotten credit for the win and his efforts were somewhat overshadowed by the returns of Doug Mirabelli and that other guy. But he threw a heck of a game. The ball was floating beautifully, even with the strong wind. He just looked like our old Wake again - relaxed and focused.

And it was the first time I was relaxed watching Wake pitch this year. Watching Bard try to catch him had become an exercise in pure torture and frustration. I'm not faulting Bard - and all the parties involved made pains to say that they were sure he could have caught on to the job given a chance to learn it. But the fast lane we call the AL East is NOT the place you want to be running a driver's ed class.

If you want to read more about knuckleballs, let me recommend a new book by Dave Clark, called The Knucklebook: Everything You Need to Know About Baseball's Strangest Pitch. (Published by Ivan R. Dee, Chicago). Lots of great information on the mechanics behind the knucker.

The other highlight of the night was return of backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. What drama - you couldn't have scripted it better. Doug jumping on a charter flight in San Diego, screaming across country to arrive at Logan at 6:30 or so. A state trooper greets him on the tarmac - he jumps into a police vehicle and they go screaming through the streets of Boston to arrive at Fenway at a little after 7. Doug is in uniform - because they handed him one IN THE CAR to change into! (Best line: "Have you ever ridden in a police car before?" [Mirabelli] was asked. "That was the first time naked," he replied.) He dashes through the clubhouse, to arrive in the dogout several minutes late but still in time to start! (Schilling was quoted on WEEI today as saying Doug was so rushed, he didn't wear a cup for the first inning. Yikes, that could have been costly).

The reception he got in Fenway must have make him feel SSOO good! According to Sign On San Diego:
He wasn't an ideal fit in the Padres clubhouse or with the pitching staff. Even friend and former Red Sox teammate Mark Bellhorn said Mirabelli dearly missed Boston. “I know he enjoyed his time there,” Bellhorn said. “Talking to Nomar (Garciaparra), when you're in that atmosphere, it's hard to go to another place that doesn't have it.”
One report I read today said that he was watching every Sox game, keeping up with the team. Man, I'm psyched that he's back!

My other favorite line of the night comes from Joe Torre. Speaking about Mike Myers' match-up with David Ortiz: "He is going in there to wrestle a lion with a penknife"

And as for tonight....how about some more Fisk mojo - it's worked so far!

Monday, May 01, 2006

RS vs. Yankees - Round One

Several years ago, Carlton Fisk threw out the ball at a Yanks-RS game. As he looked over at the Yankee dugout, here was the silent message he sent them:

Fisk mojo, we need you tonight!

Welcome Back Dougie!

I love this picture of pitcher Tim Wakefield and catcher Doug Mirabelli. Doug spent four years as Wake's "personal catcher" before being traded to the Padres for Mark Loretta. It was a great trade -- even though Loretta isn't producing quite yet at the plate, we're already seeing a much improved infield defense thanks to his contributions.

We've all joked about Doug being Wake's "binky" - that Wake needed him to pitch well. Well, it wasn't such a joke, as we've discovered so far this season. Poor Josh Bard just couldn't get the knack for catching the knuckleball. The New York Times has a great quote from John Flaherty about how difficult it is to catch:

"I've said to myself, 'Thank God it's not me,' " said Flaherty, who chose retirement over a season chasing knuckleballs. Two innings in a meaningless game, 20 minutes of feeling vulnerable because he did not know where Wakefield's next floater would dip or dart.

"There were a lot of things that caused me to retire," said Flaherty, who played for the Yankees last year. "The idea of catching Tim 35 times was one of them."

So, now Theo has tried to right the wrong. As of 9 am this morning, Mirabelli is a Red Sock again, on a chartered flight from San Diego winging back to the loving arms of RS Nation. Wake is due to pitch tonight against the Yankees, and truth be told, that's not the stage you want Bard on. And Bard (and Cla Meredith and ca$$h) are headed to San Diego in return.

I'm sure Bard could have caught on eventually. But the reality was that Wake has pitched really well this year (ERA 3.90), and has a 1-4 record to show for it. True, the offense has given him absolutely NO run support (only 10 runs in those outings), but Wake's comfort level also has to be considered. He looked totally out of sorts in his last start in Cleveland. Now with Doug behind him, I hope he can knock em dead!

Everyone has speculated what the reaction would be tonight to Johnny Damon's return. I think that just got overshadowed big time. I can't wait to see the reaction of the Fenway Faithful when Doug (known as the "stud who hits bombs") is introducted. WELCOME BACK Dougie - we all (especially Wake) really missed you!