Monday, July 17, 2006

Sporadic updates ahead

I'm heading out on vacation tomorrow morning, so don't expect regular updates. I'll be at the Orioles-A's game at Camden Yards Wednesday - yeah, Barry Z is pitching! And can't wait to see "my Millar."

Four games in Boston to follow - including one on top of the Green Monster. I've got an awesome new camera, so hope to update with cool photos!

Direct TV update

This was on the Sons of Sam Horn this afternoon:

I called Major League Baseball directly and they tell a different story.

They claim that NESN will not pay the licensing fees on highlights outside of the New England viewing area to MLB so NESN is now blacking out all pre and post game coverage of games along with other Red Sox related highlight shows during the week to anyone outside of New England instead of paying the extra fees

If this is true, I hate NESN. I've opened an email conversation with one of their customer service reps, and forwarded this to her. We'll see the enemy's response. I mean, the only reason I pay for Direct TV is to get Red Sox baseball - it's definitely not for Camo Country or the Mad Fisherman!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A new record

Today Jason Varitek tied Carlton Fisk's record of 990 games caught! Yeah, Tek!

Sunday afternoon battles

So, the RS are down here in the top of the 9th, 5-1. I missed last night's game, which is the only one they won, of course. I guess Curt pitched a great game. I say "I guess" because I tuned in just as the game ended, and then my Direct TV cut off.

Yes, I am continuing to fight the DTV battle. Most of the RS message boards are getting hot - I'm not the only one to be upset about this blackout of the pre- and post- game shows. There was one report that this was a new MLB decision - that the regional sports networks (like NESN and YES) were showing too many highlights, which violated some kind of MLB rule. But, today, every single channel on my DTV - as well as the Extra Innings pkgs - showed the pre-game shows. NESN did not. So, again I called them. Finally got a manager, who said they are looking into it. I believe I will be calling NESN tomorrow. I'm still convinced this is a DTV screw-up.... very frustrating.

Getting organized for my trip. Just was looking over all my tickets - man, I did manage to score some good seats for all my games. Behind home plate at Camden Yards. My four games at Fenway: one on the Monster! 2 behind home! One in dead center. Can't wait to try out my new camera!!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Time to turn it around

Dear Red Sox: In case you didn't notice, there is still some baseball left to be played this year. The time after the All Star Break is NOT the time to relax and have fun out there. It's time to be really serious about winning and about breaking away from the rest of the AL East. I hope that the last two games are just an aberration - it looks like a single-A game. A-Gon and Loretta making errors? WTF? Papi and Manny not hitting? The Bull Pen sucking? (Oh, wait, that's not new).

I strongly urge you to GET IT TOGETHER tonight! Mr. Curt Schilling is on the mound - he knows a little something about stepping up when needed. I don't want to see any more innings with 8 unearned runs being scored. And must I further point out that the Yanks won today - and are poised to breathe down your necks in a most heinous fashion.

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Utter Madness at DirectTV

This is utterly inexplicable - and VERY irritating. For the last two nights, DirectTV has blacked out the NESN pre-game show. NOT the game, mind you, that comes on at game time. But the one-hour pre-game is unavailable in my area - as well as most areas of the country. I spent 30 minutes yesterday and 45 minutes today trying to get an explanation for this. Each person had numerous excuses they were clearly reading off a cue card. My favorite was the woman who told me that it was blacked out because it wasn't a sell-out! Hello - EVERY game at Fenway is a sell-out. Then she claimed that MLB and NESN make the rules as to what is blacked out. Hello - you mean, Bud Selig doesn't want me to see Eck, but I can watch the game???

Judging from comments on the Remy and SoSH boards, others are flooding Direct TV with calls and emails. I hope they get this fixed immediately!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Back from Break

So, I unintentionally celebrated the All Star Break by neglecting my blog. Ooops!

One word about the ASG: boring. Ms Fanatical here actually turned it off in the 3rd inning. Part of the problem was my second time being subjected to Buck and McCarver within 3 days. My eardrums were bleeding. They are ssssooo bad. And then the wonderful news breaks that MLB and Fox have renewed their baseball contract for another SEVEN years!! Unbelievable.

I was listening to ESPN radio this afternoon, and Doug Gottlieb was rehashing MLB's assertion that "this one matters" and "it's more than an exhibition." He made the point that as long as you have bogus rules - like every team must have a representative - it remains an exhibition game. I mean, Mark Redman from the KC Royals is more deserving of being there than Schilling? Ludicrous.

And I love the reports that Manny really is injured. Do I hear any apologies? Oh, no, now the MSM is claiming the reports have been fabricated by the Sox as part of their spin control. Here's my last word: I believe Manny owes his allegience to the RS fans who sit in the stands at every game and pay his salary. He owes NO allegience to the fanboys sitting in their parents' basements and voting on the Internet for him on the AS ballot.

And finally, tonight baseball returns. Sox vs. A's...and I'll be at Camden Yards in one week!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Test of Endurance

Heavens, I feel like I should buy a t-shirt that says "I survived that 19-inning marathon"! An amazing game today on many levels. Nineteen innings - 570 pitches thrown by the 16 pitchers. 4 solid innings of relief by Tavarez, giving up no runs. A blown save by Papelbon (we knew it had to happen one of these days) - and another blown save by Timlin.

What I found a little sad was the way US Cellular Field had emptied by the game's end. There were a lot of empty seats to witness the 19th inning heroics. I admit, I was tempted to call it quits - it was exhausting. But it got to a certain point where you REALLY want to win after putting in so much time. And I can't imagine leaving if you were there in person. It's not like the game was going on into the wee hours - it ended at 8:30 pm (actually, 7:30 their time). Still plenty of time to get home and get a good night's sleep before reporting to work Monday morning. Oh, well...

So now we've got three full days off for the All-Star Break. Not sure how much I'll watch of this Exhibition Game - probably get sucked in to the Home Run Derby, to cheer for Papi. I just read the Tom Glavine had to drop out, because he pitched today. (Are you insulted and upset, Mr McCarver?!). It'll be a nice break - but I know I'll be antsy-crazy by Thursday night's game vs. Oakland at Fenway. And....

3 weeks from tonight, I'll be in Fenway Park, watching the Red Sox and Angels play (and being broadcast on ESPN) - from the GREEN MONSTER SEATS! Yahoo...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Saturday afternoon baseball

So, today I was treated to the Red Sox-White Sox battle on the Fox Network. Before I comment on the game (which we won!), allow me a little anti-Fox rant.

OMG - I had forgotten how unlistenable those idiots on Fox are. We had to listen to the non-stop talk of two of the biggest blowhards in baseball - Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Okay, sometimes they are somewhat tolerable - meaning, I don't feel compelled to access the gameday audio of the game via WEEI (the official Boston station). But today, those buffoons went totally over the top. They spent at least 10 minutes reporting on Manny Ramirez' withdrawal from the All-Star game due to some lingering issues with his knee. These idiot pontificated on how Manny's withdrawal signified total disrespect for the game, an insult to all the people who voted for him, and finished by saying that since Manny hasn't actually missed any games, he must be lying - and the Sox are in collusion.

What they failed to report his how many times he's left the game in later innings, to rest that knee. No credit given to him for playing through his pain, to help his team. Instead of hurting his team - handicapping them when they might need him - he's elected to take time away from an EXHIBITION GAME to recover and get ready for the second half of the season. Fox instead chose to belittle the "Manny being Manny" attitude - inferring that he gets away with alot because of that excuse.

My question: where was all this righteous idignation a few weeks ago, when the Phillies allowed their starting pitching to pitch, despite having been arrested the night before for punching his wife in the face in public?? Isn't (alleged) physical abuse much more serious than missing an exhibition game? Apparently, not if you're Buck & McCarver. Preserve the integrity of the game? Don't remover known steroid users (**cough**Giambi**cough) or castigate wife abusers - but abuse future Hall of Famers who need a few days of rest....

/Rant over/

I choose to be positive. After losing 3 of 4 to those Devil Rays, the Sox have bounced back and won the first two games vs. the White Sox. I'd say that they won handily. Lots of offense - Oritiz has had 3 homers in the two games - and explosive offense. I wouldn't say that our starters looked all that great - Lester and Beckett got themselves into several jams. But both persisted, and were able to stay in long enough to be able to productively use our bullpen. And our young guns looked awesome!! Del Carmen, Hanson (or Handsome!), Lopez and Papelbon gave us all reason to hope for the future. Thank you Theo for not trading away these incredible young talents, and thank you Tito for giving them the chance to step up in high-stress situations, allowing them room to grow and mature right before our eyes.

To say I'm cautiously optimistic about the second half -- well, it's true!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday in Chicago

Photo by
Just a note on last night's game: PAPI!! That guy continues to astound - most nights, I'm standing, mouth agape, cheering his antics. Two home runs last night - one for 2 runs, the other a 9th inning grand slam. Just awesome. A close game was quickly widened into the final 12-5 margin. I just hope that the momentum carries over into tonight's game.

So, tonight we go into Chicago, and take on the 2005 World Champion White Sox. I have to admit, once the Sox were out of the playoffs last year, I didn't really watch. "I had no dog in that fight," as the locals here would say. But I have quickly overdosed on "Ozzie". The guy is a total blowhard, who's using his bully pulpit for, well, nothing. Maybe I thought him charming and amusing for a few minutes last year, but I'm totally over that. I'm no fan of Jay Mariotti, but Ozzie's remarks were inexcusible. He needs to shut up and do his job. He forces the spotlight on himself. Perhaps that is by design - as long as the press focuses on him, they don't put his players under the spotlight. But aren't those players the reason people come to the stadium?(Well not for Pierzynski - can you believe he's an All Star??)

And dont' get me started on the White Sox/All-Star team. Amazing - his own players don't get voted in, so Ozzie simply appoints them. His response? To his peers: if you don't like it, play better and replace me as manager next year. It's especially upsetting to RS fans, because Francona was given no such leeway last year. What's changed?? Or is it that Ozzie is simply more "assertive" than Tito?

I can't believe Ozzie's egotism will be tolerated for long. The "Ozzie Show" will continue to be tolerated as long as he continues to manage a winning team. But as soon as the team starts losing, I imagine Ozzie will find himself as a third base coach in Kansas City or Tampa Bay. And baseball will be better off.

Rant ended - go RED Sox!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I Hate the Trop

Photo by Steve Nesius/AP
I can relate, Youk. This was how I felt after both your stolen HR and the game itself. Losing three games to the Devil Rays is not fun. Losing because of all kinds of weird events is even less fun. Like Youk's potential homerun. The ball would have landed on Landsdowne Street if we'd been at home. Instead, it caroms off a catwalk in that freaking Tropicana Field, is ruled in play - and caught for an out. Even weirder, it bounced off the wrong catwalk - if it had hit a different one, it would have been a homer. This on the heels of Ortiz being robbed of a homer in Minnesota three weeks ago - there, it went off a stereo speaker. As Francona said after the game:
``This putt-putt golf [stuff] has got to go. It's stupid. Hitting it around the windmill. This is a major league game. The bigger and stronger you are, the farther you hit the ball, it doesn't seem right. You get penalized."
There was other weirdness. Mikey Lowell intentionally dropped a liner, and tried to get a triple play. But the umpires caught on - didn't fall for his crafty play. As I recall, Mikey pulled the old "hidden ball" trick last year with the Marlins. Ooh, he's a slick one.

I had to watch the FSN Florida broadcast for the second night in a row - please let me get NESN tonight! If I have to listen to one more paeon to Carl Crawford, in the words of Sheridan Whiteside, "I may vomit." Yeah, he stole three bases last night - 2nd, 3rd, and home. Yeah, it's a bummer that he didn't make the all-star team. But you don't need to nominate him for a gold glove every time he fields a routine fly ball!

Deep into the Boston papers' RS notebooks, a note about Ortiz having a sore wrist. Perhaps aggravated by one of those scary slides he made into bases in the past week. He's got heating pads on it before the games, and ice on it afterward. He's still hitting HRs, but his production does seem to be off. I hope the HR derby and All-Star game won't adversely effect him.

So, we've lost three in a row. Time to kick some Devil Ray a**. (Do devil rays have one?) I'm trying to keep it in perspective. When we were in the midst of that wonderful 12-game winning streak, Curt Schilling was asked about how the players viewed the streak. He said something to the effect that our fans are always one losing streak away from jumping off buildings. The players just try to keep cool, keep it in perspective, and keep playing. Amen.

Finally, there was interesting feature on ESPN this weekend, an "all-access" report on the Astros as they headed off on a road trip. As fans, I don't think we always think realistically about the guys off the field. Taking off on the road for 10 days, leaving right after a night game and not arriving at their hotel til 5 or 6 in the morning. Leaving behind family. One of Astros talked about hanging out at the hotel for hours before a night game, trying to kill time. A bunch of the bull pen guys were showing hanging out at the park, playing baseball/golf around the field. One player talked about getting sympathy from NBA and NFL players, who can't imagine playing their games 162 times per year. It is a grind...

But as my sister would remind me at this point, Beth, how can you feel sorry for someone being paid millions of dollars, playing a game every day - and living every fan's dream??

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It's half over

Hard to believe, last night's game was number 81 - we're at the half-way point in the 162 game season. The record is 51-30 - and we're four games ahead of Toronto and New York. Are we headed toward a 102-60 season? Will that be enough to win the division? Looking at the strong AL Central - Tigers, Twins and Indians - the pre-season predictions that the Wild Card will come out of the Central seem to have ever more validity. That means only one playoff spot for the AL East.

We certainly look strong. Today's "Extra Bases" report in the Globe has this comparison of the last two years' teams at the halfway point:

Batting avg..285
Runs 451
Runs per game5.6
Home runs104
Slugging pct..456

On-base pct..367
Opp. avg..263
Fielding pct..990

The '05 team finished 95-67, second in the division.

Of course, the fielding percentage jumps right out at you. We've improved in almost every category. I would like to see a comparison of LOB, though - because we seem to be squandering a tremendous number of opportunities.

And the Yanks? One couldn't help but grin and giggle at this morning's box scores: Cleveland Indians 19, Yankees 1 - on Steinbrenner's birthday, no less. Toronto looks strong. Heck, this Tampa Bay team looks pretty strong, too.

It's going to be an interesting, intense, invigorating, indigestion-provoking second half. But, isn't that true of Red Sox baseball EVERY year?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth!

I love this picture of Manny Ramirez. It was taken a few years ago (2004?) the day after he became an American citizen. We joke a lot about "Manny Being Manny" and "Manny Moments" - but this my favorite Manny Moment. The look of pure joy and happiness is so great!

I put this photo at the top, because last night's game was the exact opposite for the RS supporter. As a fan of baseball, it was a great game. Scott "Sox Killer" Kazmir pitched a complete game, only allowing 2 hits. It was a masterful performance - he had 10 strikeouts. Wow. I don't know why Kazmir performs so well against the RS. As he manager, Joe Maddon, said:
“I think the sight of the Red Sox uniform turns him on a little bit,” Maddon said. “The fact that he likes the big game against the better team under the big spotlight is really good for us. He really does elevate his game.”
It was also a strange evening at the Trop - because there were actually a ton of DEVIL RAY FANS there! And they really got into the game - cheering every pitch towards the end. It was kind of stunning - I hope the owners were paying attention. They always claim that the Tampa crowd is apathetic, doesn't care about baseball. But I think last night showed that baseball DOES sell in Tampa - if they put together an exciting, contending team. Open the purses, guys!

Today, it's Mr. Curt vs. old friend Casey Fossum. I hope that Curt is still ticked about the All-Star snub and pitches like our ace! Go Sox!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Notes from the weekend

Friday: The Sox lost Friday night to the Marlins, in the first of a three game series. It ended their 12 game winning streak, which is a bummer. But their run of 17 games without an error continued. The Sox put newly acquired Jason Johnson on the mound - and he gave up 5 runs in th efirst two innings. I understand that the team didn't arrive in Miami until 4am, so I guess some fatigue is understandable. Intellectually, I know they had to lose eventually, but stilll...

Saturday: Well, first off, I wasn't allowed to watch this game. I hate FOX! They have propietary rights to every game that's played between 1pm and 7pm on Saturdays. If they choose to broadcast it, fantastic (although you're then subjected to those doofuses, Buck and McCarver) However, if they don't broadcast it, it's blacked out except regionally. So this week's game was broadcast by NESN to the locan New England market, and by SUN to the Southern Florida market. Me - I got to watch a bouncing DirectTV logo for four hours. Fortunately, I also have a subscription to Gameday Audio on - so I could at least listen to WEEI.

Secondly, I started my first game thread over on the Remy board. No one had stepped up to do it, so I took a deep breath and tried my luck. I hoped my game winning Mojo would help. After all, I was present for the games in Atlanta that kicked off the 12-game streak. And - ta-da - it worked, because the Sox won.

I think their bats must have either missed that late flight from Boston Friday morning, or slept in, because they were basically invisible during Friday night's game. But not so Saturday! Ortiz and Ramirez EACH hit two homers - and Mikey Lowell had THREE doubles! Wow! The Sox won 11-5 - yahoo!

Sunday: So the rules of responsibility for keeping the winning game threads going are complex. You can't start the new one until after midnight, and whoever started the winning thread must start the new one. Some starters are superstitious about changing nothing in their winning thread - they keep the title nearly identical and use the exact same format. I started mine with a picture of our pitcher - Wakefield Saturday and Lester today. I also put in some stats about the pitchers...

Sunday's game started at noon - Florida seems to pick odd start times for their games! We put up hot rookie Jon Lester, and the Marlins countered with their young prospect, Josh Johnson. And once again, our bats came through! 3 solo homers (Ortiz, Youk and Tek), and then some "smallball" to score the go-ahead run in the 8th. Final score: 4-3.

The Sox were amazing in Interleague play - 16-1, the best record this year for any team (oh, sorry, the Twins have the same record). And now it's back to the American League - with four games vs. Tampa Bay and three vs. the Chicago White Sox. It'll be a tough stretch leading up to the All-Star break, but we've also got a chance to distance ourselves from the rest of the division. We're 4 1/2 games ahead of the Yanks right now, and hopefully the Mets will help us out tonight.

All Star Selections: So, the announced the All-Star teams this evening. Here are the teams:

Pos Player B/T Age Games
1B David Ortiz, BOS L/L 30 3
2B Mark Loretta, BOS R/R 34 2
3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY R/R 30 9
SS Derek Jeter, NYY R/R 32 7
C Ivan Rodriguez, DET L/R 23 1
OF Vladimir Guerrero, LAA R/R 30 7
OF Manny Ramirez, BOS R/R 34 8
OF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA L/R 32 6
American LeagueAmerican League Pitchers

Pos Player B/T Age Games
SP Mark Buerhle, CWS L/L 27 3
SP Jose Contreras, CWS R/R 34 1
SP Roy Halladay, TOR R/R 29 2
SP Scott Kazmir, TB L/L 22 1
SP Mark Redman, KC L/L 32 1
SP Kenny Rogers, DET L/L 41 3
SP Johan Santana, MIN L/L 27 2
SP Barry Zito, OAK L/L 28 2

Pos Player B/T Age Games
RP Bobby Jenks, CWS R/R 25 1
RP Jon Papelbon, BOS R/R 25 1
RP Mariano Rivera, NYY R/R 36 6
RP B.J. Ryan, TOR L/L 30 2
American LeagueAmerican League Reserves

Pos Player B/T Age Games
1B Paul Konerko, CWS R/R 30 3
1B Jim Thome, CWS L/R 35 5
2B Robinson Cano, NYY º L/R 23 1
2B Jose Lopez, SEA ª R/R 22 1
3B Troy Glaus, TOR R/R 29 4
SS Miguel Tejada, BAL R/R 30 4
SS Michael Young, TEX R/R 29 3
C Joe Mauer, MIN L/R 23 1
OF Jermaine Dye, CWS R/R 32 2
OF Alex Rios, TOR º R/R 25 1
OF Gary Matthews, Jr., TEX ª S/R 31 1
OF Grady Sizemore, CLE L/L 23 1
OF Vernon Wells, TOR R/R 27

Some interesting omissions: No Varitek - who led the fan voting until almost the end. Guillen named Mauer as back-up - which is really how it should be. Mauer is nearly hitting .400 right now, and really deserving of this honor. Also - no Schilling or Beckett, despite their league-leading records. Guillen claims he consulted with other managers before naming his reserves, and that he tried not to interfere with an pitching rotations. Realistically, he wanted his guys on their.

On the NL side, Nomar was overlooked - as Kruk said, it'll be a shame when he wins the batting title and was not on the All Star team. And, our Bronson was named to his first All Star team - again, very worthy of the honor.

And now, on to Tampa Bay!!