Like the Sox themselves, I find myself
watching the scoreboard without much of an opinion as the Yanks'
divisional lead widens to levels equal to Defcon 2.
Basically the current squad perplexes
and I would like to hear more on the following:
What is the story with Millar who seems to get hits/RBIs when it
doesn't matter and obviously is no defensive asset; is Cowboy Up,
Why is Damon still the only option at
leadoff? Think the stat last year was that he had the worst OBP of
the offensive nine (ok, don't see 'Tek beating out bunts, but about
time for Nomar to go to the 2/3 hole and so some jostling
appropriate and, alas, no Beltran).
And, unlike 2003 when the team needed
obvious relief help, the current Sox just seem - for want of a
better word - suburban, with no crying weaknesses but the 3-4-5
starters too valuable to trade but too volatile to love. (I don't
know what the over/under is on a D-Lowe Sox signing, but there's a
Rockies hat on it with his name on it without serious plate tectonic
movement soon.) Who could the Sox get to at least shore up the 5
spot to Burkett levels?
That said, a few Yankee pummelings over
the next few weeks would bring back the early season Prozac coma in
full. Here's to a quick return to lethargy.
- DJS, 6.26.04
Open Letter to
6.17.04: Dear Nomar,
You have been a shining light for most of us during the past eight
You played hard everyday, and performed for years at the highest
level. We have been truly blessed to have someone who cared about
winning and who has been a perennial all-star. For much of your
career, you have been 'underpaid' by comparison with the egregious
contracts of some of your peers.
On the other hand, most of us will never enjoy the limelight, or
make a tiny fraction of what your God-given abilities have allowed
you and your colleagues to do. Most of us have to work everyday,
too, through injuries or illness, facing whatever situations life
You are at a crossroads in your career, with the intersection of
crisis and opportunity. Free agency affords you a chance to cash in
on your prospects during the next few seasons. We are happy for your
opportunity, particularly as you have embarked on a new family.
You have been a remarkable hitter, particularly in Fenway Park
during your career. Some fans and baseball executives may question
whether time and injuries allow you to continue with that same
productivity. We can only observe that with limited playing time,
coming off a serious injury, that your traditional offensive and
defensive ability hasn't yet manifested itself. We can only use the
metrics that we know, statistical anathemas they may be, OPS and Win
Shares, home and road performance, along with what (as Richard Pryor
might say) our 'lying eyes' show us. Your employer, Mr. Henry, made
his fortune following trends. He and his associates must evaluate
what becomes a 'reasonable expectation of value' over time. Other
owners will do the same.
We wish you the most productive season of your career and the
delivery of a championship to your championship-starved fans. We
think that your performance has blessed us and that you too have
been truly blessed. All we can ask for is your continued
professionalism on and off the field. Perform well and the contract
will take care of itself.
Ron Sen, MD
Terry Francona May Very Well Be
An Awful, Awful Manager
6.01.04: I know there was more than one reason for the loss to
Anaheim tonight. The offense does a remarkable job at somehow
letting struggling pitchers off the hook... getting hits but not
So, I'm not ignoring the lack of clutch hitting while I focus my
attention on something that is beginning to make me insane. Francona
is shaping up to be an awful manager anytime he has to make a
meaningful pitching decision. I've got nothing against "players'
managers", but in the future could the Sox ownership try to
interview "players' managers" who are capable of making pitching
changes? There's nothing mutually exclusive about those two
At least with Grady, he had the excuse that (a.) there was no one
terribly reliable in the bullpen until the (cough, cough) playoffs,
and (b.) he was a complete moron.
But with Francona, it's almost as if he has an academic interest in
seeing what happens when a starting pitcher who is out of gas, with
only a slight lead or in a tie, continues to throw pitches anyway.
Or maybe he just likes to send a philosophical message during every
damn game, looking at the pitching line afterwards and basking in
the glory of seeing 121 pitches instead of 95 for every starter,
every game, no matter what they're throwing like or what the
situation calls for. It may be a different story with Schilling,
maybe, who he's seemingly just afraid of. And that isn't an
underhanded swipe at Schilling for wanting to stay in games, being
an intense guy, wanting to finish what he starts, and work his way
out of his own jams. That's how a top pitcher is supposed to feel.
But a top manager is supposed to respond "Not today, Curt. Give me
the ball." He's not to sit in the dugout while a game Schilling is
supposed to win turns into a no decision, or worse.
Francona has a pretty damn good bullpen, weakened by the absence of
Williamson certainly, but still very strong. When your 5th starter
gets the team through 5 innings... and sloppily at that, hitting
batters, giving up his share of hits and runs... when you have a
well-rested bullpen... and when the starter was already over 90
pitches to get through 5, why do you bring him back out? Isn't that
enough, when you have the lead, from the 5th starter when he's only
had a mediocre night to begin with? And then, when he's struggling
in the 6th, why does Francona always wait until the team is LOSING
to make a change? And, from a perspective wider than tonight's game,
why does he stick in the mop-up men in tie games or when the team is
only trailing by a run or two? Why, why, why is he always late with
the hook in close games?
The Red Sox have their share of problems, a good deal of which can't
be pinned on their manager. Their record is good, better days may
lay ahead if/when injured players return at 100%, etc. The players
seem to like him, and if the the losses have something to do with
him so do the wins. The sky is not falling every time they lose a
couple. But Terry, while it's still the first day of June, when a
pennant race in September is still far away and a possible playoff
berth even farther, shake off the vestiges of your folksy bench
coach persona at least enough to learn how to manage a pitching
staff. Down the road, it's much, much more serious. Remember,
- Andrew G., Brookline
- Tito goes on Dale & Neumy and says he only had four pitchers
available last night, clarifies that he had guys like DiNada and
Brown unavailable, Embree, Timlin, A-Mart, and Foulke is all he had
left, needed Embree against DaVanon, didn't want to be caught with
just Foulke left by the ninth.
Just Your Average Ben
6.01.04: Ben, thanks for coming in, have a seat.
Let me start by saying that I loved you in Good Will Hunting.
Really, I did. You were very funny and had good chemistry with your
heterosexual lifemate Matt Damon. However, you've made several bad
decisions since. Most notably the "Bennifer" fiasco, but also
Reindeer Games, Paycheck, Bounce, Daredevil, and...of course...Gigli.
I'm sure you regret these decisions even more than we do. However,
these decisions aren't what we've brought you here to discuss today.
Recently, you were spotted wearing a "Killin' With Schillin'" shirt.
This in itself, while an error in judgment, is not a crime. Although
the makers of this shirt, Sullys Tees, brand themselves as "T-Shirts
for the Boston Sports Guy", there was apparently a slip-up in
selling ethics, and you managed to snag a shirt. If certain Bridge 9
interns were responsible, they will promptly be sacked! . If a
certain Bridge 9 CEO was responsible, he will be severely
What bothers us so much abut the T-shirt picture, Ben, is the way
you were seen displaying it. Hiking up your sweatshirt and jacket to
show it off to the boys in the dugout. This is simply wrong on a
number of levels. These shirts are made to be worn on top, Ben, not
under two layers of clothes. Yes, it's Boston in the springtime, but
the temperature hasn't dipped below T-shirt weather for several
weeks. Perhaps your California-pampered skin simply can't take it
anymore. Please correct this as soon as possible. However, the more
grievous complaint we have is that you were seen standing in front
of the dugout showing it off. This is simply a staggering feat, Ben.
Something we can't condone, because it truly shows the rift that
lies between us and you. This is the matter that's brought you here
You are no longer a member of Red Sox Nation. You've lost touch with
You sit in the Monster Seats and owner's box. We blow half a
paycheck on bleacher tickets and standing room. You show up before
BP to have a drink with Theo and yuk it up with Ortiz. We stand in
security lines and usually can't get a beer before Damon steps into
the box. You stand in front of the dugout to show of a t-shirt. We
once got threatened with arrest for trying to run the bases during
Kids Opening Day.
Simply put, Ben, you are not the common fan you think you are.
So Ben, here's a solution we've worked out. Let's run it up the
flagpole and see who salutes it.
At 20 million a picture for the last 6 or so films, that puts you at
about 120 mil, minus a few hundred thousand per month that you spent
with Jenny from the Block. Let's say that leaves you with 100
million in disposable income. Bravo, Ben. The "local boy" certainly
has made good. Time to lose it.
I think it's the money that's clouding your judgment. You're no
longer hungry. You're not a scrapper anymore Ben. Look at the
Yankees, the team you purportedly despise. Steinbrenner's boys are
bloated and weak with dough. They're rich and complacent, and happy
to stay that way. If you really want to become a common fan again,
lose the money. I say you give half to your pals Theo and the Trio,
and the other half to the Jimmy Fund. Think of the headlines Ben!
"Affleck Invests in Sox, Kids". "50 mil to Wally, 50 mil to Jimmy".
Heck, the Herald's front page will probably shout "Benny Ballgame!"
Long story short, Ben. You'll be back down with the rest of us.
Sure, you'll live comfortably, but in spite of your donations,
there'll be a few rules. You'll have to pay for all your tickets,
waiting in Virtual waiting rooms and scalper's lines like the rest
of us. You'll have to drink watered down Bud Lights and eat Fenway
Franks. No Sam Adams, no Sausage Guy. You can't go on the field. You
can't be on TV. Ever. Not FOX, not ESPN or even as NESN's Fan of the
Game. You'll be just another guy at the game. If you violate any of
these rules, the next game you go to, you'll have to sit in an
obstructed view seat.
This will help both us and you, Ben. You won't be an embarrassment
to us, no matter how many godawful movies you make or who you're
currently humping. You won't be able to spout off erroneous
statements on the air, acting as some self-appointed mouthpiece of a
Nation you've lost touch with. You'll help reestablish Red Sox
Nation as a legion of rabid, passionate, but most importantly
intelligent and classy fans.
And it will help you Ben, really, it will. You'll reconnect with the
sheer joy of sitting in the bleachers on a summer night, of walking
out of the concourses and into that emerald cathedral, and a sea of
red and blue. You'll remember how it feels to pay $5.50 for a beer
and then not care when you drop it because Ortiz just dumped another
one into the Monster Seats. You'll look at the folks in the luxury
boxes, the right field roof seats, the monster seats and those damn
dugout seats and you won't feel the slightest ! bit of envy, because
you're sitting in the bleachers, next to a fat sweaty guy named
Bobby and Cub Scout Trop 312, and you're convinced you've got the
best seats in the whole damn park.
Thanks again for coming in today Ben, we want you back, really, but
you've gotta play by our rules.
- Tommy "Gun" Walsh, resident of JP.
Grady's Defense, Part II
Dear Red Sox Nation,
As a lifetime Red Sox fan, I always thought that Boston had the most
intelligent fans. However, based on fan reaction regarding Little
leaving Pedro in the game too long against the Yankees, I think Red
Sox fans strike out. It's so easy to second guess someone after the
fact. It's so easy to say Pedro was tired after he gives up the game
tying run. It's so easy to say that Pedro can't get anyone out after
he's thrown over 100 pitches. It is true that batters are hitting
.370 against him after he throw 100 pitches, but if you go back and
review the games that his pitch count was that high, you might
change your mind on this matter.
Here are some statistics on Pedro pitching over 101 pitches:
There were 7 games this year that Pedro started an inning with at
least a 2 run lead and his pitch count went over 101 pitches.
On 4-22 against Texas, Pedro started the 7th with a 4-1 lead. Pedro
struck out the last batter with bases loaded to end the inning, no
runs scored and he threw 122 pitches. (The Sox bullpen almost blew
the game in the 9th but held on 5-4).
On 5-3 against Minnesota, Pedro started the 7th with a 9-1 lead and
retired the side in order and threw 108 pitches.
On 6-26 against Detroit, Pedro started the 6th with a 6-1 lead and
got rocked for 5 straight hits. He left the game with the Sox
leading 6-4 and threw 110 pitches.
On 8-6 against Anaheim, Pedro started the 9th with a 4-1 lead, gave
up a run, then struck out his last batter with the bases loaded. He
threw 128 pitches.
On 9-10 against Baltimore, Pedro started the 8th with a 4-0 lead and
completed the inning without Baltimore scoring and threw 116
On 9-16 against Tampa Bay, Pedro started the 9th with a 3-1 lead,
gave up a run, had the tying run on 2nd base and finished the game
for a 3-2 victory throwing 122 pitches.
On 9-21 against Cleveland, Pedro started the 7th with a 2-0 lead,
loaded the based and struck out his last batter and threw 115
7 games, 7 games with at least a 2 run lead, 7 games Pedro throws
105 plus pitches, 7 wins.
So that fancy stat that Peter Gammons and everyone throw out there
with Pedro throwing 101-120 pitches and batters hitting .370 against
him is a great stat, but doesnít reflect the heart and soul of Pedro
Martinez. You canít tell me that because Pedro
gives up 5 straight hits against Tigers with a 6-1 lead in June that
heís not a clutch pitcher. The only game this year (prior to game 7)
that Pedro had the ball and the lead and lost the lead after
throwing 101 pitched was on 7-31 against Texas. It was only the 6th
inning and Pedro lost a 2-1 lead. He left the game trailing 3-2, the
Sox tied the game 3-3, and the bullpen lost the game in the 9th 7-3.
In this game, it was the 1st time all year that Pedro had back to
back starts of 110 plus pitches (he threw 128 pitches in his
previous start against the Yankees). An argument could be made that
he was tired in this game. He walked the 1st batter on 4 pitches,
fell behind his 2nd and 3rd batters 1-0 and fell behind his 4th
Red Sox fans also feel that Littleís philosophy was to get Pedro out
of the game by the 7th all season long. Not true. Grady Little
treated Pedro with kid gloves prior to the All-Star game, but after
the break he was letting his pitch count increase knowing that he
had the bullpen by committee problem. Look at the numbers. Pre
All-Star, Pedro had only 2 games where he pitched more than 110
pitches. Post All-Star, Pedro had 6 games that he pitched more than
110 pitches. In fact, in the month of September, Pedro had 3 games
where he threw 115 plus pitches when he had only 4 games all season
prior to September when he threw 115 plus pitches. Clearly Grady was
saving Pedro early in the season and letting he stay in longer in
the stretch drive for a playoff berth.
Playoff Game 1 against Oakland
Pedro starts the 7th with a 4-3 lead, loads the bases and on his
130th pitch of the game, get Chavez to pop up to the catcher. (Sox
bullpen blows game)
Where were all the critics screaming for Little to take out Pedro in
this game. 130 pitches and he leaves him in there.
Little made the right call on keeping Pedro in the game. 4 times
this year Pedro had the bases loaded, the lead, the game on the line
AND had thrown 110 plus pitches and he had 3 struck outs and a pop
up to the catcher. Thatís a clutch pitcher if I ever saw one. Game 7
just didnít work out.
Letís go to Game 7 against the Yankees.
The single most overlooked key play of the game happened in the 7th
inning not the 8th inning. Letís review that inning. Pedro gets the
first 2 batters out. He faces Giambi. Little could have pitched
around Giambi because he was hitting 7th and had already hit a home
run against Pedro. With a 4-1 lead, why risk letting a home run
hitter take you deep? Okay, they pitch to him and itís 4-2. Next
This is the play that still haunts me. Wilson hits a ball to Millar,
who catches it but doesnít toss it to Pedro. He falls down. Look at
the replay. Pedro beats Wilson to the first base bag, but Millar
holds the ball. The official scorer calls it a hit. Pedro should
have been out of the 7th. His pitch count would have been at 93 to
start the 8th inning. The Yankees would have had Karim Garcia
(batting 9th) leading off the 8th inning. Garcia was 0 for 5 leading
off an inning in the series striking out 3 times. He batted .206 all
year leading off an inning as opposed to a .306 average with a man
on first (Wilson). After Garcia, Pedro would have had Soriano who he
struck out 4 times and Nick Johnson who popped up. 8th Inning over,
1, 2, 3, bring in Williamson for the 9th.
I canít believe that no one has said anything about the importance
of the Millar fall and how it impacted the outcome of the game.
Home Run Trot
10.5.03: Perhaps like many, reading
about a loss seems pointless and I usually only turn to the wires or
Boston papers after a win, mainly to wallow in the team's good
fortunes and raise hopes about tomorrow. A page like this, though,
offers a chance to vet when the former occurs - the conclusion of 85
straight seasons, while jubilation more than not is certain to merit
a humbling down the pik
Often Sox fandom is compared to a
Calvinist belief that you live a hard, good life but ultimately
don't see reward on earth. It's not that we don't believe it can
happen, but rather we don't remember any other way and have a
resignation about failure. A recent New Yorker article, though,
noted the Korean concept of Han, which seemed even more apt
"A peculiar mixture of tragedy and
comedy, Han is an anger and resentment that build up, and at the
same time a feeling of frustration or a feeling of desires that are
unfulfilled... (Han is) the steady accretion of a pattern of lesser
injuries into one large and abiding sense of woundedness.
Humiliation is a key ingredient. The self-mockery of the self-loving
who are too aware of their weakness."
Hearing of his "No. 1" salute, B.H. Kim
is feeling the wrath of the Nation and his own foibles, as doubt
grows to levels that mirror the followers of his team. In a sign of
my own wavering faith, I began typing before tonight's game ended,
although arguably have been typing for years on the same subject.
Game 3 had a very sweet denouement, but
the fight is far from over. An elder relative passed away last month
and her obituary noted a life-long Red Sox and Patriots fandom,
illustrating that we don't just wear our colors, we take them with
us. A championship would put more than a few ghosts to rest and
leave many heading for papers one fine morning to gloat in a great
Irish wake without fear of hurbris or hangover.
Destiny and Aura:
Power of Positive Drinking
extra inning was a microcosm of how doubt this season has been
melted by performance and teammates' trust in each other. Despite
one too many early homers, stranded runners at third, errors and
ugly relief efforts, the bottom of the 9th brought the heroes and
immediate ability to forget. Those doubted, derided or slump-bound
shook off the weight of fan expectations and 85 years of missed
opportunity and did their jobs. Nomy's walk against closer Julio,
who had him whiffing in the dirt in August, was based in part on
belief the next man would deliver. Walker did on a 3-2 count with
two out. Would the Sox squander a comeback in the 10th? No, this win
was ordained with Kim taking four batters and Ortiz four pitches.
The Big O as an MVP candidate? Certainly, but here's a vote for an
MVP team that unlike predecessors did not read the papers or
surrender to the demons of our wavering faith. With the touch of
home after the game winner, the celebration could be heard virtually
through all Red Sox Nation. My father who sends emails about their
performance that usually vary between "YOUR RED SOX" and "MY RED
SOX" sent the latter this fine evening. While it may take a day for
the champagne to chill, if things go well, the bar will be open for
some time. - DJS
Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there's no one else above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away all my sadness
Ease my troubles that's what you do
9.3.03: Sox victories the last two days have been economical treats
that like holy water should be sprinkled liberally on all the
negativity from the weekend. Two hits (two homers) and a win on
Tuesday as Burkett and the bullpen did exactly what they had to, and
then today's gutsy extra inning V against a very competitive Pale
D-Lowe was not perfect but got double plays and whiffs when needed
with the poise of last summer, while the real B.H. Kim stood up to
be counted. On offense, the home runs were counterpunches to
everything Chicago put on the table, and David Ortiz and Tek have
been the Rocky Balboas of the last three weeks and arguably the
Scoreboard watching (a sin admittedly) - everyone that mattered lost
Wednesday and this definitely aint just a wildcard race. Say amen,
somebody, the choir is singing Boston's song.
The Road Not
8.25.03: Accentuating the positive this fall -
yes, fall and the Sox are still in it - the possible final
appearance of Roger Clemens at Fenway displayed the dangers of
drawing conclusions in a game where 117 wins may reside in an arm
once seen in its twilight.
As he left the game and Hub in the
bottom of the 7th with the bases full but his 100th win in Boston
nearly assured, a respectful ovation showed why baseball, more than
other sports with bombastic video and laser spectacles, says goodbye
to its working men with the simplest but most appropriate "well
done". The fans, rather than feeling financially entitled due to a
corporate debenture known as a ticket, instead sense the privilege
of watching one of the best pitchers of his generation and the
game's history. If lucky, the gods respond. If even luckier, the Sox
come back and win it. Ah well, thanks for the memories, Rocket, and
paid assessors of talent, and by we the armchair faithful, is a
fickle art at best. The travails of Jose Contreras highlight the
feat of sometimes not getting what you want, but - with a cosmic
Stones' organ rift playing to the chorus of dissatisfied - getting
what you need. Simply put, that would be victories right now and by
any means necessary. It's hard to fault anyone for where the Sox sit
with 26 games to play and maybe for the first time in years
unnecessary as well. As has been noted on this page, a delightful -
albeit manic - season has been filled with a plate du jour of
heroes, perhaps none to know the sustained greatness of a Roger
Clemens but on their own afternoons to see similar tributes
befitting a yeoman-like contribution.
Summer of `50
is somehow representative of this season that scoring only four or
five runs seems a mild disappointment and - based on the pitching -
an output very much in danger. But the current Sox offensive
juggernaut is one for the books, whether in Boston or Cooperstown,
as only the Fenway nine of 1950 hit .300 (.302 rounded off) for a
season, while the Grady Bunch as of late July have a respectable 30%
that achieving such a feat in the rabbit ball-DH era would be more
momentous than winning a ring, but at least one essential part of
the game is chugging on all cylinders this summer. When last such a
batting onslaught was seen, it was the single-division era, when 94
wins bought you third place and the same vantage point for the
postseason as the "First in War, First in Peace and Last in the
American League" Senators.
my curiosity was peaked as to whether any comparisons could be made
between the clubs, which in the words of Howard Cosell, "Come at ya,
and at ya and at ya." I was not alive 53 years ago, but the numbers
still impress and the nagging question that may ultimately haunt
this season as the latest Ash Brothers go yard is why both didn't`t
Boston Red Sox 1950
AB R H 2B 3B HR
RBI BB K HBP SB CS GDP
5516 1027 1665 287 61 161 974 718 580 25
32 17 153
Boston Red Sox 2003
AVG G AB R H 2B 3B
HR RBI BB K HBP SB CS GDP
.295 103 3725 638 1099 270 33 143 615 387 585 31
60 18 84
The hitters in the Summer of '50 who were 100 points above the
Line" are Sox lore: Dom Dimaggio .328, Johnny Pesky .312, rookie
Birdie Tebbetts and the Splinter in but 89 games. But lesser-known
guys pushed the BA envelope - Al Zarilla and Billy Goodman, while
Vern Stephens and Bobby Doerr were just under but killing the ball
with 144 and 120 RBIs, respectively, as middle infielders. Perhaps
the die was cast when Williams, highest paid in the game at the time
with a $150,000 salary, made the All-Star game catch, continued
playing and had seven bone fragments removed from his elbow the next
day. Although he returned mid-September with five hits including a
homer in his first two days, the Sox move 2 games out of first but
never come closer. In another year without a postseason, what many
faithful remember just as well as the heroics are his middle-digit
tributes to the bleachers after errors.
or without Ted, the season has a number of 19-0, 29-4 and 22-14
victories and many a late homerun, but more tellingly - frequent
high-scoring losses, indicative of a team with no 20-game winners
and a mid-5 ERA at best. Opening day, in an eerie foreshadowing of
the season to come and one that smacks of current woes, the Sox blow
a 9-0 lead over the Yankees and lose 15-10.
.300 team was undone by mediocre pitching, which even with
designated hitters, wild cards and three divisions in the 21st
Century game will leave you hungry. And so, like a seasonal telethon
before trade deadline, I again note that truly fine hitters like
Manny, Nomar, Trot, Kevin, Bill, David and Tek still need help on
the mound and that means a deal for pitching pronto. Obtain a solid
number four or five starter and I will gladly stifle all
cynicism... until October at least. Men successful only three times
in 10 are considered heroes in baseball but in truth need every
assistance a GM or billionaire can render. Give them the tools, oh
ye of big pockets, and rest assured they`ll finish the job.
Loser by Committee
7.3.03: The shift of Ramiro Mendoza to a
starter's role should be taken as a modest proposal to invert the
entire "Closer by Committee" plan to the beginning of the game, with
Mendoza or Lyon or Timlin or Fox or any of the dearly departed
starting and then giving up 2 to 4 runs in the first three innings,
thereby alerting the offense to how many runs will be needed in the
rest of the game and having the former "Rotation" go the last five
or six innings with only themselves to blame or pat on the back.
This plan removes the anxiety of
watching any 8-run, 8th/9th inning collapse (the second such
softball game in a month), allows Grady to take clues on what to do
when the Green Monster indicates in bold letters "Fourth Inning",
and keeps Theo's plan using AMC Pacer talent on the table as a GM
brainstorm rather than another example of the $700-million Sox doing
it on the cheap.
If Mendoza can start, let's rip up the
turf even further: Take the bench players and let them begin all
games - Mirabelli, Jackson, Sanchez, Ortiz - hell, let's drop the
word "bench" and call it "Talent Hangar" with usage during games now
designated "long-haul" or "short-haul" as with flights. As a sign of
this new era of empowerment, bring Jeremy Giambi back from the
.087-DL and have him bat clean up or pinch run, tasks we know he
can't do but feel sporting to let him try, ala Bob "Beetle" Bailey.
The Red Sox love this Man versus
Environment morality tale, particularly with their current field
general. Select a man with no MLB managerial experience, give him
the most potent offense in the game and most fragile pitching staff
and watch him hope every night that A is greater than or equal to B,
but in his case, math is his worst subject. Those who selected him
cannot say he is doing poorly or sack him before irreparable damage
is done to a promising year because this would bring their own
oversight into question. Instead, we head into the All-Star break
with Grady at the helm and Ramiro Mendoza preparing for the Yankees.
6.1.03: Deja vu all over again as a 6-run lead
is wasted without managerial intervention. You know you`re in trouble when
your "stopper" is a knuckleballer and in fact perhaps the team`s most
dependable starter. And then, when euthanasia is mercifully performed,
it`s like a MASH episode when the guest doctor - Matt White (who??) -
makes even greater mistakes so that the regular cast can learn from his
losing experience. But we`ve seen this war before, ending up nostalgic for
Henry, Trapper and Frank while waiting for the series to end with boring
B.J., the padre and self-righteous Hawkeye.
To follow on other`s comments, acquisition of
pitching should not be a source of complaint, even of a confirmed choker.
And hoping I never have to eat these words, nothing Kim can do here will
rival his earlier collapses -- my only wish is that the D-backs would take
Giambi as well -- gratis.
Looking at the other starters, John "Charcoal"
Burkett is a middle reliever waiting-to-happen and Fossum is a 4.00 ERA on
his best days. Pedro`s health and commitment seem questionable or maybe
just the product of assorted bullpen malpractice, while D-Lowe needs some
self-help videos stat. Let`s not start on Ramiro Mendoza who has botched
so many relief operations that the DL may be the only way to allow
management to hide the horror of his signing. All things considered, the
pitching has been consistent only in its mediocrity and the Sox`s softball
team batting and discipline are the main factors in why returning to this
battlefield is still entertaining.
By the Numbers
4.9.03: Today's crumble after a 3-0 lead and a
strong early start by Fossum raises the following questions: Is Mendoza
pitching underhand? Was Chad Fox's last job on the Exxon Valdez? Can
Jeremy Giambi do anything but whiff? Is Grady incapable of both managing
and reading a box score?
Okay, Manny's bomb today was mild comfort, but
"key" offseason acquisitions are killing the Sox and if that cannot be
discerned more quickly then this team may flip-flop with the Blue Jays for
second place in the division. An E.R.A. of 12 brings to mind El Guapo in
the days before he went on vocational siesta and Ramiro has already given
up more than 20% of last year's earned runs in five painful appearances.
Turning to Fox, ugh, double-digit E.R.A, mediocre in mop up - this closer
needs closure stat.
Perhaps this is part of Grady's allowing
players to find their inner child, which Giambi Junior is doing to the
tune of 11 whiffs (10% of last year's total already) and a
way-below-Mendoza line .091 average. What about this performance merited
saying goodbye to The Dauber? Indeed Jeremy is taking pitchers deeper into
the counts, but those 33 strikes don't advance runners and compared to
Millar, Ortiz and Hillenbrand there is no convincing reason to grant a
start based on performance so far. Hell, when previously hitless Doug
Mirabelli bats for you it's a sign both of manager's incompetence and the
fact that you don't make contact enough to be trusted even to produce a
And Grady - pinch-hitting with a catcher
before your catcher actually bats is a new one - but what would have
happened had "Goose Egg" Mirabelli actually gotten on base? Would you have
pinch run because of his bad ankle, kept him in the game and pinch hit for
Varitek thus leaving a weak lead foot on the basepath, or more likely did
you conclude this game was over and basically have no plan B should he
miraculously produce a batting average? As others on this page have
commented, Boston's 5-3 record is not based on team strengths nor prudent
oversight of talent and a struggle with .500 lies ahead when the Sox lock
horns with even better teams.
4.4.03: Kevin Millar's early Sox-cess,
after walking from a contract with the Chunichi Dragons, may be viewed as
mild payback for many years of Boston exports going to Japan and - if not
succeeding - at least making a paycheck. The current dean of foreign
players in Japan, Tuffy Rhodes, tied the season record for homeruns two
years ago and has rivaled The Babe for bomb frequency since leaving
Fenway's friendly confines.
More recent ex-Sox who toiled in Japan before
returning to the MLB include Lou Merloni and Willie Banks, neither of whom
likely has fond memories of playing in the Land of the Rising Sun. The
most infamous of the unhappy was Mike "Gator" Greenwell, who in 1997 had a
seven-game cup of tea, batted .231 and fled.
Morgan Burkhart, Nate Minchey and "Wayback"
Wasdin joined Rhodes as the contingent last year, but the Sox-Nipponica
Era has waned from a virtual Pawtucket of players just five seasons ago.
That year Greenwell, Rhodes, Phil Clark, Chris Donnels, Dwayne Hosey, Rudy
Pemberton, Bill Selby and Pat Mahomes were here. On the way to work one
day that season I saw the exuberant Hosey acting as a school crossing
guard in the morning for Japanese kids; a Google search found him last on
the Bridgeport Bluefish, but Japan more often than not has been the last
career stop rather than a hitching post.
Japanese playing in Boston have been far
fewer. The most famous was Hideo Nomo, who revived his career with the Sox
but was allowed to walk to the Dodgers, while Tomo Ohka made an All-Star
team to Japan last fall after leaving Boston with few admirers.
Ryo Kumagai, who attended the same university
as Kazu Sasaki and pitches side-arm like B.Y. Kim, was signed by Boston's
former scout in Asia and we met at a game in Fort Myers last spring.
Unfortunately, it was the same day the scout was whacked by the new
management and after spending 2002 with the Augusta squad, making it to
the Bigs as was his dream may literally have been submarined.
Indeed, the Japan-Boston connection itself has
a tough Ryo to hoe to again compare with the Glory Days. Millar's reasons
for not coming appeared to appease Chunichi, but the exit of one Dragon
may ultimately have seen the sun set on ties for the near future.
1.19.03: In Theo Epstein, a Soxcess-starved faithful is living
vicariously, albeit already second guessing, and although Boston will not
be the 2003 home of Mssrs Colon, Contreras or Floyd, I am sure the master
plan will find The Nine in the thick of it in July, if only to break
hearts again in the fall.
would like to impart that since about 13 I have also wanted to run a
professional sports club, specifically Boston (assuming in those early years I
would have been excused from paper route duties). And while not carrying the
usual pedigree of a GM - no law or accounting experience, not an ex-jock or
drinking buddy of the owner, not related to the Duquettes - I have followed this
franchise for decades and believe at the very least I could have brought home as
many championships as those now dearly departed, i.e. none, and left the farm
system in as stellar a condition.
this may seem mere Monday morning quarterbacking, to build up my resume in
the remote case that John Henry someday calls, I took the helm of a team this
fall: Fantasy Football's Setagaya Steelers. Certainly, it may not appear as
grandiose as a $700 million team, but this is virtually the same job except
without those long chats with people who headbutt umpires, won't pitch in
All-Star games or like grade school kids don't know if they like Boston or not.
the season's outcome, the draft should have been when my reign ended. Wheeling
and dealing, knocking back shots and smoking cigars like a riverboat king, I
left the table with two of the three best running backs in the league, a former
MVP quarterback, and a passable air corps. The jewel of the crown was Priest
Holmes, who from the first weekend was kicking ass and taking names. Two
weekends of victory and I was moonwalking in each gloating email to fellow
depression set in. My QB, Kurt Warner, went from bad to broken, the receivers
must have all been in long-term, no-cut contracts, while the main element of
remaining success was Holmes. Desperate and in need of a QB immediately, I
traded The Priest straight up for - Aaron Brooks.
textbooks, graduate schools even, they are probably already teaching this one as
Exemplar Bonehead Deal 101: "Professor, were there any exculpating circumstances
such as crack use, suicidal tendencies or - university allegiances?" Yes, I made
the worst trade in my league and perhaps in virtual history because I and Brooks
went to the same school. The rest of the season became an interminable crawl,
with the added indignity of being known as the one who traded The Priest.
many baseball players avoid higher education and opt instead for years in
Lynchburg or Trenton, but young Theo, learn from my tale of woe: stay away from
Ivy League talent (Ron Darling excepted); when you Icky Shuffle in glee, don't
let your significantly older colleagues see it (and keep that furniture trashing
to a dull roar); and most importantly, when faced with a situation that imperils
the franchise and raises questions about your abilities, unlike the infamous
Harry Frazee and yours truly to a lesser historic degree, don't become known as
the man who sold The Babe; remember Mr. Henry's loaded.
Days of Whine and Ruses
9.12.02: And then depression set in. Maybe not
this year, though, as the Sox demise had been well telegraphed and any
sense that this club would be competitive in the postseason (never mind
August or September) exhausted long ago. From Fort Myers to Fort Apache,
possibility transformed from potent wine to pout and whine (although not
as bitter as last year), leaving little thirst for anything else. Even
recrimination seems relatively pointless now, as this team had heroes,
just never on the same sports page.
But as the union pact has implications for
off-season money rumblings and 2003 signings, the next phase of team post
mortem will be whom do we need and whom can we afford. While there may be
knocks for durability, effort and
leadership, the obvious keepers and untouchables: Pedro and Lowe, senior
statesman Tim Wakefield, Embree, Nomar, Manny, Damon, Shea, a perhaps
unpopular vote for Rey Sanchez, and Cliff Floyd if he so desires.
Middle roaders and perennial non All-Stars:
Trot, Varitek, Daubach, Baerga, Fossum, Hermanson, Merloni and Agbayani.
U-U may become the most successful Sox closer ever not to be welcomed back
Adios: Clark, Burkett (wishful thinking),
Henderson, Castillo, Arroyo, and Mr. Little.
Doing the math, the Sox still seem top-heavy
financially while in need of another starter/reliever and a catcher who
can hit in the clutch or off the bench. A 40+ homer first basemen wouldn`t
be painful either. And while dreaming, a Manny trade in the current era of
belt tightening is dubious, but why not if it could land a starter, solid
catcher or both. Worse case, this guy is an offensive machine who - while
not leading a VFW troup in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" - amasses numbers
that humble the rest of the team. In short, let the .250 hitters run out
the grounders, eat cake, etc, I respect success.
And as the vultures eye Grady as the season
comes to a close, Mike Port`s recent musings on team apathy are not a good
sign. Hell, Mike Port may also be short-order carrion as ownership tries
to stumble upon some kind of arbitrage for success.
But what $700 million really bought was the
nation`s longest-running soap opera. And while accustomed to the "wait `til
next year" last episode, the oddities of this season were the lack of
notable character development (with the exception of Derek Lowe) and the
words that every wannabe actor talks about - motivation and timing. I
again hope another postseason at home will be such as inspiration and
finally bring the Old Gal the long-awaited daytime Emmy.
Sins of the Father
8.26.02: I probably would have posted this
regardless of this year`s denouement, but from whence the bile originated
struck me in the chest in the past few days -- literally.
Growing up in Virginia, there was no obvious
avenue towards the Sox, only annual summer vacations with two New England
expats to an ocean too cold and accent too deep. Youth in Richmond was
spent trading Reggie Smith cards for Ralph Garr straight up or waffling as
a fan of the World Champion Pirates to the A`s with the speed and
permanence of Herb Washington. The fabled 6th Game was lost in a Knights
of Columbus bingo game, where the Hallelujah Chorus only played for the
winner of $50 in S&H greenstamps. Of course, there had been mentions of
the The Kid and Dom in moments of little league instruction, but to the
fleeting interests of a pre-teen this seemed as recent and relative as Yaz
as a Superstar, somewhere back in the Summer of Love.
But in the haze of 1977 my dad took me on the
first pilgrimage to Fenway, where the Sox were hitting bombs for the
record books and -- as became the pattern for following years -- holding
an early divisional lead on the Yanks. Ahead of my first MLB game, I
studied the team and listened to Sox radio as if applying to a private
academy. In between AM static and fighting in the backseat on the road
north, I heard five guys hit successive dingers in one inning. Yet these
Sox were not just the threat of Rice, Lynn, the Boomer and Hobson, there
was always the Bob Montgomery or Beetle Bailey with no convincing reason
to be on the team. While not nearly as fearsome as the Bronx side on
paper, the heroes and the chip on the shoulder of nearly 60 years of dry
hump provided Boston an enticing edge that they would beat those New York
bastards, regardless -- or so I hoped.
Our game against Minnesota was about to be
called when the skies cleared and Luis Tiant took the hill. His twists and
turns, the Green Monster and proximity to the field, the history -- like
many before and since, I was hooked deep. We never saw the game end in
victory in the wee hours because my father wanted to avoid looking (or
paying) for a cab. My aunt, who obtained the tickets at no little effort,
shook her head in disbelief, knowing that the combined weaknesses of Sox
addiction and clinical inability to enjoy it were now in the process of
The following year was only worse as interest
evolved into rabidity. 1978 was the last visit I would make to Yawkey Way
for nine years, a period in which near misses and late season implosions
played out with operatic timing. This spring I went to Fort Myers, as with
my own son due during the season, it would be the only chance. My aunt,
now in ill health but good humor as always, was in Florida, noting that
her two wishes before passing on - that the Pats and the Sox would win
championships - were now giving her decidedly mixed emotions.
This season did see the exit of the Greatest
Hitter Ever, the man who was my and many other father`s hero. Naming the
third generation of my own Nation in both of their honors, young Theodore
shortly after entering this world gave his dad, clad in a Sox Nomo
T-Shirt, a first hug and -- in the spirit of his namesake -- warm spillage
on the shoulder, offering in one crystalline moment the proper perspective
on life and arguably payback for crimes yet undone.
Three of Five
8.14.02: Is it my imagination or is there
something achingly dysfunctional about this team that transcends the
squabbling of `01 or the 25 players/25 taxis of 24 years ago? How do you
have six hits in three innings and but one run? Double plays, whiffs and
the dreaded LOB - that`s how, as strong individual performances continue
to be squandered in unsyncopated .500 play. Is it the coach, the chemistry
or more likely the usual late season fan Heimlich that soon becomes a post
mortem? Zounds, perhaps it is something even more troubling: a franchise
of a few stars and mainly overperformers coming down to earth.
First to the batting order and as stated on
this page the team cannot afford to bat Varitek 5th another day. If Floyd
is unwell, let Hillenbrand or even Trot, but Manny needs protection stat.
RBI groundout this season seems to be a title the Sox are contesting in
the locker room and that shockingly with the best wheels on a Boston club
in memory. I would rather the Sox are caught stealing in reckless oblivion
than fritter away hits in future DPs and Tony Clark at bats. And to the
pitching: (glossing over the Cy Young twins) does the Frank Castillo
bobblehead come in any stance besides the Stretch? And for another cheap
shot - you know you screwed up when Willie Banks comes in to relieve you.
But seriously folks, for starters three through five (whoever they be) can
we not dig holes so early or can the manager recognize conflagrations and
send in real relief? Looking at the remaining 40 games, is three of five
the best we can hope for? If so, that translates into 24 wins or 92 for
the season, a precarious playoff perch and Jose Offerman grinning at his
good fortune in going to Seattle.
The rumor is that the September schedule is
easier, with the return of the AL East patsies that boosted the record in
the first two months. Play well in the remainder of August, gentlemen, and
it may matter.
And On the Seventh Game
8.7.02: In the big inning, Grady created more distance
between the Yankees and the Red Sox, but the division between the two
teams lacked "entertainment." So Grady, in His infinite wisdom,
created a Son to enable him to better contemplate his premier loss
creations. And it came to be evening, and it came to be morning, a second
9-8 late loss to the Yankees.
On the second trip Grady blew a game to the Texas
Rangers, and the Son suggested that an element was missing (mentally), and
that his time in Boston and the 2002 season were incomplete without the
DL. So Grady, in His infinite wisdom, created "days off." He
created all of the excuses in the sea, all of the swarms of clichťs which
fly and crawl about, all of the fruit trees yielding low-hanging fruit
according to their kinds, all of the galloping herds of media, and all of
life indeed, including Manny, and these He placed in a garden which He
called Miami. And there came to be an evening and a disco, and an
after-hours party, and there came to be a morning hangover, and a bleach
job on his lid.
On the third day of the Nation's backlash, Grady
looked at His creations, and He saw them to be good, but not good enough.
But His Son suggested that these creations could not offer meaningful
homage, for they possessed neither PlayStation II nor SpongeBob
SquarePants. So Grady did agree with Moorad and with His Son, but He
did remain cautious. And Grady did wonder how He would be able to
remove Manny from the lineup, the one he wrote out in his sleep.
Then He proceeded to bless every seventh game, and
make it sacred, because on it his Son will now be resting from all His
work that Grady has created for the purpose of making it to the playoffs.
And besides, Manny really needed a break after all the craziness that had
been going on last week.
Saturday July 27, 2002 - It is the most difficult
time of year for a Sox fan as the sands of what was a booked dune for October
again seem to be leaking from the hourglass of promise. One-run games lost,
struggles against good and poor teams and the inexplicable use of spent talents
have left the trading block as the main passport to the postseason. Under a
cloud of potential labour unrest, the Catch 22 of this pre-July 31 deadline
mediocrity is that a move does not necessarily become more likely - i.e. the
closer the Sox play like the Chicagos, Cleveland and Toronto, the leaner the
argument for management to assume greater financial risk. Without acquisition
the team`s holes grow wider as does AL East and wildcard distance, but
remembering the owners` pledge to win after paying $700 million for the
privilege, why has this not been pursued by all means necessary?
Was Alan Embree the only move possible by now or are
the intoxicants of possible trades and guarantee of fannies in seats enough to
keep people believing and stay John Henry`s John Hancock? I`m tired of hearing
about minor league woes that limit opportunities as the moment is mainly about
dumping salaries as the year is written off. Can it really be said that two
players still on the 2002 Sox would be on the team - nay in the Majors, if their
contracts didn`t make them expensive castoffs and the costs to replace them
Below are their numbers and rankings in the league
at first base; Offerman`s DH numbers are actually worse.
43 J. Offerman
47 T. Clark
Offerman`s baserunning blunders in recent games make
one wonder what exactly you need to do to get fired from the Sox this season?
While the team pitched Darren Oliver and now El Guapo, as has been said
previously on this page, anyone - including Juan Diaz - would be worth a shot at
first or - heaven
forefend - actually contribute. In terms of pitching, the options are even
Henry told the NY Times that his funds have made
money on currency speculation this year. Well, it`s time to take on new trades
and close these bad positions as they undermine any argument about commitment to
winning. If July 31 is the market close, show me the money, John, or prepare to
be as highly thought of as recent predecessors.
Date: Friday July 19, 2002
Subject: Smoking a Tampa, Lighting a Fire
A college friend from Alabama used to claim his state`s real motto was "Thank
god for Mississippi," as residents could look at conditions across the border
and feel better about themselves. Whether true or not - and with deepest respect
to Mississippi - the Red Sox can thank the wise men who approved the MLB
fraternity membership of Tampa Bay for a regular emotional pick-me-up and at
present a shot at a perfect regular season record. If the Sox win 90 games (and
all Tampa contests), some 21 percent would come via the bedeviled ones. Tampa`s
winning percentage may ultimately clink below .300, and in the wild card era,
that`s worth a Boston owner`s vote to keep the franchise struggling in Florida
(or at least the AL East) in perpetuity.
But looking at New York series and a real Major
League team, the fact that Boston and Tampa have more beanballs and words than
the Sox-Yanks seems indicative of the frustration and uncertainty of the young
ballclub and conversely the watered down "professionalism" of modern baseball.
Some of the sweetest moments post-interleague in the former "donnybrook" series
have been Trot eyeballing Roger then going yard, Pedro muting Bombers` bats,
various winning hits off Rivera and seeing Rickey this spring in person
jawboning at Hernandez. While the season is long, there are many teams in the
league...and assorted other lines about why not to be worked up, give me some
Spaceman-Pudge outrage and downright cussedness. These damn guys have been
stealing thunder for way too long and a spanking in front of their nasty but
knowledgeable fans would offer payback and divisional yardage. And frankly,
despite the money spent and the self-picked All Stars, the Yanks can definitely
Grady Little must show he can manage against the Big Boys and that means pushing
all available buttons, and even in these civilized times that includes loathing.
July 2, 2002
Subject: Mid-term Exams
As they know in Cleveland and Toronto, breaking up a team is nasty
business. Speculating on expendable parts also is less than wholesome,
particularly if those former contributors end up staying in town. So
pundits - who conduct interviews with players for a living - talk about
needs and shopping lists, but with the Sox there is no larger glaring hole
than firstbase and that has been the story since Mo Vaughn left. To
paraphrase the old joke about catchers with speed, good field-no hit
firstbasemen are about as useful as snazzy penmanship. No field-no hit
firstbasemen are... ahem.
The Sox motivation to platoon at a position - admittedly with some success
- that usually features the games premiere bombers has been money, with
the low overhead offsetting mega-contracts of perennial stars. The irony
of 2002 is the position actually features three contracts and a
substantial sum that the front office obviously does not want to eat.
Moreover, it is a roadblock to acquiring an essential player for the drive
to October such as Jim Thome or Carlos Delgado. How such acquisitions are
achieved is precarious as the memory of a lost Jeff Bagwell (ugh! for
Larry Anderson) haunts still, but with the dirt of Fenway/Tara in my hand,
I say to the owners, do this well and the Nation will never go hungry
again. And while you`re at it, get a better rightfielder.
I know this is dangerous territory, particularly on a page in which Trot
Nixon`s style of play helped to define a fandom, but whether it is the
Dirtdog himself or Larry Walker, an everyday professional outfielder must
at least be an above average hitter or an exceptional fielder; not to say
Trot cannot do so, but at present he does not qualify. It would be unwise
for the Sox to pony up $24 million for the likes of Raul Mondesi, but New
York`s acquisition of David Justice a few seasons back was a fine example
of paying smartly to win. Even in a short-term arrangement in which Trot
becomes a platoon back up with Rickey, someone of value on the market
should be considered for the fall campaign.
Pedro is already thinking about October and so should the owners. This is
a very good team that with a few tools could be even better; if this be
heresy, let`s make the most of it.
Date: Sunday June 2, 2002
Subject: Second Chances
There is a scene in one of the many "Naked Gun" movies where Frank Drebin
tells an offender that he will offer him a second chance, "but not one of
those Major League Baseball Steve Howe second chances". This season the Sox
fan has seen a number of players make good on such opportunities - Derek
Lowe, Rey Sanchez and Carlos Baerga most notably. Indeed, since the
mid-1990s Boston has been a halfway house of reclamation projects such as
Tim Wakefield, Bret Saberhagen and David Cone, and it is rather ironic that
as obsessed as Fenway is with missed opportunities, Our Lady of Perpetual
Forgiveness has a large professional and sedentary flock at Yawkey Way.
But with El Guapo, Tony Clark and Jose Offerman, we are nearing the limits
of Howe-like redemption. Garces amazingly is allowed to pitch with an E.R.A.
heading to double digits, equally terrible in important and lopsided
situations; if this is not worthy of a call to Pawtucket or harsher exile,
then the Sox are carrying a literal weight that may lift t-shirt sales and
the hopes of middle-age softball players but not much else.
Despite his first homerun since
opening day and steady defensive skills, Clark is not scaring anyone and his
riding the pine in key games is indicative of management's doubts; he looked
like a steal when obtained, but with the exception of Tampa Bay' s Greg
Vaughn, he is the worst offensively at a power position in the AL.
Jose, as was captured on this page recently, is the $6 million man in the
declining state of bionics. One of the defenses of his play heard after his
inability to bunt in the previous Yankees series was his record for
sacrifices with the Dodgers; is that really something to throw one's hat on?
A little like the Tom Selleck line in "Mr.. Baseball" that he led the league
in doubles with two outs in the 7th inning. As with Clark, much will change
on Manny's return and both men`s presence may simply offer insurance in case
of other injuries. However, neither is an asset and if the owners are really
sincere about ending 83 years of misery, strike or no strike, please eye who
is available in June-July (Jim Thome, welcome) and finish the job.
And speaking of Manny, the broken finger did not seem a bonehead play as I
don't remember any criticism of Rickey for the head-first slide in the last
Yankees series or - going back to Pete and Ray Fosse in an All-Star Game no
less (can you imagine athletes today caring that much in a non-contractual
situation) - any cautionary tales about aggression, usually the real bone of
contention with Ramirez. But what is mildly irksome, though, is why a
damaged digit is worthy of a free pass to Miami, while Edgar Martinez with a
60-day bum hammy is traveling with Seattle on the road; the obvious answers
are commitment and leadership, and if Manny comes back and hits .372 I will
assuredly mortgage both ideals to wade in success. In the interim, I think
$160 million is worth a flight to New York for the weekend.
Perhaps as with the three culprits named above, a demand for justice in the
court that Ted, Yaz and Pudge built is only as deep as the promise of an
ending slump, and despite prolonged accusations, a general amnesty will be
declared if we go home a winner.
Date: Monday May 6,
Subject: Taking a Lead
Pinch hit grand slam? Pinch me, I'm starting to
believe again as the first such Sox bomb since 1986 and the best winning
percentage in MLB have eroded the usual fail-safes of Boston fandom.
Checking the tires to make sure this is not the early season revving that
leaves a chassis without wheels by August, the contributions are broad and
surface corrosion little.
Good starting pitching has been complemented by
generally large leads. Power and speed, better fielding, versatility, team
cohesion - the wealth of positives sounds like an "Up With People" halftime
show; in short, the Sox are in first and all is right with the world.
But letting the other side of the brain take
over, Seattle and Oakland await and a few concerns linger. The Sox have
played 23 of their 27 games against the Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals and Devil
Rays, a pick 'em bet for 100-game losers. Despite U-U`s recent success in
9th innings, a true test will be the West Coast. Will closer games be Closer
In numeric ranks of relievers, Boston and Urbina
still do not register except for the ample saves, which have not come
without palpitations. Middle relief has been relatively unnecessary, but El
Guapo has been far from form. The pen will indeed have to be as mighty as
the sword if Sox-cess is to continue as the Mariner's sweep of the Yanks
does not bode for all the starters to come through unscathed.
Johnny has been an OBP demon, Shea's clutch dingers have wounded Rivera as
well as the hapless D-Rays, and Manny is indeed "a freak". But the high team
batting average has not masked Tony Clark's struggle and pinch-hitting for
him in the 9th after a 1-3 effort was far from a vote of confidence. With
both Daubach and Offerman stroking, Clark may find game time rarer unless
someone comes up lame. On that front, the Sox have multiple options for
injury or underperformance and thankfully that has not been the case.
But the largest AL East lead over the Yankees
since 1997 still is ascribed outside of Boston to New York's tough schedule
and the Sox's weak one, while both teams say it is too early to become
excited. I would like to be as calm, but winning or losing with the Sox is
never blithely experienced.
Despite a deep respect for history, success on
this road trip would indeed put Boston in the proverbial driver's seat ahead
of the next Bronx match up and back up the statistical and emotional highs
of the first month. Yes, there are more than 130 games left, but the early
test of what's under the hood has produced results. While likely to be
tempered during the dog-days of summer, success so far has not been a
delusion and has allowed the Boston faithful to catch a breath as the Yanks
loom in the divisional rear-view mirror.
Monday April 29, 2002
Subject: Henderson History in the Making
he was recalled on June 23rd, 1979...
- Pope John
Paul II was pope for less than a year.
- Joe Torre
was the new and very unsuccessful manager of the Mets.
Muppet Movie was released that weekend.
- There was
only one Star Wars movie... it was called "Star Wars."
Yankees starting catcher was Thurman Munson.
were NO Friday the 13th movies.
- It was 5
months before the Iranians took hostages.
Charlie Daniels Band released "Devil Went Down to Georgia" and the Knack
released "My Sharona" that day.
manager of the Red Sox was Don Zimmer.
- The third
album by Talking Heads "Fear of Music" would be released in 3
Wayne had been dead for 2 weeks.
McCovey, Carl Yastremzski and Lou Brock were all still in their
teams starting lineup.
Aykroyd and John Belushi had just quit SNL. Jane Curtin, Bill Murray
and Larraine Newman were still on the show.
- George Bush
announced his candidacy for President. His 33 year old son George W. had
just lost his first congressional bid.
Durante, Jesse Owens, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Sellers and John
Lennon were still alive.
Lawrence Welk Show was still on the air.
was just over 5 months old and Lauren Hill would be born 4 days
- O. J.
Simpson had just retired from the 49ers, "Baretta" had been off the
air for only a year and Shatner was getting ready for the release of the
first "Star Trek" movie.
Letterman was a comedian and sometimes Gong Show and Password Plus panelist.
Tom Hanks had a few cameos on Happy Days but had not shot Bosom Buddies yet.
Sullivan was 7 years old, obsessing over Star Wars and baseball.
Nice to see some things don't change
Date: Saturday April
Through the Yards to the Field, All Paths Lead Back to Fenway
The game at
Baltimore's Camden Yards was great, but nobody came. There were perhaps 15,000
fans for an inter-division contest on a crisp, sunny Saturday afternoon. The
upper deck was mostly empty. For a park which was once baseball's new small
gem, that was depressing. There were plenty of Sox fans - perhaps a solid fifth
of those sitting near us were wearing Sox caps or jackets. Missing were the
Hometown Fans, the massive Saturday game numbers of kids and dads and retired
box-scorers and loose teenage girls...the people who show up to care or not care
about the game itself, the kind of crowd Fenway can draw for a chilly, early
season night game. Perhaps they were at the office or washing their cars or at
the Mall or tuning in on radio while doing something more important. But they
weren't at the game.
Date: Saturday April
Subject: Lowe and Behold
the second game of the season, against Baltimore no less, and the mumbling has
already started about the team's precarious position, as a No. 2 pitcher tries
to prove that the last few years of his professional career were a fluke. A
new face among the starting Boston five stymies the Oriole nine for seven full
innings, inducing ground balls after nearly walking his way to oblivion. I
want to stop watching the virtual scoreboard, but the zero under the big H
means potential history; I think back one year earlier to near exact
circumstances, when a has-been from Japan made his mark and became the ace of
the healthy staff. The calls of waiting family grow louder, and knowing it
would be downright unfaithful to leave now, I shake off signs for immediate
This could be the cross in the sky, the burning
bush, the shaking diving rod that means there's water in the season ahead - I
think to myself that I can't go now, it may cast a pall over the outcome. It's
the same feeling I had about taking off my Red Sox cap during the 6th game in
1986 - holding it responsible for an inning that would not end. The chorus
grows louder for me to move, and after seeing what was responsible for the
delay, the cruelest blow is delivered: "Derek Lowe and a no-no, he'll be lucky
to get a win. Get moving.
Well, D-Lowe, I did not stay and you did stumble -
slightly - and while my not watching may not have proven decisive in events in
Baltimore, I have doubted you greatly over the last few years and maligned
your prospects this year. You shut me up for one start at least and I now
realize that should 2002 prove the year, this moment was important, indeed it
was the first win. They are booing Jason Giambi in New York because of great
expectations; D-Lowe, if there's cosmic justice, no one will boo you for some
time, particularly if formerly flaccid optimism about your prospects remain
But as you go out and rewrite history this year,
just promise me one thing, don't let success as a starter give inspiration to
be a closer again - ever. We've been there and the stomach acid is just back
to neutral PH. Starting has few interminable moments and only words like loser
and winner, not goat. And one other - which at this very early moment you wear
with a 1-0 record and 0.00 ERA - Ace.
Date: Monday March 25, 2002
leaning into it too much up there... he's got to lay back... needs to loosen up
a little," these words of advice didn't come from just any casual observer of
Trot Nixon's slight slump at the plate this spring, they were the words of his
old high school coach, Dave Brewster. Trot's coach goes to Bradenton every
spring, but came down to watch his old all-state star get ready for his first
full season in the national limelight. And he thinks Trot is pressing a bit. But
after they spoke on Saturday, Trot worked his way to a nice walk yesterday and
had a solid smash up the middle for a base hit to drive in a run. Hopefully the
little trip down memory lane will get Trot back on track with the stick.
Back in North Carolina, Trot was always a starter,
even as a freshman. Expectations were always high, and when Trot was a little
less than quick getting to first base on ground balls, coach Brewster let him
know it asking "do you want to go to the major leagues or do you just want to
play around here? It's all up to you. You're the best player in the state,
these scouts expect you to run out every ground ball. A left-handed major
league prospect has to get to first quicker than 5.8." Trot has run out every
ground ball hard since.
When he was taken out of a game for the first time
in his life back in high school, it didn't work out so good. He would simply
annoy the hell out of everyone on the bench, yapping away and just bugging the
coaches and players. The scorekeeper, who couldn't stand another minute of
Nixon's antics, told coach Brewster, "if you don't put him back in there, I
quit." Soon enough, Trot went back in the game (his not-so-secret goal all
During the legion ball series one summer, Trot was
on the mound for the championship game, "he was a hell of a pitcher." But on a
tricky infielder ground ball, Trot failed to cover first in time. The runner
reached, scored, and Nixon's team went on to lose the legion championship.
Coach Brewster blames himself for not going over the play well enough in
practice, said "it wasn't Trot's fault" (but it's sort of his 'behind-the-bag' legion
legacy that endears him to Boston, the plight of the Red Sox, and their
World Series futility).
After the legion loss, Trot and Coach Brewster
immediately took care of business and won the North Carolina state high-school
championship the next spring. Let's hope a little Old School rap brings about
some Olde Town trophies as well.
Date: Friday March 15, 2002
Subject: Fresh from the Fort
Spring training and the fresh-cut smell of forgiveness overwhelm as a few
veterans and mostly new faces try to earn places in hearts and scorebooks. Four
games witnessed does not a season, or even a preseason, make, but some
sweetspots and brushbacks from Fort Myers:
Pitchers - Pedro looks strong, in fact so strong that twice with two outs
he appeared to walk guys intentionally to practice coming out of the stretch;
pitch counts and our Lady of Sacred Hope seem to be in store. John Burkett made
a strong bid for the #2 spot with some deft landmine-stepping. Those not
avoiding bombs include Dustin Hermanson and Tim Wakefield; the knuckleballer's
first pitch in Thursday's game was deposited in the Gulf and new manager Grady
Little allowed the veteran, ironically one of - if not the - longest serving man
in blue, to throw. And throw. And throw, and after eight runs and one out,
mercifully shower. Questions include the location of Derek Lowe (wait, don't
answer that, I'm still digesting normally), the possibility of a non U-U closer,
and whether a trade for another name starter may be coming with money in the
bank and some rare trade-bait.
Infield - Conventional wisdom and recent history suggest this the team's
greatest wildcard, but Fort Myers shows the team stacked and apparently healthy.
Nomar and Tony Clark are hitting BB's. Hillenbrand, Sanchez, Merloni, Baerga and
the Veras duo are interchangeable and stroking the ball, and even the El
Guapo-esque Juan Diaz brings smiles like the heavy kid at camp who hits while
munching candy. Only Brian Daubach appears without a position if Clark healthy;
reports are that Atlanta interested and a straight-up for John Smoltz would be
fine although unlikely in this lifetime.
Outfield - On paper this appears set in stone with Manny, Trot, Johnny
and likely Rickey. But if Damon does not hit early in the season, which was
certainly the story last year, that may create batting order imbalances and
likely a 42-year old as your leadoff. What on earth is Damon Buford doing on
this team again? Not hitting is one thing; if he survives the move to 25,
something is amiss as Coleman and even Daubach are better. Best moment, though, was
Manny bear-hugging, yes, bear-hugging Little before his first managerial
appearance and keeping the heir to Williams, Yaz and Rice productive either as
LF or DH the key to success.
Stealing Signs - Fort Myers is nothing if not the home of 84 years of
misery and a nation wanting to believe. None of the above suggest the team any
less likely to steal your heart again this year. Nonetheless, as all checking
vital signs, my favourite image from City of Palms Park came on a first trip to
the facilities after a few Sam Adams in the March sun; rather than taping phone
numbers for a club featuring the girls Curt Schilling and Co. chased last year,
the Men's room had small ads above the porcelain that offered help with "Prostate
Enlargement." In a setting of limitless potential, this seemed a touchstone of
fundamentals and Boston perspective, a thought that every good drink and hope
someday ends in the basin of mortality. -- DJS
Date: Monday, March 11, 2002
Subject: Deja Vu All Over Again
last time the career of a Red Sox manager other than an interim lasted as
short as Kerrigan's 43-game managerial tenure? How about the 1907 season, a
year in which the Sox practically made this year's team look stable?
One manager, Chick Stahl, actually committed
suicide right before Opening Day. Owner John Taylor then appointed himself as
manager, only to have American League president Ban Johnson veto that plan.
Cy Young then took over as pitcher-manager until
Opening Day, when Taylor hired George Huff. But Huff had never played or
managed anywhere, so he got let go after eight games (six of which he lost).
Next to try this gig was first baseman Bob Unglaub.
He lasted 29 games (going 9-20). Finally, Taylor hired Deacon McGuire, who
somehow made it through the season. And you thought Red Sox chaos was a recent
Date: Tuesday March 5, 2002
Subject: The Real #2
Pedro gets back on the hill with much anticipation
today. Assuming he's healthy, he's the number one and will win his 30 games
So who is the real number two? Sure Burkett will
follow Petey playing the slow-follows-fast game, but who is really the second
best starter on the team?
Is it Burkett with his newfound Maddux-like
finesse? The wily veteran? Or is it really the Hermanator? Tough enough to rip
'BZ's Johnny Miller to shreds, the Bull Dog, throws hard, rejuvenated (again),
young, strong. Is it Frank Castillo? The competitor, hung pitch-for-pitch with
Clemens in September when they were technically alive, and kept the Yankees at
bay three times last year.
Or is is Derek Lowe, rubber arm, best stuff on the
staff, bulked-up, can use more pitches now that he's not relieving, manager
sandbagger turned president of the Kerrigan fan club?
Yes, Derek Lowe is the real Number Two, which
makes him Red Sox pennant-factor Number One.
Monday February 25, 2002
Subject: Closing Time
All the winter talk about binding bids,
Harrington's regime, owners' approval, Dolan's pending lawsuit, Yawkey
"tradition," incoming owners, Aramark extensions, buyer dropouts, Tom Reilly's
campaign for Governor, O'Donnell's revenge, Miles Prentice and Quadrangle,
antitrust exemptions, Ivory Tower, Jeremy Jacobs, NESN sell-off, Florida and
San Diego stories, secured financing, group additions, bag jobs, charity
shares, Bud Selig's smoking gun, limited partners, etc., finally comes to an
end on Wednesday. It's closing time.
Date: Monday February 18, 2002
Subject: Spring Check-in
Tough to find any bad news coming out of Fort Myers
so far. As usual, it looks like there are too many pitchers for too few spots (I
want Juan Pena as my Number 5).
Urbina is in today and I'm sure he'll bring a fresh
attitude (no more roundhouses at Wakefield on the plane), new physique, good
health, just like the rest of the arms at camp tranquility.
Position players in next. Let the good times roll.
Date: Monday February 11, 2002
Subject: Start Your Engines
The van leaves today as the new and improved Boston Red Sox shift into gear. Does Lucky Lucchino's crew have what
it takes to follow the Patriot's lead? Will Manny's hammys be loose all
season? Can Damon take the heat? Can Duquette hang on? Are the injured-three
really healthy? Do Guapo and Pedro weigh the same now?
Lots of questions. Stay tuned
for the answers.