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5.29.02: Manny thoughts.  Two-cents while trying to program my Tivo to record Lou Merloni vs. Ben Affleck, Celebrity Boxing III on Fox next Sunday night.  Lou, you gotta be thick-skinned like Manny. He would love getting roasted by a celebrity if he knew it was happening. While Ben's busting chops was quite funny, his muffed play-by-play was as wooden as his acting. And nice comebacks from the clubhouse over the Affleck flap, Lou can quit his part-time day job anytime.

6:00pm is the deadline for submitting your resume to become a Fenway Ambassador.  Successful candidates "are intended to be the pinnacle of customer service, good will, kindness, and helpfulness. These are people who inherently go out of their way to meet and help people, to solve problems, to thrill children, and to spread the magic of baseball throughout New England." We've been taking care of this job outside the park since last July. I guess the check is in the mail right Larry :-) ?  They're going to get about 10,000 resumes from blanketing Boston.com all week for the three open positions.  Nice grassroots database building guys.  And what happens to all the cranky white-hairs clogging up the aisles already?

Deep breath, repeat after me... "he just crushes the ball... he just crushes the ball."  Hey send us a postcard at least will ya' IronManny?  Don't you have friends in the old neighborhood that you wouldn't mind seeing in Gotham City this weekend?  What the hell are you doing down there?  Better not be recording a new single, that won't work.  Hope you're just setting up Nintendo GameCube's all over the house, planting your tomato garden, or watching South Park. See you in July buddy, don't worry about nothin'.

The statute of limitations just ran out. You can no longer refer to Juan Pena's two starts in '99 as a reason to call him up. But you can reference his towering ERA and the fact that he's given up more home runs that the Yankees hit this month as reasons not to put him on the bus.

Alright Grady, I get it. Pedro should probably sit on Sunday. Hey Buckley, yeah Buckley, where was your know-it-all rant about Pedro starting in New York yesterday? Pure genius calling for him to sit after last night's game blowhard. Had those of us who "know nothing about baseball, know nothing about Pedro... or both" known that he had complained of a heavy arm during long-toss on Sunday, the decision would have been as obvious as your elitist Monday morning quarterbacking. Nice grift Grady. Bonus points for keeping it in-house.

Sat two seats over, one back from Peter Gammons at the Pedro/Yankee game at Fenway last week. He was affable to the fans behind home plate, shrugging when asked if Tony Clark's swing can be saved, and telling me that Wells was all set to go on Saturday. He stood up for every two-strike count along with the rest of us, but he wouldn't physically clap when Pedro got the K. Gasbag stares at his cell phone more than a Marblehead girl in an Irish bar. Is he just checking the sports ticker or waiting for Mike Hampton to call to confirm his trade to the Red Sox for Ramirez?

Derek Lowe has the biggest start of his career Friday night.

5.28.02: Good move, bad move.  Thank God Grady came to his senses and has decided to sit Darren down for a bit. I'm not convinced that Oliver is a piece of ju... err uh... is totally hopeless... as a player (note: Darren is a wonderful person).  But it was time to make the switch, albeit a day late to salvage the Yankees series.

Moving on to Pedro: Bad move.  They may not get swept in the Bronx with a rotation of Lowe, Arrojo, Castillo, but they could easily lose two of three under Grady's plan.  But then we've got Pedro pitching against the Mighty Tigers in Detroit on Monday, ugh!  I don't like it one bit. How about a Little Carpe Diem?

Seize the moment Grady. Get tough Grady. And suck it up Pedro, you can get five days of rest over the next three starts by going Sunday and then next Saturday (using the two off days June 13th and 17th to "protect" him again). Keeping Pedro on schedule this week will also allow him a second start in New York on Sunday July 21st, instead of starting against Tampa at Fenway the game after.

Never mind the psychological side of the situation, the full game gain in the standings is huge as this race seems destined to go down to the wire. And New York doesn't seem to lose to White Sox of the world as easily as the Red Sox do.  A game swing in the standings now = a game swing in the standings in September. The math don't lie.  No one is asking Pedro to pull a Bob Gibson here, just asking him to go about his normal routine for one more week. 

Go for the green Grady, just like you would on the 16th at Pinehurst. You are playing for first place in the American League's Eastern Division. This is no time to settle or talk wildcard. Success against the Yankees is your choice. If you choose to sit him on Sunday, fine. But as Rick Pitino used to say, it stinks and it sucks.

5.26.02: Trash talk.  "I don't know him as a person. I wanted him to explain himself as a professional athlete and tell us what he was trying to do up there." 
 - Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe

Dan confirmed on WBZ-TV 4's Sports Final last night that the "piece of junk" line from his column on Sunday referred to Jose Offerman the player and was also related to the fact that Off decided not be accountable to the Nation after the defeat on Saturday.

As far as Dan saying he wants to get the answers for the fans, he's absolutely right. The huge majority of Red Sox Nation wants the Junkyard Dog to explain what happened with that 8th inning at-bat.

I've heard Nomar, Johnny, Oliver, even Willie Banks take the heat, blame, and/or responsibility for their performances after a game, why not Jose Offerman? I'm offended that I paid $60 to watch him perform but he won't even talk about his failure to execute the critical bunt on Saturday, punting instead. After the loss, I wanted some closure and peace-of-mind via some direct answers to the obvious questions:  What was Offy thinking about going to the plate? Did he try to drag bunt for some reason? Did he really want to bunt? Has he been working on bunting in practice? How is it going? And what about the second strike? I don't have access to the clubhouse to ask those questions, Dan Shaughnessy does. He, like it or not, is your liaison to Jose Offerman when assigned.

Whether or not Offerman executed the play, he should be willing to explain himself to the fans who have supported him at the gate, watched him on NESN, and purchased those MLB "Offerman" shirts from Twins Souvenirs, both of them.

And the over-the-top "piece of junk" phrase is just an old-school term. I sat near an old-timer the other night who called another player "a piece of garbage" and I knew what he meant. You can argue the semantics to death but what's the point?

The real tragedy, beyond our 'On-the-Decline-Since '99' first-base DH-man, was that Gordon Edes wrote the funniest column of the year about Miami Beach Manny yesterday. But Shaughnessy's Jose junket (maybe he just should have said Jose stunk) continues to jettison all other sports talk, Celtics comeback included.

5.23.02: Bigger than a breadbox.  Happens every time. New York comes to town, and everybody wants to know if the Series means more than every other series against any other team. The players publicly say they weren't looking ahead when they were asleep at the wheel against Chicago. Grady will tell us they ran into another upstart pitcher and got caught up in his "hornet's nest." Maybe they did, maybe they didn't.

The players will play these four games pack their bags, and head off to battle Toronto, simple as that.

But it's not that simple. This Yankee Series is huge. After all the talk of record setting starts, the New Boston Red Sox find themselves only one game up as the For-Real New Bronx Bombers, of 74 home run fame, come to town again. With Manny out, the Olde Towne team still has to make its move on the home grass. So this Series is really BIG (just don't talk about it in front of the players).

And the next 6 Sox/Yankee games are in New York with only two more left at Fenway. Two Red Sox/Yankees at Fenway for the rest of the summer after this weekend. Ridiculous scheduling. Manny won't be around for the next series and Boston can't expect to win four out of six in the Bronx.

This weekend however, the pitching match-ups are going our way (except for the Mussina mismatch on Sunday). Burkett over Clemens, no problem. Rocket fizzles on Friday. Lowe is always set to go. Three out of four expected again.

This is Gigantic. Gargantuan. But hopefully not Titanic.

We know what happened there.

5.17.02: Deep Thoughts.  No one is really talking out loud about Nomar's average season (some would say slump) so far. Is the problem just the long layoff? The wrist isn't bothering him but all the clutch pop-ups are starting to bother some whispering citizens of Red Sox Nation (RSN). His On-base-Plus-Slugging (OPS) is way off, but more importantly, where have all the long balls gone?

I have no problemo with Manny's Miami vacation this time around. The guy is on the DL and won't be back until July. He cannot pinch hit like he could have when the season ended in Texas during last summer's infamous stretch-and-spa. The Animal Group takes care of all the cheerleading, and we've got Nomar, Nixon, Jason, Pedro, Rickey, and Carlos to lead the team now.

The Daubach trade watch, Offerman release watch, Rickey retirement watch, Nomar wrist watch, Damon's Boston adjustment watch, Burkett's American League return watch, Coleman call up watch, Derek Lowe stamina watch, Hillenbrand's horrible OPS watch, and Sanchez' bat will kill us watch are officially over. But keep your eye on Pedro and Jason.

Although my slightly-tipsy-from-the-watered-down-Bud-Lights father hysterically berated him all night from the first-base box seats on Tuesday (I think even Clark was laughing), I'd like to stick with Long Tall Swing Tony until the All-Star break. These are the things you can do when you're 27-10 and enjoying the early ride. The crowd nearly broke into a legitimate standing ovation Wednesday when Clark struck the 420 foot triple to the Deepest Part of the Ballpark (DPB). It can happen for Clark. Let the $5M bet ride, and let Little roll the lineup dice.

The Trot move was smooth all around. Trot can throw a bat and hit a particular knuckle on a pitcher's hand if he wants to. Grady and the team endorsed Trot's bat-slip, knowing the Rupe was on fire then decided to go headhunting three times. There was no other way to get to him. And if Rupe thought Trot was throwing at him, he should have charged the plate right? There was no danger of anyone getting hit by that bat. Trot's really-sick-leave against the lefty pitching lineup worked out perfectly suspension wise. Nixon returns tomorrow and gets his 25HR, 90RBI or better when the season is all said and done.

Hermanson is going to be huge upon his comeback. Barring a complete meltdown by Darren Oliver, there is a good possibility Dustin replaces so-so Castillo in the rotation and makes his debut June 1st... in New York to face the "under-the-radar-screen" Yankees.

5.13.02: Finger pointing.  The Boston media dares you to blame Mike Cubbage for Manny's injury. They're ready to give you the finger just for having the thought pass through your head. Go finger.

OK, fair enough, Mike's a great guy and he did not directly cause Manny's injury. But, along with Grady, did he indirectly cause the damaged digit?

They both claim that they "try" to teach these guys how to properly slide. But if the students ain't learnin', the teachers ain't so good are they?

How about our Rickey? Is he a role model for Manny? Henderson only has about 2,000 head first slides under his belt, and is a ring leader of the four amigos. He should say adios to the headfirst too, but you're not going to teach the oldest dog safe tricks.

And we can get a couple of MIT freshmen to show us that head first sliding isn't any faster than feet first. And even Manny may know that it's a 160 million percent more dangerous for a baseball hitter to fly through the air into a full-metal-jacketed catcher, in the raw at full sprint, fingers first.

So why is it not a team rule that you cannot slide hands first into a catcher, never, ever? Enforceable by a hefty kangaroo-court fine? Put it in the contract (The Player's Association would love it yes).

But even if Manny didn't know best, and didn't learn a thing from Harper, or Cubbage, or Grady himself, they knew he would go head first given the situation. Once he rounds third with his newfound hustle, they all know he's going to head in hands in. So how can you send him in the first place?

It's not about being aggressive, or that he would have scored without a bang-bang play. If you send him, he's sliding, and all the evidence points to him sliding in hands first.

The Manny in the mirror is 100% responsible for his slide decision. But Grady and Cubbage are 100% responsible for putting Ramirez in a position to be injured, baseball faux pas aside. They knew how he was going to slide.

5.12.02: The Panic Room door is wide open.  The streaks, records, and coasting talk is back on the shelf. The soft schedule and Tampa Bay beatings are a distant memory. Tonight becomes a psychological Must Win as the plot suddenly thickens.

What will life be like without Planet Manny? A four-play of Rickey, Daubach, Offey, and Clemente in left? Where's Izzy when we need him (tearing up the IL again)? Is there a trade to be made?

If Nomar moves up to bat clean-up, who bats third now? Will Grady force Trot up top now? Or is Offey the man after Rickey and Johnny? Is Carlos Baerga the missing link?

First things first, can we handle more Clark at bats, another trickle down effect of Cubbage-gate? I don't think so, that bat is so damn slow. Can you also imagine the cries across the Nation now if Offerman had been let go?!?

And we'll leave the four and five starter concerns for another day. The Panic Room door is wide open without them.

The Sox are failing the real test of the west and they'll get a steady diet of Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, and New York over the next month along with a boatload of lefties. Without Manny.

Where are the Dirt Dogs when you need them?

5.10: They're out there.  Yes, even now, the Fellowship of the Miserable is alive and well and they're not happy. And they number more than a few. Having the Best Record in Baseball and being seven losses ahead of the Yankees is not a cheery place for many citizens of Red Sox Nation.

Despite the 24-7 "pinch me" start, 312-2 record on the road, nine in a row and counting, there lurks doubt about the future because of the past.

They say we've been here too many times before. The infamous Red Sox fast start, which is usually the harbinger of the September swoon. "What about being up 14 games on the Yankees in '78?" What about it? Forget about the past. The future is now. But life isn't good living in the now for the Miserable fellows.

They'll say "Oakland is not that good anymore." Well, they're right about that. The A's have clearly lost some Swagger in the Hatteberg/Pena for Giambi swap. But what will the excuse be when they put Seattle to sleep? Don't tell me "they didn't have to face Freddy Garcia." Spare me.

And there's "you can't count on Oliver and Castillo holding up, we'll need more pitching in August"... "Rey Sanchez' career OPS will catch up to him someday ya know." The paranoia knows no end for some tortured souls of this war torn Nation.

They can't handle winning because they can't live without loss, anger, and controversy. They cannot live with the Best Record in Baseball.

Not today, not in May.

5.6.02: Is this Duke's team?  The short answer is no, and yes. There's a large contingent out there that wants Dan Duquette to get 100% credit for anything that takes place on the field in 2002. Nice try.

Yes Dan did spend John-Gone's $160M to get Manny. And he did give Johnny Damon the amount he asked for. But is there talent in those moves? Or just a wide open wallet? Yes, Darren Oliver was a great pickup, but wasn't Dan just cleaning up his own mess by introducing us to Mr. Everett in the first place? But I'll give him credit for signing Sanchez and Baerga and trading for Pedro, Lowe, and Varitek. No question.

Duquette did sign nearly everyone on the 2002 roster, but that does not mean the game stops there. Granted there were major injuries in 2001, but this team fell completely apart under Duke's watch last season. And he also has to take credit for $25.5 million of salaries that were only worth minor league money in Bitchette, O'Leary, and Lansing.

And human relations is not just "PR." People matter. Duke dropped the ball badly on that front. Why couldn't Dan have fixed the clubhouse area the way the new group did in about 30 days? Duquette would have us believe that since Fenway is 90 years old, there's nothing you can do (except of course rip out the couches as he did when Joe Kerrigan took over last August). Small item, but it means a lot to the players. They have been heard, actions were taken, and it makes them want to be on the same page as everyone else in the organization.

Like Rick Pitino, who you can make the same argument that he built the Celtics, Duquette had to leave before things got better. The looseness, togetherness, and new attitude that personifies the 2002 edition would not have been prevalent with Mr. Stiff at the helm. The team is more than its collective signings.

And have you listened to Larry Lucchino speak to the fans on the radio? Straight-forward, engaging, affable, informative. Do you remember how plastic and disingenuous Duquette was for the past eight years? Did he ever really give us a straight answer to a question?

The answer is no, and no.

5.03.02: And they're off.  In the spirit of the Kentucky Derby tomorrow (please, no wagering), if the some of Red Sox were horses, they'd be named:

- Bettor Offerman
- Lowe Down Dirty Shame
- Can't Stop the Clark
- Hot to Trot (loves the slop)
- Jason X
- Johnny Come Lately
- Dau-Back of the Pack (but closing on the rail)
- Whoa Henry!
- Martinez of Manoguaybo
- Nomar Comin' in Second
- Manny's in the Money
- Lucchino's Lucky Day
- No Stoppo El Guapo
- The Hermanator II
- Urbina Berry Bad Boy
- The Shea-Hey Kid
- Just Call Me Rickey

And in honor of Boston and the Red Sox, I'm laying it all in on 'Came Home' and local boy Chris McCarron. But it will be 'Came Home' sliding, not standing up.

5.02.02: Hats off.  Sorry for the late post... I just stopped laughing from watching Manny fool everyone, including himself, on that warning track pop-up. Thank God he hits a ton.

That was a huge night for Jose Offerman. I'm On Again Offerman Again. But I'd like to see Dauber more at first.

Maybe Offie can be the new Rickey? Henderson may be heading west this weekend if he doesn't get 43 at bats per week. But unlike Bitchette, Lansing, and O'Leary, the old goat can still go. He actually makes Manny look slow going up the first base line on ground balls. Thank God they're 17-7 and no one cares what Rickey says right now.

Larry Lucchino gave big props and kudos to Duke and Kerrigan for their contributions to this year's team. He is mindful that the success of the team is built upon some of the moves the previous administration made, e.g., acquiring Sanchez, Lowe's conversion to starter, etc.

But, the success of the new Red Sox is also a by product of the new energy and enthusiasm throughout this organization. As Shea Hillenbrand said on NESN's Extra Innings "it's not just the new players, or the new attitude in the clubhouse, it's the entire organization working together as a unit. It's Mike Port, Larry Lucchino, John Henry. It's fun to be a part of this, and those guys put us in the best situation to succeed."


5.01.02: Are the dirt dogs in Grady's dog house?  No? Then how do you explain why part-time DH Dauber, the starting first baseman last year coming off his third consecutive 20+ homer season, is now relegated to third-string first baseman? It don't add up Grady. Especially when Brian is putting up the third best OPS on the team at .971 in very limited duty.

And again, Little thinking caused Trot's slow start. He should be in the two or five hole, period. Everybody and their grandmother got a day in batting second but not the guy who did it the most last season? It don't add up Grady, and unfortunately Nixon's 20 strikeouts in April did.

Best thing about the Bruins getting bounced? No more foolish, phony "AAAhhh Team, One Dream" battle-cry ads on NESN. What was up with that? Any corny Dream themes are reserved for the Red Sox anyway. Nightmare. "Hello? ...cool dogs... Hello?"

Corsi's Corner:  Jim's starting to get Extra Ornery... after trying to spin the old "you never played the game" crap on the fans and Bob Rogers on Monday, Jim's jab last night was "maybe this will SHUT UP all the Manny criticizers out there." He must have been talking about Manny's clean play off the Wall, not his slow crawl to first on the grounder. Note to Grady: "I Love that Kid" too, but a little hustle goes a long way at Fenway.

John Henry on Darren Oliver's performance last night "that wasn't really a fair trade was it?" Call me a lap dog, but I love this guy.

Congratulations to Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino who tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend Stacy Ballard at the ripe young age of 56 (Mom, Larry just set the new Bachelor Benchmark at 56, sorry).

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