Hench's Hardball

Abandon Ship

Boston Dirt Dogs

(BDD Photo Illustration / Casey Baker, Worcester)

Hench Furious

The Red Sox pitching staff just allowed 48 baserunners in 18 innings against the New York Yankees.

A $125M payroll and this is the detritus that the team sends out to the mound day after day. There's plenty of embarrassment to go around, but poor Terry Francona deserves a pass. He's been sent into a gun fight with a bunch of spoons.

I don't know what the offers were, but let's clarify something about the Red Sox' 'untouchables.'

Jon Lester is not Francisco Liriano and he never will be.

Craig Hansen is not Joel Zumaya and he never will be.

Manny Delcarmen is not Mark Lowe and he never will be.

Sadly, Hanley Ramirez is Miguel Tejada, only way ahead of schedule.

Remember Bellhorn's Past

Millar Simply Not Producing

"In those 170 at bats on the road this season � no insignificant sample � Millar has posted a .288 slugging percentage. Slugging percentage! That's total bases divided by at bats. Keep in mind he can't run at all and he is a mediocre defensive player. Determining how much a slow first baseman with a so-so glove and a .288 slugging percentage hurts your team is a calculation that pushes the envelope of sabermetrics." -- Kevin Hench continued at FOXSports.com

Remember Bellhorn's Past

They say people who win the lottery usually end up more unhappy than they were before they scored the big dough.

Really? You were happier living in the double-wide without HBO?

I never believed it.

Until now.

Now that I've seen the behavior of my Red Sox Nation this summer, I understand how expecting too much from life makes some people miserable.

Apparently, winning the World Series � like winning the lottery � makes you expect too much from life. This explains how Yankee fans came to boo Derek Jeter during his April slump last year. And you would think if there's one thing a Red Sox fan would never want to emulate, it's a jaded Yankee fan... -- Kevin Hench continued at FOXSports.com

Clement, Damon, Ortiz have helped save Sox

Clement, Damon, Ortiz have helped save Sox

There are a whole slew of burning questions from baseball's first half, but none more perplexing than "How the heck are the Red Sox in first place?"

"The starting pitching has been shaky, the relief pitching has sunk to D-Ray levels, the middle infield duo could win dubious error and strikeout crowns and the team chemistry � so harmonious last year � has gone south. So naturally, the team is in much better shape than it was this time last year. How is this possible?..." -- Kevin Hench on FOXSports.com

Boston fans are more than just blind 'passion'

"With New England and Philadelphia set to square off in the Super Bowl, my editors have asked me to write a column on why Boston sports fans are better than Philly sports fans.

I thought they must be kidding. Did they also want a column on why Larry Bird was better than Marc Iavaroni?..." -- Kevin Hench on FOXSports.com

Shortstop shuffle

The Shortstop Shuffle

Boston Dirt Dogs

(Getty Images and AP Photos)

Will Rent Own the Position?

"The Red Sox, meanwhile, chose to invest money that might have helped retain Pedro Martinez or Derek Lowe in Renteria. With the signing of David Wells (2-4, 6.75) now looking like an unmitigated disaster, one has to wonder just how judiciously the Red Sox allocated their resources this winter.

"While a more impulsive organization may have looked at what Cabrera did in the second half and postseason last year and compensated him accordingly, the Red Sox and their pragmatic GM Theo Epstein took the long view..." -- Kevin Hench on FOXSports.com

Hench's Hardball

"I remember reading about Nirvana fans -- who had followed them in clubs and on the Sub Pop indie label -- being bummed out when they went huge with Nevermind. Kind of feels the same with the Sox. It's no longer Cosa Nostra (our thing). It's everybody's thing.

"But nobody felt it harder or deeper or better last October than the lifers." -- 4.25.05 Kevin Hench

Emotions Ran High as Sox Received Rings

04.12.05: It took 86 years for the Red Sox to win the World Series. Had the organization dedicated every second of that epoch to choreographing a victory celebration, they couldn't have improved on the ring ceremony that preceded the team's 2005 home opener. The sun-drenched proceedings began simply enough with public address announcer Carl Beane's resonant welcome: "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and welcome to Opening Day 2005 at Fenway Park, America's most beloved ballpark and the home of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox." Continued on FOXSports.com

These Buyers are Wary Weary

These Buyers are Wary, Weary

"Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer."

- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

5.13.03:  As you've no doubt noticed there's a fundamental tension between producer and consumer in all things Red Sox.

We, the consumer, have been roundly criticized for, well, being critical. It has been suggested that we are pathological in our love of misery and that we wouldn't know how to handle success. Some say we are fickle. Some say we don't know how good we have it. We are told to be patient (my personal favorite), even as our grandparents die never having enjoyed a championship. We are mean, unforgiving, spiteful, hateful, negative.

All of that may be true, but, above all, the Red Sox consumer is a smart shopper.

The producer has made a product that they believe should be perfectly satisfactory to the consumer, a team that wins more than it loses, plays exciting games and even wears brand new red jerseys in some home games.

So why is their complaint box brimming over? It's simple. Their consumers are simply too shrewd, too steeped in the laws of caveat emptor to be duped by this product. We are the discerning parent who sees the poor workmanship in the shiny toy our child so desperately wants. We know it will fall apart the second time he plays with it. We are looking for a product that can last until the end of October. This ain't it.

The team defense is lousy, the bullpen is a nightmare, the superstar has prematurely entered the decline phase of his career and the manager often seems in over his head.

While Jeremy Giambi's phenomenal gack with the bases loaded was truly stunning, there were two other plays in Sunday's one-run loss that are much more troubling to me because they involved a player who is a regular at the position in question. The Twins' first hitter of the game, Jacques Jones, bounced a harmless ground ball about a stride and a half to Todd Walker's right. This is a play that a Major League second baseman should make 95 percent of the time, meaning it is slightly more difficult than average, but only slightly. Walker made his slow, ungainly crossover step to his right, got to the ball much more off-balance than he should have been and made a weak, terrible throw to first that pulled the first baseman off the bag. Infield hit. You've got to be able to get to this ball in time to plant that back foot and make a decent throw to first -- or you simply cannot play second base in the Majors. Jones came around to score the Twins first run, an earned run mind you. Later, with the game seemingly out of reach, Bruce Chen induced the most routine of double play balls, hit right at Walker. Ol' Stone Hands botched it, recovered, and got the runner at first. No error. The run that scored on the play was once again earned, but Chen should have been out of the inning. You don't need John Thorn and Pete Palmer's complicated fielding stats to tell you Todd Walker is a terrible second baseman (his stats are spectacularly poor), all you need is an understanding of the game... and vision.

Back to Giambi's much more memorable play for a moment. How was he not charged with two errors on this play? As he settled under the flair it's safe to assume the runners started retreating to their bags, right? He drops it, allowing the runner on third to score. Then he fumbles the one-hop bounce off the turf. Then he bobbles the ball a third time as he bends to pick it up. Even if you say the runner on second would have scored on the initial drop, there is no way the runner on first goes to third and the batter ends up on second without the additional spasticity. Ah, the joy of a roster with five DHs.

So much has been written and bemoaned about our horrible bullpen that it feels like tilting at windmills to go over it again. But I will say that it is highly unlikely that Robert Person is the answer. He was never a good closer in Toronto (his ERA was 7.04 and 9.82 in the two seasons he recorded saves as a Blue Jay). He has never had an impressive WHIP. And he is coming off an injury. Not a formula for late-career success.

As for our struggling superstar, I am now resigned to the sad belief that we will never see the old Nomar again. He may hit .300 with 50 doubles and 20 homers (Cooperstown numbers, to be sure), but you know what I mean. Larry Bird averaged 20 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7 assists in his final season, but he wasn't Larry. For the first four seasons of Nomar's career we were gripped by the giddy knowledge that he kept getting better... .306, .323, .357, .372. Yeesh, at this rate, the guy will be hitting .440 in three years. Now the inexorable, injury-fueled slide has begun. Nomar's petulant pig-headedness and medical condition (see OCD and OBP in the archive) aren't helping matters, but the fade always comes eventually. We just didn't want it to be so soon.

The manager. While I think Grady Little has been something of a revelation this year, much more in tune with what is actually happening on the field, I still think he has serious limitations. Like many of my fellow consumers, I happen to know that the Minnesota Twins really struggle against lefthanders, which is why I was not surprised that the Royals promising lefty Jeremy Affeldt beat them last night. Grady Little is either unaware of this statistical trend or does not have access to a Red Sox schedule. Given the added flexibility of an off day (and a quick ejection), how Grady managed to have Casey Fossum miss the Twins twice is incredible. Instead, he had Derek Lowe pitch the final game of the road trip on the rug and responded with incredulity that so many ground balls got through. Yeah, Grady, that's what happens on turf (especially when you have a lousy second baseman). Wouldn't it make more sense to have Fossum, a strikeout-flyball pitcher, take the turn in Minny and have the sinkerballing Lowe open the homestand - where his ERA is 12 runs better - against the homer-happy Rangers? Of course it would.

The consumers know this. And they wish the producers did too.


5.3.03 - Does anyone remember the old Nomar?

The bigger the situation, the harder he'd hit the ball. Everything was a rope. Or a bomb. Remember those two playoff series against the Indians? Or the ALCS against the Yankees? In 54 postseason plate appearances he has an impossible 1.399 OPS with a .383 BA, .463 OBP and a .936 slugging percentage. These numbers just don't happen in October.

During his back-to-back batting title seasons of 1999 and 2000 I'm sure Nomar popped weakly to the right side on a pitch out of the strike zone a couple of times. I just can't remember it. Now it seems to happen every time he comes to the plate with a runner in scoring position.

What changed?

Can it all be traced to Sept. 25, 1999 when Baltimore's Al Reyes dotted Nomar on the longitudinal tendon? Nomar played the entire 2000 season with the tendon fraying, hit .372 and, most encouragingly, drew a career high 61 walks. But then the dam burst, the tendon split and all the progress he had made in raising his OBP from .345 his rookie year to .439 in year four was seemingly wiped away.  When he came back, he was jumping at the ball, swinging at everything and resolutely refusing to draw a walk as he posted a .352 OBP in 21 games.

But 21 post-surgery games was hardly a fair sample to gauge just how much Nomar had regressed in his hitting approach. So we all waited with bated breath for 2002. He had almost 700 plate appearances last year and walked 41 times, repeating the .352 OBP he had put up in his abbreviated 2001 season. The strength certainly seemed to have returned to his wrist as he piled up 85 extra-base hits, including 24 home runs. But the modicum of patience he was slowly starting to develop over his first four seasons was gone.

Compounding the OBP problem, Nomar was no longer killing first pitches. Why?

I think something else was happening concurrently with Nomar's rehabilitation/
comeback. Word was going around: Do not throw this guy a first pitch strike. He will chase balls up, he will chase balls down, he will chase balls away. So when Nomar returned to full strength, he was facing a completely different league, a league in which the only first-pitch strikes he saw were mistakes. He didn't adjust, hitting .325 on first pitches, down from .432 in 2000. Nomar defenders, indeed Nomar himself, will say, "What's wrong with hitting .325?" Well, while .325 is an excellent batting average, it is a lousy on-base percentage, and no one ever drew a walk by putting the first pitch in play. Furthermore, giving pitchers one-pitch outs 67.5 percent of the time is no way to get into the opposition bullpen. So far this year, Nomar seems to have regressed even more with a .323 OBP in the reasonable sample of 140 plate appearances. Apparently someone didn't get the memo about building pitch counts because he's walked only six times, on pace for a 715-AB, 34-walk season.

Particularly distressing has been Nomar's inability to hit with men in scoring position. It's not just the outs, it's the kind of outs. It has become all too familiar.  The Sox arduously load the bases (often through steely patience), the crowd rises in expectation, the opposing pitcher is hanging by a thread. And Nomar pops up the first pitch, deflating the team, the crowd and his OBP and BA with RISP. 

Pitchers are naturally more cautious with runners in scoring position (particularly if first base is open), meaning hitters should be more selective, but Nomar becomes completely incontinent in these situations, often lunging at first pitches as if he were saddled with an 0-2 count and forced to protect the plate. So far this season he is 6-for-39 with RISP, a .154 batting average. He should bat behind Manny for two reasons: one, because he has a much lower OBP, and, two, so that he could watch from the proximity of the on-deck circle a professional hitter who understands the value of getting his pitch.

But on a deeper, more philosophical level, why do you suppose Nomar is such an undisciplined, impatient hitter? I would argue that he is medically incapable of patience. Stay with me here.

In case you haven't noticed, Nomar Garciaparra has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The batting gloves, the spikes, the dugout steps. He is ticking at a different RPM. I'll bet he's not real good at sitting in traffic either. All the ticks, the tugs, the tap dancing down the steps would be merely quirky and endearing if he could then slow himself down when the pitcher comes to the set. Relax, pick out a zone and a pitch and work the at-bat until you get that pitch you can drive. Manny is so relaxed at the plate he looks like he could nod off in the wind-up and awake in time to hit yet another rocket. The difference: Manny needs to be convinced to swing by the attractiveness of the pitch; Nomar needs to be convinced not to swing by the unreachability of a pitch.

But wait, you say, Nomar had OCD when he was winning batting titles and getting on base over 40% of the time. True, but for some reason pitchers were throwing him strikes. The coiled snake, high-strung nervous energy of OCD is probably a good thing when pitchers are throwing cookies. Combine the new book on Nomar with his old habits, however, and you get too many easy outs and an unacceptably low OBP for such a gifted hitter.

Even when pitchers do throw him first pitch strikes with men in scoring position, it's often a breaking ball, like the hanging curve he belted from Roy Halliday to double home the tying run before hitting his solo walk-off shot two innings later. 

The solution? Nomar should approach first pitches like most hitters view 3-1 pitches. If it's not a fatty in his happy zone, he should take it. He'll find he's up in the count 1-0 an awful lot. At 1-0, narrow the happy zone even further. Once he starts getting ahead 2-0 and 3-1, he'll have a month where he hits .400 and word will get out that Nomar is no longer expanding the zone on first pitches and we'll see a return to those 1999 and 2000 numbers.

If Nomar develops some peace and stillness at the plate, watch out. Cure the OCD and you'll cure the OBP.

Take a pitch, buddy.

Smell the Gloves: They Stink

5.4.03: Oh, God. I think I'm going to be sick. 

I haven't squirmed like this since I watched my fianc�e get laser eye surgery.

The Red Sox don't "play" defense, they "fight" defense. I'm still trying to figure out which of today's throws to the plate was most nauseating: Johnny Damon's embarrassing fling from shallow center, Nomar's almost physically impossible misfire from shallow left or Shea Hillenbrand's gack from 70 feet away. Sure, the bullpen has been a disaster, but that could be largely solved with one deadline acquisition. The team's wretched defense and organization-wide disregard for its importance will plague the Sox this season and beyond. And don't be fooled by fielding percentage. While the Sox made a bunch of errors in dropping this weekend's series, it's the balls they don't get to, the DPs they don't turn and the cutoff men they miss that kill them.

Where to begin? Well, since we embarrassed ourselves against the Twins, let's start with our twins: David Ortiz and Jeremy Giambi.

Ortiz and Giambi are clones offensively. Ortiz has a career .264 batting average with an .805 career OPS and Giambi has an identical .264 BA and an .809 OPS.  They are both incredibly slow and yet in their brief time with the Sox both have hit the ball on the ground more than in the air. But the real similarity is on defense, where both are zeroes. I watched a spring training game in which Ortiz looked lost on a bunt popped in front of him, let another popup land right behind him and butchered a routine ground ball. No range, no instincts, no hands. What does it say that Grady Little believes Giambi is worse? And why would you need both these players on your roster? Do we really need to do more research on the October effectiveness of stockpiling slow, stone-gloved DH-types? These guys are the poster children for not caring about defense. Can you imagine how quickly the bile would fill your throat on a difficult chopper hit to Ortiz's right in a close playoff game?

What about new acquisitions Todd Walker and Kevin Millar? I love their approach at the plate, but, again, they are significantly below average defensively. Walker's range limitations are well-documented, his pivot is less than slick, his arm unimpressive and his hands none too soft. 

Millar is a gamer, a terrific hitter and clearly a wonderful teammate. I love this guy.  But without a bat in his hand, he's hurting the team. For some reason he was playing first in the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead in Anaheim last weekend - perhaps Grady forgot that he had dubbed Shea our late-inning defensive first baseman. Millar charged a ball he should have waited on, turned it into an in-between hop and booted it. It wasn't that he made an error -- everyone does -- it was the way he booted it that was so depressing. In that moment, your suspicions were confirmed. Our new favorite player is basically another DH.

Against the Twins Friday night Millar had three misplays that were not errors, the most embarrassing of which was being several feet from the bag as he tried to complete a routine 3-6-3 double play. The ball finds your weak defenders. And on this team, how can it not?

Today, the Sox created one of the largest Bermuda triangles in Major League history by starting Millar in right with Ortiz at first, leaving second baseman Bill Mueller responsible for all the acreage between the two thick-wasted statues. If you remember, though you can be excused for trying to forget, all the trouble started on a pop fly by Dustin Mohr down the right-field line with the Sox leading 4-0. Mueller made a solid effort in trying to reach the ball, but Millar and Ortiz weren't even in the picture when the ball plunked down in fair territory. Captain Ahab and Peter Stuyvesant would cover more ground than this seemingly peg-legged duo.

While we're out there, let's talk about our regular rightfielder. Trot Nixon tries his hardest on every play. It is very hard to fault a guy for this. But here goes. Most of Trot's defensive mistakes stem from his consuming desire. Even though his arm is not in the Ichiro-Vlad class, he wants to throw everyone out, no matter if the guy is already three-quarters of the way home as the ball reaches him. This leads to his chronic airmailing of the cutoff man. How many times has a runner moved up into scoring position under the comical parabola of one of Trot's rainbows? But perhaps the best example to date of Trot's desire hurting the team came last week against Kansas City. With two outs and nobody on, Carlos Beltran hit a sinking line drive at Trot. Base hit all the way. But valor always being the better part of discretion for Trot, he made a ridiculous dive for the ball, failed to get a glove on it and had the ball bounce over him for an inside-the-park home run. It reminded me of Mike Greenwell's "bad hustle," the kind of unthinking effort that announcers usually excuse with the lame "you can't fault a guy for hustling like that." Guess what?  You can. You should. Dumb plays are dumb plays. With the winning run on third, you dive for that ball. With two outs and nobody on in a scoreless game, you take it on a hop. 

And why does Johnny Damon look like he's throwing with his off hand? This is the throwing motion my mom uses to toss the football around with her grandson. Seriously, can a guy have this weak an arm in the Major Leagues? He would have the third-strongest outfield arm on my softball team. (I'm not kidding.) In today's debacle, the less-than-speedy Corey Koskie tagged and scored on a 200-foot pop fly to center. I actually thought Damon's throw might come to rest before it reached home plate. The worst part is that even Johnny was apparently surprised that someone would try to score on such a shallow pop, so instead of gathering behind the ball and catching it in mid-crow-hop, he caught it flat-footed before starting his arthritic, herky-jerky throwing motion. 

Which brings us to today's other two nominees for most humiliating imitation of an adult male throwing a baseball.

For the second time this season -- anyone remember Pedro's lone unearned run in the Opening Day calamity? -- Shea Hillenbrand failed to throw a guy out at the plate when he could have beaten the runner by rolling the ball home. But, in fairness, Shea continues to improve at the hot corner, and if he plays a couple games at first each week, I'll bet he doesn't even lead the league in errors by a third baseman for the second straight year.

Nomar, however, made a strong statement Friday night that he won't give up the American League Error Crown he won last year without a fight. After leading the league with 25 E's last season, Nomar doubled his early-season total with three E-6's in Friday's loss to the Twins. Somehow he avoided another error today when the official scorer awarded Michael Cuddyer a triple -- on a ball into the left-field corner? -- after Nomar made one of his classic Bend It Like Beckham throws, oh, 30 feet off target in the direction of home plate. The sad thing is that all three runners would have been out at home with the simplest C+ throws.

So let's sum up:

The Red Sox left side each led their position in errors last year. The Red Sox new right side is a significant downgrade from last year and perhaps the worst in the American League. The centerfielder can't throw. This team was built for 12-9 games in July.

What is it again that wins championships? Pitching and...

Premature Exasperation: Homestand Rekindles Hope

4.22.03  No word yet on whether John Burkett will attend this year's All-Star Game if he's named to the team.

Just kidding, J.B. We pretty much knew what we were getting at the back of the rotation: lots of baserunners, lots of rockets, lots of long relief. So it's never a surprise when Burkett or Casey Fossum fails to go six or seven.

But there were certainly some pleasant surprises on this 7-2 homestand. (Reader warning: Hench about to be positive. Okay, largely positive.)

Weren't we all amazed at how good an ugly uniform can look during a comeback win? When the Red Devils gathered at home plate to welcome Nomar after his Saturday walk-off shot they looked positively resplendent. Of course overcoming a 5-0 deficit against an All-Star ace could make Padre mustard and brown look good. Sure, the red shirts look like batting practice jerseys, but they're damn purty when the Sox start taking BP in the late innings.

Shea Hillenbrand is amazing. Can you imagine how hard it is to hit Major League pitching when you lack the fundamental ability to gauge the path of a pitched ball? When the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, some hitters can tell immediately that that pitch will be in the dirt or way outside. With Shea, it's like he picks the ball up ten feet from home plate and reacts, which makes his hitting that much more phenomenal. This guy can go down on one knee and drive the ball to a gap or dive out over the plate and slap the ball down the right-field line. If the strike zone was the size of a soccer goal, the former All-State striker would be the best player in the game this side of Vlad Guerrero. Shea has been more patient this year, but not necessarily more selective (if that makes any sense). He takes pitches for the sake of taking pitches, not because they look like balls to him. As a result, he is often down in the count, but it hardly matters because he is such a wizard when it comes to hitting bad pitches hard. But more than his typical April offensive output, I've been so impressed with his defense. He made several superior plays at third this past week, including a dazzling 5-u-4 double play on which he made a strong throw to second while fading away into foul territory. It was an aggressive, confident play. Now, seriously, trade him for a pitcher already.

Though it is a confounding puzzlement why Nomar's throws seem to be so much more accurate on spectacular plays than on the routine ones, his play on Aubrey Huff in the Ice Bowl series against the D-Rays belongs in his all-time top 10. To go that far to his right and make that strong a throw in those conditions, well, you just have to tip your ski mask to him. Now if we could only eliminate those nasty splitters he throws after scooping balls hit right at him.

At the risk of calling attention to it, jinxing it and bringing down the whole freakin' house of cards, have you noticed that you're starting to expect Manny to make plays in left field? That you no longer hold your breath on every ball hit his way? That you're not even that shocked when he makes a running, lunging catch? Not enough was made of his barehand snag, spin and throw that preserved the first win at Baltimore. Why am I already regretting this paragraph?

Mike Timlin looks sharp. He's been challenging hitters with the same moxie that a bumper sticker above his locker taunts peaceniks. It describes the peace symbol as "The footprint of the American chicken." I wonder if Jason Varitek is reluctant to call for a curve for fear of misinterpretation. (Apparently glib comparisons between our Committee and H.U.A.C. were more accurate than we'd thought.) Just keep getting ahead in the count, Mike.

Tim Wakefield is a stud. If his stuff is crap, he finds a way to keep us in the game. If his stuff is awesome, he spends the whole day looking at the back of his catcher and he still finds a way to keep us in the game. If you could teach mound demeanor, Wake 101 would be a required course.

Kevin Millar announced himself with a game-winning home run in the second game of the season, and despite a 1-for-14 slide to end the homestand, he is rightly the fan favorite of the moment. He is a patient, professional hitter with power who also looks like our best fielder in the first baseman starting rotation (faint praise, to be sure). And he is clearly a great teammate. Watching him maul Nomar on Saturday was a joy.

And you can't love Millar without giving Theo Epstein his due. He refused to let alienating other GMs or prohibitive international long distance charges keep him from getting his man. The bullpen's recent run of success probably hasn't calmed the palpitations across New England - and beyond - and does anyone really believe Kevin Tolar and Jason Shiell are longterm solutions? But Millar has justified the Kid's doggedness and the team's offseason phone bill.

I would like to say something nice about Trot Nixon's hot start, but the Leo Durocher in me won't let me until he goes a whole week without airmailing the cutoff man.

Oh, and Grady... well, he didn't screw anything up too bad.

Now, please Lord, for the love of dinosaurs and moon landings, don't let Carl Everett beat us. In fact, for the sake of the Nation, don't even let the reigning AL Player of the Week come up against the Committee with the game on the line. Thanks.

By Any Acronym, These Guys Stink

4.9.03 TORONTO - Severe Acute Relief Shortcomings.  Sorry Ass Relief Stiffs.  Specialty: Allowing Runs Scored.  Suffering Another Routine Shelling.

Make up your own inappropriate meaning for SARS.  It's about the only fun to be had with this sorry bunch.  Here in the North American capital of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, it's perfectly fitting that we all have trouble breathing when Grady Little signals the pen to Summon Awful Retreaded Spares.

How bad is it? After last night's loss in which he gave up his second two-run homer of the young season, Alan Embree said, "I can live with the solo shots."  Really?  Well, there's the closer's mentality we're looking for. That's what you want a guy thinking as he strides in to slam the door:  I gotta limit them to solo homers!

For Red Sox fans, the entrance of Messrs. Embree, Howry, Timlin, Mendoza or Fox triggers Sudden Acid Reflux Sickness.

The scariest part is that none of these guys has actually been asked to work out of a difficult spot.  Embree melted down Opening Day in the cushiest of all possible save situations, three-run lead, bases empty, D-Rays batting.  Howry couldn't solve Rey Ordonez.  Mendoza barely held a five-run lead against the light-hitting O's.  Fox followed his own Opening Day collapse with another remarkable feat:  walking Tony Batista to force in the winning run.  At season's end, the collective OBP of the guys slapping our Sorry Anti Relief System around will be about .300.  If you can't get Rey Ordonez out, what's going to happen against Magglio Ordonez? 

While another poor outing by the bloodblistered D-Lowe is reason for concern, the blistering of our beaten and bloodied bullpen is the bigger problem.  I love Bill James, his abstract is the King James Bible of baseball.  I like Theo Epstein, he's bright, informed and desperately wants to win.  I even liked most of these pitching acquisitions, pre-Theo and after.  But Bobby Howry does not look like the pitcher he was in Chicago.  Chad Fox has clearly not returned to his pre-injury self (and we don't want him building his arm back up on our time via losses to weak teams).  Alan Embree looks less like that dominant power pitcher that was untouchable for a stretch late last summer and more like the journeyman that six teams have given up on.  Ramiro Mendoza looks every bit like the pitcher who has surrendered over a hit an inning in six of his seven years in the bigs and was touched for a .275 OBA last year.  He came up with a 1 6 4 4 0 0 line against the Orioles, and you thought that other Mendoza line was ugly.  And Mike Timlin is in his "decline phase" to use a Bill James term. 

So, kudos to the Kid for being inventive, but while thinking outside the box is great, thinking outside the boxscore is now unacceptable.  And it's time to start remedying the problem.  Prediction:  If the Red Sox obtain a closer, even a shaky one like Armando Benitez, the rest of these guys will pitch better.  

If they do nothing, just consider it Sacrificing Another Regular Season.

Panic Now, Beat the Rush

4.7.03: As I was chewing my nails down to the quick in the top of the ninth inning of Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Orioles, my phone rang. 

To my surprise, the plaintive voice on the other end was not a fellow Red Sox fan, but rather that of a Mets fan who had confidently included Pedro Martinez on a three-team parlay.

"What the hell is he doing?" my bewildered buddy asked, echoing the question I myself was screaming at the screen.

With nobody out and runners on first and third courtesy of the spectacularly wild Jorge Julio, Grady Little had Bill Mueller attempt a straight sacrifice to move the runner on first into scoring position.  Here was a pitcher who was struggling mightily to register a single strike and Grady was offering him an entire out. I couldn't believe it. Julio was throwing almost 100 miles an hour with movement and was all over the place and our idiot skipper puts on the bunt. I know Grady Little didn't play in The Show, but he did play baseball at some point in his life, right?  Yet clearly, in that moment, ninth inning of a one-run game - that familiar setting where he does his worst work - Grady clearly couldn't grasp that Julio was far more likely to advance the runner on first via another walk than he was to throw a pitch that could be easily bunted.  Mueller predictably - to me and my friend - popped a bunt attempt foul before striking out.

Lost in the tortured welter of lament about our terrible bullpen - and it is terrible - is that the manager is still awful. I mean, if you saw a guy in a pickup softball game slap a groundball to shortstop and then run directly to third base, you'd say, "Wow, this guy doesn't know how to play." Well, guess what, when a manager watches Ramiro Mendoza yield a line drive single, a line drive double, a line drive sac fly, a line drive out, a line drive single, a line drive single and a line drive single and opts to leave him in with the tying run on first, he doesn't know how to manage. And then when Mendoza gives up a booming double and is saved only by a great relay and a generous call all Gomer Grady can offer is some asinine bromide about winning the game or how bravely John Burkett battled.

Can you imagine a more combustible combination? This bullpen being handled by this jackass. Oy. We teach children not to play with matches but part of that deal, of course, is to provide them with other toys. The front office has left a child-like huckleberry with nothing to play with but matches, kindling and lighter fluid. It's almost cruel.

But wait, the Sox are 5-2. They've opened the season with consecutive road series wins for only the fifth time in franchise history. Why the panic across New England? 

Because Red Sox fans are smart. And they know this team cannot win the World Series. They know Chad Fox cannot close out a playoff series with a one-run lead. They know Pedro Martinez cannot pitch in a three-man playoff rotation and that Casey Fossum and John Burkett cannot win a playoff game. They know that a team with good infield defense doesn't yield seven infield hits in one game. They know that Derek Lowe's numbers will decline because that infield defense is so poor. They know this team will almost never successfully turn a 3-6-3 double play. They know this team will pound the soft underbelly of the American League but scuffle against the top tier teams. They know that this slow, potent offense is built for July and will post diminishing returns as the weather gets colder and the games get more important. Red Sox fans are not fooled by 12-2 drubbings of lousy teams. They think only of the big picture, of trying to win a road playoff game in Oakland on a chilly October night with the score tied 2-2 in the ninth and Pedro past his pitch count. 

And they know this team can't do it.

It's so obvious, heck, even Grady Little might know it.

Absolute Joy

Date: Tuesday, February 5, 2002
Subject:  Absolute Joy

Today marked the second morning I have awakened to this unfamiliar feeling.  It is peaceful, relaxed, no anxiety about matchups, no knot in my stomach at the prospect of paradise snatched away.  It is also rather weird. 

One of my longstanding complaints about being a Boston sports fan has been that the joy never seems to measure up to the pain in terms of absolute value.  Sure, the Celtics beat the Rockets in '81 and '86, but they were supposed to.  And yes, it was incredible when we beat the Lakers in Game 7 in '84, but the game was in the Garden where we never lost, except, of course in '85 and '87 when we bowed to the Lakers (see above: pain).  The joy of Hendu and Oil Can and Rocket in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the '86 ALCS was cruelly eradicated by subsequent events, overwhelming in their pain quotient.

But this... this is Bobby Thomson, only better.  This is Bobby Thomson chasing home Hartung and Lockman with his game-winning blast in the seventh game of the World Series.  Remember, the Giants lost the '51 Series to who else.  But Adam Vinatieri's blast won the whole damned thing.  The joy is unmuted.

I've never gotten over the '86 Series.  So it's only fair that I never get over this either.

Pressure Cooker; Pressure Kicker

Date: Monday, February 4, 2002
Subject:  Pressure Cooker; Pressure Kicker

Imagine an event so sweet that even Terry Bradshaw couldn't ruin it by butchering A Hard Day's Night with Paul McCartney, which somone should have told Terry was, after all, a John Lennon song.

I watched the game at an undisclosed location, in sweet solitude, locked in, tracking every excruciating tick with no distractions, no finger-waving Rams fans (how could there be any real ones?), no question-asking broads, no unsolicited consolation, no half-sincere words of encouragement.  Just me and the Pats (New England and Summerall, in what has to be one of the more awkward on-air farewells.)

So many great moments to relive forever... like, damn Vinatieri tagged that friggin' ball.  Did you see how quickly it got up?  I don't think I've ever seen a truer kick, dead solid perfect in the biggest pressure cooker in football history.

Life is sweet...

Still unsure how to behave with an unbroken heart 

Happy Holidays

Date:  Thursday, December 13, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Happy Holidays

Hallelujahs and high-fives all around that Big Poison is gone.

From the looks of it, Duke (who must go next) sought out the absolutely worst possible deal, almost as a poke in Jurassic's eye, like, "Hey, S***head, you're not even worth a crappy pitcher with a 6.02 ERA.  We have to toss in money to boot. F*** you very much."

As bad as Lankford is, I think he could have made the team, which Oliver will be hard-pressed to do if we sign Burkett and Adams. 

Clubhouse issues aside, I'll be happy not to see S***head swinging at pitches over his head or in the dirt.

Not that any of it matters now that the Yankees are a mortal lock to win 120 games. A team with Giambi, Jeter, Williams, Rivera, Mussina, Soriano, Posada, Pettite and that a**hole with six Cy Youngs could never, ever miss the playoffs.  Salary cap anyone?  I'd happily relinquish all the Red Sox stupid signings to level the playing field.

Even if Dolan got the team and signed Bonds, Gonzalez and Chan Ho Park, we wouldn't be favored in a series against the Yankees.  Depressing.  All very, very depressing.   

Just When It Couldn't Get Any Worse...

Date: Saturday, September 8, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Just When It Couldn't Get Any Worse...

Other than that, Mrs. Chapman,how did you like the game?

Okay, so it wasn't Ray Chapman.  Maybe it wasn't even Tony Conigliaro.  Maybe
it wasn't even as bad as when that whiny guy we released with the 11.42 ERA
got hit in the face last year.

But it was still pretty bad, eh?  Watching Pedro labor - for absolutely no
reason -with a strained, torn or inflamed rotator cuff, depending on whom you
talk to.  Perhaps Pedro believed he had something to prove.  Maybe the
organization - or the little martinet who runs it - having insinuated that
Pedro perhaps hadn't given his all to the team or the fans, painted him into
the Macho Corner, from which 95 percent of all bad male decision-making
emanates.  The Macho Corner has ensnared great men, like Alexander Hamilton,
and not so great men, like Marty McSorley.  What, are you a sissy?  Or worse,
a sissy Federalist?  Good going, Mr. Duquette.  Instead of doing your job and
alleviating the pressure on Pedro and his rotator cuff by making the decision
yourself, you forced him onto that mound last night.  Pedro is smart.  But he
is also very proud.  And a little macho.  So there he was, desperately
straining to prove that he's a tough guy, that he's a gamer, that it wasn't
someone else who threw those six no-hit innings in Cleveland in 1999.

Why, Dan?  Why?

What apparently has not been made clear enough to Dan Duquette is that by
jeopardizing Pedro's health he is almost certainly jeopardizing his own. 
Sure, Sox fans are notorious for screaming threats at those who fail them. 
But Derek Lowe is a big guy, 6-foot-4 when vertical (though considerably
shorter after last call).  As much as a Sox fanatic might want to take a
swing at Derek - God knows opposing hitters race to the bat rack - he is
still a pretty big dude, and the last thing a Sox fan needs after this
nightmare season is to get his ass kicked by Derek Lowe.  Dan Duquette, on
the other hand, is just a regular-sized guy.  Perhaps he is protected by his
brown shirts, that crack security force charged with monitoring wayward first
basemen and pitching coaches.  If not, he should be.  Almost every Sox fan I
talk to wants to break this guy's nose.  Not in that loud, "If I see Bob
Stanley..." way, where the threats are as empty as they are obnoxious.  These
guys really hate Dan Duquette  with a visceral, bilious contempt that would
seem to transcend baseball... if, that is, anything transcended baseball. 
The scary thing is they seem to make a lot of sense.  They argue: Biblically
speaking, if Pedro ended his career last night, wouldn't it be perfectly
acceptable to hold Dan Duquette down and work his shoulder until he could no
longer use his arm?  These thugs could probably find plenty of volunteers for
the holding down part right in the Red Sox clubhouse.

The Duke looks to be playing the part of the scorned soap opera lover who
drives off the cliff with the man who won't leave his wife for her.  It's
almost as if he knows the end is nigh and he is determined to destroy the Red
Sox rather than see someone else succeed where he has failed.  "If I can't
have you, no one will!" And off the cliff.

Personally, I'm a non-violent guy, an MLK guy.  But there are those out
there, adherents to a different philosophy, who believe that violence in
defense of liberty - and undersized All-Star pitchers - is not only
acceptable but at times necessary.  I'm just saying...


The play perfectly exemplified the season.  In the second inning Tino
Martinez chopped a 2-2 pitch up the middle, collecting the 47,539th
two-strike hit against the Red Sox this season. As the ball bounded over the
mound, Pedro Martinez stuck his bare hand out, thought better of it
(realizing the game, like his appearance in it, was meaningless), pulled his
hand back and watched it hop toward center field.  The ball kept bouncing as
Red Sox "shortstop" - and I giggle every time I write this - Mike Lansing
made his standard rangeless, choppy-stepped lunge for the ever-slowing
baseball.  Against our brutal infield, seeing-eye singles need only 20-400
vision.  Does Vizquel make this play? Of course.  Ordonez? In his sleep.
Nomar? A-Rod?  Nine out of ten.  Does Mike Lansing come close?  Nope.  Would
any teenager on the streets of San Pedro de Macoris be a huge improvement at
shortstop?  Clearly.  When Lansing made his 14th error of the season later in
the inning, on a routine double-play ball that would have saved Pedro a run,
a loss, and numerous pitches, did it prompt the announcers to point out how
few errors Lansing had made at shortstop this year.   Naturally.  And  this
is the final, knee-in-groin, Kafka-esque insult:  I know I can tune in
tomorrow and listen to Jerry Remy talk about what a great job Mike Lansing
has done at shortstop this year.  He has made aproximately one in 10 plays
that I would deem difficult.  Most he never gets anywhere near.  On others,
moving to his right, he is done in by his second baseman's arm.  He can't
play too deep because of his weak noodle, which further limits his already
agonizingly-limited range.  He never, ever throws anyone out with a relay. 
For someone who grew up on Rick Burleson, it has been excruciating to watch
Mike Lansing butcher the position I so love.  Of course, according to a guy
who played with Rooster, Mike Lansing has done a heckuva job at shortstop
this year.

The Red Sox will have five players strike out 100+ times this season when
Trot, Dauby and Offy join Manny and Carl.  Dante and Troy would also have
long ago joined the century club had they played full seasons.  John
Cumberland could fall on his face on the mound, roll over and piss himself
for all to see, and it still wouldn't be as embarrassing as some of the
strikeouts the aforementioned have suffered this year.  Troy has gone after
pitches slightly above the bill of his batting helmet.  Carl has not only
chased the high ones but also flailed at 50 or so changeups that never
reached the catcher's mitt.  Dante's whiff of choice is the breaking ball
away - way, way, away, in-the-lefty-batter's-box away.  But like used car
salesmen, these guys are impossible to embarrass.  Nice ballclub.

Coming attractions: When Offy reaches 100 strikeouts (he's been stuck on 88
for a few days), I will have the Mother of All Stats for you. ٱ


Over and Out

Date: Friday, August 31, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Over and Out


Joe Kerrigan is a miracle worker, a wizard, a sorcerer.  He is accomplishing something heretorfore deemed impossible.  He is making Jimy Williams look smart.  We knew this house of cards could collapse at any time.  We just didn't know the manager would bump the table in the second week of his tenure and send the cards tumbling.

Has anyone been able to keep track of how many outs we've made on the bases in the Kerrigan error, I mean era?  It's amazing.  Pretty much the only way this team could have gotten worse is if they abandoned the station-to-station approach that was not born of conservatism but of necessity.  Rule one:  Know your personnel.

When you look at the on-base percentages of some of these guys - Offerman, Hillenbrand, Stynes - you'd think the team would comprehend the preciousness of baserunners.  It's frustrating when Major Leaguers are so confused by their jobs.  Like Bichette in Texas, Hatteberg could well have been safe at home had he slid.  At least Hatteberg ran the catcher instead of surrendering like Mr. Softy.

Trot is down in the .260s, Offy down in the .240s, Carl's pinch hit lifted him out of the .250s.  We stink.  But we can unload $50.7 million in payroll in the off-season, which is nice.
I'm off to Chicago for the weekend, a great city where there is still a team in contention.

Dear Joe Letter

Date: Thursday, August 30, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Dear Joe Letter

Dear Mr. Kerrigan,

You seem like a great guy.  You've got a sense of humor; you're forthright to
a fault; you like and know other sports.  What a refreshing change from the
taciturn curmudgeon you replaced.

Now on to your terrible managing.

I had lots of problems with Jimy Williams.  His reluctance to send runners
was not one of them.  One has to manage according to his personnel.  The
Boston Red Sox are slow and, worse, they are lousy baserunners.  Your charges
have run into so many outs in the last five days that I am losing track.

Here's the problem:  When you have average or below-average speed - which
describes everyone on your roster - you have to cheat a little to swipe a
base.  You have to shift that weight to your right foot, lean and pray the
pitcher is going to the plate when you make your leap of faith.  The team's
complete lack of speed explains this recent spate of pickoffs.  The solution?
 Stop giving the steal sign.  C'mon, Joe, I know you want to do everything
possible to divorce yourself from the previous skipper - slidestepping,
stealing bases, set lineup (hah) - but all you've managed to do in the last
two weeks is become only the second Red Sox manager in 35 years with a losing

Tonight we saw two back-breaking plays that must have originated in your
apparently overrated noggin'. 

With no outs Trot Nixon was picked off first by lefty C.C. Sabathia
when he was clearly going and guessed wrong on where Sabathia was
delivering the ball.  This is doubly defeating.  It kills any potential rally and it
gives the pitcher an out without having to pile up pitches. As frustrating as this
moment was, it paled compared to the real mindbender you threw at us later. 
Leading 1-0 with runners on first and second, one out and a 3-2 count on Jose
Offerman, you sent the runners.  Why?

You have a strikeout pitcher against a strikeout hitter with a slow runner
on second... this is the complete and total formula for not sending the
runners.  Sabathia, like most strikeout pitchers, is also a fly ball pitcher,
so where is the percentage in sending slow runners with a guy at the plate
who has fanned 87 times in 447 at-bats? A ground ball would seem the least
likely possibility, certainly dwarfed by the combined possibility of a
strikeout or a fly out.  Sure enough, Jose fanned, Dante got gunned down and
the inning was over.  For someone who supposedly has a voracious appetite for
stats, you sure don't seem to know a heck of a lot about your team.

As a manager, Joe, you make a great pitching coach.


Note: Whoops, make that 88 K's in 448 at-bats as Offerman just fanned for the
third time tonight, taking strike three with the tying run on third and one
out.  Hard to keep up with the ineptitude of some of these guys.

More HARDBALL columns from Hench

Who Am I?

Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Who Am I?


Let's play that old ballyard standard, Who Am I?

As the clues are given, picture puzzle pieces coming together, featuring fat
cheeks and sleepy, indifferent eyes.

I expect to play every day.

In my last 95 at-bats I have driven in six runs and three of those were on
one swing.

I am a poor baserunner.

I am a poor outfielder.

Since being told I would be hitting fifth every day, I have batted .264 with
a .377 slugging percentage and driven in five runs in 53 at-bats.

I am a guess hitter.

I only hit mistakes.

I average less than one home run every 30 at-bats.

I am slow.

My power is almost completely gone.

I am what they call "a cripple hitter."

I am old.

I expect to play every day.

I am Dante Bichette.

Dante Bichette's whole career has been an illusion.  The Angels and Brewers
got rid of him because they thought he stunk.  They were right.  He's never
done anything anywhere outside of Coors Field that would merit playing every
day in the bigs.  The problem was that the numbers he put up in Coors Field
were so huge that they were hard to ignore.  Sadly, Dan Duquette, like Reds
GM Jim Bowen before him, couldn't ignore them either.  They are eye-popping. 
But every time Bichette quits on a curveball that ends up rolling into the
strike zone, remember, curve balls don't roll into the strike zone in Coors. 
The cartoon joke that is Coors Field is a perfect place for pure, cartoonish
fastball hitters.  Just sit fastball and hack away.  There is no way you'll
see three breaking balls consecutively in Coors.  But the word is out on
Dante, which is why pitchers rarely make as glaring a mistake as Aaron Sele
did with that get-over fastball on the inner half that Dante crushed for half
his RBIs since July 29.

The aging mistake hitter is a baseball staple.  You just hate to be saddled
with one yourself when you're trying to make up ground in a pennant race.

Oh, and Dante, if you can't look in the mirror, at least look in Total
Baseball... you're not an everyday player, probably never were, except for
those seasons on the moon.

Notes:  Is it a bad sign when Doug Mirabelli (15) has more RBIs in August
than Manny Ramirez (13)?... My buddy Dave put it best:  "Are these the guys
you want to end the curse?"  Hardly. ... Everyone - Nomar, Pedro, Varitek, et
al. - should shut it down right now.  What is the point?  We are not going to
catch either of these teams and even if we did, we couldn't beat any of the
AL playoff teams three of five or four of seven...  Trot Nixon sure makes a
lot of soft outs in the leadoff spot.  Dribbler back to the mound with the
sacks jacked tonight against Dave Burba?  What gives?  He also takes too many
2-0 pitches.  Jose Offerman and Trot Nixon need to switch hitting
sensibilities.  Jose should take all 2-0 and 3-1 pitches and Trot, who has
lots of pop, should be looking to kill those "cripple" pitches...  A hundred
years from now someone will be thumbing through Total Baseball, see that 2-0
record and 0.69 ERA and ask, "Gee, I wonder what happened to Juan Pena?" 
That freak injury was the beginning of this 2001 tragedy that has continued
unabated ever since that final, fatal spring training day in the spring of
2000.... Joe Kerrigan now has a lower winning percentage than Jimy
Williams... Why did you forsake us, Felipe?

Running Ourselves into the Ground

Date: Monday, August 27, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Running Ourselves into the Ground


I played Little League.  I played Junior Babe Ruth.  I played high school
baseball. I played Senior Babe Ruth.  I played in the glorious Country
Mountain Men's League in central Vermont and in the somewhat less pastoral
L.A. men's league.  I've played in more softball leagues that I can recount.

That said, I have never seen worse baserunning on any level than I witnessed
by the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball's American League this weekend
in Texas.

Excited, incontinent nine-year-olds could not possibly embarrass themselves
on the paths to a greater degree than Messrs. Bichette, Stynes, Garciaparra,
Lansing, Hillenbrand, Everett and Lewis.  That's right, no fewer than seven
Red Sox players made mistakes on the bases as we dropped a critical series by
losing back-to-back one-run games.


Dante Bichette - After embarrassing himself Saturday night by ignoring
on-deck hitter Scott Hatteberg's frantic slide signal and being tagged out at
home plate, Dante outdid himself Sunday.  In the top of the second, Bichette
stood at second with Hillenbrand at first and none out.  Troy O'Leary - who
has not had a successful sacrifice since 1997 - pulled back from an inside
pitch to run the count to 3-1.  In the Vermont Country Mountain League, we
considered two on, none out and a 3-1 count on the hitter a pretty darn good
situation.  But on that same pitch, Dante wandered too far off second base,
stumbled on his way back and was picked off by the catcher.  Wow.  It should
be noted that the catcher was not Pudge Rodriguez but old friend Bill
Haselman.  Not that it mattered.  Once Bichette bolted so foolishly far from
the bag, any catcher could have picked him off.  Even Scott Hatteberg.  Once
the sleepy-eyed Bichette was tagged out by A-Rod, he shuffled off the field
with his standard absence of emotion. 

Shea Hillenbrand - Dante had barely lollygagged into the dugout when rookie
Shea Hillenbrand was picked off first by lefty pitcher Doug Davis.  While on
the other side of the ledger we were meticulously recording Pedro's precious
pitch count, Sox baserunners gave a young pitcher two outs without having to
throw a pitch.  You idiots!

Darren Lewis - Darren Lewis is a 12-year Major League veteran.  He entered
Saturday's game in the 17th inning as a pinch runner.  The pitcher was Chris
Michalak, who happens to lead the league in pickoffs.  Assume he's throwing
to first! Make sure he's going to the plate!  Under no circumstances can you
get picked off.  Bang.  He's picked off.  Useless.

Chris Stynes - Saturday night, an 18-inning loss where one run at any point
over hours four, five and six gets us a win.  With Stynes at second and
Everett at first a pitch kicks away from Pudge Rodriguez.  The ball is not
bouncing around Pudge's feet.  It's not spinning in the lefty batter's box. 
The friggin' ball is more than a first down to Pudge's right and Stynes stands
there with his thumb up his ass instead of getting 90 feet closer to a must
win.  Meanwhile...

Carl Everett - Dostoevsky devoted hundreds of pages to The Idiot, but I'll
have to settle for a paragraph.  While Stynes was paralyzed off second base,
Everett took those fatal strides toward that occupied bag.  Pudge threw
behind him, Fieldin Culbreth blew the call and the rally was dead.

Mike Lansing - After Mike Lansing "stole" second on ball four to Trot Nixon
and Pudge's throw ended up in left center, we were all wondering if Lansing
would at any point share our interest in the actual location of the baseball,
or if he would continue signaling the umpire for time while the ball rolled
on the outfield grass.  Would Mike have been able to advance if the ball
split the gap?  If Pudge's throw reached the wall?  Probably not.  Because he
never showed the slightest interest in finding the ball.  He must have been
wondering what Lamont was screaming and waving his arms about.  Way to be
heads up, fella.

Nomar Garciaparra - In the aforementioned Vermont Country Mountain League, I
had the thrill of a lifetime when I reached first base off of a 46-year-old
lefty named Bill Lee.  Granted, it was on an error by the second baseman. 
But I was one of only two guys to reach base in that 7-0 loss, so guess what
was not going to happen?  I was not going to get picked off.  I took my
14-inch lead and kept my weight on my left leg until I saw that ball going
plateward.  The point is you can always not get picked off.  So when Nomar
reached base Friday against Michalak in another squeaker against these
Rangers who can't get anyone out he needs to know a few things: First, you
have to assume you're going to reach Chris Michalak with the sticks.  Second,
the guy leads the league in pickoffs.  And third, you're not going anywhere
against Pudge anyway.  So why, why, why get picked off?  What is to be
gained?  This is the baseball equivalent of the no-look, behind-the-back pass
to a guy 10 feet beyond his range.  There is no upside.

In 48 hours, from 10 ET Friday to 10 ET Sunday, we had seven baserunners make
mistakes and only four avoid embarrassing themselves.  I've never seen
anything like it.

Easygoing Hard to Take

Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Easygoing Hard to Take


The Boston Red Sox 2001 edition is the team equivalent of a runner speeding
into second, beginning to slide, then, wanting to avoid a raspberry, stopping
awkwardly and breaking his leg.  I've seen it happen and it's every bit as
ugly as tonight's train wreck loss.  You can't go in hard and easy at the
same time, and that's just what the Sox are trying to do.

You see, the Red Sox organization made a commitment to its fans to go all out
to make the playoffs this season.  The commitment was so deep it entailed the
immediate termination of the manager.  That's going in hard.

But naturally - and shrewdly perhaps - the team has coddled its franchise ace
through countless long tosses, side sessions and simulated games and fallen
further and further behind while waiting for him to tell the team when he is
ready.  That's going in easy.

The Sox traded two young pitchers for a proven closer coming off elbow
surgery.  That's going in hard.

The team plans on having Mike Lansing play shortstop every fourth game while
Nomar Garciaparra regains strength in his wrist.  That's going in easy.

Add in a certain malingerer's unwillingness to play center field despite
being able to run the bases - albeit clueslessly - and a star hitter's
unwillingness to DH until he's had some down time in the pool in Fort Myers
and you have basically all the team's stars going in easy.  August is almost
gone.  We're hanging by a thread.  And the most important players on the team
are all going in easy.  Which is fine.  But if the players are going in easy,
the front office shouldn't be making overtures about going in hard.  Throttle
back, let Nomar play two or three times a week, shut Pedro down for the
season, let Manny spend September in the whirlpool, spend the next five weeks
exploring non-aspirin anti-inflammatories for Carl.  Get healthy and get
ready for 2002. But don't insult us by pretending the organization is going
all out to win this year and then make us watch Mike Lansing trying to reach
first base from shortstop in the 18th inning of a huge loss in Texas.  You
can't have it both ways.  You either go in hard, or you go in easy.  You try
to do both and you break your leg.

Tonight we broke our leg.  The silver lining is that this is the first major
injury of the season that was only metaphorical.


...Subject:  One Fan's Fantasy


I have this fantasy where I stride into the Red Sox clubhouse and unburden
myself on the team.  In one version I end up beating the non-aspirin crap out
of Carl Everett. In another they just sit and listen.  Because they know I'm

I stalk around the locker room, bellowing for all to hear as I single each
guy out.

"Mike Lansing!  Wow, look at you, all snarl and forearms.  You'd think a
strong guy like you could reach first base from shortstop.  I know, I know,
it's a long throw, and if Jose Offerman would use a first baseman's mitt he
probably would have scooped the last one.  Don't worry, the official scorer
actually gave Pudge a base hit on the routine roller that you bobbled and
threw wildly on, so you were only charged with two errors tonight.  But
that's not even what gives me the red ass about you.  Three nights after you
got hung up between second and third on a comebacker to the mound and cost us
a run with your baserunning, you outdid yourself on the paths tonight.  On a
3-2 pitch to Trot Nixon, you took off for second.  The pitch was ball four,
but you went in hard, which is fine.  Pudge threw through, which is also
understandable since a catcher can't afford to wait around on the ump's call.
Now's where it gets weird.  Pudge's throw skipped off A-Rod's glove into
left-centerfield.  Everyone in the ballpark knew the ball was rolling
basically into the gap except for you.  You were singling the second base
umpire for time. Now, naturally, he can't grant you time because the ball is
rolling on the outfield grass - IN PLAY.  Gene Lamont is screaming at you,
but you're doing your own thing, brushing off, etc.  Here's a tip that I
don't usually have to give to veterans.  Find the friggin' ball!  Now I also
want to rip you for getting caught stealing tonight against the best catcher
in baseball history because I can't believe any manager - even the deposed
idiot - would have sent you.  But I'll have to reserve judgment until the
facts are in on that one.  Let's put it this way:  If you went on your own,
it capped a pretty friggin' horrible week for you on the bases, now didn't it?
 Way to cost your team a game tonight, Scatter-arm."

"Darren Lewis.  Darren Lewis.  D-Lew.  You were sent in to pinch run in the
17th inning.  Do you watch the games?  Did you see Nomar get picked off by
Machalak last night?  Have you caught any of the season-long saga between
your team and Machalak?  I know, I know, he breaks the rubber, steps toward
home and throws to first.  It's a balk.  But guess what, idiot... they don't
call it.  You absolutely cannot get picked off in that situation.  It's truly
the only mistake you could have made.  And you made it.  And then Scatter-arm
rips a double.  Way to cost your team a game tonight."

"Chris Stynes.  Let's hope tonight's four hits signals an end to that little
5-for-44 unpleasantness you've put us through during this stretch drive.  But
what I really want to talk to you about is baserunning.  Like so many of your
teammates, this part of the game seems to puzzle you.  When you're on second
base and a pitch kicks 45 feet to the catcher's right... MOVE TO FRIGGIN''
THIRD BASE!  What the hell were you thinking?  You would have gone in
standing up.  There wouldn't have been a throw.  Imagine, if you can, a
360-degree field with no foul territory.  You're on second when one of your
teammates bunts the ball halfway to the first-base on-deck circle... do you
really think you're going to get thrown out at third base?  Really?  I think
that fastball to the face has screwed up your grasp of spatial relations. 
Way to go."

"Nomar Garciaparra.  I know I don't have to yell at you.  I know that for you
to sit in the dugout while Mike Lansing butchers three or four ground balls
that you handle routinely, that you must be in serious pain and that to have
entered tonight's game at any point would represent a risk of serious injury.
 Right?  So I can keep moving on, okay?"

"Carl.  Maybe there's a big preacher somewhere who could beat some humility
into you.  A really massive guy like the dude from The Green Mile.  Just to
pound the livin' sh-- out of you until you become an even marginal human
being.  But I know that's aiming too high.  I'd settle for someone beating
you until you became an even marginal baserunner.  You still have the
hammerlock on the all-time dumbest baserunning play most of us have ever
seen, and tonight you added to your legend by getting picked off first by the
catcher in the 13th... 14th?  Now I know what you're going to say, and I
already ripped Stynes for his miserable baserunning.  But you can't go from
first until you know he's going.   Right?  Look at me.  Right?  And you were
safe.  But that's still no excuse for running the bases with your head up
your ass. And stop striking out against guys who throw 82 miles per hour."

"Joe Kerrigan!  Buddy!  How's it going?  Little tougher than you thought it
would be, huh?  Bottom seven, 6-4 lead, Garces has retired both batters he's
faced... whoa... there's Tim Wakefield.  Right there on the mound.  Do you
really want a pitcher who has no idea where the ball is going to go coming in
to protect a late-inning lead?  Were you surprised when he went 3-0 on the
first hitter?  When he walked him?  What is the worst sin for a reliever
trying to protect a two-run lead?  Lamont, shut up!  I'm asking Joe. ....
That's right, walking the leadoff hitter.  So why would you go to a pitcher
who puts location in God's hands once he releases the ball?  Why, Joe?  And
didn't your charts and actuarial tables tell you that Gabe Kapler is hitting
.500 off Wakes? And then, if the bullpen is as shot as your subsequent moves
would indicate, why would you get a total of two outs from Garces and
Wakefield, then burn McDill after he faced only two batters when you could
have walked A-Rod with first base open and kept the lefty in to face
Palmeiro?  Why, Joe?  And did you send Mike Lansing?  Cause somebody needs to
step into the middle of this clubhouse and apologize to the team.  Either
you're an idiot who knowingly gave the steal sign or an idiot who accidentally
gave the steal sign, or he's an idiot for running on I-Rod on his own.  Will
the idiot please step forward?"

Just once.  It would be my Make-a-Wish dream come true to scream at these
guys with impunity.

...Subject:  Can't Shake This One


When you can't score for 10 and a third innings against Jeff Zimmerman, Danny
Kolb, Pat Mahomes and Chris Machalak, what does this say about your lineup?

That maybe it's not the best time for your best hitters to be chillin' on the
sidelines?  Or in the Fort Myers Marriott?

By my count Lansing made four errors tonight:  the two he was actually
charged with, one on Michael Young's routine grounder to Mike's right with
the infield drawn in that Mike threw wildly on, and the bobble-wild throw on
Pudge's routine grounder.  Official scoring has gotten completely ridiculous.
The home team gets a hit on basically anything they reach first base on. 
It's become just like Little League.  These idiots who score big league games
obviously have never played the game themselves or they'd have a much better
idea of what constituted a hit or an error.  If the play should be made, then
it's an error.  How the heck do you give Pudge Rodriguez a base hit on a
three-hopper right at the shortstop?

So many people suck at their jobs.


...Subject:  Kill the Bums


Our creaky, overworked bullpen threw 195 pitches tonight.

About 150 more than they would have had to had the home plate umpire, the
third base umpire and the first base umpire not all made mistakes.

In the first inning, Frank Castillo clearly struck out Frank Catalanotto with
a fastball on the corner.  Plate ump Andy Fletcher, who has spent the whole
season going chin to chin with various managers because his strike zone jumps
all over the place, called it a ball, Catalanaotto got a base hit on the next
pitch and scored the Rangers first run.  The Sox would have won in reg had
Larry Young not wrongly sent Carl Everett back to third on Mike Lamb's wild
throw in the seventh.  Everett, who was going on a 3-2 pitch, had already
turned second when Lamb's throw scooted down the right-field line.  He would
have scored easily as no Ranger was within 150 feet of the ball, but when a
fan touched the ball, the umps gave the home team - and the offending fan - a
gift, instead of following the rules and placing the runners where they would
certainly have ended up.  Fieldin Culbreth's blown call on Everett at first
base - with Stynes on second - in extra innings was obviously magnified when
Bichette singled to lead off the next inning.

Nice work by the men in blue.  Only Dale Scott at second didn't make a
mistake that changed the outcome of the game.  They almost sucked for the

Chugging Along

Date: Saturday, August 25, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Chugging Along


How are we doing this?

The house of cards continue to wobble but refuses to fall.  Even after Trot's heroic performance, our leadoff hitters are batting .228 with a .295 on-base percentage for the season.  As you know, this would be atrocious for a No. 9 hitter.  But for a collection of leadoff hitters?  And yet we keep on chugging along, spitting and coughing to be sure, but chugging along nonetheless.

Every starter in our rotation has been injured, from the seemingly insignificant split callous to the hugely-terrifying, world-changing, breath-stopping rotator cuff inflammation.  And yet we keep on chugging along.

Every guy in our lineup has had long stretches of looking awful at the plate, though thankfully Doug Mirabelli had his with the Texas Rangers.  Since joining the Sox, in 89 at-bats, Mirabelli has hit .303 with an outstanding .396 on-base percentage and an impressive .506 slugging percentage.  And he gunned down yet another runner last night as he continued to shape his reputation as the second-best defensive catcher in the American League.  And, if that weren't enough, he's made two tags at the plate the last two nights, one blocking the dish and one reaching out and bringing the ball back to the runner.  He's done it all.  He just has to keep it up for one more month.  That's right, our No. 9 hitter has been our most consistent guy with the stick.  And yet we keep chugging along.

As for our most recent lineup of Everett, Bichette and O'Leary batting 4-5-6, does any other team in baseball put three guys in those slots with 13 or fewer home runs?  No.  And yet we keep chugging along.

The new manager smiles after grand slams.  I like that.  Smiling is allowed in baseball, right?  Unfortunately, he also seems prone to bizarre decision-making, like putting D-Lew in left to finish last night's game instead of putting him in right and O'Leary in left, or putting D-Lew in center, Trot in right and O'Leary in left.  Truth be told, I think he forgets to do certain things, which is pretty inexcusable given how slowly the game moves.  Football coaches facing mass substitutions and a dwindling play clock can be forgiven for oversights, but baseball managers should never be caught off guard.  You can literally run onto the field and call timeout any time you want.  You can even ask the umpires what you should do.  I think Gene
Lamont should send the signs into the dugout from the third-base coach's box, leaving Kerrigan with the easier task of ratifying the more-experienced Lamont's decisions. Anyone noticed how good Lamont has been in the third-base box this year?  Maybe that's why Duquette didn't offer him the gig.  We're in a pennat race and we've got a a manager with zero experience. And yet we keep chugging along.

I can't explain it, but as long as they're chugging along, we might as well chug along with them.  Sam Adams, anybody?


G. Edes: He Brings Good Things To Life

Date: Friday, August 24, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  G. Edes:  He Brings Good Things To Life

Everyone should get to be a rock star for one day.
  And last night, almost certainly unbeknownst to him, was Gordon Edes'
moment in the flickering strobe light.   Sure, the National Sports Bar and
Grill in Anaheim ain't exactly the Hyatt (aka The Riot) on Sunset Blvd., but
for our little coterie of starstruck groupies it would have to do.  Gordo was
Steven Tyler and we - Rathbone, Jamie, Tom, Phil from Glendale, and yours
truly - were reduced to so many fawning Bebe Buells.  It should be noted that
our late-night assignation stood no chance of producing anything as beautiful
as Liv Tyler.  But it did produce a lively confab on all things Red Sox as we
leaned on Gordo's every utterance.
  Can you imagine a better scene?  Soaking in the euphoria of a comeback win
and several pints of Sam Adams, we made our way over to the National, where we'd
heard the Boston Globe's ace correspondent would be making an appearance after
filing his game story.  The bar was jammed with buoyant Sox fans, infused with
newfound belief in their Townies.  There were no tables left inside so we ended up
setting up shop on the patio to watch and wait for The Man.  Rathbone spotted two
guys walking in that looked like they might be sportswriters (paint your own picture),
but our shouts of "Gordo!" were ignored as they disappeared into the bar.  Minutes later,
however, those same two guys emerged onto the patio, came over to our table and asked
if we were from Boston.  Well, we were decked out in Red Sox hats, jackets, Dirt Dog
t-shirts and an El Guapo shirt.  You can't slip anything past these sportswriters. 
To our "Who are you, Hercule Poirot?" attitude, he said, "I'm Gordon Edes."
  Gordon Edes!  Not only has this guy stood toe-to-toe with Carl Everett and
followed a just-fired Jimy Williams onto a Tampa-bound plane, but he also got
the quote that spawned Dirt Dog Nation. Gordon Edes!
  After getting over his initial terror at our irrational exuberance, Gordo 
- and his buddy Dave from the Hartford Courant - sat down and engaged us in
two solid hours of Sox talk.  Everyone learned a lot.  Especially Edes.
  A Jimy apologist to the bitter end, we had to set him straight on that
front.  And both Gordon and Dave were surprised to hear about Dante
Bichette's 213-point disparity in slugging percentage between Coors Field and
everywhere else.  Neither could make an argument for which of the five tools
Jose Offerman possesses. 
  We argued, agreed, agreed to disagree, disagreed to varying degrees and
were in complete agreement when it came to ordering another round.  Sadly,
the New England vibe took a hit when the bar ran out of Sam Adams and we were
forced to shift to Bass Ale. 
  Sportswriters have to deal with a lot.  But they don't have a heck of a lot
of experience with idolatry.  Gordon Edes handled it with aplomb.  He's the
kind of guy a publisher would want representing his newspaper.  He makes the
ink-stained wretches seem a little less wretched.  The anti-Shaughnessy, if
you will. 
  How anyone who has to deal with the Sox menagerie of crybabies and
backstabbers on a daily basis can maintain such a classy, generous spirit is
completely amazing.
  Gordon Edes.  GE.  He brings good things to life.

Lowe and Beck Show, Playing All Season

Date: Thursday, August 23, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Lowe and Beck Show, Playing All Season

Anyone else growing weary of the Derek Lowe and Rod Beck show?

Is there no funk a lineup can't snap out of when one of these two Guys
enters a game, or as in tonight's loss, when they both enter the game?
Wakes deserved better.  If old friend Tim Tshchida calls Benji Gil out for
running way inside the baseline on his bunt, forcing Wakes' wild throw,
we might very well have won this game.  Maybe Tschida will once again
be man enough to admit that he blew the call.

Tschida also squeezed Lowe on a couple of pitches, particularly the 1-1 pitch
to Erstad that preceded the game-tying hit.  But Lowe is a "contact" pitcher and
Erstad and Garrett Anderson made contact as Lowe turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2
deficit.  Lowe now has five blown saves to go with his eight losses.

Gee, you think those 13 games will be relevant at the end of September?

Maybe this guy needs to return to being a starter.  He obviously doesn't have the
steely-eyed confidence of a closer and just gives up too many hits to be brought in
with runners on.  I think he'd make a decent third or fourth starter next year.

As for Beck, add Ben Molina to the ever-expanding list of guys who have
taken him deep this year.  Unlike Edgar Martinez who turned around an 0-2
fastball, Molina swatted a 1-2 hanging curve. Mirabelli had set up outside and 
the hanger lolled over the inside half before being schwacked.  It's one 
thing to get taken out on a 3-1 and 2-0 pitches, but when you're giving up 
tall jacks on 0-2 and 1-2 pitches - when the hitter is presumably thinking
defensively - it might be time to pull a Pichardo and just walk away before anyone 
else gets hurt.
In the Indians stirring comeback victory over the A's, Robbie Alomar hit a
routine grounder to second with one out and a man on first in the eighth.
Menechino got the ball to Tejada quickly but Alomar beat the relay to
first, bringing up Juan Gonzalez in a 4-2 game. Gonzalez tied it with a 
two-run home run. We also trailed 4-2 with a man on first and one out 
tonight. Jose Offerman hit a grounder to second.  Not only did he not beat the 
relay, he hadn't entered the frame when the Angels began celebrating their 
victory. Has there ever been a slower leadoff man in baseball? And by the way, 
Mr. Kerrigan, as happy as I am that you actually know what certain guys 
have done against certain pitchers, none of that is relevant in Jose Offerman's
case. He is not the player he was before last year's knee injury.  Not even close.
I would like to poll older fans and ask them if they ever remember any of their 
heroes missing 10 games in a pennant race with a pulled hamstring. Willie Mays?
Duke Snider? Mickey Mantle?  A guy tears up his knee, that's one thing.  But the 
annual trip that seemingly half these guys take to the D with a pulled hammy is a 
real puzzler.  You hit the ball, you run to first...and, oooh, there it went.  What?  
How did that happen?  A buddy of mine on my softball team says it's the weights.  
That all these guys build up their lower bodies with weight work and they're just 
too taut, like piano wire, and they snap easily.  But I thought Griffey was not a big 
weight guy.
And Manny can't DH?  What exactly is a mild strain?  This season has just been 
too cruel. All year when I'd complain long and loud about all our guys being hurt, 
my girlfriend would say, "Manny's not hurt."  Well now he is.Well, not hurt necessarily, 
just unable to play.  In a pennant race.  With his team three games back.
That sucks.

Pulled Back In

Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Pulled Back In

Do we dare?

Sox win.  Yanks lose.  A's lose.  Pedro pitching Sunday.

Well, do we?  We had settled into a nice little glass-half-shattered fatalism
about this season that was making it easier to endure the endless tide of
misfortune (Manny now may be out as long as 10 days), but now they are
tugging at us.  With a band of backups and guys playing out of position, the
Townies had one inning above a whisper tonight and it was enough as Belli
(anyone got anything better?) started and capped our eight-run third inning
with a walk and grand slam.  Coney was sharp, Guapo steady, Pulse atrocious
and Urbina dominant against the reigning AL homer champ.  Lansing made a
ridiculously good barehanded play at short.  Everyone contributed but Carl,
in other words, a perfect win.

So do we dare try to turn the ship around once more and believe?  Just to be
safe, I'll wait until we've taken five of seven from the Yankees before I
choose to believe we have a shot.  It's just more relaxing this way.


Had a nice exchange with new millionaire Michael Garciaparra, who seems as
humble and gracious as his big bro.  I told him just to go out and be his own
man, but that he'd better hit the weights, which made his girlfriend (or
sister, or cousin) laugh.

Ben Affleck, fresh from his rehab stint, took in the game behind the first
base dugout.

Can't make the third game Wednesday, but looking forward to meeting Gordon
Edes at the National Sports Grill on Thursday.  Hope he's up for a very late
night because we may be taking him on a very special excursion to a very
special place. 

How It Was Meant To Be

Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  How It Was Meant To Be

Frank Castillo painting corners.  Nomar Garciaparra making two smooth plays
from deep in the hole.  Clutch hitting.

This was how it was meant to be.  All season.

There was a good turnout by Red Sox Nation at The Ed tonight in Anaheim.  We
made more noise than their fans, which is no big achievement. But it wasn't
the wild frenzy that we could have expected had the Nation still truly
believed we had a shot.  The bittersweetness of tonight's win was palpable. 
Nobody screaming coming out of the stadium. No stinging high-fives, just
mild, congratulatory, job-well-done high-fives.  This was pretty much the way
we had all envisioned the Townies dispatching sorry lineups like the Orioles
and Angels, but we had gone 5-9 against those two teams this season.  Had we
gone 10-4, of course, we'd be tied for first.

Four players who insist that they are everyday players - Dante Bichette, Jose
Offerman, Mike Lansing and Troy O'Leary - all cleared waivers without a sniff
of interest from another team.

Tonight's infield - Nomar, Lansing, Stynes, Hillenbrand (1B) - should be the
infield every night until Dauby is back.

During BP, both Stynes and O'Leary had what looked like jocular conversations
with Kerrigan.  The exchanges didn't seem aberrant for a big league team, but
they looked like the kind of batting cage give-and-take that was lacking
between the team and Jimy before the axe fell.  Lamont hit grounders to Shea
at first, who looked pretty shaky, but was solid during the game, while Tommy
Harper hit grounders to Stynes at third.  While Lamont hit grounders to Shea,
Kerrigan acted as the pitcher, jogging over to first taking throws from Shea.
 Joe just carries himself around the team like an incredibly positive guy. 
He can't get the hitters out, but if we get some pitching, I think Joe will
do wonders for the chemistry.  Especially after we clean house in the

Stynes looked awful in the cage and his long slump continued with a 1-for-5
that included a rally-killing 4-6-3, a pop-up and a strikeout.  But I still
think he should play his way out of it. Bichette was the only guy who went
deep with any regularity in BP, though both Troy and Carl found the seats a
couple of times.

Shea is our seventh player to reach double figures in home runs (Manny,
Dauby, Trot, Bichette, Everett, O'Leary), but the problem is that most of the
seven are barely in double figures.  I'm coming around on Shea.  He looks
tremendously improved at third and Kerrigan has him continuing to take
pitches.  He hit a 3-1 pitch for his dinger.

I hope Chan Ho Park keeps burning bridges in Los Angeles and lowering his

Todd Erdos scares me, but not as much as the guy who pitched the ninth.

The Dirt Dog Oath

Date:  Monday, August 20, 2001
From:  Kevin Hench
Subject:  The Dirt Dog Oath 

The Boston Red Sox should begin accepting applications for true Dirt Dogs so
the 2002 squad will win more and whine less.

Each player invited to spring training should take the Dirt Dog Oath:

I shall not blame my poor performance on not knowing where I would be hitting
in the order before I got to the park.
I shall not blame my poor performance on not knowing my role on the team.
I shall not blame my poor performance on not knowing what inning I would be
pitching before I got to the park.
I shall not blame my poor performance on the coaching staff or manager.
I shall not blame my poor performance on anyone but myself.
I shall not disparage my teammates, even if I think I should be batting
second and he should be hitting further down in the order.
I shall not cry when asked to go to the bullpen, particularly if my ERA as a
starter is 4.38 and my ERA as a reliever is 1.58.
I shall not refuse to rehabilitate an injury while my teammates struggle
without me.
I shall not pout when asked to accept a minor league assignment when my ERA
is 11.42.

I shall not refuse a minor league assignment when I am hitting under .100.
I shall not argue on pitches right down the middle.
I shall not state that I will be upset if I am not given the opportunity to
close when I can no longer throw over 87 mph.
I shall not balk when asked to play shortstop to help the team, particularly
if my career is basically already over.
I shall not refer to the new manager as the "m-----f----r in the office."
I shall not assume that I am entitled to the five-spot in a Major League
batting order when I have a .429 career slugging percentage away from Coors
I shall never throw an 0-2 fastball to Edgar Martinez.
I shall not grouse about not being an everyday player and then post a .284
on-base percentage in the leadoff spot when others' injuries return me to the
I shall try to be more like Trot Nixon and Chris Stynes.


There sure is a lot of carnage to assess from this three-game series with the
Orioles, the worst-hitting team in the AL entering the series (but now tied
for 2nd).

The brutality of the Friday and Sunday losses did bring one stark truth into
razor sharp relief.  We have no pitching.  All those bums that the pundits
said we couldn't win with at the beginning of the season?  Well, we can't win
with them.

It has become very fashionable to overstate Pedro's importance in the
rotation, saying that he affects three days: the day before he pitches; the
day he pitches; and the day after he pitches.  Even if that were true, would
that help Frank Castillo, Tim Wakefield, Hideo Nomo and Bret Saberhagen get
people out?  Would knowing the bullpen was fresh have helped Nomo get Jeff
Conine out today?  And even if Pedro had pitched a no-hitter Saturday - the
guy almost never goes more than seven - wouldn't Kerrigan have still gone to
Pichardo in the sixth today?  We have lots of average pitchers.  Now,
usually, average pitchers can get below-average hitters out, but that wasn't
the case Friday and Sunday.  And the O's hit some shots.  They weren't all
bleeders as the It-Wasn't-My-Fault Alibi Ikes on the team would have you
believe.  It's really embarrassing.

Good to see Dante not running on a ball that dropped fair while we were
trying to rally today.  He obviously learned a lot from his vantage point on
third base when Shea Hillenbrand didn't run on a ball that kicked fair and
was thrown out. Also, good to see Hatteberg back in the lineup, allowing his
standard 5-for-5 basestealing and grounding into a rally-snuffing double play
when he stood at the plate as the tying run.  Also nice to see Shea
Hillenbrand strike out on balls three and four and Mike Lansing strike out on
ball four when we desperately needed baserunners.  Also a Hip, Hip, Hooray
for Hipolito who has pitched twice in August, giving up four runs in two
innings on August 2nd, going on the DL, then giving up four runs in one-third
of an inning upon returning to action.  The DL may be the safest place for
him.  Beck leads the league in relief home runs allowed, Lowe in relief losses...
there's a lot of chaff separating Garces and Urbina.

And there will be a lot of job openings for true Dirt Dogs in March, 2002.

New Boss... Same as the Old Boss?

Date: Saturday, August 18, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  New Boss... Same as the Old Boss?

I watched it, but I still don't believe it.

Rod Beck pitched a scoreless seventh.  Good.  New manager Joe Kerrigan had
moved Beck up to the less critical sixth and seventh inning portion of our
nightly four innings of relief work.  This would open the door for new set-up
man Derek Lowe to pitch the eighth and, if we rallied from a one-run deficit,
new closer Ugueth Urbina would be brought on for the ninth.  Perfect.

Wait.  Why is Rod Beck coming back out to pitch the eighth in a one-run game?
What the... no, no... say it ain't so, Joe.  Rope for a base hit. Liner for
a base hit. Double off the wall.  Ball game.  Hey, at least this time he kept
Tony Batista in the yard, which was better than he did either of the times he
faced him in Baltimore.  Good managing, Joe.  It had a real familiar feel to

Now let's talk about Rod Beck.

If Rod Beck were a 25-year-old Triple A pitcher with his 85-87 mph fastball,
you can bet he wouldn't get called up with his weak stuff by any team, much
less a contender that has overtly pushed the panic button and declared it is
going for broke.  Which begs the question: What exactly would Rod Beck have
to do to warrant his unconditional release?  If he gave up multiple runs in
his next five appearances?  His next seven?  Nine?  If his fastball got down
to 84?  Down to 82? 79?  The reason you go longer with a veteran in a pennant
race than a kid is that the old man has savvy, right?  Well, this crafty vet
has gone homer, homer, double in three duels with Tony Batista, a .221 hitter
with a .262 on-base percentage.  Gee, Mr. Cagey Vet, did ya ever consider you
might not have to throw this guy a strike?  Or how 'bout that sage 0-2
fastball he threw to Edgar Martinez Wednesday night?  There's been some
discrepancy as to what this pitch was - it was what serves as Beck's fastball
-- and when baseball cognoscenti have trouble discerning your fastball from
your breaking pitches, it might just be time to hang 'em up.  Before you hang
anymore on the inside half of the plate.  This pitch to Edgar really does
merit some dissecting.  Think about it:  Edgar hits to all fields to begin
with and he was down two strikes.  He's looking to protect the plate, got the
splitter in his mind, planning to whack the curve to right center.  It is
almost inconceivable that that particular hitter hits a fastball to dead
left.  Unless, of course, the pitch is 85 mph, which is slider speed.  I
would have thought Joe Kerrigan had seen enough to keep Rod Beck away from
his eighth-inning Waterloos for the rest of the season.  I certainly have.

Dante Bichette gave the "fixed lineup theory" partial credit for his
game-winning three-run home run Thursday.  To what does he attribute last
night's hugely embarrassing 0-for-4 that featured the usual asssortment of
ugly swings at balls at his chin and in the dirt and resulted in a pop-up to
first, a pop-up to second, a pop-up to shallow right and a rally-snuffing
4-6-3 roller to second.  Maybe he was stressed out at the prospect of being
in the five-hole every day.  He is now 23-for-117, a sweet .197 clip as we've
fallen by the wayside.  I'll let you in on a little secret that Dante
Bichette doesn't want you to know:  He's average. And to think I spent months
lobbying hard for this guy, hugely duped by the Coors effect (the field, not
the beer).  Are you ready?  Away from Coors Field, Dante Bichette has a
career slugging percentage of .429. At Coors, it is .642.  One man's
sea-level is another man's Kryptonite.  Let's compare Dante Bichette's .429
slugging percentage in 4,212 career at-bats away from Coors to some of his
teammates.  In 3,488 career at-bats away from Coors (he's never had the
privilege), Troy O'Leary has a .458 slugging percentage.  In 1,212 non-Coors
ABs, Brian Daubach has slugged .498.  In 1,327 non-Coors ABs, Jason Varitek
has a .439 slugging percentage. In 45 Major League at-bats away from Coors,
Izzy Alcantara has a .578 slugging percentage.

Don't be embarrassed.  I, too, was suckered in by Dante's solid September
last year and his hot start this year.  Those big blasts, pulling the arms
back, although more than once he did the dance on balls that were caught on
the track.  They always left the yard at Coors.  Then I started watching more
closely and breaking down his strikeouts frame-by-frame on the VCR.  You can
often tell two things just a few feet after the ball has left the pitcher's
hand: the pitch is going to land in the left-handed batter's box and Dante is
going to swing at it.  He commits to swinging so early that you know he is
guessing and that he doesn't trust his bat speed.  Have you ever been
overmatched?  You start your swing when the pitcher looks in for the sign.  I
couldn't believe this overmatched stiff was the same guy that led the Majors
in hits from 1995-2000.  That's when I went to Total Baseball and crunched
the Coors-elsewhere numbers.  A .429 slugging percentage is really
pedestrian.  John Valentin has a career .460 SP.  Jose Offerman slugged .435
his first year with the Sox.  Alfonso Soriano is slugging .451 in his rookie

Dante is walking once every 21 plate appearances this season. You know what a
.429 career slugging percentage for a guy with no speed and no patience says
to me?  This is a platoon DH on an also-ran team.  I hereby apologize to Jimy
Williams, just for this, not for all the other stuff.

Pretty soon now - I won't wait for the actual end of the season now that the
de facto end is upon us - I'm going to be giving out Dirt Dog Biscuits to the
good soldiers and pacifiers to the cry babies.  Here is the type of stuff
I'll be using for criteria:  Chris Stynes just went through an 0-for-22
streak and never once blamed it on batting second one day, eighth the next,
leadoff the next and sixth the day after that.  Conversely, Derek Lowe
imploded Tuesday, leads the league in relief losses and had no problem
dropping an expletive on the new manager when he didn't get the call to close
Thursday.  You'd think some of these guys were Medusas the way they refuse to
look in the mirror.

Requiem for a Kind, Gentle Imbecile

Date:  Friday, August 17, 2001
From:  Kevin Hench
Subject:  Requiem for a Kind, Gentle Imbecile

Please if you get a chanse
put some flowrs on Algernons
grave in the bak yard....
            - Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

I've said it before but perhaps it bears repeating: I admire Jimy Williams. 
I dig his folksiness, his tough chin, his odd wit.  And like many other Red
Sox fans I am greatly relieved by his termination as the Townies' skipper.
  Jimy, you see, is not unlike Charlie Gordon, the sweet protagonist in
Flowers for Algernon who went from retarded to brilliant to retarded again
over the course of a medical experiment.  Jimy followed almost precisely the
same path, except for the middle step, of course.
  Jimy was a lot of things, but quick wasn't one of them. 

 Exhibit A - Pete Schourek.
  Pete Schourek should be remembered as the anti-Steve Carlton. In 1972,
Lefty posted a 27-10 for a team that won 59 games. In parts of three seasons,
Pete Schourek posted a 5-18 record (.217) for a Boston team with a .558
winning percentage during his tenure (.578 in games in which ol' Pete didn't
get a decision).  But sadly for Red Sox Nation, Pete Schourek gave his
guttiest performance when Jimy needed him most, hurling 5+ innings of shutout
ball in his controversial start in Game 4 of the 1998 ALDS.  I applauded that
decision, by the way, since we needed to win both Games 4 and 5 to advance
and Pedro obviously had a better chance of winning with another day's rest,
it seemed like a no-brainer. It was Schourek's next 54 appearances that were
so puzzling.  He couldn't get righties out.  He couldn't get lefties out. 
He'd give up base hits.  He'd give up home runs.  Jimy noticed Schourek's
uselessness about 50 appearances after the rest of Red Sox Nation.  That's
what made him Jimy.
  Exhibit B - Jose Offerman
  Sixty-one games!  Yes, Jimy penciled Jose Offerman in as his leadoff hitter
in 61 games.  This on the heels of Jose's disasterous 2000 season.  In those
61 games, Jose - Oh-fer-man, Awfulman, take your pick - compiled a woeful
.288 on-base percentage and a comical .263 slugging percentage.  While the rest
of us knew the peg-legged Joggin' Jose was years past his days as a fleet,
sharp-eyed leadoff man, I'm not sure Jimy ever fully figured it out. 
Sixty-one games!  61*!
  Exhibit C - Rod Beck
  Forget baseball smarts for a moment.  Common human decency should have
dictated that Rod Beck be kept 500 feet away from a pitcher's mound for the
last two months.  Eric Chavez, Shannon Stewart, Jorge Posada, Carlos Delgado,
Aubrey Huff, Raul Mondesi,  Chipper Jones,  Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Lee,
Carlos Delgado again, Carlos Delgado again again, Tony Batista, Tony Batista
again and Edgar Martinez.  Rod Beck has given up 14 home runs over his last
52 innings, and an astonishing 11 over his last 28 innings covering 24
appearances. To put Beck's homer ratio over his last 28 innings in
perspective, a starting pitcher who threw 222 innings with that HR-allowed
rate would yield 87 home runs.  At least Beck did not discriminate.  He gave
up big flies to lefties (five), righties (seven) and switch-hitters (two); to
potential Hall-of-Famers (Chipper, Delgado, Edgar), to recent releasees
(Batista); to massive outfielders (Lee) and little shortstops (Cabrera).
Apparently none of this largesse registered with ol' slack jaw, Jimy
 Exhibit D - Jose Offerman
 Just in case you were skimming... 61 games in the leadoff spot!
 Exhibit E - Derek Lowe
  Jerry Remy summed up this situation in one pithy sentence.  "He's a contact
pitcher, and when you have a contact pitcher coming in in the ninth inning, a
lot can happen."  And a lot has happened.  Opponents have hit .291 off Derek
this season, and leadoff batters have hit .354. Wow. Against Derek Lowe,
the average guy leading off an inning is Rogers Hornsby. To Jimy's credit,
he tried other non-closers in that role early in the season with limited
success. To Jimy's great discredit, when the team acquired a proven closer,
he immediately made Urbina a set-up man and inexplicably kept Lowe in the
closer spot.  Urbina is a long way from the dominant All-Star he was in 1998
(he gave up 37 hits in 69 innings, compare that to Lowe's 77 hits in 65
innings this season), but Lowe has clearly lost the job.  Casey Fossum should
be given a chance to close before Lowe is given another ninth-inning lead to
protect.  And by the way, for everyone who is wistfully wondering what
happened to the Derek Lowe who tied for the league lead in saves last year,
he wasn't all that good. Opponents hit .257 off Lowe last year, which was
actually eight points higher than his career OPAVG coming into last season. 
Almost every other closer (double-figure saves) in baseball - Mariano Rivera
(.208), John Rocker (.188), Trevor Hoffman (.201), Matt Mantei (.193), Kaz
Sasaki (.184), Troy Percival (.228),  Keith Foulke (.207), Robb Nen (.162),
Bob Wickman (.236), Armando Benitez (.148), Dave Veres (.239), Mike Williams
(.218), Danny Graves (.243), Curt Leskanic (.212), Kerry Ligtenberg (.226),
Ricky Bottalico (.239), Byung-Hyun Kim (.200) - was significantly more
difficult to hit last year than Derek Lowe. Ironically, AL co-leader Todd
Jones (.276) and NL leader Antonio Alfonseca (.291) were both actually easier
to hit than Derek Lowe, which gives you some indication of how bogus the save
stat is.  The point is simple:  Derek Lowe is not a closer.  But the simpler
the point, the more difficult it was for our dear, departed skipper to fully
  Now, naturally, the national media is jumping all over Dan Duquette.  The
national media sees the Red Sox play once or twice a month.  Trust me, your
enthusiasm for the Duke's falling axe is directly proportionate to the number
of Red Sox games you've watched this year and last.  One week after saying
how well Jose Offerman has played this season, ESPN's Tim Kurkjian decried
the firing.  Uh, Timmy, you have forever squandered your credibility on all
things Sox-related.  Jason Stark, like most columnists, believes Jimy
Williams did as well as anyone could have done given the injuries.  I take a
different view.  I do not believe we could possibly have won fewer games with
any other manager.  No other manager would have summoned Pete Schourek and
his straightball for five losses.  No other manager would have watched his
leadoff hitter get on base less than 29% of the time for 61 games without
making a switch.  No other manager would have stuck with a closer after he
was reduced to a one-pitch pitcher with eight losses.  No other manager would
have needed 29 games to figure out that Dante Bichette might add some pop to
the lineup. No other manager would have summoned Rod Beck to allow his third
home run to Carlos Delgado in a month.  Hey, Jimy, it's a bad matchup.  No
other manager could have won so few games with this team.  I guarantee it.

Please, if you get a chance, put some flowers on Jimy's grave in the back
yard.  He dug it himself.

A Dream That Don't Come

Date:  Thursday, August 16, 2001
From:  Kevin Hench
Subject:  A Dream That Don't Come True

Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse
                        - Bruce Springsteen, The River

Congregation gathers down by the riverside
Preacher stands with his bible, groom stands
waitin' for his bride
Congregation gone and the sun sets behind a
weepin' willow tree
Groom stands alone and watches the river rush on
so effortlessly
Wonderin' where can his baby be
Still at the end of every hard-earned day
People find some reason to believe
                            - Bruce Springsteen, Reason to Believe

As the perennially Jilted Nation turns its lonely eyes to 2002, some will no doubt kick themselves for being suckered in again this season.  But I maintain that it was not folly to believe this year.  We should have won it all this year.  In fact, it took an incalculable series of events to derail us from our destiny, beginning with the never-before-heard-of split longitudinal tendon and continuing through rotator cuff inflammation, broken radial head (elbow) and the failure of faith healing on an injured knee.

Why did we believe? 

Could it be that we were the only team in spring training that could salivate at the prospect of a five-man starting rotation that featured five pitchers who had pitched in All-Star games.  Pedro, Nomo, Arrojo, Cone and Saberhagen.  The truly torturous part is that we have seen how dominant this staff could have been.  Pedro dominates the Mariners in Seattle in a 2-0 win.  Nomo backs up his no-hitter with a 14-K, 0-walk one-hitter of the Jays.  Arrojo one-hits the Jays over seven.  Cone wins seven straight decisions.  Saberhagen dominates the hot-hitting Chisox over six innings in his first start.  This could have been a team for the ages but for the fact that pitching a baseball is a fundamentally unnatural act that invariably leads to injury.

Surprisingly, Wakefield did not make the All-Star team the year he started 14-1. But between Wakes and Castillo (10-5 last year) we figured to have more starting pitching depth than anyone.

The pen looked solid.  We had a three-time All-Star against whom opponents hit .222 last year as the set-up man (Rod Beck), and a first-time All-Star who tied for the league lead in saves last year as our closer (Derek Lowe). Throw in the addition of another All-Star closer at the trading deadline (Ugueth Urbina) and that brings the Red Sox total of All-Star pitchers to eight, three in the pen. 

Well, you all know what happened.  Pedro's summer vacation was three months instead of 15 days. Cone missed a month, Castillo missed a month, Saberhagen missed four months and counting, and most recently Arrojo has been sidelined and Nomo missed a turn.  The pen, conversely, has been pretty healthy but really awful.  Rich Garces and Hipolito Pichardo both made trips to the DL, but, sadly, Beck and Lowe have not.  Beck may set a Major League record for home runs per inning pitched and Lowe has already set the unofficial record for home runs per curveball thrown. Throw in the phenomenal disasters of Bryce Florie and Pete Schourek and one understands how the team leads the AL in relief losses. 

And now to the position players, where one split longitudinal tendon can apparently ruin your whole year.  Not having Nomar for all those excruciatingly close losses in the first half was, well, excruciating.

In spring training, we thought we'd have five All-Stars in our nine-man lineup.

We'd have three-time All-Star Nomar at short, two-time All-Star and supposedly over his knee problem Jose Offerman at second, Carl Everett, fresh off his first All-Star season in center, four-time All-Star Dante Bichette at DH, and three-timer Manny Ramirez in left.

So, barring injury, our 25-man roster would have featured 13 All-Stars. 

Barring injury... that's a good idea, especially when Arthur Pappas is your team doctor.  Next year let's bar injury.

Now we all know that those 13 All-Stars have not once crossed paths with each other this season.  They've been spread out from Sarasota to Trenton to Fort Myers to the Dominican Republic.  Let's sum up the nightmare, including a rough estimate of the various injuries' predictability:

All-Star (most recent year)             Injury                  Predictability

Garciaparra (2000)                 split longitudinal tendon             1%
Carl Everett (2000)                 Evangelist's knee                    10%
Pedro Martinez (2000)            rotator inflammation                40%
David Cone (1999)                 old man shoulder                    90%
Bret Saberhagen (1994)          old man shoulder                    95%
Rolando Arrojo (1998)           old man shoulder                    65%
Hideo Nomo (1995)               split callous                            15%

Non-All-Star                        Injury                          Predictability

Jason Varitek                      broken radial head (elbow)         1%
John Valentin                      old knee, old heel                      90%
Brian Daubach                    foul-ball-off-ankle infection          1%
Frank Castillo                     strained lat                                   5%
Hipolito Pichardo                elbow, split callous                     30%
Chris Stynes                        hammy, broken face                  20%, 1%
Rich Garces                         hammy                                      20%
Craig Grebeck                     dwarfism                                 100%

Throw out the flu that sidelined Manny and Scott Hatteberg and crunch the numbers on the above injuries and you realize that the odds of what happened to us happening to us are over 53 trillion to one.  Seriously.  53, 361,000,000,000 to 1.  Now there's a stat.

That's what makes this year tougher in a way than '86 or '78.  The remarkable cruelty of this season has been unabating.  They began dropping like flies in spring training and it never stopped. 

Get healthy.  Get Felipe Alou. Get Chan Ho Park. Get Bret Boone.

... and we'll find some reason to believe.

One Loss, Many Questions

Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  One Loss, Many Questions

Who called the pitch?

This one definitely has an answer.  Did Doug Mirabelli think an 0-2 fastball
to Edgar Martinez with runners on first and second and one out was a good
idea?  Was it Jimy Williams?  Joe Kerrigan?  Someone called that pitch and
they must answer for their sin.

Let us count the ways that an 0-2 fastball to Edgar Martinez is unacceptable.
First, Rod Beck's 85-87 mph straightball is basically a batting practice
pitch.  Second, Edgar is a great fastball hitter.  Third, with runners on
first and second and one out in a tie game with a slow runner at the plate,
conventional wisdom would dictate that on a pitcher's count you would want to
throw the pitch that would most likely result in a ground ball.  The fastball
is the pitch least likely to be hit on the ground, as evinced by its fateful
trajectory over the wall.  The splitter is the clear choice.  With curve down
and away second and fastball a non-choice.  No matter who called the pitch,
Beck should have shaken it off.  But for some reason he still thinks he can
throw the ball past big leaguers.  This is a pitcher who gave up two home
runs to a guy who was waived this season (Tony Batista) in his last
appearance.  This is no small feat for a reliever to give up two home runs to
the same guy in the same game. Everyone reading this knows something Jimy
Williams and Dan Duquette refuse to acknowledge:  Rod Beck is done.

How can Manny Ramirez hit the ball a total of 10 feet in three at-bats
against Jamie Moyer?  How can so many Red Sox hitters get themselves out
against the soft tosser by lunging at pitches and refusing to go the other

How many more hits will Dante Bichette get this year?  Less than 20?  Less
than 10? Like Offerman before him, he got old overnight.

When will Carl Everett next get a good break on a ball?  It's so hilarious to
watch Carl backpedaling to the warning track as Mike Lansing settles under a
pop-up.  He just doesn't read the ball off the bat, which is why so many lob
shots land in front of him.  Because he reads the ball so poorly his first
step is always back, a sure sign of a weak defensive outfielder.

When will my boy Chris Stynes next contribute to the team?  He has been awful
for a while now, failing to get the ball out of the infield every time he has
runners in scoring position.  I really pull for this guy, but he looks as bad
on the breaking ball away as Carl does on the change.  (Glad to see Carl go
the other way off Moyer tonight.)

We played really well tonight.  That's the bummer.  Nothing can overcome not
having a closer.  It's not a matter of confidence with Derek Lowe.  It's a
matter of talent.  He is terrified, rightly, to throw his curve, so he is a
one-pitch pitcher without a dominant pitch.  More often than not he will give
up hard hit balls, which is pretty much unacceptable for a closer.  Last year
his curve really had a tight spin on it, but now the pitch is a rolling
hanger.  I'm not sure what you do with him, but I do know absolutely,
positively what you do not do with him.  Close.  Urbina looked pretty weak
tonight, struggling to hit 91 on the gun, but anything would be an
improvement on Lowe.

The unbalanced schedule will prove a failure when, for the first time I
believe, a team will miss the playoffs with a better record than a division
winner.  The unbalanced schedule sucks for a number of reasons, most notably
cross-country road trips to play three games.  But another reason it sucks is
that with certain teams dumping salary at the trading deadline, when you play
those 19 games against the teams within your division becomes too important. 
We were done with the Jays before the trading deadline.  We played 13 of 19
against the D-Rays while they still had McGriff.  Do you see how the schedule
makers become too important with the unbalanced slate?  There was nothing
wrong with the old way.  Just like there was nothing wrong with three-hour
games and not hunting for strikes.  Bud Selig is not a particularly bright

The Butcher of Worcester

Date: Monday, August 13, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  The Butcher of Worcester

   The other day I saw Dr. Arthur Pappas sitting just beyond the Red Sox dugout
at Fenway Park.  He was in prime lefty-out-in-front-line-drive-to-the-face
territory.  For a moment I started fantasizing about the good old Doc taking
one right between the eyes.  Then I realized that a hemorrhaging Dr. Pappas
would have one huge advantage over the rest of the organization: He wouldn't
be operated on by Dr. Arthur Pappas.
  Now I don't want this to be just another Pappas smear.  I want it to be the
definitive one, the clarion call that forces this guy to stop practicing
medicine - sure seems like practice, too, only he'd probably take more care
on cadavers.
  I'm sure you all have your favorite Dr. Pappas story. 
or me, it was the time Al Nipper was spiked at home plate and had blood
gushing out of his knee.  Rather than take him to one of the hospitals literally casting
shadows on Fenway Park, Art the Ripper shipped Nip out to Worcester because
that is where the good Doc is the head of orthopedics.  John Valentin can also relate
to that long ride and the sketchy medical skill waiting at the other end of it. Guess
we should be glad Pap doesn't work in Springfield.  Speaking of Springfield, does
Dr. Pappas remind anyone else of Dr. Nick from The Simpsons.  "Hi, everybody!"
  Maybe your favorite Pappy story is the one that ended with Marty Barrett
winning his medical malpractice lawsuit against the team but Pappy keeping
his job.  Or maybe the time when Nomar Garciaparra announced in the clubhouse
all-too prophetically, "Our doctors are killing us!"
  You'll no doubt find a place for the Jason Varitek debacle on your top-ten
list.  For years it has seemed wildly unethical for a part-owner to also have
a primary role on the medical staff.  And this is precisely why.  The team is
up for sale, right?  Dr. Pappas stands to gain financially by having them win
now, right?  A World Series title could probably add another 100 million to
the bidding war.  When you heard Jason Varitek broke his throwing elbow, you
figured he was out for the season, right?  He's a catcher for chrissakes, of
course he's out for the season.  But Pappy never met an injury whose seriousness
he couldn't minimize.  He told Carlton Fisk the broken ribs were no big deal,
although throwing with broken ribs ended up ruining Fisk's elbow.  Pap wasn't
exactly forthright with Marty Barrett about his torn ACL, some
sleight-of-hand doctoring in a pennant race that ended up costing the team
1.7 million (and ending Barrett's career).
  We shouldn't be surprised that another player is "angry and frustrated" or
dissatisfied with the medical treatment he receives from the Red Sox.  What
should surprise us is that Dr. Arthur Pappas is still allowed to practice


Notes from a 1-4 cross-country trip:  Which is more depressing, allowing nine
unearned runs in the last two games of the trip or scoring five runs in the
first four games of the trip? ... I guess the first-base-against-lefties
problem will just remain unsolved in perpetuity... For months we've been
asking why Jimy subs Shea Hillenbrand for Chris Stynes at the end of close
games, and someone has finally provided an answer.  That someone is Chris
Stynes.  Oy. ... Dante Bichette will have an entire off day to draw up a list
of guesses as to which pitches will be thrown his way.  He can also use the
day to decide if he'll swing at them all or not, since he is obviously
incapable of making that decision once the pitcher has released the ball...
Alan Mills did what a team of NASA scientists could not:  He found Carl
Everett's "Hot Zone"... Does anyone ever have an uncomfortable swing against
Rod Beck?... If Doug Mirabelli hits .250+, Hatteberg needs to sit (sorry,
buddy).  Hatteberg hasn't been able to throw since his elbow surgery two
years ago, which shouldn't surprise us since the only guy with a lower
success rate than Hatte is Dr. Arthur Pappas.

Darkness at Noon

Date: Friday, August 10, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Darkness at Noon

It was a bright, sunsplashed day in Oakland, but the funereal pall that has enveloped our beloved team helped make yesterday's matinee embarrassment the darkest day of the year.

For much of this star-crossed season I wanted to believe that all we had to do was have a better record than either the Indians or the Twins and we'd make the playoffs.  Now I suspect that we will have a better record than both the Indians and Twins and will still miss the playoffs.

What happened? 

Well, look no further than the serious A's whuppin' we just took.  Yes, that team that plays in white spikes is now the scariest team in the American League.  I already feel bad for the Mariners, who will not reach the World Series despite 110 wins.  How did the A's do it?

For starters, they replaced the worst leadoff hitter in baseball (Johnny Damon) with the best leadoff hitter in baseball (Johnny Damon).  No one seems to know why Damon goes through this every year, but the next team to sign him should seriously consider playing him at Triple A through June.  He looks like he's going to make a run at his second straight second-half batting title.

Jermaine Dye will not post the All-Star numbers he did in 1999 and 2000, but when you consider the Billy MacMillon/Ron Gant platoon he is replacing, it is nevertheless a major upgrade.  Eric Chavez and Troy Glaus will be the top two third basemen in the AL for the next eight years, or until Tony Blanco arrives.  Miguel Tejada should have been an All-Star, 14 more homers and more RBIs than Jeter at the break. Oh, and there's that first baseman too.

On the hill, Barry Zito is back, Tim Hudson never left and Mark Mulder is suddenly Lefty Grove.

I keep hearing from certain corners of The Nation that certain diehards truly believe the Red Sox will make the playoffs.  Although the two teams we must catch and pass have easier schedules and better ballclubs, these latter-day Candides possess an optimisme that makes Leibnitz look like Schopenauer.  Delusions themselves are not harmful; unless they result in more at-bats for Jose Offerman and Darren Lewis.  So I don't begrudge the deluded, for they have crafted a benign psychosis in which the infinitely precarious can exist as certainty until mathematical elimination bursts the bubble.  Through the myopia of Pollyannaism the oasis on the horizon beckons with its promise of replenishment.

For Dr. Pangloss and Candide it is simple. Pedro will go 6-0 in September.  That leaves 42 games.  Nomo will shake off his split callous and two shaky starts and go 6-2 down the stretch.  That leaves 34 games to account for. Arrojo will continue his mastery only from now on we'll hit for him as he goes 7-1 over the last seven weeks.  26 decisions left. Wakefield will rediscover his first-half command and finish with a 4-1 flourish.  21 to go. Frank Castillo is unspectacular, but Manny and Nomar hit .435 in his starts as he goes 5-3. Just 13 games unaccounted for.  David Cone keeps averaging 1.8 baserunners per inning but manages to go 3-2. Eight games to go. Sabes returns from the DL and wins his only start before being Dravecky-ed in a modern reworking of A Farewell to Arms. Seven. Casey Fossum wins a spot start after a September rainout. Six.  Shooter vultures one win and only blows up once down the stretch.  Four.  Pulsipher recaptures his early form and gets a three-pitch win. Three.  Urbina is dominant in the last two innings of an 11-inning victory.  Two.  Guapo wins on a Trot bomb after pitching a scoreless seventh. One. Lowe hangs only one curve in the final seven weeks.  And there it is, a 37-11 finish, AL East champs.

Now why do you suppose I might take a dimmer view?  Could it be because...

1) We lost a one-run game when the ball passed through the webbing of our first baseman's mitt?
Or because...
2) We lost a one-run game when our fastest player was thrown out at third for the game's final out as the tying run approached home plate?
Or because...
3) We lost a one-run game on back-to-back home runs off our closer?
Or because...
4) We lost an extra-inning game when our closer gave up home runs in the 9th and 11th?
Or because...
5) We lost a one-run game when our closer couldn't protect a two-run lead with two outs and no one on?
Or because...
6) We lost a one-run game we once led 4-1 with Pedro on the mound?
Or because...
7) We got swept at home by the Toronto Blue Jays?
Or because...
8) We got swept at home by the Anaheim Angels?
Or because...
9) Pete Schourek was allowed to go 1-5 before being released?
Or because...
10) Our best player missed 100 games?
Or because...
11) Our best pitcher will miss three months?
Or because...
12) Our catcher will miss three months?
Or because...
13) After benching him coming out of spring training, our manager chose to bat Jose Offerman leadoff 60 times and counting?
Or because...
14) We were just outscored 17-3 in a three-game sweep by one of the teams we must prove we are better than to accomplish The Quest?

The answer, of course, is all of the above.

A shapeless figure bent over him, he smelt the fresh leather
of the revolver belt; but what insignia did the figure wear
on the sleeves and shoulder straps of its uniform--and in
whose name did it raise the dark pistol barrel?

A second, smashing blow hit him on the ear. Then all became
quiet.  There was the sea again with its sounds.  A wave
slowly lifted him up.  It came from afar and travelled sedately
on, a shrug of eternity.
                                    - Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon

It is all quiet now; our lives, our dreams, a shrug of eternity. 

Grim Realizations

Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Grim Realizations

And then it happened.

After months and months of gritty comebacks, nightly heroes, curtain calls and divine resurrections, we played a team with whom we will be locked in combat until one of us is dead, like a germ and a white blood cell.

It was not a good night.

Things started poorly when Nomar - according to NESN - asked for the night off.  This can't be good.  There is either debilitating pain in the wrist or not.  If it's the wrist, well, that's bad news.  But if I hear one more reference to "endurance" or getting into "game shape" for baseball, I'll simply snap.  After tonight's loss, there are 50 games left.  The next 45 are must-win.  After those, we'll re-evaluate. One of the few things keeping me going as we lost six straight games against lefty starters was the return of a guy who hit over .380 against lefties last year.  Not sure he can sit against Mark Mulder, one night after going 3-for-4 with a dinger.

While we're on the subject of lefty starters... what the hell is going on at first base for the Boston Red Sox against lefties?  We have had 112 games to address the problem, but we haven't tried anything other than Brian Daubach (.195 against lefties) and Jose Offerman (.218).  I heard that Shea Hillenbrand was taking some infield at first during the homestand... I heard that Izzy Alcantara was playing 10 games at first last month... I heard that Juan Diaz is a pretty smooth fielder for a big guy... and we have done nothing.  We haven't made any attempt to rectify a huge problem, a gaping hole in our lineup.  Tino Martinez has 86 RBIs.  Jason Giambi is the reigning MVP.  Jim Thome has 38 home runs.  Gee, do you think we're giving up a little at first base to the teams we are battling?  I love Dauby.  Nine years in the minors.... many, many big hits in the last two and a half years... vastly improved defensively... but he just isn't an everyday first baseman.  Play him against righties and find someone else to face Mark Mulder, et al.

Dear Shea Hillenbrand, noted defensive replacement:  When it's the bottom of the seventh and you trail 3-2 and the other team's best bunter is up with a runner on first and no one out, DON'T BE SURPRISED IF THE GUY LAYS ONE DOWN! How did that happen?  How did Johnny Damon lay down a bunt in an obvious sacrifice situation and Shea respond as if Greg Luzinski himself had just dropped one down the third base line in a 10-run laugher? Embarrassing.

Right now Carl Everett is of no value to any team in Major League baseball. He has as many home runs as Marvin Benard.  He won't take a walk, won't stay back on the change, won't get a good jump on anything hit in front of him.  Never seen a guy lose it so quick.

As for Kerwin Danley, the home plate ump, he was as bad as it gets.  All night.  Both ways.  Total guesswork.  Danley and Jeff Tam should travel the carny circuit together.  Tam will throw pitches low and four inches off the plate and Danley will call them strikes and no one will ever get a stuffed animal.  Even if he had swung, which wouldn't have been a bad idea based on Danley's strike zone all night, Manny couldn't have done anything with that pitch or the other wide strike in that at-bat.   Danley is just of many umpires who appears so cosmically freaked out by the commissioner's directives (Call the high strike!  Call the wide strike!) that he no longer
even remembers his own strike zone.

I forget... what was so wrong with the game two years ago that they had to change the way the game is called overnight?

Scott Hatteberg should start breaking in a first baseman's glove.  He's a good hitter, but quite simply the worst defensive catcher I've ever seen. Who drops pitchouts?  He had two shots at Damon tonight.  On the first, Damon got a bad break to second but Hatteberg couldn't maneuver a called-strike changeup out of his glove.  On the second, Jimy correctly called a pitchout, but Hatteberg, in his haste to actually throw out a runner, neglected to catch the ball.  He's either dropped the pitch, fumbled the transfer or double-clutched on about half the last 20 steals off of him.  At least the drops keep him from embarrassing himself with his rainbows.  Wish there were another place for his bat... he is one of my favorites.

Requiem for Sabes

When you have eight pitches to put Frank Menechino away and can't pull it off... you're pretty much done.  Sorry, Sabes, but you are just way too hittable.  Maybe you throw too many strikes.  The pitch Chavez ripped for his first double was a 1-2 delivery that might as well have been a 3-1 pitch it was so fat.  And the curve that Ramon Hernandez ripped into left center... oy... what a hanger.

Warning Signs

When Dante Bichette took an 0-2 fastball right down the middle for strike three, my Jack Clark alarm system went off.  One of these skids will be his last, you know.  He is most likely a pure guess hitter at this stage of his
career and a guess hitter who only hits mistakes.

A's Mo' Better

The A's are just better than the Red Sox.  And that sucks.  If Carl Everett hadn't become a below-average joke in center, we'd have a shot.  But as it is, it's hard to imagine these Red Sox staying close as the A's mow their way through the soft underbelly from Aug. 24-Sept. 12.  They play 18 straight against the four worst teams in the AL.

Sorry there isn't more good news, but tonight was rough.

Jimy, Jose Can't Contain Sox

Date: Tuesday, August 7, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Jimy, Jose Can't Contain Sox

The diabolical duo tried, God knows they tried.  But despite Jimy Williams' best efforts and yet another one-fer from his favortie leadoff man, the fellas completed their first four-game sweep of the Rangers since Fred Lynn's one and only MVP year.

Oh, and about that, how the hell does Fred Lynn not win MVP in 1979?  I hate, hate, hate the idiots who will not vote for a player whose team does not go to the playoffs.  These morons actually believe that a DH who hit .296 with 36 home runs and 139 RBIs (Don Baylor) is more valuable than a Gold Glove centerfielder who wins the batting title at .333, hits 39 home runs and drives in 122 runs.  So Freddy hits for a higher average and hits more home runs - and while I agree that RBIs are more relevant, isn't it safe to assume that Lynn more than made up that margin in the field? Sadly, many of the clodpates carrying BBWA badges don't know much about the game.  Then again, some managers don't know much about the game either.

Back to the 21st century.  Let's set the situation:  Bottom four, runners on first and second, none out, Texas starter Rob Bell hanging on by a thread, piling up the pitches as the Sox build a 4-2 lead.  Brian Daubach is the runner on second, Scott Hatteberg the batter.  With Daubach on second, a lefty at the plate and Pudge behind the dish, it is a certainty that if Hatte fans, Dauby will be hosed by 40 feet at third base.  Presumably, the idea of starting the runners is to stay away from the double play. 

Okay, fair enough.  Hatteberg has struck out 20 times in 201 at-bats this season and 203 times in 1233 career at-bats, so there is about a 10-to-16 percent chance that we'll get a strike 'em out-throw 'em out double play, higher perhaps if you consider that Bell had fanned Hatteberg in his first at-bat.  So let's look at Hatte's GIDP numbers.  This season he has grounded into five DPs and for his career 40, so we're looking at under 3 percent.  Never mind the other reason for the hit-and-run since the middle infielders will stay put with a donkey on second.  The odds of Hatteberg grounding into a double play were roughly one-fifth the chances of him striking out into a double play.  Now of course the baseball Gods, vexed by Jimy's idiocy, came up with an even crueler result.  Couldn't you just imagine the Texas broadasters saying, "Well, unless Rob Bell comes up with a way to get three outs with one pitch, he probably won't finish the inning."  Jimy found a way.  It's what he does... help the other team.  There is no good argument for starting the runners there.

Just as there is no good argument for batting Jose Offerman in the lead-off spot as Jimy did for the 59th time this season.  After his 1-for-5, yes he was once again the only Red Sox hitter to get five plate appearances, he is now hitting .216 as our "table setter" with an unfathomable .290 on-base percentage.  For the record, .300 is the Mendoza line of on-base percentage.   Jose Offerman had a poor second half in 1999.  He had a bad year in 2000.  He's had an abysmal two-thirds of a season in 2001.  Signing him was a mistake, but playing him only compounds the mistake.  There are four players vying for at-bats at two positions.  The depth chart should read:  Stynes, Lansing, Hillenbrand, Offerman.  Unlike D-Lew, who is actually acceptable defensively (though overrated), I cannot think of a circumstance that would call for Offerman's "talents."  He has no range on ground balls.  He has trouble turning double plays.  He strikes out a lot (on pace for 100+ K's).  He doesn't hit for power.  He doesn't run well anymore.  Why, Jimy, why?

Rhymes with Awesome

Casey Fossum looks for real... that curveball is tight with the major late snap you need for a lefty to get righties out with it.  He needs to spend a little time at the training table with Guapo because right now he doesn't have enough ass to last long in the Show, but if he builds up his lower body, he could be a real stud for years to come.

Back Off, Carl

Everett might think it macho, or perhaps he's misinterpreting Deuteronomy, but either way the dude has got to back off the plate.  The league has figured this guy out and now it's time for Carl to adjust.  I'd suggest backing off the plate and swinging a bigger, longer, heavier stick.  He actually has too much bat speed given how overly agressive he is.  He jerks so many foul balls over the dugout and into the right-field grandstand because he is constantly out in front.  A heavier bat would help him look less foolish on changeups too.  There is still no reason to throw this guy a strike.

Stats Entertainment

This stat would be more disconcerting if I knew exactly what to make of it, but I'm not sure how strange it is:  Manny has 117 strikeouts and 1 sacrifice fly...  more Awfulman:  Of the American League second baseman with enough plate appaarances to qualify for the league leaders, Jose Offerman is 15th in slugging percentage and 15th in OBPS (On-base + slugging).  There are 14 teams in the American League... Mike Lansing had more extra-base hits in 17 hours this weekend, than Jose Offerman has had in his last 146 at-bats dating to June 21...

The Dirt Dogs will be underdogs in all three games against the A's:  Mulder-Sabes; Hudson-Wakes; Zito-Cone.  The series will tell us a lot about our October prospects.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we play 19 of our remaining 51 against the Orioles (13) and Devil Rays (6).


Rage, Pain, Anger, and Hurt

Date: Saturday, August 4, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Rage, Pain, Anger, and Hurt

"Even though the odds were in favor of God's not existing, Pascal argued that our faith in God could still be amply justified because the joys of the slimmer probability so far outweighed the horrors of the larger probability."
      - Alain de Botton

And so we soldier on, believing on some deep, spiritual level that the Red Sox will indeed one day win a World Series.  The alternative - to accept the larger probability - is simply too horrible.  To imagine that Nomar Garciaparra, like Teddy Ballgame and Yaz before him, will play his entire career in Boston without ever winning it all... that he will be badgered by reporters in the twilight of his career, asking if he can truly feel fulfilled as a baseball player never having won a World Series... that he will toss and turn at night, replaying images of Edgar Renteria and Luis Sojo getting World Series-winning hits... or worse, that he will tempted by the Dark Overlord, his resistance weakened by years of futility, and sign on with the Evil Ones. 

No, of course we shield our eyes from these images.  And we focus myopically on the curious pastiche before us: a bizarre patchwork pitching staff of rejects and retreads and reconstructions; a lineup headed by a guy with no speed and no power who gets on base at a .200 clip; a manager who is flummoxed by anything more complicated than lefty-lefty; a team that will finish last in stolen bases and first in stolen bases allowed for the second time in three years; a team that converts the lowest percentage of double play opportunities in the Majors; a team that has lost six straight games against lefty starters but doesn't call up either of their righty boppers in Triple A. At what point might Juan Diaz or Izzy Alcantara get a handful of the at-bats Jose Offerman and Brian Daubach have been giving away against lefties?  After nine straight losses to lefties?  12?  15? 

When we look back at this lost season, the narrow window of opportunity closing on us, I suggest we look in particular at the 750-900 at-bats that Jose Offerman and Troy O'Leary will have been given. Troy O'Leary's three-pitch whiff against Troy Percival Tuesday night - bases loaded, one out - was the Major League equivalent of pooping your pants in public.  To swing at a pitch above the bill of your helmet just isn't done.  You'll see it in Little League, but then it disappears... throughout Junior Babe Ruth, Senior Babe Ruth, American Legion... you just never see this... Troy O'Leary has done it at least seven times this year.  Why? Because his bat is sooooo slow and he is soooo overmatched by ML fastballs that he basically has to start his swing as the pitcher releases the ball.  Has Jimy noted this?  Ha-ha, ha.... ha-ha... ha-ha-ha...ha-ha.  Has Jimy ever noticed anything that takes place on the field? What unorthodox decision has he ever made that worked out for the good of the club?  His phenomenal success rate at selecting the right pinch hitter perhaps?  His deft use of Pete Schourek?  His brilliant deployment of the both-catchers-starting lineup that has burned him almost without fail?  His eerie - almost prescient - accuracy when calling pitchouts?  His walking Ben Molina (.257) to get to Benji Gil (.344) tonight?  And on and on and on and on...

Seriously, when Sports Illustrated reports or Bret Saberhagen announces that the players don't respect Jimy, shouldn't that news be greeted with a huge sigh of relief?  What knowledgeable baseball professional could possibly respect this guy?  People have been looking at our DL and looking at the standings and saying they should build a statue of this guy, but when you watch every pitch of every game you realize that the statue would do a much better job in the close games. Wakes and Cone against I-Rod, A-Rod and Palmeiro. And once you've lost to Patt Rapp you realize it doesn't matter who the other guys throw out on the hill.

Wondering about free agent pitchers for 2002

Ridiculous to the sublime

Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Ridiculous to the sublime

Now is the summer of our discontent turned glorious... summer... by this son of... Ramon Garciaparra.

Prior to His return, the Red Sox had lost 16 games by one run or in extra innings.  In those 16 games, His four replacements managed these numbers:

7-for-60, a .117 batting average, with 0 RBIs and 33 men left on base.

Hopefully, this is the last time I will have to update these stats.  But you must admit they are staggering.  In our 16 most difficult losses, our shortstops contributed not at all.  A lot has been made of the nine total errors made by the four-headed replacement, but not enough has been made of the fact that when we really needed one of them to get a hit, they were worse than a below-average-hitting pitcher.

Glad some are tickled that the Twins just got Rick Reed, giving them four All-Stars in their rotation.  Let's see... Twins get Reed, Yankees get Hitchcock, A's got Dye... hate to see the competition getting better, but the Duke's in a tough spot... while Urbina or latest-rumor Quantrill would be a boost... would hate to give up Fossum or Diaz... would gladly part with Izzy for pitching...

As I've said all along, the Yanks will win the east with their slide-proof staff, leaving us with the Mariners in the first round if we're lucky enough to win the wild card.  So our epic trip would probably be Mariners-Yankees-(Braves/D-Backs/Cubs). I'm sure I will be the picture of serenity in October.

After 13 straight against Indians and Yankees to end August and start September, we close with Tampa Bay, Detroit, Baltimore and Detroit again.  By the way, the unbalanced schedule sucks.  Why, for example, do we play our 19 games against Toronto and all six of our games against Kansas City before they dump, while our competitors can fatten up on them once they've unloaded?


Derek and the Domino Effect

Date: Sunday, July 29, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject: Derek and the Domino Effect

There will be some Offy-bashing, perhaps a little Lowe-bashing (the hitters
are, why not me?) and maybe a dash of Jimy-bashing in the early going here,
but I promise to close on a positive note after a big win.

Well, some have been busting my chops all season, telling me I need to be
getting these stats to someone... anyone.  He finally just went ahead and
took it upon himself to get that essential info out there, and damn if ol'
Gordo Edes didn't jump on it and add some of his own.  I am so happy.  Just
knowing we are not alone in our contempt of Awfulman is comforting.  And,
yes, I do remember the two errors he made in that ninth inning against the
Phillies when he was with the Dodgers... one of the four years he led the NL
in errors.

Awfulman broke his 54 at-bat streak by drawing a walk in the bottom of the
eighth.  For a guy with minimal pop, he sure swings at a lot of 2-0 and 3-1
pitches.  Did I mention how much this guy kills your team in the lead-off
spot?  In a parallel universe there are leadoff hitters who sometimes go
3-for-4 with a walk or even 4-for-5.  With this guy, it's oh-fer or one-fer
every night.

We had two different guys make baserunning mistakes on the same play, but the
Jays bailed us out.  Offerman foolishly ran through Lamont's stop sign -
trying to get thrown out at the plate for the second time in the series - but
Stewart inexplicably threw the ball to the shortstop from shallow left. 
Gonzalez spun and fired high to the plate, saving Offerman six pages of
vitriol from me (he'll only get two paragraphs tonight).  Not to be outdone,
Mike Lansing belatedly thought he'd try for second.  He was out by three
Guapos.  As for Awfulman (who was once a fleet baserunner, as hard as that is
to believe), it defeats the purpose of firing Wendell Kim if guys are going
to run through Lamont.  Imagine if Gonzalez's throw had been on the money to
the plate and Lansing had been doubled up at second.  My furniture would have
been in great peril.  In the AP article, Offerman explained his curious
decision by giving the boilerplate "good things happen when you try to take
the extra base."  Really?  Interesting take on the season, Offy.

Derek Lowe, this is my friend 1-2-3 Inning, I don't believe you've met. 
Actually Derek redefined 1-2-3 inning tonight by allowing 1-2-3 hits and
getting yanked.  With each shaky outing he gets a little worse.  Derek and
the Domino Effect? Hitters do seem torn, however, as to whether to rip his
hanger to the opposite field or pull it into the screen.  As you guys
probably surmised, I was really freaking out in the ninth tonight.  I did not
have a contingency plan for when we lost this game.  As it is, the hope in
this space has to be that tonight's performance will force Duke's hand.  Any
ideas on what the holdup is with Urbina?  Other than the fact that we have
nothing to offer.  Casey Fossum?  That would pretty much empty the cupboard.

Now, Jimy.... seriously, buddy... what's going on?  We score two in the
bottom of the eighth and you've got a pitching change during which to get
Pichardo up (if, that is, you insist on not ever letting Guapo pitch two
innings).  We all know how Lowe has struggled lately and how much he has
struggled in non-save situations. And by "all," I mean everybody but Jimy, of
course.  Luckily, the offense has come up with two to push the lead to four
and a non-save situations, so you can give your closer (cough, cough) the
night off and not have to trot him out there three straight nights and four
of five.  Jimy?  Jimy? Why is Pichardo not warming?  He only pitched a third
of an inning last night.  Why is Derek Lowe coming into a non-save situation?
 Could it be true that Don Zimmer has more baseball knowledge in that plate
in his head than you have in your whole cerebral cortex.  Cerebral cortex? 
Aha!  I knew there was something missing with this guy.  "Hey, they're still
in it!  No other manager..." Blah, blah, blah.  The guy is a moron.

Assuming it takes a guy a lot longer to rehab all the way back to
seven-inning shape than two-inning shape, could the Duke's reticence on the
Urbina front be a clue as to how Pedro might be featured down the stretch? 
Would it be better to have Pedro for six starts in September or for regular
relief duty starting Aug. 15?  Just thinking out loud, but with Castillo and
Sabes coming back and the Arrojo renaissance, it would seem the more glaring
deficiencies are in the pen.

Oh, big win tonight.


Everett Comeback: Seamless, Unseemly

Date: Sunday, July 29, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject: Everett Comeback: Seamless, Unseemly

Remember the last time we saw Carl Everett?  He was sprawling after a ball
that he clearly had no chance of catching, having taken a bad angle to
further ensure that he would not even get a glove on the ball and that the
go-ahead run would score from first.  That play was, in fact, an eerily exact
replication of a misguided, flailing dive at a Tino Martinez gapper that
allowed a runner to score from first in a game we ended up losing, 7-6.

So should it have surprised any of us to see "Bad Hustle" Carl blazing toward
the wall on a ball he clearly couldn't catch and getting so close to the wall
that the carom eluded him?  Of course not.  Carl is in it for Carl.  He'll
never make the smart, conservative  play.  He'll never move the runners over
with, say, two on and none out in the bottom of the sixth inning of a 1-1
game.  No, he'll lunge at a ball in the dirt for strike one, foul off an
obvious bunting-for-a-hit-when-we-really-need-a-sacrifice attempt and then
pop up.  And were we surprised when he fanned against Keith Foulke with the
tying runs on base in the eighth?  Of course not.  Why?  Because Foulke
throws a good changeup, a pitch that Carl - in his crazed, undisciplined,
can't-keep-his-hands-back way - is simply incapable of hitting.  Bounce three
changeups and Carl will be done.  The word is out and, as a result, Carl
Everett is a remarkably average player.

I'm sure no one here has forgotten the 7-6 loss to the A's when Carl was
thrown out at third from left field, preempting the tying run from crossing
the plate.  The mistake was colossal, but the "I'd do it again" comment was
much more revelatory.  Apparently the concept of "Mea Culpa" doesn't exist in
Carl's bible. 

In that spiteful, I-just-cost-my-team-the-game-but-refuse-to-apologize moment, he
seemed the epitome of a Ralph Nader voter.  Both Carl and the Nader voter know
they have done something horribly wrong.  They can tell because people are badgering
and hectoring them and demanding an explanation.  The Nader voter - in the
face of Ashcroft, Kyoto, et al. - resolutely sticks to his guns,  repeating the mantra,
"There is no difference between the two major parties," and defiantly insists, "I'd do it
again."  Carl - in the face of 130 years of baseball evolution that stamps it a sin to make
the first or third out at third base - is equally adroit at ignoring that nagging thing called truth
and proclaims, "I'd do it again."  Think about it.  He is saying, if the situation arises again,
I will not hesitate to repeat the mistake that previously cost my team a game.  That, my friends,
is Carl Everett.  Dick Allen has met his match.

Word on the street is that Sunday the Sox will get a team player back, guy by
the name of Nomar.

Mike Lansing has a higher batting average than Jose Offerman.

I'll give you a set of stats, you tell me which guy is in the lineup every day, playing first
against lefties, second against lefties, killing the team each day.

                           Avg.                On-Base%      Slugging%
Offerman            .253                .323                .347
Daubach             .265                .355                .516
Stynes                .300                .353                .465

And there are still guys out there who refuse to believe Jimy Williams is a moron.


First Half Over, Glass Half Empty

Date: Monday, July 9, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject: First Half Over, Glass Half Empty

We'll start with today's fiasco and pull back from there for a wider snapshot
of the first half and perhaps a look into the grim near future.

* When Jimy starts the Forfeit Lineup - Hillenbrand, Lansing, Mirabelli,
D-Lew - we have basically no chance of scoring in three or four innings. 
That we could so desperately need some right-handed pop against lefties and a
have a Triple A Triple Crown threat growing old on the farm is just another
testament to how screwed up this organization is.  Izzy sets a nightly homer
distance record in various IL parks and the first we see of him is when he
Karate kicks a catcher.  Great.

*  There is no slump so deep that a pitcher, be it Steve Parris, John Halama
or Tom Glavine (winless since May), will not immediately snap out of it when
he goes up against today's lineup.

*  B.J. Surhoff has never met a slump that a weekend series with the Sox
couldn't cure.

*  Did anyone catch Shea Hillenbrand's underhand flip too late for the force
at second today?  He is so bad defensively, so clueless at the plate, that
not only does he not belong in the Majors right now, I can't see him ever
developing into an everyday player that doesn't hurt his team.

*  Tomo Ohka had a decent fastball and an excellent change working through
four scoreless today.  So why, you ask, did he throw hanging curveballs to
Brian Jordan and Andruw Jones during the five-run shelling in the fifth? 
Beats the hell out of me.  Mirabelli looked over to the dugout a lot today
and Ohka didn't appear to shake him off much, but whoever called those two
pitches is an idiot.  If you must mix in your sub-par rolling curve, please
do so against Quilvio Veras, Mark De Rosa or Rico Brogna, not against boppers
who will deposit a hanger.  The game is not that complicated.

*  Which brings me to 2-0 and 3-1 counts.  When you, the hitter, have the
count in your favor, you should sit on a pitch in a certain spot.  Let's say,
a fastball, on the inside half.  If you get this pitch, you should annihilate
it, full rip.  If you don't get your pitch right where you want it, just take
it.  It's okay.  That's the luxury of being up in the count.  So why the hell
do the Boston Red Sox hit so many 2-0 and 3-1 pitches weakly the other way
with defensive half swings?  It's mind-boggling.  Troy is the worst.  Did you
catch his act on Saturday?  Twice striking out on 3-2 pitches off the plate
in the dirt.  He is so weak.

*  Think there's any friggin' chance the White Sox would trade David Wells for
Ohka and Crawford now?  Wells could be in traction and be more valuable than
either of these soon-to-be journeymen.

*  Watching Brian Jordan (two), Dave Martinez, Quilvio Veras and Mark De Rosa
all make hit-robbing plays this weekend while we struggle to make the most
quotidian plays gave me a foreboding sense of dread for the long haul.  When
your players have minimal range and weak arms, they are simply incapable of
the spectacular play.  Our record, however, has led me to revisit the
"pitching and defense" mantra.  Maybe defense is overrated.  Maybe the vast
majority of plays are routine.  Maybe you can win with a butcher in left, a
rainbow-throwing second baseman at short, a DH at catcher, a broken down old
man at second, a mediocre right-fielder in center and an average left-fielder
in right.  Previously, I would have doubted it.

In our 15 one-run and extra-inning losses in the first half, our shortstop
position produced these numbers:

                           G       AB         H       AVG      RBI    LOB

Red Sox  SS       15      56          7       .125         0       28

So in the 15 losses where one run, one RBI, one positive contribution with
the bat would have made the difference, we got nothing from the guys
replacing the two-time batting champ who entered 2001 with the highest
all-time slugging percentage for a shortstop.  If you encounter someone who
suggests that we haven't missed Nomar - because our rangeless shortstops have
made so few errors - please punch him in the face.  In these 15 games, the
opposition has produced more runs on routine throws breaking the webbing of
mitts than our shortstops have.

And now the bad news...

* Four of these six teams will make the playoffs: Yankees, Mariners, Twins,
Indians, Red Sox and A's.  Let's take them one at a time.

Yankees - They are in.  There's is simply no way this de facto All-Star team
could fail to win the AL East.  Even with Pettite and El Duque on the DL and
Bernie missing about three weeks for his pops, they played .550 ball and now
are healthy and white hot.  Plus, teams lay down for them.  Thanks, Rey
Ordonez, for hitting the ball 10 inches with the bases loaded and one out and
killing a rally with the never-before-seen 2-U-3 double play.

Mariners - They are in, mathematically, it would seem.  Who would have
thought they got the better of the Mike Cameron-Ken Griffey deal?  With
Cameron and Ichiro patroling the cavernous reaches of Safeco and Sele,
Garcia, Moyer and Abbott throwing strikes for six innings before Messrs.
Nelson, Rhodes and Sasaki make 7-8-9 a formality, the M's have a real shot at
the whole deal.

Twins - Everyone is waiting for their fade, even as they won 13 of 15 before
the break.  Even as their 2 and 3 starters made the All-Star team and their
ace won his 10th of the first half.  Pettite over Radke and Sele?  Shame on
you, Joe Torre.  The Twins have the most range in the AL up the middle in
Guzman and Rivas, the best defensive centerfielder this side of Safeco in
Torrie Hunter, great defense on the corners in Koskie and Mankiewicz  and an
ace manager.  The pen would seem to be a concern, except that it gets the job
done seemingly every night.  There's a little bit of a power shortage, too,
but they have a lot of big innings because they can run and they all put the
ball in play.  The main reason they won't fade, however, is the schedule. 
Did you notice that while we were lucky to take one of three with the Braves,
the Twins were sweeping the Reds?  Yes, the NL and AL Centrals are stocked
deep with lousy teams with lousy pitching.  After beating up on the Reds and
Pirates, the Twins can spend August and September feasting on some unbalanced
meat: Tigers, Royals and the primed-to-fade White Sox.  Do we really expect
the Twins of Radke, Milton and Mays to be under .500 against these awful

Indians - As you may have noticed last week, the Indians lineup is
ridiculous.  It almost doesn't matter that their starting pitching has been
shit because they are playing Beer League softball anyway.  Colon, Finley and
Nagy will be better than they've been and Sabathia and Westbrook have looked
good.  Do you really expect Gonzalez, Burks, Alomar, Thome, Lofton, Vizquel,
Cordova and Fryman to be watching the playoffs at home?

A's - After Mulder, Hudson and Zito held the D-Backs to two runs in a
three-game sweep at the BOB, this might be the scariest team in the league
right now.  They know they buried themselves as far as the division is
concerned, but they are only 6.5 back in the wild card race.  If Johnny Damon
comes anywhere close to what he did last year in running away with the
second-half batting crown, look out.

Red Sox - Remember 1978?  The best team in memory to miss the playoffs?  And
you look back and you ask, How did Rice (MVP), Lynn, Evans, Yaz, Pudge, Eck
(20-8), Steamer (15-2) and Rooster miss the playoffs? Fast forward to
September, 2001.  Pedro, Nomar, Varitek and Jurassic Carl are back and we are
on a tear, winning 10 of 11 to close the gap on the wild card-leading
Indians/Twins/A's, but we fall short, done in by the .400 ball we played in
July and the first two weeks of August while the other contenders heated up. 
And Manny and Pedro and Nomar will go into the Hall of Fame in 2015 and no
one will believe we missed the playoffs in 2001... and don't even get me
started on the labor stoppage of 2002 further encroaching on our tiny window
of opportunity.

That's why they call it a curse.

Enjoy the break.

Pappas Smear

Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Pappas Smear

"I think he's OK," said Dr. Arthur Pappas.

Does this remind anyone of when the Politburo would issue a statement on the
good health of Andropov or Chernenko and the guy would be dead in a week?

Pappas is the anti-healer.  I don't care about his opinions.  He lost a
lawsuit to Marty Barrett for Christ's sake!  How is this guy still involved
in the well-being of professional athletes?


Our bullpen is shot... and certain members of it ought to be.  Ten times in
the last month I've eagerly anticipated the "Schourek Released" headline and
ten times I've been gravely disappointed.  As for Sunny Kim, the guy has been
getting shelled to the tune of 5.74 as a starter in Pawtucket, so why would
you have him come into a one-run game with Pichardo - and Florie even -
available?  As far as I could tell, Sunny throws one pitch - a fastball
between 91 and 93 with limited movement.  Should anyone be surprised that
Aubrey Huff laced a two-run single on Kim's sixth straight fastball to him? 
Develop a second pitch, rookie, but not on my time, not in the Majors. 
Seriously, Pulsipher?


While we've actually been producing more with Trot in the 3-hole than with
Everett there, the defense is killing us.  Trot's fish-out-of-water flop-fest
allowed the winning run to score on Sunday and last night's bizarre sequence
in the ninth ended up costing us the game.  Did Steve Cox hit a baseball or a
bar of soap to shallow left center?  Yes, Manny made a game effort, but only
after getting a bad jump on the ball.  His graceless belly flop and stone
hands should have left us with a runner on first, but somehow - we'll never
know, thanks to ESPN's unconscionably bad camera work - Trot failed to pick
up a ball that looked like it had come almost completely to rest, allowing
the lumbering Cox to go to second.  Why was this so important?  Well, it
forced us to walk McGriff with one out, putting runners on first and second. 
Both runners moved up on Grieve's bleeder and scored on Huff's liner.  If
Trot makes the play, there's about a 65 percent chance we get out of the
inning unscathed.  (Then we really go bat-s**t when the ump blows the call on
Merloni's homer.)


Yes, 23 runs allowed in three games against the worst-hitting team in
baseball is a red flag, particularly on the heels of a three-game sweep at
home.  Right now we can't get anyone out and the defense is so weak that the
pitchers are never bailed out by an extraordinary play.  We have three
outfielders playing out of position, no second baseman, the worst throwing
catcher in the league and no legit shortstop, though Merloni seems a clear
improvement over Lansing, both with his arm and his bat.

The car is crashing... and we can't look away.


Opening Nightmare

Date: Monday April 2, 2001
From: Kevin Hench
Subject:  Opening Nightmare


Where do I begin? First, what the hell am I spending $95 a month and another $130 for the MLB Direct TV package if I can't see every friggin' Red Sox game?

Between me, my buddy Dave and the weirdo we met at Dublin's, we spent two hours on the phone with Direct TV, trying to figure out how to get the Boston Fox affiliate in Los Angeles.  Obviously, it's possible.  But apparently the local affiliates have cried to the lawmakers so no matter how much the viewer pays to retrieve the beams in the air there is no way around this.  It is a huge friggin' drag.  But the weirdo is working on it and has a few leads.

Second, why the fuck do I see Trot Nixon credited with a sacrifice bunt?  If

I'm interpreting this box score correctly, Trot was probably instructed to bunt after Chris Stynes reached in extra innings.  Again, why?  Trot was second in the Grapefruit League in homers and had already provided all the
offense for this anemic group of stiffs with a solo shot.  Perhaps Jimy didn't realize that while Trot was hitting second - and in most cases the bunt there is the right thing - he had Varitek on deck (this guy should
never, ever hit third in a Major League game) and D-Lew in the hole after pinch-running for Manny.  Are you telling me that you want Trot to sacrifice himself for Varitek and D-Lew?  Once again Jimy proves that the subtler aspects of baseball strategy escape him.  Obviously, anyone who knows baseball would rather have Hillenbrand in the two-hole with Trot hitting third and Varitek hitting seventh or lower.  Bizarre.

This was the first of many games we will lose this year because of our crappy defense.  And we didn't even make an error.  Lansing - and maybe even Awfulman - make the play that Stynes blew to cost us the game.  Moving
Stynes to second makes us better offensively - couldn't you tell? - but it weakens us defensively at two positions.  Why do we have so few guys who can hit and field and so many who can do neither.

And as if Clemens winning weren't insult enough, Brady Anderson gets the winning knock.  How's Mike Boddicker doing?

This is as depressed as I've ever been after an April game.

BDD is a feature of Boston.com. The site is not produced by the Boston Globe sports dept.

Boston Globe:

Shaughnessy: Ortiz lights camp fire > Epstein reins in the exuberance > Manny a Ray of sunshine > AG remains patient > Fenway South > Buchholz looking for repeat

Boston Herald:

Big man Ortiz back on campus > Adrian Gonzalez eases in > Cameron embraces new role > Papi's 2011 option: Key on play, not pay


AG will be patient > Okajima says he was injured last year > Could the Sox land Sabathia? A-Gon in no rush for new deal

NY Post:

Yankees eye Millwood; Nova and Garcia the faves for now > Post-Rivera era is almost unthinkable > Saves king Hoffman lauds heir > Martin not hurtin' > Rivera arrives at camp > Wait and see on Joba
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