Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Red Scare

Since there’s three days left until Randy Johnson throws the first pitch to Johnny Damon at Yankee Stadium, it’s time to dissect the Red Sox roster and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each and every Fenway prowler. Today will be the hitters, tomorrow I’ll talk about the pitchers…

1. Johnny Damon

We all know Johnny can score runs. He tends to go on streaks at times, but usually busts out of those streaks with big games. This happened many times during the season. For example, he went 0-13 in three straight games in May, then went 5-6 in the following game at home vs. Oakland. He also had this streak in the ALCS. Damon finished second in the league in runs scored, improving vastly on a disappointing 2003 campaign which almost got him traded. I’d love to see another .304 this season.

2004 Stats: .304, 20 HR, 94 RBI
2005 Prediction: .311, 18 HR, 88 RBI

2. Trot Nixon

Francona will most likely start the season out with Nixon in the 2-hole, contradictory to some projections by experts who have Renteria in this slot. Let’s go with the dirt dog, Nixon. Trot was out all of the first half in 2004 with a herniated disk in his back, but bounced back strong and helped the Sox in the playoffs. He may be getting older, but his defensive ability in right field is unlike any other player the Red Sox might replace him with. He masters that tricky wall, playing bounces perfectly and saving many runs. Trot is a favorite of mine and a true gamer.

2004 Stats: .315, 6 HR, 23 RBI
2005 Prediction: .289, 21 HR, 82 RBI

3. Manny Ramirez

The lovable, coddled, grinning hero we all call Big Manny. Who doesn’t love it when he’s giving that point to Millar or rocking back and forth in the dugout with his best pal Ortiz? A stat showed last summer that, at the rate Manny is going, he will have better numbers than Hank Aaron in most categories. That’s phenomenal. Ramirez should have won the American League MVP last year, along with his World Series MVP. We know he can go on serious hitting streaks, rip clutch doubles off the monster (that is, if he feels like running) and even give us a good-hearted laugh with his play in left field. Whatever the case, the Sox and their fans love Manny, and we hope he remains here for his entire career. Pretty much, the guy is Superman.

2004 Stats: .308, 43 HR, 130 RBI
2005 Prediction: .321, 47 HR, 137 RBI, AL MVP

4. David Ortiz

Manny’s sidekick. Senor Octubre. Big Papi. Barney. Whatever nickname you want to throw at David Ortiz, I’m sure he’d just laugh and show you his wide grin. This guy is the best clutch hitter in the game today. He hit numerous walk-off hits in 2005, his first being on Easter at Fenway and his last keeping the Sox alive in Game 5 of the ALCS. Ortiz, after being dumped by the Twins in 2002, was given a chance by Theo and the Sox after requests from the players. In 2003, he exploded as an AL MVP candidate and never really looked back. The Curse Of The Big Papi!

2004 Stats: .301, 41 HR, 139 RBI
2005 Prediction: .299, 42 HR, 131 RBI

5. Edgar Renteria

My favorite Red Sox pickup in the offseason. The front office did an excellent job of providing the team with an upgrade from Orlando Cabrera at shortstop. He has the same defensive skills as Cabrera, and even a better bat. He’s played in pressure-filed St. Louis, where they love their baseball, so he knows what it feels like to play with a sellout crowd on his back. Everyone is forgetting that Renteria started for the National League All-Stars in Houston last July. I can only see his stats climbing with Ramirez and Ortiz batting in front of him.

2004 Stats: .287, 10 HR, 72 RBI
2005 Prediction: .310, 19 HR, 88 RBI

6. Kevin Millar

Millar gained 20 pounds of muscle over the winter after there was much discussion whether Theo would keep him or defensive stud Doug Mientkiewicz. He was worried he might not be back with his Sawx, even though it was clear to Red Sox Nation there was no way we could trade the man who “believed” after Game 3. Millar put up steady offensive numbers in 2004, and I don’t see any reason to decline. If he can work on his defensive skills at first base, Millar would be the ultimate tool player Theo and Francona need.

2004 Stats: .297, 18 HR, 74 RBI
2005 Prediction: .283, 18 HR, 73 RBI

7. Jason Varitek

The captain. With his genius signing this winter, Jason Varitek, the mold that keeps the Red Sox together, officially became the ultimate leader of the Sawx. The man who caught every single inning of Games 3, 4 and 5 is back behind the plate in 2005, playing in the best shape of his life. He recently hired a new personal trainer in the offseason and they’ve been working constantly so Varitek can live up to his “captain” trademark. Curt Schilling and the fans all agree, without Varitek behind the plate, it’s hard to believe the Red Sox can repeat in 2005. Brian Schneider isn’t quite World Championship caliber.

2004 Stats: .296, 18 HR, 73 RBI
2005 Prediction: .302, 21 HR, 84 RBI

8. Bill Mueller

The unheralded and unappreciated hero of the 2004 season. He woke everyone up with his walk-off home run on Mariano Rivera on July 24, officially beginning the Red Sox hot streak. Then, he drove in Dave Roberts in Game 4 of the ALCS with his single up the middle, keeping the season alive. With outstanding defensive play all season at the hot corner, it’s only appropriate that the Sox front office signed him to a new contract extension. I’d love to see Mueller as the Red Sox third baseman for years to come.

2004 Stats: .283, 12 HR, 57 RBI
2005 Stats: .295, 10 HR, 55 RBI

9. Mark Bellhorn

Yeah, he pissed me off a lot. But when it all came down to it, Bellhorn delivered with his biggest home run in his career. Actually, make it two. First, he broke open Game 6 of the ALCS with his homer off Jon Lieber in the fourth inning, then won Game 1 of the World Series with his pole-shot dinger off Julian Tavarez. Not to mention another homer in Game 7 of the ALCS. The walk-and-strikeout machine earned his spot at the Sox starting second baseman with his playoff heroics.

2004 Stats: .264, 17 HR, 82 RBI
2005 Prediction: .266, 17 HR, 73 RBI


Jay Payton- .260, 8 HR, 55 RBI- Payton may get some valuable playing time if Manny decides his hamstring isn’t working well enough to play.
Ramon Vasquez- .235, 1 HR, 13 RBI- Might be the Dave Roberts of 2005 if he can stay healthy.
Kevin Youkilis- .260, 7 HR, 35 RBI- The Greek God of Walks will improve those numbers with more playing time, but essentially is trade bait at the deadline.
Doug Mirabelli- .281, 9 HR, 32 RBI- The best backup catcher in the major leagues. Great clubhouse guy, and very valuable at times.
David McCarty- .258, 4 HR, 17 RBI- Spent most of last season in minors; could be the same case this season.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Delusional Diva

Letter from Pedro Martinez to Theo Epstein, written March 29, 2005 at the Mets spring training complex:

Dear Spoiled Yale Boy,

It’s me, your best friend, Pedro Martinez. Just want to ask how everything’s doing over in Fort Myers. You know, my boys Papi and Manny doing okay? Still providing Schilling with supermodel hookers when he’s unhappy? David Wells’ left arm fallen off yet? Just wanted to check in.

Oh yeah, I’d also like to send a thanks to the media of Boston and your fraudulent front office. Still lying to certain players and cursing at their agents? Sure, you guys paid me a lofty 17.5 million dollars last season, the most a pitcher has earned in the history of baseball, but what does that really buy me? It’s America. You guys treated me like crap every single year I was in Boston. Yeah, so what if Francona kept hiding the fact I left games early, showed up late for spring training and didn’t arrive at the park until, eh, 30 minutes before the first pitch. All the cool kids do it.

And the media, what a bunch of bastards. I wish one of them would step up to the plate against me, I bet I’d nail em in the head. Then, you jackasses have the nerve to put off any contract talks after my generous people give you an entire month to negotiate. What the hell kind of cheap shot is that? Who focuses on baseball in April? Who cares about baseball in April? Instead of trying to lock up the greatest pitcher in your sorry franchises’ history, you focus on winning some meaningless games. Bah.

I haven’t even mentioned the pitching coaches and managers and front office people, everything about your organization sucks. Not inviting Derek Lowe to a team party in his hometown, how do you explain that, Sir Epstein: Goddess Of Beantown. John F. Kennedy can stick a sharpened pitchfork up his pale ass for all I care.

Just think, I was eating coconuts under a palm tree when I was a kid, begging for 50 cents. Now, I’m the star in New York City, making millions and millions of dollars while hiding the fact my shoulder feels like a 7.5 magnitude earthquake whenever I pitch. I’ve got the best teammates in the world, just good, old-fashioned, selfish guys. My type of crowd. I even showed up on time this year.

And that report that I flipped off a fan who yelled “Who’s Your Daddy” in the Mets facility parking lot, well, um, he brought it on to himself! What can you do, Theo.

May The Curse Begin Again,

Pedro (Prima Donna) Martinez

P.S: My new teammates gave that nickname to me. I don’t know what it means, but it sounds really sweet.

P.S.S: The Yankees are Matt Clements daddy.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Honey, You Forgot Your Cape

(Boston Dirt Dogs Photo)

Apparently, the Superman cape was still in the closet. Curt Schilling, referred often as God around Red Sox Nation, struggled, to say the least, in his first spring training start. He left balls up in the zone, let rookies and double A prospects rip him apart. I know it’s spring training, but the man himself even admitted that his outing wasn’t anything to grin about.

That made me start to wonder- maybe Schilling won’t be ready for April 18. The way Curt looked yesterday, and judging from his disappointed tone of voice and sluggish performance, his confidence level for that specific date cannot be high. Would it surprise me if Schilling doesn’t pitch till May? Not at all. Coming off a huge surgery, this ankle could really hold him back and, unfortunately, use the arms of Clement, Wells, Arroyo and Wakefield more earlier in the season than originally planned.

Everyone also has to remember that this guy is nearing 40 years old. He’s staying primarily healthy in his years in big leagues, so it’s not like Curt has a history of nagging and career-threatening injuries. All I’m saying is that Superman may be spending more time eating sunflower seeds in the dugout before the All-Star break than throwing gems under the clear blue Fenway sky.

He was spent. He gave everything possible to capture a World Championship for his teammates, the city of Boston and their loyal fans across the world. He realized his pitching career was in jeopardy during every single pitch of Game 6 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the World Series, but he didn’t care. No matter how many innings Schilling pitches this year, nobody can take that ring away from him.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Press Box Insanity

I recently asked some baseball personalities their take on how the Red Sox will do in 2005. Here’s just a few of their thoughts:

Tim McCarver: Well, the Yankees are always right there. When you have a division this loaded, and let’s say Keith Foulke isn’t extraordinary Foulke, well, happening is may not. Torre and the Yankees will get it done, boys. Bob Gibson, what a player…great guy too.

Jeff Brantley: Time to closely analyze the situation. You’ve got bases loaded, 1-2 count on Renteria, there are close to (throws arm up) I don’t know, 8 to 1 odds he throws a changeup. Do you honestly think he’s going to come through in this situation? (shakes head)

Bill Simmons: So, you had this great team, the Red Sox. Great team and all, but I’m not buying it in 2005. I can’t picture the Sox repeating, bottom line, it doesn’t happen. It’ll be kind of boring. I feel very strongly about this. You couldn’t make this stuff up. By the way, I’m drunk again.

Bob Ryan: October 27, 2004. Lunar eclipse. Keith Foulke steps onto the rubber and gives up a single. There’s a problem right from the beginning. Then, he throws a ball to Edmonds. Never, EVER a good thing. They even find Theo Epstein pacing around in the clubhouse. It’s similar to the Yankees…wanting, waiting, plotting for 2005. The Yanks take it. End of the movie, thanks for coming. He was amazing, with a capital A. Anyone who disagrees is completely and utterly insane.

Mike Lupica: I’m trying straight to the point here. I mean, you look at a team, by September, that’s played in plenty of big games. Too many to count, in fact. They never talk about those long stretches. That’s always eaten at me. In my opinion, there’s no question about it, the Red Sox repeat.

Joe Buck: For Budweiser, brewed fresh and cold every day, IT’S GAME TIME!

Bob Costas: You see, nobody had any clue the Red Sox were that unbelievably great in 2004. Nobody. Amazing. Truly amazing.

Rob Dibble: I’m going to go on a rant now because I’m supposed to be a tough guy and it’s the only way I can keep my job. Last years World Series win: a fluke. Curt Schilling’s bloody ankle: totally fake. The Red Sox not only didn’t deserve to win the World Series last year, their entire franchise should be beaten to death like a Cuban warlord. Just end the insanity.......hey, Dana can you grab me a beer?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fool In The Rain, Pt. II

Okay, so let me get this straight: I’m supposed to feel sorry for Barry Bonds? I’m supposed to feel sorry for an athlete making millions and millions of dollars because the media has mentally drained him? I’m supposed to feel sorry for a guy that feels sadness because he broke the rules and took steroids earlier in his career? We can forgive him for everything because he’s “tired”, right

I can understand he may be worn out from the multiple knee surgeries and the fact he’s 40 years old. But to tell us that he’s being driven away from the game because of media harassment is just absurd. What, is everyone just going to forget about the biggest off-the-field baseball story since the strike just because Barry Bonds is mentally drained after cashing in a $25,000 check at the bank? If you’re injured and that’s the reason you’re tired and don’t have the urge to play anymore, then spare us and walk away from the game before you taint some more records.

And why drag your son into all of this? Are you trying to make the impression that you’re a “family man?” We see your son is wearing a Barry Sanders jersey, is that some sort of hidden signal? You’re the most famous and will end up probably being the most storied baseball player ever to put on a glove, but for some reason you expect the media to just walk away and leave you alone. Not only are you the best baseball player alive, but you’re strapped in the center of a huge steroid controversy. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for you?

Now the Giants have to put up with this mess. Thanks for telling us when exactly you plan on returning. I guess the Giants are just willing to revolve around your schedule all season, with GM Brian Sabean waking up every morning wondering whether Barry Bonds will show up to play today. “I don’t know, I might return in May, June, maybe after the break or I may just sit out the whole season, who knows.” What a douche.

Face it, Barry Bonds used hitting home runs as a protective shield guarding the steroid talks and media questioning. Now that he can’t play anymore, and with the steroid controversy not taking any immediate breaks, he feels bombarded with stress. That’s why he’s making all these indefinite assumptions and deadlines, because he’s not thinking straight. What we’re really seeing is a Barry Bonds with a soft outer shell.

When push comes to shove, I bet we’ll see Barry Bonds breaking Babe Ruth’s record sometime this season. I bet we’ll see him jogging around the bases, chewing on his fingernails in left field and not smiling at the cameras. This is all blown out of proportion. Bonds will be back on the field soon.

And that’s too bad, because I think baseball would be just fine without him.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I've Got A Fever...

When I first heard that the Farrelly brothers were making a movie about the Red Sox, I was overjoyed. You should have seen the grin on my face. I couldn’t wait. I immediately asked when it was coming out, who was playing the leading roles, and what it will be about.

Here are my thoughts on Fever Pitch...

Maybe I shouldn’t have asked those questions. Asking Jimmy Fallon to play the leading role in a movie about the Red Sox marching to the World Series should be illegal. I’m writing Congress about this. This is the same guy who liked the Yankees at one time in his life, admitted he didn’t like sports, and has a bowel movement whenever he sees Horatio Sanz. Seeing Fallon and Barrymore run onto the field, hug, scream and jump around like a horses ass put a damper on the whole experience. Jesus, I bet Jimmy Fallon can’t name the left fielder on the Red Sox. People have waited their entire lives for this moment, and he’s waited all of six months. Throw me a friggin bone here.

Plus, they turned a relatively classic book about soccer into a chick-flick type movie. In the trailer, they spend about half the time showing Barrymore talking to her girlfriends at the gym or in the bathtub. They also show Drew Barrymore ON HER LAPTOP at A RED SOX GAME!!!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Then they have Fallon proposing to her in the park, followed by Fallon opening the case and asking her to opening day with a ticket inside. Can this get any weirder?

Yes, I’ll still see it. A side of me hopes it sucks so everyone involved learns a lesson, the other side hopes it’s solid, just for my entertainment purposes.

Now back to Faith Rewarded

Monday, March 21, 2005

Byung-Hyun Done

(BDD Photo)

Byung Hyun Kim didn’t clock higher than 85 miles per hour in his one inning of work on Sunday, causing every collective Red Sox fan in attendance to dry heave all over the person in front of them. Terry Francona insists that Kim has solid movement on his breaking balls, but face it, he’s not going to succeed coming out a bullpen with a fastball juicier than a Fenway Frank.

"He was at 84 miles an hour," said one major league scout. "I thought my gun was stuck. He might have touched 85. He's just a shadow of the pitcher he was in Arizona. This is a guy who threw in the 90s when he was in Arizona, and his slider had incredible movement. Now, his slider is flat.”

Great news for Red Sox Nation. Everyone remembers when Kim blew multiple saves in the 2001 World Series in Yankee Stadium, and even though the D’Backs won the Series, Kim has never been the save. He shuffled out of Arizona after mightily struggling the next season, then appeared to find a home in Boston before he stunk the joint up. Even Johnny Pesky was displeased.

The scout also said: "He's a very, very marginal pitcher right now. I wouldn't give the Red Sox $500,000 for him, and they want a player back because they're willing to eat the money."

Kim’s contract isn’t exactly slim either. The Red Sox owe him 6 million this year in the last season of his contract (there is a God). Few teams have shown interest in Kim, and the Sox may have no choice but to try him out of the bullpen in early April to replace a roster spot. You can tell I’m extremely excited about this.

As you can see, he hasn’t been the same pitcher since the 2001 World Series. Will he ever go back to being one of the top closers in baseball, or someone even remotely close to that? I’m afraid not.

For some good news, this is coming from Boston Dirt Dogs: Schilling says he "felt good" and was comfortable during his minor league session today. He threw only 18 pitches over the first two innings, 38 pitches total, but was tagged for a couple of doubles and a 2-run home run by Chip Ambres in the third inning. Bill Mueller led off every inning against Curt who had three strike outs and no walks on the day. After his stint today, Curt also confirmed that he is not ready to pitch Opening Night.

(Quotes courtesy of Gordon Edes' article in today's Globe).

Friday, March 18, 2005

Fool In The Rain

Mark McGwire wouldn’t talk about the past, we know that for sure. Rafael Palmeiro openly denied any steroid use, pointing a mean finger to the Reps and expressing clearly his view. Curt Schilling said he will help chair a committee against the use of steroids. Bud Selig and Donald Fehr got absolutely nowhere. Those are just some of the things we learned after yesterday’s steroid hearing in front of Congress.

Jose Canseco, who juiced (get it) up this issue with his best-selling book, claimed that steroids were part of the game, and I don't think anybody really wanted to take a stance on .” He also said that if Congress doesn’t take a stand, this mess will go on forever. Surprisingly, even with that annoying lisp, he made one of the best points of the day.

Meanwhile, Big Mac just kept dodging the questions. Forcing back tears and refusing to talk about the past, which is actually what this entire issue is about, McGwire is being publicly stated as the big loser after the court hearing. He stuttered, sweated, and shook- could it be any more obvious he was juiced up? If he’s clean, then why the hell doesn’t he just say it.

That’s the thing- there’s no way this guy didn’t take steroids. Unlike Rafy Palmeiro, who clearly told Congress he never used steroids, McGwire found himself repeating the same stupid statement over and over again. He’s not here to talk about the past.

Actually, Mr. McGwire, you are here to talk about the past. That’s what we all want to hear about. Are you taking the steroids presently? Of course not. Did you take steroids in the past? Of course. I can see why he wants to look at this positively and talk about improving this issue in the future, but you need to address the past as well.

Representative Mark Souder got his word in, saying that “if the Enron people came in and said, 'I don't want to talk about the past,' " Souder went on, looking McGwire straight in the eyeballs, "you think we'd let them say that?" Sure, he was in an uncomfortable position, but really, say something. Mark McGwire lost big on Thursday.

Now, not only is baseball in trouble, but its heroes are as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Don't Even Ask

Gotta love the Queer eye guys.

"I try to keep my distance from it. I don't want to catch anything. That thing has been passed around more often than Paris Hilton."-- Theo Epstein on the World Series trophy

"I'm pretty sure that me not liking Alex Rodriguez is not a groundbreaking story."-- Curt Schilling responding to the ongoing war of words with A-Rod.

"I thought it was a brilliant play. We almost got away with it. I was stuck in an alley, boys, there was no place to go. And I gave my karate. I only got to yellow belt, but I gave them my karate. And, again, I think Brandon's a great pitcher. I played with him in high school."-- A-Fraud on his infamous Game 6 karate chop on Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo

"Batting first, seventh, eighth or ninth, Tony Womack just wants to play. I don't have an ego problem." -- Tony Womack, the Yankees' new second baseman.

"I think Tim Wakefield would even say tonight that Tim Wakefield got to Tim Wakefield tonight."-- Tim McCarver during Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.

"Relax. We've been playing these guys for 80 years. They're never gonna beat us."-- Yogi Berra to Bernie Williams before the 1999 ALCS

"We're all idiots here. We all have fun. We all hug, kiss, grab, whatever."-- David Ortiz on the 2004 Red Sox

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Zepeleptic Red Sox Fanatic

Since I’m a Led Zeppelin fanatic, and also have a serious life-threatening disease involving obsession of the Boston Red Sox, I’ve decided to tie those two miraculous specimens of life into one article. I’ll tie in a famous Zeppelin song to a specific month in the roller coaster ride of the 2004 Sox. Enjoy…

April: Misty Mountain Hop- A feel good song, almost in a daze at the overflowing early success. This song is about getting high anyway, and I guarantee gloating Red Sox fans were feeling very high after April. You had the sweep in Yankee Stadium, taking care of business in the division, Schilling working his usual magic and Manny hitting near .400.

May: Rock And Roll- The team keeps cruising along, playing with a high tempo, sometimes even too uptight, making plenty of errors in the process. Nomar is still out, but just like this song, it continues at a steady speed right up until the end of the month. Then comes June…

June: Dazed and Confused- Nobody really knew what was going on. Everyone seemed startled and surprised that a team with this lofty payroll could look worse than Homer Simpson’s beer league team out in the field. Nagging injuries to Nomar and Trot slowed us down, and this early hit by Zeppelin perfectly described the state of the Red Sox during the June swoon.

July: How Many More Times- How many more times do Red Sox fans have to take the torture of being second rate to the Yankees? Besides a spark off the bats of Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller in a late-July Yankee series, July has continued to slow the team down. The fans start to wonder if they’ll ever see the Red Sox win a championship…

August: Whole Lotta Love- This famous Zeppelin track just makes you smile, kind of like thinking about the Red Sox in the month of August. They won 13 straight games and 19 of 20 to march up the Wild Card standings and start making believers out of more fans. Everyone was showing the love displayed in this song- with Cabrera joining the team, there were plenty of handshakes to go around.

September- Achilles Last Stand- My favorite Led Zeppelin song. I chose this one because of the Sox last tired effort of catching the Yankees after being down nearly 13 games. They cut it to two with a big win in Yankee Stadium, but never got any closer. The last stand wasn’t enough, and the Sox marched into the playoffs with the Wild Card and tons of momentum.

Wild Card- Going To California- One of the very few songs that I don’t enjoy, but this was an obvious choice as the Sox packed their bags for Anaheim. I sure as hell enjoyed this series, though. After the game is out of reach, Schilling stays out there and ends up tearing a tendon in his right ankle. I remember saying to my dad, “now why the hell would Francona keep him out there up 9-2 in the seventh inning. This is the playoffs, right.” Papi made us all forget about the Schilling injury with a walk-off blast. Bring out the brooms.

ALCS- Stairway To Heaven- A perfect track for a perfect moment. Being down 3-0, throwing my pillow against the wall in disgust, Red Sox Nation on their collective knees, another year gone to waste. Before you know it, Ortiz keeps us alive in a nut-busting Game 4, the game that made Dave Roberts name famous in Boston. Game 5 was another classic, which altered the fans mode from “what a bad season” to “whatever happens, I love this team.” Game 6 had everything, just slowly climbing the stairway to heaven. Schilling’s Willis Reed performance with the bloody sock, A-Rod and his slap, the riot police, Bellhorn busting out of his slump and Foulke pitching the most nervous ninth inning of my lifetime. Game Seven was all money.

World Series- Celebration Day- It all went so fast, didn’t it. Before we gathered our thoughts from the ALCS, the Red Sox had broken the curse and won the World Series. Time to bust out the champagne, party, and most of all, celebrate. That’s it…keep celebrating…no wait, don’t stop.

Season Recap- Thank You- How about giving some congratulatory thanks to everyone involved with the Red Sox. Everyone from Theo down to Mirabelli, from the guys that erected the Ted Williams statue to Joe The Swahili Dude selling programs. Thank you to the guys who made those Red Sox DVD’s. I’ve never had two hours of such dignifying pleasure in my life. Thanks Red Sox, do it again.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Monday Ramblings

-So, Curt Schilling says it’s literally impossible that he pitches on Opening Day. I mentioned a while ago that I thought this was the best idea, and the Sox need Schilling in October more than a rather meaningless game in April. But can’t you just see David Wells throwing warmup pitches right before the game is about to begin, Schilling running out of the bullpen to Wells, grabbing the ball and saying “It’s my game, kid.” Wouldn’t that be a perfect scenario. Forget about Wells throwing against the Yankees, and how they’re still in his heart…blah blah. I want to see Schill sprinting out of the bullpen, getting showered with hot dog wrappers and Yogi Berra bobbleheads, and throwing a perfect game. When should I wake up?

- No, I’m not going to spring training. While I have to endure the constant weather advisory warning, snowstorms and harsh winter winds, some idiot down in Fort Myers who doesn’t know Johnny Damon’s number is probably having the time of his life. Life sucks.

- For good measure: My final four is Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Syracuse. BC better watch out for those Quakers!

- News last week that Wade Miller won’t pitch till May, another smart precautionary move by Francona and his trainers. I can see newcomers Clement and Miller exploding this season, especially with the Red Sox loaded offense and a better environment. They just needed new starts, period. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Miller: 15-5, 3.21 ERA
Clement: 18-9, 2.98 ERA
Yeah, I’m biased, but I adore these two young gunners.

- Side notes from Chris Snow’s article in the Boston Globe: Schilling threw a 60-pitch side session yesterday morning at City of Palms Park, Francona said. The manager made little of that session, calling it a "tuneup" for Wednesday, when Schilling is scheduled to throw a three-inning simulated game with hitters. "Wednesday is a big day for him, effortwise," Francona said .

- Kevin Millar, sent home Saturday with the flu, started at first . . . The 4-2 loss before 7,561 at Hammond Stadium was the Sox' fourth straight. They loaded the bases in the eighth before George Lombard struck out and Mirabelli popped up . . . The Sox have played eight of their first 10 games in Fort Myers -- either at City of Palms Park or at the Twins' Hammond Stadium. They visit Ft. Lauderdale (Orioles) today and Tampa (Devil Rays) tomorrow.

- Curt Schilling also said this week that he’s willing to testify in front of court on the steroid issue, which I think it a professional way to look at it. Instead of backing away and not getting involved in the issue, he understands the importance of the problem. It just worries me that he’ll miss a day of spring training, especially because we need him back so quickly. He is confused why he was chosen though. He also joked saying he needed a lawyer so he “doesn’t do something stupid.“ When God talks, people listen.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Payton's Place

Jay Payton appears to have it pretty easy as a backup in Boston, but it’ll take some getting used to. From a premiere rookie starter on a World Series Mets squad, to flourishing success in Colorado, then falling apart in San Diego, Payton will have to accept the fact he’s a backup on a World Championship club. Francona believes Payton will play a bigger role in 2005:

"I probably wouldn't call him a backup," agrees Terry Francona. "Jay is basically taking the place of both [Gabe] Kapler and [Dave] Roberts. He's going to play some right with Trot [Nixon]. He's going to back up Johnny [Damon]. He'll play some left. He's going to get his at-bats. He's come to a good team. But if Jay does his job, he's going to make us a better team.”

He’s excited about the fact he can make his home in the great baseball city of Boston, play under the Fenway lights, and get out of the pitcher friendly San Diego park. With Roberts earning a starting role with another team, and Kapler busting for Japan, Sox GM Theo Epstein knew Payton was a quality outfielder with starting experience. He brings excellent speed, home run power and most of all, is trying to regain those power numbers from the Rockies days.

"He's a smart guy," says Francona. "I think he understands what he's here for. It's our job to make him understand."

Payton will play a variety of roles for the Red Sox, most likely playing all three outfield positions, pinch running and contributing as a late inning defensive substitution for Manny, much like Roberts and Kapler did last season. He knows and understands the pressure of playing for the Red Sox and having to constantly contend, something he hasn’t felt since being with the Mets in 2000. He might look like a rookie early, but give this guy some time.

"When the Padres GM called me to say I'd been traded, I figured that, well, I was going to a great team,” Payton says. He also realizes what a difference Fenway Park can make.

"I've only played in Fenway twice," he says, "but I'm looking forward to playing there after spending the season in Petco last year."

Going from a pitchers park to a hitters park will only help Payton on his new unfamiliar journey as a backup.

(Quotes courtesy of Bob Ryan’s Globe article 3/10)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Oh, How I Miss The Day

The Yankees and Red Sox meet on the grass for the first time since the ALCS last night. A rivalry renewed in a less generous fashion than the final four games of the ALCS, but it was great to see the Pinstripes and Sawx back on the diamond again. Part III of the flaming rivalry began last night, and man did I miss everything about it…

I miss the past balls, high heaters and head-skimming brushbacks. I miss the roaring crowds representing the two best teams in baseball at the two best stadiums in baseball. I miss the prominent gray and the bold New York of the Yankee uniforms as they prance onto the slick Fenway grounds for another contest, and the bright white and red, clean as a whistle, Red Sox unis ready for battle. I miss the sounds, sights, announcers…yes that means you Joe and Tim. I miss the classics, the miracles, the rubber matches and the hype.

I miss A-Rod getting a taste of his own medicine, delivered to the mouth by the Captain. I miss the same villain deciding it was better to cheat, and providing a hilarious slap of his own. I miss the Jeter pumps, the Manny trot, David Ortiz crouching once again…ready to pounce on a Gordon 2-0 fastball. I miss flipping off Billy Crystal and That Raging Idiot Down The First Base Line (name anonymous), and grinning at Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

I miss looking at Fenway and Yankee Stadium, and knowing I’m part of the rivalry. The sleepless nights, bad times, good times, the times I wish Gary Sheffield was hanging himself on my front light. I always wondered how he could pull a 95-mph fastball that’s miles outside of the strike zone…

I miss the rivalry. I miss the Yankees and the Red Sox playing for real. We’re almost there.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Is This Heaven?

I ran across Field of Dreams on AMC the other day, and just realized how great a movie it actually was. As I always say, there are two people in the world: people that like Field of Dreams and people that don’t have a soul. This got me pumped up for spring training. The Red Sox swept a split-squad doubleheader yesterday, no-hitting Northeastern and beating Boston College easily. They also took out the Twins 4-3 on Friday Night. Just to remind everyone of the long-lasting effect Field of Dreams will have on baseball forever, here are some dynamic quotes relating to spring training…

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America is ruled by it like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

And with baseball comes spring training, another constant through the years. From the Red Sox beginning their journey to repeat in 1904, meeting in the cold, crisp valleys of a North Carolina background town, until now in 2005, where the defending champs meet in Fort Myers to begin another long season. Baseball, guys, baseball.

“There is something out there, Ray, and if I have the courage to go through with this, what a story it will make.”

The Sox have something out there, all they need to do is grasp it. They have the chance to make a story nobody will ever forget. A team breaking an 86-year old curse, then going back to back??? That’s quite an accomplishment and a story everyone in Red Sox Nation wouldn’t mind sharing.

“Go the distance!”


“Son, if I'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, then that would have been a tragedy.”

If I’d never been able to listen, attend or enjoy one inning of baseball, now that would have been a tragedy. If I’d never been able to listen to one monotone of the Rem Dawg and Orsillo call another game at the Pahk for NESN, now that would have been a tragedy.

If I’d never been able to see the movie Field of Dreams, now that would have been a tragedy.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Idiots, Meet The Pres

The Red Sox are kickin it at the White House with President Bush today. Can you imagine Manny trying to get past the secret service guys with the dreadlocks? Or Millar attempting to sneak in Jack Daniels? (bring back some good old memories for Bush) Ortiz playfully hugging Dick Cheney or Johnny Damon in a suit? I can't see it. But hey, Damon backs him, Schill backs him and so does Timlin. Sure to be a fun day in the White House.

Oh by the way, 'Toine is baaaack.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

It's Miller Time!

(BDD Photo)

GREAT news coming out of Red Sox camp. Even though Wade Miller is scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time in six months today, he is aiming to begin the season as a member of the Red Sox rotation. After throwing long toss with Curt Schilling, Miller predicted that he should be ready for the start of the season.

Now, I’m ecstatic about this. I’m overjoyed. To the point of tears. We’re all forgetting that a healthy Wade Miller was the Astros ace just two short years ago. After ending his season in August to get treatment on his shoulder, followed by surgery, Miller is confident he’s healthy enough to be a mainstay in the Sox rotation.

It's going to feel good,'' Miller said, "Hopefully, I can get some control and get some feel of throwing downhill again.''

If you’ve never seen this guy pitch, well, you’re going to be overly surprised. The Red Sox were obviously aware when Theo swooped in and signed Miller to a one year contract, before he even negotiated with any other team. Wade has the same trainer as Pedro Martinez, who guided Pedro through surgery in 2001.

“I have full confidence in his program, and everything has worked so far,'' he said. “As long as I'm feeling good, I'm going to continue to progress.''

As the case is with Schilling, please don’t rush. But seeing this Cy Young sleeper on the mound in April would sure be nice…