Friday, September 30, 2005

One Step Closer

Precise and timely moves from the manager. Clutch hitting from Mr. Clutch and Manny not being Manny in left field. Varitek hitting his first home run in almost a century. Timlin and Myers shutting the door late in the game. Just the ingredients for a big time victory in the first game of the biggest regular season series known to man. And of course, there’s Boomah, who did enough to win number 15.

The Red Sox really deserved this win. They pulled it out in front of the raucous home crowd in practically a playoff game, riding on emotion and the intensity that this rivalry brings every single time the players step on the field. The Yanks and Sox make up the single greatest rivalry in the history of sports, and it may be at an all-time high right now. Well maybe the Tek-Slappy fight or last years ALCS, but tonight seemed really special down in the Fens. And you know what makes it even better? A big fat W.

With the Yankees leading 1-0, they had their big opportunity to pounce on David Wells. Posada struck out in a desperation at-bat with the bases loaded, Sierra flied out, and the rest was pretty much butter for Wells. As for the Sox offense, it was MVPapi starting it off in the first with an RBI single, and accepting a key to the city as he rounded first base. The guy is already a legend. And yes, I’m saying this more over the course of his career than just a first inning single. It’s late.

Then Cap’n Tek launches a pitch to deep center, and Wang implodes to make the score 5-1 Sox. A bit of a scare following a two run shot from Jeter, but genius bullpen management by Francona put the nail in the coffin and Timlin ended a major Sox victory. Put this one in the books as the biggest win of the season. Folks, the AL East is tied between the Red Sox and Yankees with two games to play. Cleveland also loses to Chicago in 13 innings.

This is what baseball’s all about. Sickly entertaining pennant races like this. This is why the last week in baseball and the playoffs can be matched by no other sport. Watching Tim Wakefield pitch against RandyJohnson tomorrow with the season on the line will be a sight I’ll never forget.

And please Timmy, let that knuckler dance.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Season Saver

Seriously, where do I begin?

Those are the types of wins that make your season. In this case, it saved our season, gave us the burst of momentum we need for this Yankees series and potentially clinches the MVP for Ortiz. I don’t care if the Sox don’t make the playoffs, A-Rod hits all of his home runs up by 8 runs and Ortiz constantly delivers in the clutch like no hitter I’ve ever witnessed. The guy is simply phenomenal, and I haven’t thought that strongly about a single player since Pedro in his glory days. Right now, I feel so completely energized I could pull a Tom Cruise and start jumping on my couch. This is playoff baseball.

You could see the Sox inching closer to exploding. They were taking little baby steps, gradually building momentum and getting ready to pounce like Papi on a 2-0 fastball. The stage was set for a season-making win. On a night where the bullpen finally came through, and David Ortiz has a chance to win the game in the ninth, the stars were finally aligned. Our soldiers are still alive.

There were numerous times the Sox could have folded and ended their season tonight. How many times did they smoke line drive shots to the outfield that were caught? The Jays defense was unbelievable. Edgar smoked one that should’ve hit the Monster but was robbed by Gross (great last name, for real), then another picked by Hinske. Tek continues to get screwed over by web gems, and Trot hammered the ball to left that was caught by Wells. If Vernon Wells isn’t in the MVP discussion by July next season, I’ll be stunned.

But they didn’t turn their backs, didn’t hang their heads, but instead showed their real faith. Down 4-1 with Clement reeling, Manny provided the energy shake with the two run job, simply a piece of artwork watching that swing. The place was rockin and rollin with every single Papi at-bat. The MVP chants blaring loudly, the crowd on its feet, hoping, praying for more magic.

And with one swing of the bat- tie ball game. Believing is the key to success.

Actually, you could have a valid case for Jon Papelbon being the MVP of this game. The guy looked like a 13-year veteran on the mound. He was completely composed, throwing gas by hitter after hitter, keeping the Sox in the game- hell, if a nuclear bomb drops on Landsdowne, the guy wouldn’t be rattled. Just seeing him on the mound gets me giddy. He is the Kid. As I was watching the game, I wrote on my hand in pen PAPELBON for this article. I wanted to mention him even if the Sox lost. True story.

If they lose that game, the season is practically over. One win for the Yankees and they’re pouring champagne right on the Fenway diamond, with A-Rod and Jeter connecting purple lips and Bernie drowning in the bubbly. Now, both teams have momentum in what surely will be the biggest regular season series of our lifetimes. And, wouldn’t you know it, I’ll miss Friday nights game. Life sucks.

I’m still shaking as I type this sentence. Boomah stuffs it in the Yankees faces tomorrow night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Not Getting It Done

It’s discouraging to let such a perfect opportunity slip away. An opportunity so large that this may be the game looked back on, causing Sox fans to shake their heads in disgust and wonder how 2005 got away. Last night, if the Red Sox just hold on to leads of 3-0 and 5-2, they’re sitting pretty in first place in the East with a one game lead. And I contemplate we all know how colossal one game is in the standings with only five to play. While the Yankees were being pounded and the Indians surprised, the Red Sox simply could not execute an easy game plan- win.

You can blame the loss on many things. The bullpen might be the correct way to go. Chad Harville and Craig Hansen pitching in their situations can come into question. Chad Bradford being used to face four batters, while Myers only faced one in an already thin bullpen. Where is Delcarmen, or does Tito know he is completely ineffective? Is Papelbon already way over his season limit? All of these questions are answered in the game thread from yesterday, so go ahead and check it out. I’m just here to point out the obvious in saying that this Red Sox bullpen will be the one and only factor that will A) keep the Sox out of the playoffs or B) knock them out of the playoffs early. Maybe Theo is to blame.

In the first game of the doubleheader, Mr. Red Sock Tim Wakefield proved once again that he is the most reliable pitcher on our staff. He is surely the ace, a knuckleballer that we have seen hammered and failed at during his long stint with Boston. Wakefield has been nothing short of a saint for the Sox since the All-Star Break. Actually, we’d probably be two or three games back without him. But having a knuckleballer as the ace of a staff heading into the playoffs doesn’t make me jump up and down. Unless it’s Hoyt Wilhelm.

Most likely, the Sox and Yanks will be tied heading into the weekend series. This is how the great one above intended it to be, to quote Johnny Damon. Do I think we can go up a game before that monster series? No, I don’t. That’s the best we’re going to see out of the Orioles for the rest of the season, and the Sox failed to capitalize on a great situation and may pay the price. Missing a golden opportunity like that is almost more frustrating than losing by a blowout and the Yankees winning, if that’s possible.

Then there’s the wild card. Any way the Sox can reach the playoffs is dandy to me, but the Wild Card is like kissing your sister in this case. This is the biggest chance the Sox have of ending this dynasty of Yankee domination in the East for over a decade, so it would pretty much put icing on the cake. Complete the comeback and overtake those devils last year, and now win the division the following season. Let’s make this happen, boys.

As for Curt Schilling…well, he was on the hill battling for too long. You could see the passion and fierceness in his eyes when he pitched, but the Cy Young caliber stuff just isn’t there this season. He sacrificed his body for the ultimate goal last year, and now we’re paying the dues. That little voice inside of me still says he’ll be the Schilling of old and dominate if we reach the playoffs, but it’s uncertain. Right now, he looks like a number 3 starter.

The biggest week of our lives continues tonight. Let’s go Cornroyo.

Monday, September 26, 2005

One Huge Week

This is the week. The week of judgement and decision. The week where the warriors step up to the plate and the losers take a seat on the bench. The week where the playoff seedings are decided. This is the biggest week of the regular season. The biggest week of our lives as diehard Red Sox fans, or at least we should view it that way.

So put down the books and the papers. Put down the electric bills and unplug the phones. Just sit back, relax and watch some Red Sox baseball. This is the season riding on a single week, a special week culminating in a three game series at the Pahk against the Yankees, who just happen to be tied with the Sox for first place. Could this get any better? Would a possible one game playoff just completely end the world altogether?

So fire up the grill, thrown on some dogs and grab a cold one, because this is quite frankly, as good as it gets. The home field is a great advantage to have, because playing at Fenway Park is like discovering a gold mine. We BASH up in our hizzouse. The Yanks then come into town so we can put them out of their misery and send them home packing. October, please welcome the defending World Champs.

Oh yeah, and it’s official, there really is a Fenway Park South. I couldn’t believe the amount of Red Sox fans at Camden Yards this weekend. It’s got to be downright embarrassing for the Orioles management and players to see David Wells leave to a standing ovation. Every single camera angle NESN presented had at least one Red Sox hat, jersey, or Johnny Damon beard. Really astounding.

One more thing: How bout those Pats! Is Tom Brady unbelievable or what?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Putting It Away Early

Two outs? Not a problem. Show those pitchers not to ignore Manny Ramirez. Maybe they’ll pay some attention to John Olerud and Billy Mueller. A little love for Jason Varitek? How about some R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for head dirt dog Trot? Nah, just don’t pitch to Ortiz and you can beat this team. Damon can’t hit it out with two sore shoulders, not a chance.

This is the best lineup in baseball from top to bottom. Sure it can prove to have some off nights, you know, month long slumps and late night book tours, forgivable stuff like that. But when these guys get on track, preferably facing a rookie, the ball is flying around the park. John Maine looked puzzled and completely stunned after the first inning, like the Derek Lowe Face had just taken over. Two quick outs and our bottom guys explode for five early runs, putting the game away with big Boomah on the hill.

Did the Yanks win? Unfortunately, yes, but it was tough. For a while. Sheffield hit a game-ending bomb in the seventh, but Toronto did lead that game 3-1. The Indians did lose to the RoyAAAls, meaning the Sox/Yanks are only a half game back in the wild card. It’s a nice second option knowing that if someway somehow the Yankees win this division, the Sox can still make the playoffs. Good feeling.

Short post tonight, I got a ton of work to do. Spent the last eight hours flipping channels between football and baseball, it really drains on you for a while. Tough day at the office. But really, can’t wait till tomorrow with Schilling taking the hill as we return to Fenway on our route to the playoffs.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Six Game Season

Seven things I’d like to point out from the game tonight:

1. Damon really looks hurt. He’s not running the same, hitting the same, fielding the same…he just doesn’t look the same. If Damon is playing at 50% and we have no reliable backup outfielder, this could be a brewing problem if we make it to the playoffs. But no worries, Damon will tough it out. I hope.

2. Renteria finally delivering in the clutch, courtesy of a two run single in the ninth inning off B.J. Ryan. A guy that’s pretty much been a bust all season and hasn’t done squat for us when we really need it, I really felt happy for Edgah. You can tell all year he’s been drowning in the Boston expectations and pressure of hitting inconsistently and sometimes making us fans ponder suicide by his play at shortstop. Biggest hit of the season? Definitely.

3. The pitching of Clement tonight was a pretty surreal situation, triggering the first time in baseball history a manager calls for bullpen action during a no-hitter. That’s right, Clement was working on a six walk, no hitter and Bradford was getting warm out in center. All night, Clementine worked out of huge jams, walking the bases loaded twice. He ended up loading the bases in another inning and leaving unharmed. But he ended up with the no-decision.

4. Craig Hansen proving he was human. The pitch was actually adequate. It was a high fastball at 96, and if the guy parks it, just tip your hat to him. Before that, Hansen struck out Matos easily and I wondered if this flamethrower would ever give up a hit in his career. Regardless of giving up the blast, he’s still got awesome stuff. It was also cool seeing Varitek give him a nice lesson on Renaissance humanists in the dugout, including a brief summary of Roman Catholicism and Martin Luther. But really, Tek knows best.

5. Timlin with another shaky ninth inning. It makes me wonder how in the world we’re relying
on Timlin for this last week and possibly the playoffs. Every single inning is chaos- runners on base, silly two out walks, three run leads evaporating into thin air- it’s like walking across a straw bridge over the Mississippi with this guy. Perfect setup man. Weak closer.

6. The Orioles have gone from one of the most feared and potent lineups in baseball in April to complete obscurity in September. This team had Roberts, Mora, Tejada, Palmeiro*, Sosa*, Gibbons and Lopez and now have guys named Freire, Castro and Newhan starting on a daily basis. And as an Oriole hater, I’m loving every second of it. I hated when those guys would come into Fenway and kick our asses last year and in 2003, it was just bothering seeing Tejada commit his life to beating the Red Sox. Am I going insane?

7. The Yankees lose, and hell, it’s about freakin time. Batista coming into the game and blowing away Sheff, Giambi and Matsui, then getting Posada looking to end it was downright spectacular.

Big Boomah tomorrow for the last road game of the season. I’ll be getting my broom at about 4:30 ET.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Kevin Millar Rant, Part II

This post can also be seen on Firebrand of the AL:

Evan recently wrote a great article on the drop in production from Edgar Renteria, an idea I decided to steal and use on Kevin Millar. Always the outgoing, friendly and laughable mainstay of this Cowboy Up era, Millar’s performance on the field hasn’t been very questioned in previous years. He’s the everyday first baseman, getting on base with huge walks like Game 4 of the ALCS and getting the job done with his power off and sometimes over the Green Monster. He seemed like the guy who would blast country music and start playing the air guitar after a loss, just to loosen the fellas up a bit. Boston liked him, and he liked Boston.

This year is a different story. Millar has been platooning his position with veteran John Olerud, a guy whose liked in Boston for hitting over .300 and providing stints of home run capabilities and constant professionalism on and off the field. He can flash the leather much better than Millar too, who’s always been considered one of the poorest defensive first baseman in the game. But it was Millar, the karma captain of 2003 and the premiere idiot of 2004, who is still portrayed as the Red Sox first baseman. Sorry Roberto Petagine fans.

Sometimes Millar’s humor and foolishness gets him into trouble. Millar admitted last winter that the team took shots of Jack Daniels before Game 6 and 7 of the 2004 ALCS to “loosen up the spirits.” Theo and crew didn’t find this stunt so amusing, and basically told Millar to keep his trap shut. Then, there was the denied rumor earlier this season that Millar, frustrated from the signing of Olerud, demanded a trade. I never really believed this, but he was mentioned in trade talks with Minnesota and other clubs near the deadline. You could see the stars beginning to align for Millar’s exit from Boston.

The antics from Millar would have been more accepted by the front office and fans if he was producing on the field. His statistics show a pretty solid decline from 2003 to 2004 and this year, where most of his important numbers have gone downhill.

At Bats: 544 in ’03, 508 in ’04, 437 in ‘05
Batting Average: .276 in ’03, .297 in ’04, .275 in ’05
Home Runs: 25 in ’03, 18 in ’04, 9 in ’05
Runs Batted In: 96 in ’03, 74 in ’04, 50 in ’05
Runs: 83, 74, 57
Hits: 150, 151, 120
OBP: .348, .383, .354
SLG: .472, .474, .403

I know about the limited at-bats this year, but those numbers are too much of a steady decline to even consider re-signing him this offseason. Assuming he gets around 28 at-bats for the last 10 games, that would leave him with 465, only 43 less than 2004, where he hit nine more home runs and drove in 24 more runs. He also scored more runs, got on base with more frequency and hit with more power. Plus, the only reason Millar isn’t getting 500 at-bats this season is because of his unimpressive start in the first two and a half months. Overall, he’s been a major disappointment to this team.

Millar’s rankings vs. other first baseman in MLB: 29th in rbi, 37th in hr, 16th in hits, 19th in runs, 13th in avg, 12th in obp, 18th in slg, 16th in ops. That’s plain awful. We’ve got a starting first baseman with no glove whatsoever, a guy who’s hit one home run on the road this season and ranks 37th in that category, and who is making 3.5 million this season and will want more next year. I don’t see any reasonable explanation for why this guy will be in a Red Sox uniform next season. Except one thing…

There’s that swagger. The way he relates to the fans and always seems to be in a good mood during happy and sad times. The way he stirs that team chemistry so perfectly. When you need a laugh, Kevin Millar is always there. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Millar. The only problem is that offensive and defensive performance on the baseball field overshadows clubhouse cheerfulness and the fun factor. Seriously, it’s going to be sad to see him go.

But there’s another catch. The free agent list for first baseman this offseason is so completely barren that if Millar asks for a reasonable sum of money, he may just get it. The best players available are J.T. Snow, who has unfavorable numbers this season, and former Sox player Scott Hatteberg, who is a Beane favorite and will most likely stay in Oakland. John Olerud is a free agent, so he’s most likely either going to retire or join another team. It may be up to Theo to make a deal.

I really like the comparison that Andrew gave with the old powerhouse Cleveland Indians to this version of the Red Sox. Those teams are strikingly similar in many ways. A team with a 120 million dollar payroll should never have to “rebuild” like the Indians did for three years, but a youth movement is definitely on the way. I still believe Johnny Damon is on the rise, and if we can sign him, bring up Hanley, Craig, Pedroia and keep the core of that 2004 team together for next year, this team could be rebuilding and winning at the same time. If that’s possible.

The first move? Get rid of Millar. Trot and Timlin may be packing their bags in the near future. Sign Damon and Mueller, keep Ortiz for as long as possible, of course Varitek and the youth movement, and if the right deal is on the table, trade Manny Ramirez. We can dump his contract and continue adding and developing young players when guys like Schill and Wells retire. Maybe grabbing an All-Star caliber first baseman will be on the horizon. By trading Manny and some of those veterans, you’re pretty much asking for 85 wins and a chance at not making the playoffs for a couple of years.

That may just be the case.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The View From Second Place

Go ahead and hit the panic button. The cord finally came loose on this first place deal, and the previously written-off injury plagued and struggling Yankees are all of a sudden invincible, and more importantly, in first place. Our boys let the lead slowly slip away, and tonight was the last straw on a run that lasted since early July. And I gotta admit, first place was fun while it lasted. Looking down to see the Yankees floundering around three or four games back, grinning at the thought of finally winning a division title for the first time in a decade. Now we’re playing catch up, a situation that never really crossed my mind during that run.

The game started off as planned, with a sac fly and a couple RBI singles, one coming from Mr. Rent-A-Bust. After a Manny homer, the Sox led 4-2 in the seventh inning when Tim Wakefield brought me to a better place. An inning where Wake struck out two batters on magnificent knuckleballs in huge situations, where I formally proclaimed him the MVP Runner Up behind Ortiz for this team. The eighth appeared as if the brick wall would finally come crashing down, but Wake managed a 3-0 double play from rising star Carl Crawford. Cantu singled to make it 4-3, and all of a sudden I was pacing around the room, searching for the boiling pot of water to slowly pour down my throat when Timlin came in.

Timlin came in. And what ensued was more of a depressing act than a pitcher getting clobbered. A friend of mine pointed out that the D’Rays were just waiting, plotting, hoping to stay in the game so a fastball pitcher can serve them up some meat. It was obvious they were struggling to hit Wakefield, and I think in that situation, you have to leave Wake in the game. It’s his ballgame to win or lose, and hell, he’s the best friggin pitcher we’ve got. His pitch count wasn’t a factor, either.

(Also, letting Hyzdu bat in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded was wrong. Lefty Trevor Miller was pitching, so you bring up the switch hitting Varitek, with Shoppach the emergency catcher on the bench. You might be thinking, why would you waste him for that one at-bat? It turned out to be huge runners stranded on base, and I believe a brain lapse from Francona. Hit the vet Tek over the rookie Hyzdu in that situation, please.)

Timlin then almost gave up the cycle in the inning, causing me to pull a Kevin Brown and punch the wall as hard as my fist could possibly thrust forward. Gomes doubled, someone tripled, someone singled, it was all really a blur to me. I was flipping back and forth between our game and the Yankees game, where Rivera got into some trouble but found a way to win like always. The Orioles couldn’t score a run if it came up and slapped them. In case you’ve been living under a rock, this sucks.

Keep this in mind: we’re only a half game back. Actually, the pressure is less trying to hold a division lead than chasing the big bad Yanks and being the underdog like last year. If the Yanks lose tomorrow, then it’s all tied up again. Let’s not lose faith and give up on this team quite yet. I know the starting pitching and bullpen are in complete shambles, our offense is inconsistent at times and the manager screwed up tonight, but we’ve still got season left. This is where the real fans step up, believe, keep the faith, and hope and pray this team starts to find a way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Offensive Explosion

On the menu tonight for the Red Sox: first, a nice appetizer courtesy of David Ortiz defying human life with another monster shot, followed immediately by a side salad of Manny Ramirez back-to-back, the main course featuring more long balls and, to top it off, a dessert filled with a four hit night for the Cap’N and Dr. Dirt Dog. Definitely the right ingredients for a blowout win in the Trop. Nothing like taking a piece of the Devil Rays and smearing it all over their faces, wiping those slick grins off the rookies faces and showing them who’s still boss in the division. The offense wakes up from their brief nap at an opportune time. Final Score: 15-2.

Ortiz: 4-5, 2 HR, 4 runs, 4 RBI
Ramirez: 4-4, 2 HR, 4 runs, 3 RBI
Varitek: 4-5, 2 RBI
Nixon: 4-6, 4 runs, 3 RBI

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Any more great news, you might ask? Curt Schilling, who showed us that with a little run support, anything is possible. Even (gasp) a win. Exactly what we could have asked from Schilling tonight. Seven solid innings, seven strikeouts, making Devil Rays hitters look impatient and silly late in the game once he settled in. You can’t prove much from a blowout like that, but at least Schill kept that lineup in tact for the first couple innings while our offense brought out the whips.

More on David Ortiz now, who is quickly making me think twice about the vow I took earlier in life that a DH should never win MVP. I’m not much for interleague or the DH, but if the Sox somehow scrape out this division in the last weekend, Ortiz has to be the obvious choice. I don’t care anymore if he can’t field if his life depended on it, or that he steals a base once in a green moon. The guy got the Sox jump-started tonight like he’s done so often, blasted another in the third, and just to make things exciting, brought his average over .300.

If you look at Ortiz’s statistics, this MVP year has been slowly building up for a while now. In 2000, Ortiz hit ten home runs, followed by 18, 20, then 31 with the Sox in 2003, 41 last year and now 46 dingers, a career high, and moving towards Jimmie Foxx for that single season Sox record. Primarily a bust with Minnesota, Theo took a chance to an injury prone guy that was good in the clubhouse, but never delivered on the field. As it appears now, Theo made the best free agent signing in recent memory. From his 2003 breakout year, to the 2004 heroics and the ring, now in 2005 with his MVP numbers, his career can be defined as “climbing the ladder”. At the very least.

(By the way, did anyone see the Devil Rays try to copy the Red Sox hugs after Cantu hit his home run in the first inning? Cantu approached Hall on the bench, they stared at each other for a second, then actually hugged for way too long to be comfortable, then gave another awkward stare and hit each other in the chin. The NESN cameras went back and Cantu was doing some fake seizure type handshake with another player. I like the effort guys, but I haven’t laughed harder since I found out there was a pitcher named J.J. Putz.)

Varitek’s brief hibernation is over. Trot’s frustration is over. Manny made Seth McClung look like Blaine Neal with two big time home runs. It was a complete total effort from everyone on the team tonight, and it feels really good to get back in a winning groove again. Let’s just hope we didn’t spend all the runs tonight, and have some ammo to beat these guys again. And one more thing. May the Yankees lose sometime in the near future.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Yeah, I Can See Over That Helmet

This article can also be seen on Firebrand of the AL:

It’s never fun losing to Tampa Bay. It’s never fun seeing that jolly little smirk after a Rays win from our dear friend Lou Pinella. It’s never fun losing by one run in a pennant race, especially when our bitter rival and chaser in the division wins on a Bubba Crosby walk off home run. Sad day for the Sox.

The game started off on the right foot, with Damon doubling, Renteria moving him over and Papi adding another ribbie to his already bloated statistics. Edgah hit a sac fly in the second, but Wells was playing with fire over the first two innings and couldn’t make it out of a third inning where the Rays plated four runs and that cheese sign was obviously distracting Wells in the background. When he returned to the clubhouse, Boomer happily helped himself to a slice and played guitar with his Babe Ruth statue.

It was the same guys that always kill the Red Sox. The biggest blow came from Jorge Cantu, who always finds a way to spoil our hopes of a comeback. But the bigger question is: how can he see the pitch with his helmet so friggin low?

I gotta throw out a little love to my boy Alex Cora for a two-RBI triple earlier in the game, and Ortiz with a two-RBI double later. And if you really want a silver lining, how bout that young gunner Craig Hansen? Throwing 97 mph heaters. Absolutely making Hall and Lugo look like little leaguers with those moving fastballs and breaking sliders. Even though Papelbon gave up the bomb to Cantu, there’s something that tells me these guys make out a bright pitching future for the Sox.

The bullpen was really worn out as the game got to the latter innings, so Tito had to leave Chad Bradford in too long in the eighth. He gave up the big run that mattered, then almost surrendered another one if not for the smarts of Cap’n Tek (who can’t hit for…yeah, you know), tagging out Gomes after he missed the plate. MVP David Ortiz blasted a shot off Baez in the ninth, but Manny struck out on a nasty breaking ball, and the fat lady was singing away. It’s getting normal now for Papi to come through with a big hit and Manny to subsequently choke. It’s gotten to the point where you expect Manny to screw up.

Well, the lead is down to a slim half game, with another divisional collapse possibly shaping out right in front of our tearful eyes. There’s always tomorrow. Time for Curtis to step up.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Curse Of Scott Hatteberg

Also seen on Firebrand of the AL:

I did my best to ignore the hideous red jerseys the Red Sox sported today, but it was impossible to ignore the performance on the field. Right out of the gate it was a massacre waiting to happen, with Clement lasting just over an inning, giving up seven earned on eight hits and zero strikeouts. Even when he got some rare outs, they were lined shots or tough plays. With every start, I’m doubting Clement more and more. Not just his stuff as a pitcher, but his endurance and mental toughness. He was always a little shaky on the Cubs, and we’re starting to notice as his ERA continues to climb at an errant pace.

Any silver lining? Well, Machado got his first hit and Billy Mueller homered for the first time this month. Foulke pitched two innings and didn’t give up a run. No, you’re not going crazy, he actually didn’t give up a run, and its so awkward seeing Foulke out there down eleven runs. But overall it was a complete and total breakdown, even Jeremi Gonzalez chipped in with a poor effort. Tito pretty much surrendered when he removed Damon, Manny and Papi, while the A’s picked up a huge win.

Then I flipped over to YES and the sickening voice of Michael Kay (whaaaaaaat a PHENOMENAL play by Derrek Jeter, ohhhhhhhhh MY he is the savior, just a TREMENDOUS play). He doesn’t even try to be objective anymore, just complains when the Yanks don’t get a call and drools over the players. Makes me want to throw up, really. As for the game, where I was rooting for a Blue Jay team I strongly dislike, the Jays pulled out a tough win 5-4. The Yanks made it interesting in the last inning with a Rowing The Cano double that scored Matt Lawton, but Jeter went down looking and the lead remains 1.5. You should have heard Kay after the ump called Jeter out looking on an obvious strike…

The Tribe also killed the RoyAAAls 12-0, so the Yanks lost a game in that category, making this sad day not completely and utterly terrible (no, I’m not Bob Ryan). Hopefully, the bats and pitching will straighten themselves out for our 145th series vs. Tampa this season. Trot needs to heat up. Tek needs to heat up. Edgah needs to heat up. In order to keep this slim lead over the Yankees, these games against Tampa are crucial. I love this time of year, when every game is a must win and every loss means flipping over the coffee table and pouring boiling water down your throat. Good times.

Maybe this quote from Kevin Millar will brighten up the day:

"I think this is a team that thrives on adversity,' says Millar on his Red Sox, 'I talked to one of our former teammates who's now on the Yankees, and he couldn't believe how different it is, how everyone goes his own way as soon as the game is over. I know this team is crazy and all that, but we're all in the clubhouse at 2:30 every day, getting on one another, and we hang out long after the game is over. You hear stuff about teams that have each other's backs, but it's real here."

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Ken Macha Blown Strategy

Manny taking one for the team. In the middle of a tight pennant race that’s getting more nut-busting and nerve-racking by the second, it is the constantly slacking Manny Ramirez that wins the game on a walk off hit by pitch. Not that he could have gotten out of the way or anything, but we’ll let that slide.

More importantly, Tim Wakefield has solidified himself as our number one starter if we make the playoffs, I mean, when we make the playoffs. The guy was simply phenomenal tonight. Besides a couple mistakes and that lucky hit by Douche Payton, he’d be in line for another W. I can’t believe he could even get a good grip on the knuckleball with the rain coming down so hard, but he found a way as usual. Timlin pitched a nervous tenth, and in the bottom of the inning the Sox struck.

Also, watching SportsCenter, I’m convinced of two things. One, Steve Levy is a Yankees fan. Two, how do they know what Randy Johnson said to the umpire in the Yankees-Jays game? He could have said the most derogatory, vulgar comment ever known to man. I’m sure he didn’t say, "well, Mr. Umpire Sir, can you please explain kindly to me why that last pitch was not a strike?" Brantley wants to fine the umpire! I mean, it was a quick and probably unfair hook in a huge game, but they won anyway. So stop whining. I just wouldn’t want to run into Randy Johnson on the streets.

But don’t you just love these pennant races? I’m even into the National League, and I just found out there actually was a National League this offseason. The Indians and Yanks for the Wild Card, the Indians and ChiSox in the Central, the Yanks and Sox in the East, the A’s and Angels in the West, the Astros, Phils and Fish in the NL Wild Card- pretty exciting stuff around baseball. Let’s enjoy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Look Out Behind You

Where do I begin? With the horrid defense and lack of pitching? With the lack of clutch hitting, or any hitting for that matter? With Keith Foulke once again making us cry for the name Craig Hansen?

The game started off on the wrong foot and never shifted momentum- that’s the bottom line. The Jays plastered Abe with five runs in the third inning, including a home run by the immortal Gabe Gross. Meanwhile, the Yankees were spanking the Devil Rays by a gizillion runs, and Red Sox fans could see the lead slowly slipping away. Edgah made a costly error when we were creeping back, and the Jays once again proved that they’re not giving up, they’re in this till the end, but most of all: they just want to kick our ass.

Now to address the pitching matter. If the season ended today, David Wells would most likely pitch the opening game. Followed by Tim Wakefield, who’s becoming more and more dependable with every game, and then Matt Clement, who’s becoming less and less dependable with every game. Where Curt Schilling fits into all of this, I have no idea. Bronson Arroyo hasn’t deserved a job in the starting rotation yet, so he’ll work in the bullpen where he’s extremely hit or miss. Plus, Wells has been there before and should make a quality starter for game one. Still not an ace, though.

The bullpen is a different story. Timlin is our closer for the rest of the season. That’s probably not how Sox Nation wants it, but Foulke is just way too ineffective. I still do think Foulke can play an important role in the playoffs as the setup or seventh inning guy, if he ever gets his groove back. Papelbon is so young, it’s hard to throw him into those huge playoff pressure-filled situations. But this kid appears to be poised and confident on the mound, so actually he could be our setup guy. I personally see Myers and Bradford as a strong point. Righty to lefty. Submarine. I like them in the playoffs.

The offense isn’t a problem, just a little bit streaky as of late. At Fenway, we knock the living crap out of the ball, and we should have home field in the first round when the Indians win the wild card. Damon should be back on Thursday at home vs. Oakland, another huge series.

But for tonight- David Wells takes the mound trying to prove he’s the number one guy. Let’s go Sox and D’Rays.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Next Big Thing

David Ortiz has officially re-defined the word "clutch." He’s brought it to a level of extreme and unrealistic proportions. The guy just gets it done, not once in a while or occasionally in a huge game, but it seems like every single week Ortiz wins a game for the Red Sox. Now, I’m not a guy that likes to drool over players (yeah, right), but this becoming insanely hilarious. You knew David Ortiz was going to hit a homerun. I emailed a friend just before that at-bat and said "here comes another Ortiz blast." Yes, it happened again. And that wasn’t even the biggest story of the night.

The biggest story was Jon Papelbon. If you want to talk about a gift from the holy one above, blessing our bullpen with some sort of stability and consistency, then I believe we’ve got our man. He’s a flamethrower. He’s calm and collective on the mound. He can pitch for a long time, evident by his perfect three innings last night and his first career win. Hats off to you, Jon. The kid.

I may be getting too high on this guy, but I loved what I saw. He was locating his pitches, actually, in one inning Remy pointed out each of his three outs and Papelbon hitting Tek’s glove each and every time. With a bullpen filled with dudes named Matt Perisho and Chad Harville, who should be waiting on me at McDonalds, and the vulnerable Keith Foulke, a gem like this may be the key. We’re not winning many playoff series with Timlin as the closer. It aint happenin.

What else went down? Well, Manny hit a ball that hasn’t landed yet. The homer landed ON TOP of the restaurant in deep center, around 440 feet estimated. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. Arroyo pitched well until his blowup inning in the seventh, followed by Foulkey taking shits on the hill, then Timlin leaving a gopher ball for Vernon Wells to turn into dust. But Ortiz was there. He’s so friggin powerful.

Biggest win of the season? Quite possibly. That Ortiz homer was a bigger deal than the first time I watched Soul Plane. Another win in that damn dome and a Yankee loss to Tampa would make a nice night. Let’s make it happen, boys.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Remember 9/11

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who Died And Made You Tony Graffanino

Congrats on that first win, Mr. Schilling. The man steps up big when the going gets tough, tossed up an excellent performance in a huge game, and led the Sox to a 9-3 win in the Stadium. This was the biggest game of the season, not even Johnny Pesky can tell me otherwise. The difference between two games and four games is major, and I’m talking "Bob Dylan voice change in the 80s" major not "Boston College beats Army" major. Of course, Curtis did get his fair share of run support from a heavy dose of our new guy up there Tony Graffanino, Magic Helmet Boy, and our dear friend Manny Ramirez. Good to have ya back.

How bout those Sox, hey? The Yanks did beat themselves in this game, too. Cano made a terrible error that gave the Sox a run and Matsui dropped a fly ball in left that was positively hilarious. I knocked over my Bill Mueller commemorative statue after that bonehead play. Chacon was gone, Al Leiter was in, and the only way we weren’t going to win this game was if an overpowering earthquake shattered the face of the earth. The ribbies kept coming, and today definitely made up for last nights pour effort.

So where do we go from here? Well…a win tomorrow would be nice. Yank killer Timmaayy Wakefield is on the hill against the Unit, and believe it or not, my confidence is really high. The momentum is ours, the intangibles are on our side, the stars are aligned for a division win. This may actually be the year they take this over the Yankees…

And now this great quote:

"I think this is a team that thrives on adversity,' says Millar, 'I talked to one of our former teammates who's now on the Yankees, and he couldn't believe how different it is, how everyone goes his own way as soon as the game is over. I know this team is crazy and all that, but we're all in the clubhouse at 2:30 every day, getting on one another, and we hang out long after the game is over. You hear stuff about teams that have each other's backs, but it's real here."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yankees Suck. Always Have. Always Will.

Yankee Hating is in my blood. My grandfather never had a favorite team growing up, he just rooted for the Yankees to lose. My father grew up a Senators then Orioles fan, and never in his life did he consider rooting for the Yankees, not even on his deathbed with a gun to his head. And it appears that has passed down to me, the ultimate Yankee hater who pretty much lives to one day see the Yankees collapse. Oh wait, that happened. Every time the Yanks and Sox meet up for the rest of my life, and I think I’m speaking for Sox Nation here, we’ll think of the grand year of 2004, when all hell broke loose and the Yankees succesfully executed a choke of indefinite proportions. Best moment of my life, when they finally finished off Game Seven. Until about a week later.

Then there’s the fans. Those arrogant, selfish, cocky-to-the-point-of-considering-murdering-them-and-accepting-life-in-jail, ass holes that call themselves the best fans in baseball. Truly, they’re all degenerate schmucks that will turn their back on the team if anything went seriously wrong. A friend in New York told me that after Game Seven, he’d never seen so many Red Sox hats in Manhattan before. I guess some of them are alright, but about 90% are complete dicks. I feel very strongly about this.

George Steinbrenner. He buys players like they’re toilet paper. He dumps players like their candy wrappers. I mean, would it KILL you to sign Bernie Williams for one more season after all he’s done for the Yankees? Would thinking about the future of your team just light a fire in your head? He compares his work to evil dictators and Civil War commanders. He treats his staff, manager and players like dog poop. If you’re good, he loves you. One year you hit .240, he won’t speak to you. I have my sources.

Then there’s that damn Yankee luck. Because they’ve won so many championships and have had so many great players, it’s like nothing bad can ever happen to them. All the frontrunners and Yankee bandwagoners, it just drives me to the point of suicide. And believe it or not, I didn’t mind the 98-00 Yankees THAT much. I disliked them, but I didn’t really hate them. Who do they remind me of? These Boston Red Sox. They had great team chemistry, played for the love of the game, and if you went up 5-0 and they started creeping back, you had a feeling they were going to win the game. Just the way it was with those winning Yankee teams, and now with the World Champion Sox. World Champion Sox. Heh.

(And about Yankee Stadium. They’re getting rid of it in 2008! Are you KIDDING me? This is the House that Ruth Built, for chrissakes. Do they realize that this is one of the most beloved and historic places in New York and in all of baseball? Fenway’s not going down any time soon.)

Back to the teams. This Yankee team I despise and I can’t even begin to describe the magnitude of that statement. They’re full of steroid-using cheaters that are vastly overpaid, act like they’re Army Brigade 435 of Virginia on the baseball field, and don’t even like each other. I mean, would it kill any of you to break a smile? You’re playing baseball for a living, making millions of dollars and wearing pinstripes! It’s like Steinbrenner shaves all their hair, brainwashes them to be ignorant bastards, then orders them a trip to the Lava Pit if they crack a grin. You see Manny point at the dugout in laughter when he gets a double. You see A-Rod lick his purple lips and frown when he gets a double. The teams are like polar opposites, and I’ll tell you, I’m so glad I’m on the right side.

Jeter’s fist pump. Michael Kay's voice. A-Rod’s bush league slap of Arroyo’s glove that gave him the Pantheon nickname Slappy McChokeRod. Doesn’t Posada just look like a dickhead? Doesn’t Gary Sheffield give you the feeling he isn’t in the mood to go out to dinner after the game for some social time? Jason Giambi is an admitted steroid user and cheater, and all of a sudden he’s this big hero? What am I missing here? Joe Torre looks like he’s been beaten with a frying pan and hasn’t flinched this entire season, and that’s a fact. At least he isn’t picking his nose as much.

I don’t like the Yankees. Let’s wrap up this division and do it in their house.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Win Almost As Hot As Jessica Alba

I’m not afraid to say the Red Sox are the Angels daddy. Can these guys ever beat us? No matter if its Wake, Arroyo, or Kelly the Ball Girl pitching, the Sox offense explodes and the Angels fall silent. Orlando Cabrera has to be frustrated. Vlad Guerrero has to be frustrated. Garret Anderson has to be frustrated. And as the number one Mike Scoisca hater, I’m loving every millisecond of it. Seeing him desperately try to shake up his team by getting purposely thrown out of tonight’s game was priceless. I can see what Frank Robinson was talking about.

It’s got to be a pretty nice feeling being a starting pitcher for the Red Sox. You go into the game, give up three or four in the first two innings…not a problem. Because that offense bails them out every single night. In the last three against Tampa, the Orange Birds last weekend, and now Cornroyo gets a piece of the special treatment pie. Listen, the Sox pitching may be shaky early, but there’s a pattern developing: they settle down in the later innings.

In the last five games for the Red Sox, Clement has gone eight, Wells nine, Schill six and a third, Wake nine and Arroyo eight. This is bigger than you may think. Number one, we save the bullpen for the huge series against the Yankees this weekend (and damn you Jason Giambi, you THG steroid pumping ass, why are you all of a sudden Mr. Clutch). Second, it’s pretty much obvious that the Sox bullpen is their weakness. By using something called "Common Sense", usually you stay away from your weaknesses. And it’s all about the Sox starters settling in while the bats roll.

Let’s see, who did their job tonight? Well, Millah is pounding the ball in the Monstah seats all of a sudden. Now wait for the pending apocolypse. Ortiz delivered his usual clutch hit, tying the game at 3-3 after the Pudgy Cheeks rant. Trot hit a nice RBI double off the wall. My boy Alex Cora drove in a run, so did Damon on a sac fly. A great overall game for everybody besides Manny, who went 0 for 4 with four groundouts and two double plays. Someone wake this guy up from his nap.

Timlin with the save. Game. Set. Match. Sox win, and keep the lead in the East at four games. We got Abe Lincoln A.K.A. Matt Clement going tomorrow, so it should be a nice blowout. I’m in the mood for some Rem Dawg weezing and a well-deserved reach into the closet for the broom.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

David Ortiz Does It Again

In this crucial series, you need a player to pick the team up, especially when their bats are asleep. David Ortiz has done that before, and he did it tonight. In one of the most dramatic and well-hit walkoff homeruns I’ve experienced with Big Papi, the Sox beat the Angels 3-2. This was a massive win in a big series. The crowd was in the game from the first pitch to the game winner, and Wake gave more than enough effort to get the win. Nine innings, two runs allowed. An excellent outing from a guy that just wants to win. This whole team wants to win, and they showed it tonight.

The top of the ninth inning was huge defensively. After a leadoff double, John Olerud made his usual diving stop and went to first, possibly saving a run and only making me wish he was the starting first baseman a little bit more. The next pitch was a grounder to Graffanino with the infield in, he fired home on the inexperienced pinch runner and he was standing in nowhere land. And with two outs, Tim Wakefield showed his balls with a beauty of a knuckeball to Adam Kennedy. Desire, folks. Inning over.

Damon pitched in with three hits. Manny got himself an RBI for the first time in a century, or so it seems. And it was all capped off with David Ortiz hitting number 38, and proving to everyone in the country that he is the definition of a valuable player to a team trying to hold a lead. We deserve the division. It’s been forever. This is our year to win the East, our year to look down at the Yankees and wag our tongues at their overpaid asses, give a little smirk and say "not this time, you bastards." All we gotta do it keep grinding out games like tonight, and this division is ours.

Tim Wakefield and Ortiz win co-MVP tonight. Can’t wait till tomorrow.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Holla Back

Analysis on the game, brought to you by Stuart Scott:

Yo, these teams were straight up dreading this game today, folks. But they played anyway and right off the bat ChiSox rookie Brandon McCarthy was just plain filthy. Playa hatin on Edgar Renteria three times in the game. Throwing haterade at Jason Varitek on some sick curves. Kid came out FIRING in this one, folks. One pitch to Graffanino early in the game, man, he couldn’t hit that with if it was a volleyball.

Then later in the game, Paul Konerko absolutely straight up CLOBBERS this ball to deep left, and the lord said you got to RIIISE UPPP. His homer in the sixth of Curt Schilling made it four-nil ChiSox. Back to McCarthy, and I wasn’t gonna say nothin, but those changeups just ain’t right. McCarthy struck out eight in all, threw 120 pitches and folks, this kids got a future. Then, in the ninth, Tony Graffanino went all freaky on this hanger and made it 5-3. Boo yah! the Sawx aint done yet. But it wasn’t enough, as the White Sox win it by that score. Hugs and handpounds for everybody, and I’m out.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

That's Right, Don't Mess

Remember the guy back in April that posted an astronomical ERA and could barely make it through the third inning in most of his starts? The Old David Wells. Now, here’s a guy who battles to make every start a gem, smiles and jokes around in the dugout, and is now turning into our most reliable pitcher in the rotation. That’s the New David Wells.

After a slice of cake in the clubhouse, Wells came out on the Fenway mound and completely dominated the Orioles. Erase two doubles in the fifth inning by Mora and Tejada, and this guy’s got a complete game shutout. Instead, he goes nine strong, dominates with that overhand curve that starts at an altitude higher than Mount Everest and ends up in the dirt, and spits in the Orioles faces. Not literally, but figuratively. Tack on some major power from good ole Johnny Olerud, a nice Damon two ribbie rip, and the 5-1 win makes that Off Track Bedding commercial seem just a little less annoying.

One other thing I want to bring up, and that’s Manny’s hitting. The Man isn’t hitting his usual hanging curves over the Monster, just grounding out to second. He’s fouling off ordinary 88 mph fastballs into the seats, instead of lining them in the gap for doubles like he did last year. Manny isn’t smiling nearly as much, and just flat out doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself. You’re probably thinking: no shit, you just noticed this stupid act of his? But really, not only is he making dumb mistakes on the field and causing trouble in the front office, but his batting seems to have hit a curve. Or is it just Manny Being Manny, whatever that means.

And this from Surviving Grady, whom I also got that hilarious picture from: Sean McAdam told a great story from the Red Sox clubhouse this morning. Members of the group Green Day were at Fenway taking a tour on Friday. They were hanging out with Johnny Damon when Kevin Millar found out who they were and wanted to go meet them. Being a huge country music guy, Millar knew nothing about Green Day. So he consulted resident music expert Bronson Arroyo. Bronson tutored him quickly, even teaching Millar a quick verse of a song. Millar goes over to the Green Day guys, puts his arm around one of them, and proceeds to belt out the verse Arroyo taught him, blabbering about how it was one of his favorite songs. Millar received some strange looks, then told the guys he had to go take BP. The song was Wonderwall by Oasis! Bronson punk'd him!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Fenway Fun

When the Emancipator gives you a solid eight innings over a rested bullpen, and the Sox rampaging offense scores seven runs at home, you expect a win. Well, the win was granted, but not without some major drama. Timlin and Renteria made it interesting, the pesky Orioles stayed in the game, but in the end the Sox prevailed 7-6. Ortiz hit another home run, and even Millar is waking up from his four month nap.

Tomorrow, Boomer’s suspension ends and he starts vs. Sox killer Rodrigo Lopez. I also hope we see Foulke tomorrow night. Tito really needs to get some innings out of him quickly before the postseason comes around, ya know, saying we get there and all. The Yanks won so the lead is still 3.5, pretty comfortable and I’m confident due to the major offensive outburst at home. Good old Fenway.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Just Like Old Times

Escape from the fact all you want, but this Red Sox offense will carry the team, and be the only factor stopping the Red Sox from being eliminated from the playoffs. The last three nights, Schilling, Wakefield and Arroyo, respectively, have left piles of crap on the mound early in the game. We’ve been down 6-1, 5-1 and 4-2 by the third innings of each of the last three games, and faster than Emeril can say Bam!, this offense has brought us back to our winning ways. 19 of 20 at Fenway. What is it now, fourteen straight home games with seven runs or more? Just unbelievable.

And it’s a new face every single time out. Trot on Tuesday with his gunning of Toby Hall and eventual walk off single. Millah on Wednesday with two monster shots, one off the Coke bottles over the Monster that turned out to be the killah. Tonight, it was the Helmet Boy and his wonderous stare after his home runs, defensive wisdom and clutch hitting. I mean, at least he can spare us a grin. Olerud is becoming another masterful and genius signing from Theo and Co, really providing all of the above and team leadership and experience. This guy is the definition of a veteran, always there to help and do his duty.

You can’t help but acknowledge my boy Alex Cora for his help in this four game broom job. Sure I’m stealing this from the telecast and the Rem Dawg’s colorful commentary and constant unintentional comedy, but tough. Anyway, sticking with the day by day theme, on Tuesday, Cora faked that groundball DP while Crawford was chuggin to second on the flyout to Trot. Remember that? Set up a big double play. Yesterday, Cora came through in a situation that doesn’t really stick out in the box score, but played a big role in the game. With runners on second and third and nobody out, down by two runs, Cora grounded out to second. He got the run home. He got the trailing runner to third. Sac fly. And before Rob Schneider’s forehead can grow any larger, it’s a brand new ballgame. Tonight, Cora advanced on a single to right from first to third base on a nice hustle play. Wanna guess what the next guy did? Sac fly. Run scored. Thank you, Alex.

To be quite frank, this offense is rolling. The bats are red firing Tabasco style hot, and I’m loving every second of it. Sure, it’s Tampa and their lowly pitching staff at the Fens, but daaaaaamn. I couldn’t be more impressed. The team chemistry is really coming together too, with Manny and Millah racing out of the dugout to congratulate Johnny O on his big game tonight. Edgah set a career high with hits in a month, and he’s into the hugging business. Johnny Damon is Johnny Damon, ‘nuff said. And even Jonathan Papelbon struck out the side in the eighth inning. Yes, I’ll have a side of Future please.

Now we welcome the plague-of-pitching-known-as-the-Orioles, who are struggling lately and you know that Miguel Tejada fella will want to kick our steaming asses down to Atlantic City. Oh yeah, and if Raffy plays, well you know what to do.