Sunday, October 18, 2009

Are the Sox the latest version of the Atlanta Braves?

The Atlanta Braves won their division 14 straight seasons from 1991 - 2005 (excluding 1994 which never really existed, thanks Bud/Players). This is a tremendous achievement that remains in conversation to this day in Atlanta sports talk radio. It remains a topic because the Braves converted this amazing run to ONLY a single World Series title. They averaged 97.4 wins in that span.

The RedSox have made it to the postseason in 6 of the last 7 years, averaging 95.5 wins in those playoff years.

So all the pundits are racing around with columns, blogs, podcasts, you name it, telling anybody that will listen how Theo Epstein should work this magic or that magic and retool the Sox in a few hours time. We've heard Terry Francona and Theo Epstein both mention the franchise goal of winning 95 games and getting to the postseason each year.

Is that vision setting the bar high enough?

Lets fast forward to the 2016 offseason and listen in to "Blmeanie and the Bouncing Balls and Pucks" virtual sports broadcast :

blmeanie: "welcome to the show today, hope everybody realizes how amazing it is to be a Sox fan. While the loss yesterday to the Kansas City Royals ended their postseason run, they have given us a lot to enjoy this year again." We welcome into the show one of our favorite virtualizers, Mikey from Dorchester. Welcome Mikey."

Mikey from Dorchester (MFD) : "Yo Blue, sup? What's with the happy face on another postseason loss? It's eat'n me up, ya know? Every freak'n year it's another disappointing loss to some loser franchise. KC this year, Washington last year, Texas the year before that. I'm tired of losing."

blmeanie: "Hey slow down Mikey, when you say losing, don't you mean losing in the postseason? I know most of the other 39 teams around baseball would love to make it to the postseason 13 out of the last 14 years. So we only have 2004 and 2007 for championships, isn't it about the chase?"

MFD: "Ever since the average ticket price went above $150 back in 2013 it doesn't feel the same no more. I mean, I went to a game in August, took my brother and his kid Manny, yep, named for that Manny, anyway, we went down to Fenwa…geesh, sorry, BP Field and there weren't nothin' but suits everywhere. Geesh, I mean, I used to go to games and there was wicked excitement on every pitch, the fans were true fans and the game was the show. Now everybody is playing with their virtual conversation devices (VCD's) and not watchin' the game. Whats up with that?"

blmeanie: "Of course winning so much gave the Sox the power to increase ticket prices each year but there is a price to be paid for winning year in and year out, right Mikey?" Which would you rather be a fan of the Sox and their amazing streak of playoff appearances or the Washington Nationals that won the Series in 2015 in only their first postseason appearance since moving to Washington? Maybe you'd like to be a fan of the Fremont A's? They make a run every 7 years like clockwork and fans have to suffer while they trade away maturing players every other year in between."

MFD: "Ya know, getting into the postseason used to mean more, remember when it was only 4 teams that made it in? Even afta Bud added wildcard teams it was something to get in. Those were the days, getting in meant something back then, I mean, the Pirates are the only team that you can count on never making the playoffs."

"Ancient history Mikey, sure you can dream back to before Commissioner Wendy Selig changed the rules in 2012 to add automatic playoff inclusion for any team with a ballpark at least 100 years old and then the more significant change in 2013 when any team above .500 winning percentage getting into the postseason. These were changes to make the game better, more profitable."

MFD: "I can't believe youse are selling out Meanie! How can it be better when 22 teams made it to the playoffs this year? Is it freak'n hockey?"

blmeanie: "You have to keep up with the times Mikey, some good points, thanks for virtually connecting in today, now we go to Sal in Sommerville, Sal?"

Back to reality -sorry I went as long as I did, I really was enjoying myself though. Those conversations have taken place in Atlanta for the last 10 years or so, really since 1995 when the Braves won. Is getting to the playoffs enough for the fans? I agree the mentality of "you have to make it to the playoffs to ever have a chance at winning it all" makes sense. If a franchise focuses on that goal though, don't they sacrifice a little bit of the gambler's mentality of the "roll the dice" moments that could pay off with titles vs. postseason disappointments?

If you are in a market that can be top 10 in payroll year in year out, shouldn't the goal be all about championships?

Read that statement again…and again. If you are shelling out the money anyway, should you pull a “Yankee” and go for it all the time?

I'd take a year or two now and again of missing the playoffs if the moves being made were to elevate the next year to the point that winning a Championship became significantly more likely. Winning a title every fifth year would be great. Unfortunately somewhere in the back of my mind is the fear that 2007 will be it for a while and the claim to fame becomes the run of postseason appearances... sure hope I am wrong.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Put us to sleep already!

While the MLB playoffs have gone from a 10 interest factor for me down to a 6 with the exit by the Sox, the 6 could slip further as the lack of intelligent thought coming out of the league offices has really crippled "America's game" again.

With the Yankee/Angels game tonight the Yankees will have endured 8 days off since the regular season ended. Eight (8) days off. Counting backwards from the final Sunday of the season, the 8th day off the Yankees had was the last day off for the All-Star break. Wow.

Then there are 3 more days off just inside the series with the Angels if it goes 7. Probably a few days off before a World Series starts and then at least 3 days off inside of the 7 game schedule. Why not just schedule once a week like the NFL. Something to look forward to, easier to mentally know when your team is going to play...

Oh yeah, the Angels finished up Sunday just like the Yankees did against the Twins. The Angels were in Boston Sunday. The first game against the Yankees was going to be in NY. Why wait through 4 off days again? I don't know if the Angels flew home Sunday or not. If they did only to fly back to NY then that favors the Yankees for sure.

At least we got the half hour earlier start times, woohoo!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


watch this kid, watch the goalie, especially on the overhead, center ice angle at the end.

from : "The video of a youth hockey player from Maine scoring a shootout-style goal at the Garden is making the rounds.

According to the Bruins' web site, the player's name is Oliver Wahlstrom. NESN reports he plays for the Portland Junior Pirates in Maine.

The video was shot during taping for the TD Bank Mini 1-on-1, a promotion that begins Oct. 29 at the Bruins game vs. New Jersey."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Twilight Zone

ok, so Theo Epstein and the Sox made some obvious gambles this past off-season, resting much of their success on injured stars that needed a place to show they were healed and ready to contribute to a winner...

Cue up future HOF John Smoltz. I thought it would work out, thought he would emerge from rehab time and contribute to a run into the postseason...I WAS RIGHT! I only picked the wrong team. Smoltz got smashed in Boston and proceeded to get released/traded and he gets the ball in St. Louis a couple of times now and has one win with a 0.82 ERA and a .727 WHIP. Pretty fancy numbers on a small sample size. Compare them to his 8 starts in Boston, his 8.32 ERA and his 1.70 WHIP. Little bigger sample size but it's like he entered the twilight zone (NL) and voila, his slider slides a little more, his splitter splits a little more. As a (secondary) Brave fan I am somewhat happy for the man...good for him, hope he continues to help out the Cardinals and make a run for another ring.

Cue up Brad Penny. I had doubts about his signing with Boston but felt if he could eat innings and be the 4th or 5th guy that would be fine. He is a big man and I thought big men last long in games...silly me. In his 24 starts with Boston before being released outright, he dazzled the AL to a tune of 5.61 ERA and 1.534 WHIP while averaging 5.4 innings per start. Neither successful nor an inning eater he didn't really pan out. After getting released there is no reason for another team not to take a chance on you, especially if your #5 guy is worse. So the Giants reach into the portal and pull Mr. Brad Penny through to the twilight zone (NL) and today he made his first start. Guess what? He pitched a very economical 8 innings, giving up zero (0) runs on 5 hits and a single walk. I thought I better get the calculator and check how many times he made it to or through the 8th inning for the Sox this year...guess what, his longest outing in a RedSox uni was 6 2/3 innings on May 20th. Bravo to you too Brad Penny. You have found the fountain of youth and it's called the National Pitchers Ready to Retire League.

Ok, so in my next life I want to be an agent for ML pitchers, guess what teams I'm going to negotiate with whenever I have a chance? Yep, NL teams. Seems simple enough. Name 3 (and I will give you 2) dominant NL pitchers that had success in the AL after the NL for more than a single year? C'mon? Pedro, yep. Schilling, yep. Nolan Ryan? Nah, he was dominant but he never dominated. Tom Seaver? Nope, too late in the AL. I cannot think of another, can you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Things we learned

So in the last week we learned that the Sox won't be catching the Yankees when the Yankees took 2 of 3 and beat ace Josh Beckett (soundly). Against what was needed most, we found out the return of Jerry Remy to the booth was not going to be a rabbit's foot and allow the Sox to enter contention for the division again. (welcome back RemDog!) We learned Jacoby Ellsbury is the best base stealer in RedSox history (the Sox missed another opportunity with Taco Bell) as he passed Tommy Harper's long standing record of 54 steals. Ellsbury has done it at around an 80% success rate which is impressive too. Ellsbury has quietly accomplished what we hoped all along, decent on base percentage, hit around .300, play great D and add excitement with his legs. Back in April-June everybody was writing him off, he still takes too big a swing too often but he is still learning. We have learned that John Smoltz can pitch effectively against the Padres. Tomorrow night we see step 2 in his NL return against the mighty Nationals. With all due respect, I hope he gets starts against the Pirates, Reds and Mets to finish off 5-0 since returning to the NL. We also learned that Jonathon Papelbon is a bit insecure and is taking lessons from Jim Rice in how to retract statements made irresponsibly to the media. We have learned that Billy Wagner could be a valuable piece against the likes of Sox killers Matsui, Pena, and Damon. Time will tell on that one.

We have learned that Mike Vick will be a potentially significant part of the Eagles this season. The willingness on the team's part as well as evidently McNabb's part is honorable and will allow Vick an opportunity many didn't think he would get this quickly. Many here in Atlanta are saying they have forgiven him for his illegal acts but some/many are still upset that his immaturity and behaviour while here in Atlanta showed total lack of respect for the job he had. Stories of lack of committment to working at it and lack of support for teammates etc. are all over the place. He was just too wrapped up in personal business to be a great football player. We saw brillance oviously, at times. Perhaps with dedication (can only hope he really has learned from his experience) and support he can be magical on the field again and sustain it.

We have learned, in the media at least, that Tom Brady has the best advisors around. No doubt he is anxious to get more money when he sees the contracts being given to some of his peers. He is relatively underpaid all things considered and yet publicly says he wants to perform and help the team win. Many many many other players would be all pouty in public and some would even be holding out looking for a renegotiation. Even if he is doing that behind the curtains I gotta give him props for not doing it in public. If he truly doesn't care about that and is focused soley on winning, awesome (and unusual).

We have learned that Florida is the greatest college football team of all time. Seriously, when was the last time a team on a run over multiple years has received the hype...wait for it...and backed it up year after year. If they win the championship this year, give them the nod as best all time over a 3 or 4 year period. Every game the other team is gunning for them and they continue to find ways to emotionally and physically beat the opponents.

We have learned Tiger Woods isn't automatic in Majors when he leads late. Age, fatherhood, injuries all have played a role in the "bringing Tiger back to earth" movement. I love it. I like and absolutely respect Tiger. I am one of those fans that doesn't want him to beat Nicklaus' major championship record though. Yep, makes me old. Let him get his 18th in about 5 years, then deal with getting older and make it real tough for him to win/dominate. A tie of the record would be just fine for me.

We learned it is better to hit a pedestrian and kill them with your car while drunk than it is to foolishly shoot yourself in a nightclub. Plaxico Burress' 2 year sentence either is an injustice, or, if it is correct, then Stallworth's 24 days in prison should be a benchmark for idiocy from a judge. My vote is the judge in the Stallworth case should be removed from the bench never to pass judgement again. Oh yeah, throw in the time spent by Mike Vick as another crime, somewhere in between Burress and Stallworth as far as severity and risk to society.

We have learned that the Little League World Series tournament continues to captivate a big audience. I have found myself bouncing back and forth from watching RedSox games to the LLWS games between innings. It is relatively innocent and fun to watch. One beef I have is that these kids are 12 and 13 years old and playing with the Little League rules that are for younger kids, right? At least where my kid plays. My son is starting up "fall ball" right now and it is prep for next spring's rules which include moving up to a bigger field (he is 11) and allowing leading off base for the first time. LLWS still plays with the foot on the base until the ball crosses homeplate, which is how my son has played up until now. Interesting, maybe it varies by town/region.

Enjoy the wildcard races, there are only a couple of divisions still truly up for grabs.

*edit : I just learned the Sox released Brad Penny to make room for Wagner. Article I read says Penny asked for his release. At one point in June this looked like a nice move by Theo, since the break it has been totally miserable watching him pitch. Pounding the strike zone usually is a good thing if hitters are missing or taking the pitches, Penny pounds the zone and watches hitters pound him. Hope he finds his way back to the NL and produces for somebody.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


In 2003 there was a movie released called holes. The description from IMDB is "A wrongfully convicted boy is sent to a brutal desert detention camp where he joins the job of digging holes for some mysterious reason".

What does this have to do with sports right now? Probably nothing. Needed a title for this post though and "Holes" seemed appropriate. Besides, "digging holes for some mysterious reason" sounds a little like the RedSox lately.

The Yankees won a dramatic game in a dramatic fashion last night on an Arod 2-run blast in the 15th hanging up the only non-zeroes of the night.

What the RedSox have accomplished, if accomplishments are like "whole" numbers with a scale that goes negative too, is almost unimaginable on July 14th, the night of the All-Star game.

On the 14th, the Sox owned a modest 3 game lead over the Yankees, were 20 games above .500 and seemingly in the driver's seat and healthy. Here is what I would have said that day had I posted a recap of the first half:

Catcher - Varitek has been a pleasant surprise so far, not for his average but for his production. He has been contributing and not hurting the team so far and has, for the moment, quieted the criticisms.

First - Youkilis has been very good. His torrid start to the season went into May. He is a force to be dealt with and a good partner for Pedroia on the right side of the infield.

Second - Pedroia hasn't gone on a tear yet but has played well and as always, played hard. Will likely have a great 2nd half.

Short - the position of mystery for Theo Epstein's tenure. Nick Green has played way above expectations while filling in for injured Jed Lowry. Need Lowry's return to improve for the 2nd half.

Third - Mike Lowell has been hitting well but is limited now in the field. He no longer is a very good defensive player. Better results so far than could have been expected.

Leftfield - Jason Bay has had a first half that is reason enough to resign him now. Enough said.

Centerfield - Up and down, Jacoby Ellsbury has recently found some consistency hitting lower in the lineup. Getting on base more will help in the 2nd half.

Rightfield - JD Drew has hit decently but without much power this season. He continues to play good D and is what he is.

DH - biggest disappointment this season so far. David Ortiz is lucky to have the support of the management and maintain his status as an everyday player.

Starting Pitching - early trouble by Dice K has left him rehabbing. Beckett is Beckett and Lester is Lester. Penny has had bright spots and won some games. Wakefield has been terrific and made his first All-Star game.

Relievers - awesome combination of arms, best in baseball despite Papelbon's wildness and love for pitches not his fastball.

Overall grade :A-

Now, since July 14th, things have dramatically changed. Read this reply by an unnamed fan (not me - wish it had been though, my thoughts completely) on the (boston globe) site yesterday to an article:

Ok - it's reality time
Theo finally remembered that this is a business and not an old boys country club.
He jettisoned Smoltz- too late but better late than never- sometimes experiments don't work - lose him and move on
Now Papi - When he warmed up in June and raised his average to a lofty .241, everyone gave him a pass. Well, now he's back to .221 and still hitting in the middle of the order. I AM a statistician, but anyone with a grade 5 education knows that after 3 months hitting .241 total, you need to be way under .200 in July to drop it back to .221, like around .180 or less. He's not even thinking about baseball. He's trying to play CYA for the steroid thing.
Now he says he didn't know - the other 103 guys knew, but someone forgot to tell the biggest and fattest guy in the room....yah probably...cut him loose - waive him, designate him, put him on a bus to anywhere with a one-way ticket. Jonathan Van Every won't bat .180...and he can actually play the field instead of just block the sunshine in half of the dugout
Brad Penny - needs Smoltz therapy - another guy with only one pitch and it's very hittable
Shortstop - call me up. I'm 62 and can play better than they can......what a disgrace.
Jason Bay - wrap up your leg and get out there dude- the season is slipping away - it's not Pittsburgh, where the season ends when the Steelers head to pre-season camp
Ditto for Drew - suck it up
And last and certainly least - V-tek, the capt. of the Titanic....hitting in the lofty .220s again......41 RBI with all those guys in front of you getting on are a sad glad you're a catcher of sorts- any other position you'd be out of baseball or the third stringer on the Ft. Myers Miracle..." called strike three " - Orsillo's favorite comment when you're up......when you come up with a guy on base, I hope you strike out, so there won't be a double play
The Yankees are running away and here come the Rays.......there are no prizes for finishing third
By the way - Wakefiled went to the all-star game in fine health
didn't pitch there or even warm up
comes home and can't walk - what the hell was he doing there??????
Did he try to climb the St. Louis Arch from the outside and fall off?
And there sits our leader, Francona...what a frontrunner.....things are bad dude...wake up and do something...start showing some emotion...I wish someone would take his private capt. chair in the dugout and rap it over his head....the season is going away - do you know? - do you care?
I've watched day after day of excuses, never raising a voice, never getting fired wonder the players love doesn't matter if they do anything.....
CAN'T WATCH ANYMORE - thank goodness I have the MLB package...there are other real games to watch........ by the way, how is Cliff Lee doing with Philly? Couldn't we have had him?..ditto Halladay...........

So back to Holes. The Sox have dug a hole that is far greater than the 4.5 games they currently sit behind the Yankees. Lets count the # of holes:

Hole #1 : catcher. What? You thought getting Victor Martinez was the patch job for this pothole? It coulda shoulda but until I see Tito using Martinez more often as catcher I am not convinced. His loyalty to Varitek will leave this as a semi-filled hole.

Hole #2 : shortstop. Lowry's recent injury to his arm/hand didn't take a hot bat out of the lineup, it was the further developing sinkhole known as shortstop for the RedSox organization. This hole continues to get bigger and bigger.

Hole #3 : thirdbase. Mike Lowell can slap the ball around still but doesn't really drive it anymore. He is a liability at third now and the beginnings of a nice big pothole has emerged. While it isn't and won't become a sinkhole, a hole is a hole.

Hole #4 : Leftfield. Jason Bay was tremendous through most of June. Then he slumped, all the way down to the .250 range. That would have been ok, slumps happen, rebound in the 2nd half and all slumps get forgotten. Unfortunately he now has hamstring issues and while still slumping is out of the lineup.

Hole #5 : Rightfield. JD Drew's play has slumped in June/July as well. He too battles nagging injuries and we haven't seen his annual back issues show up yet.

Hole #6 : DH. David Ortiz has struggled to hit .220 all year long. His bat is no longer feared by the opposition and with the defensive shift his lackluster bat often grounds out to the right side.

Hole #7 : SP. The rotation was over crowded a month ago. Down goes Wake. Down goes DiceK (thankfully). Down and out goes Smoltz. Add in a Penny that has no shine anymore and the rotation is in trouble. Clay Buchholz, the untouchable young arm, doesn't appear ready emotionally to pitch and help. Today should be fun to watch and see if he self destructs in Yankee Stadium.

It is tough to feel sorry for your team. As has been written, so much promise was put on signings of past injured players, players that were relatively cheap in nature. It really hasn't panned out and the revamping that will need to be done again in the offseason will be a true test.

What can this hole ridden team do for the last 54 games? Maybe they can still win the wildcard, maybe. They need Jason Bay back soon and producing again. They need Tito to catch Martinez more often than Varitek. They need Buchholz and Penny to come up big once in a while and eat some innings. They need Ortiz to hit .250 the rest of the way with some RBI once in a while. They need Nick Green not to throw away balls late in important games. They need the players that have been steady to continue to be steady. Phew, seems like a long list of things to hope for over a short period of time.

If you fill in holes as fast as they appear are you ever getting ahead?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preview - Yanks Sox for 4 in the Bronx

The rest of the world seems to complain whenever the RedSox and Yankees square off:

"ESPN loves the Sox/Yankees"
"There are other games/events ya know"
"I'm sick of the Sox and yankees"
etc etc etc

But for RedSox and Yankee fans, there is nothing better.

This is old school :

Cowboys vs. Redskins

Canadiens vs. Bruins

Celtics vs. Lakers

Jack vs. Arnold

Ali vs. Frazier

Phelps vs. Cavic ?

The biggest difference in Yankees/RedSox matchups and these historical matchups is how frequently they occur. I get it, the Sox and Yanks play at least 19 times a season. With any luck, more in the playoffs.

The peak of modern wars between the two teams was surely in the 2003/2004 timeframe when things got a little crazy. There was the Pedro stares into the dugout, the Pedro throw down of Zimm, the Aaron Freak'n Boone game, the idiots, the comeback in 2004, the bloody sock. Exciting times for fans of both teams.

Lately things have settled down considerably, you know, nothing newsworthy really. Pettitte/Clemens/Arod/Manny/Ortiz connections/allegations to PED's. The courting and signing of Mark Texiera. The Joba Chamberlain and Kevin Youkilis love fest. Jeter getting plunked every series it seems.

The 8-0 start to the season series this year by the Sox has set the stage for an interesting 4 game series in the Bronx. The goose-egg means nothing going into these 4 games, really. New York has been the much more consistent and potent team since the all-star break and seemingly has the edge going into the series.

Momentum: While momentum in baseball can be easily overstated and reversed it currently favors the Yankees. The Yankees are 14-5 since the break and have charged ahead of the Sox by 2 in the loss column. The Sox on the other hand have slumped to an 8-10 record since the All-Star game.

Starting Pitching matchups:

Thursday - Smoltz vs. Chamberlain - clearly the edge goes to NY ; Smoltz has not thrown effective starts together and seemingly gets beat up big in an inning along the way. Chamberlain is coming off one of his best starts in his career.

Friday - Beckett vs. Burnett - the most compelling matchup of the weekend . Beckett has been fantastic after a terrible April start. Burnett has been up and down at times but overall very effective. While the matchup suggests it will be the best game of the series, sometimes those games will be the 12-10 type of game.

Saturday - Buchholz vs. Sabbathia - the Yankees have a huge edge here. Sabbathia hasn't pitched as great as the Yankees hoped but this type of matchup, in the pennant race, in August, is exactly what will change their perception. Buchholz has been less than great since his initial outing a few weeks ago.

Sunday - Lester vs. Pettitte - Lester gives the Sox a chance to win every time out. The other night he did just that but the team still lost in a pitcher's duel with Tampa and decided in the 13th inning. Pettitte has been very inconsistent. His time is winding down, you don't know if you will get a good start or not out of him. He still is capable. Advantage Sox in this one.

Bullpens: Much has been written about the Sox advantage this year in the pen. Lately they have been a little more hittable and showing some wear and tear from the innings needed in support of Smoltz, Penny, Dice K and Buchholz. The Yankee pen has been terrible early in the year (3 or 4 players since removed) and good lately. No clear edge for either team, if starters don't go into 7th innings most games it could get interesting with the pens taking over.

Hitting: As I said above, the Yankees are on a roll and the Sox are not. Arod has been hitting better (not for power though), Texiera is lining up votes for MVP, Jeter is Jeter, Melka hit a cycle recently, and Johnny Damon has been big lately. On the other side, the bats have been slumping for the most part. See prior post below. Youkilis and Pedroia have turned it around and are smacking the ball around as is new comer Victor Martinez. Jason Bay will miss a couple games most likely as he aggrevated his hamstring problem last night. JD Drew is also hurting but will have to play with the news on Bay. Mike Lowell is a shell of his former self, still can slap the ball around but defensively does not even resemble his stellar fielding days now behind him. Ellsbury has been steady and good, Varitek, while the ESPN made mention his HR and RBI numbers are 4th best in AL for catchers he is not to be feared. Nor is Lowry at SS. Ortiz used to be walked to avoid situations, now players will be walked to get to him. Advantage Yankees.

What does it all mean? Who knows? Did anybody expect the RedSox to win the first eight meetings this year? Really? A sweep by the Yankees would not totally surprise me. Neither would a split...or any other result.

My prediction? Yankees 3 of 4.

Tell your non-Sox/Yankee friends to relax and enjoy the coverage. ESPN might not recognize there are other teams in baseball this weekend and rightly so...this is Yankees RedSox after all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July in RedSox Nation

So a normal July afternoon, nice day to be at work and something is nagging me, bothering me, deep in the far reaches of my mind...oh yeah, the Sox have an afternoon game, getaway day for the A's to conclude the four game series in Boston. I throw ESPN's gamecast window up on the screen, check it periodically.

Here are some highlights they flashed up on the screen during the game:

After the A's took the 4-1 lead in the 6th inning, ESPN gave the A's an 80% chance to win the game, nice statement of the ability of the Sox to comeback, trends don't lie do they:

As the Sox batted, here are some interesting July stats on a few of the key players:

Jason Bay, AL MVP candidate through June

JD Drew, much maligned rightfielder, doing reasonably well, without power through June

David Ortiz, struggling all year, most would say he has come out of it lately, July stats don't lie:

Jason Varitek, struggling the last couple of years, little more pop this year but July was tough and actually lowered his average

Newcomer Adam Laroche was supposed to be helpful, so far (July includes his time in Pittsburgh too) he hasn't

Finally, Youk, Kevin Youkilis. Youk was heading towards an MVP award showdown with Bay earlier in the year. He maintained an average over .400 for a long time, his OBP was hovering around .520 through May. Here is his July:

6 out of 9 hitters in the lineup most days are about to conclude a very miserable month of July. No wonder the team was 47-30 through June and 11-12 in July (7-4 before the all-star break in July, 4-8 after so far).

Usually teams have a player or two slumping, this is ridiculous. Either they get Gonzalez from San Diego AND Martinez from Cleveland or hope and pray they come out of their collective funk in August and September.

I hope they make a move, shake things up a bit, roll the dice. They aren't in first anymore, no lock on a playoff spot, why not?

Monday, July 27, 2009


Take a look at the comparison above of two starting pitchers. Both are pretty bad. Both are veteran pitchers and both have been considered aces during their respective careers. Both could possibly be headed to the Hall of Fame.

With the trade deadline fast approaching, should either pitcher be replaced in the rotation with somebody acquired through a trade? One of these two pitchers will not be replaced, guaranteed. The other is currently on the hot seat and bloggers and writers are slicing him up and asking the fans to "stick a fork in him".

Pitcher B (above) is Josh Beckett's beginning of his 2009 season. Beckett will not be replaced in any trades made by the RedSox this week or this year or next. Currently he has rebounded to be 11-4 3.42 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, very good considering his start in April.

Pitcher A is John Smoltz and his 2009 to date. While John Smoltz is no longer an ace in MLB, he can and should be an effective 4th or 5th starter this season. He is coming off surgery so the question remains, what should the expectations have been and continue to be?

The stats don't lie. Both Beckett in April, and Smoltz in June/July have stunk it up. Smoltz and the Sox leaders are all asking for patience. Patience isn't always something the fans in Boston have a lot of. I happen to agree with giving it more time. Smoltz, by everybody's accounts, has good stuff, his pitch location seems to be his achilles heel this year so far. Unfortunately for the Sox fans, the Yankees have surged ahead in the division during Smoltz' time with the big league club. People make parrallels and point fingers during tough times. Smoltz hasn't really helped the Sox win too many games yet. Easy target. Neither has the 2.8 runs per game average the offense has scored since the all-star break two weeks ago.

Smoltz will be given every opportunity to work it out. What remains to be seen is what happens at the trade deadline? Do the Sox go deeper into discussions for Halladay or stick to the bigger needs (IMO), the needs of a bat (Laroche was a nice platoon fix, need something bigger). The next couple of days should be exciting times in baseball. Maybe John Smoltz will get pushed out of the rotation by one of the best in baseball, maybe he will last long enough to contribute...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rickey and Jim Ed

Today is Hall of Fame induction day for MLB. Each year in July, baseball honors deserving players into it's Hall of Fame. I've previously written about the flawed voting process and likely will do so again in the future. Today should be about the players and their accomplishments.

Rickey Henderson was a game changer. Never before had a leadoff hitter combined the keen eye and understanding of the strike zone with incredible speed and very good power. Henderson was an on-base machine as evident by his .401 OBP. Over 25 seasons Rickey played for 9 different teams, some of them multiple times. His average 162 game season included 74 steals and 18 caught stealing for an 80.4% rate. Reflecting on base stealers over the years and projecting forward, it is rare that a season produces a single 70+ steal player never mind averaging that many over 25 years. Rickey won the MVP award in 1990 and produced over 3000 hits in his career. Both of these points are nice but he would have made it in without either of them. My lasting personal memory of Rickey? In 2002 he played for the RedSox, I made it to a single game (living in Atlanta) and snapped this picture of Rickey during a pitching change.

I like it. Lastly on Rickey - watch the batting stance guy do Rickey when he was on Letterman, classic :
watch here

As for Jim Ed Rice, there are many thoughts to be written and shared. Having taken notice of baseball in 1975 as a 9, soon to be 10 year old I thought that the two young outfielders (Rice and Lynn) would be the centerpieces of my favorite team for years to come. Well one stayed and one left. That's baseball. Jim Rice, during his career, never received the adulation he has received after retirement heading up to today's ceremony.

Rice didn't make it to 3000 hits or 400 homeruns like most players needed prior to steroid use becoming popular. He suffered through a decline due to age that many or most players endured and his effectiveness was limited to about 13 seasons. His lifetime batting average of .298 is very good for a player considered a power hitter. With the number of at bats he had, Rice needed 16 more hits in his 16 year career to end at .300, one more flair or seeing eye ground ball per year would have inched his career mark up to .300 , shame it didn't happen.

Six times Rice was in the top 5 in voting for the MVP, winning it once in 1978. Every article out there this week and today heading into the induction talks about the monster year it was for him. The stat that stands out to me is the 15 triples. As a line drive hitter, Rice would smash balls to parts of ballparks that were far away (centerfield) and in Fenway's case, had odd angles to bounce the ball around a bit. If Rice had even good speed (not ever mistaken for fast) he probably could have converted a couple of those triples into inside the park homers.

Check out this picture of Rice, notice those massive baseball bodies from the late 70's vs. the physiques of today.

There is a great story and account on espn yesterday read here about an incident when Rice helped out a little boy struck with a foul ball next to the dugout in a game. Another great article here from the Herald

The biggest regret as a fan is that Rice wasn't available to play in the 1975 World Series against the Reds. Rice had been hit in the hand/wrist in September 1975 by Verne Ruhle of the Tigers breaking it. Long considered the greatest World Series played, it was played without one of the most significant offensive players on either team. Maybe Bernie Carbo doesn't get his moment in game 6, maybe things turn out dramatically differently, who knows. My instincts tell me his presence allows the RedSox to beat the Big Red Machine and end the Curse of the Bambino (would the curse ever be known if they had won in 75?) 29 years earlier.

Jim Rice deserves to be in, it is somewhat fitting however that he made it in his last year of eligibility for the normal voting process. Jim Rice HOF, nice ring to it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Eight Days a Week

Eight full days from now the trade deadline will come down and most of the significant moves will be done for this season. In the Providence Journal writer Joe McDonald intimates Theo Epstein is not willing to move both Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly in a deal for Roy Halladay.

Me either.

I don't want another starting pitcher. Sure, never have enough, Wake's annual back problems, Penny and Smoltz doing their 5 inning dance each time out and of course Dice K's troubles...I get it. But with Beckett and Lester at the top of the rotation you have a luxury to potentially go get some offensive help that is much needed.

I know all the talk over Hanley Ramirez and the Marlins not likely to deal him back or anywhere has been exhausted, but what if the Sox make it sweet enough that the Marlins have to consider it?

Start with Buchholz.

While his accomplishments have been significant and notable, his ability to be a chip in a trade is a greater value to me than filling him into the rotation this year and for the future.

Add a little Casey Kelly. The 19 year old Sox player is trying to find his spot, either in SS (he can hit) or SP. For this year they have let him do both in Rookie Ball and A ball. Kelly was their #1 pick last year so he would be a lot to give up...just the kind of candy the Marlins are looking for as part of a package for somebody as good as Ramirez.

The Marlins would have to recognize this year isn't looking great for them, they have made a nice push prior to the break and got close to the Phillies but now the Phils are playing more to their talent level and have separated themselves from the pack a bit.

I don't know what other pieces would need to be added to make this a viable move for both teams but I, for one, would throw this out there with Ramirez being the piece coming back. Unless of course they wanted Ellsbury included or something along those lines. Lowrie, sure. Masterson, sure. Delcarmen, sure. Ramirez' 6 yr. $70m contract is low by yesterday's standards so the Marlins are in a position to not be nervous about the financials associated with Ramirez too.

If I'm GM for a day, I'd inquire about Ramirez for Buchholz, Kelly and (pick two) Lowrie, Masterson or Delcarmen. Still not sure the Marlins would bite but the upside they would receive with Buchholz and Kelly seems very high.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Favorites - by position part II (SS, 3B)


Shortstop -

The shortstop that comes to mind that I would rank as favorite during my lifetime is Rick "Rooster" Burleson. Again, another from my initial favorite team back in the mid-late 70's. Burleson was an acrobatic fielder with some amazing leaps for catches of line-drives. He was a decent enough hitter and was scrappy as well. He holds the record for most turned DPs by RedSox shortstops.

Notables : Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount
Non-Notables: Nomar, Bucky F'N Dent

Thirdbase -

George Brett played the game with grace and intensity. He was a good fielder, won a single Gold Glove in 1985 and career .305 hitter. The Royals were a fun team to watch in the 80's and he was the centerpiece. Gotta love the pine-tar game (although that is part of his legacy) and the reaction when they challenged him on it. Classic.

Notables : Butch Hobson, Mike Schmidt, Chipper Jones

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Favorites - by position part I (C, 1B, 2B)

With the upcoming induction of Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame it made me think of players I really liked over the years. I'll admit, Rice wasn't even close to being a favorite of mine. Fred Lynn was my first favorite baseball player and to this day my close friends probably could have answered that as a trivia question about me.

So with the Sox in midst of a bad stretch, rather than blog about that and the Yankees recent domination of the AL East, I will instead write about my favorite players in my lifetime, not necessarily the best players at each position but my favorites.

Catcher -

Carlton "Pudge" Fisk ; the moment, 12th inning, game 6. I was 10 yrs old, enjoying my first full season really aware of baseball. I always remember how large he was relative to most hitters and the umpires. After firing a ball back to the pitcher he would be putting his mask back on and be towering over most players (and the ump). Was upset when he was "let go" by the Sox along with Lynn and Burleson.

Notables: Thurman Munson, Johnny Bench, Jason Varitek

Firstbase -

George "Boomer" Scott ; Boomer began his career with the Sox in 1966, sent to Milwaukee for 72-76, brought back in '77 and was part of their version of murderers row in '77 and '78. Scott had a weird knack for hitting some triples every year. He ended with 60 in his career. Somebody that big (listed as only 215 lbs on baseball reference, haha, nice one) should not have been able to get the trips. Loved the helmet in the field at first. Lastly, his wife (I think her name was Cookie or something like that) had a little sports store in Falmouth Ma, which happened to be the home of my grandparents growing up. I used to ride a bike there and shop around hoping Boomer would show up...duh, middle of the summer he isn't likely to be on Cape Cod...

Notables: Tony Perez, Willie Stargell (stars on the hats turned me off though)

Secondbase -

Mark Lemke ; Lemke was known as a poor man's Pedroia. He only sniffed close to .300 in the strike/lockout shortened 1994 season at .294 Offense wasn't what I remember about Lemmer. He was steady but not flashy in the field. Lemke always had a dirty uni. He was a big part of the worst to first turnaround in Atlanta in 1991. In the World Series (one of the best ever; Jack Morris out-dueling John Smoltz in the 10 inning game 7 for the 1-0 clinching win) Lemke hit .417 with 3 triples and likely would have been MVP of the Series had the Braves won it. He currently is doing radio pre-game/post game for the Braves. A few years ago he was player/manager for an independent minor league team and was trying to pitch using a knuckleball as his main pitch.

Notables : Rod Carew, Paul Molitor

Who are some of your favorites at Catcher , first and second base? (during your lifetime) and why?

Coming next : SS, 3B

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Star Diary

8:47 - about to start, had the kids all watch Obama throw out the first pitch, except they must have instructed the production crew not to show how he did. Had a close up of him from behind (3rd base side)...I won my streak pick of him getting it to the glove so he must have made it there...punk move not to show it from behind him, normal camera angle.

8:48 - NL takes the field, AL lineup just seems more dangerous. I predict AL 8-5.

8:50 - first pitch from Lincecum, fouled off by Ichiro.

8:51 - Joe Buck mentions last time NL has won the All Star game was 1996. Ichiro singles, Jeter will move him over unselfishly, or at least we will hear it from McCarver my guess.

8:53 - Jeter gets plunked, sounded like the bat but I guess it was the arm or hand.

8:54 - closeup of left handed batters between pitches gives the viewers a glimpse of a blond in a black strappy dress behind homeplate...

8:56 - after FC by Mauer, Texiera grounds into a sure double play but Pujols bobbles it, Jeter scores, 1-0

8:57 - Jason Bay hits a single into center, loading them back up, Hamilton grounds into a FC scoring Mauer from third.

8:59 - Young grounds out to third, inning over.

9:05 - Utley up after Ramirez grounded to second, Halloday looks good early. Ground out to first, two down and Pujols coming up, not much of a applause considering how popular he is, must be a bunch of corporate people from around America that flew in for the game...although there is a lot of red shirts in the crowd.

9:07 - sharp grounder to third, inning over.

9:11 - Halloday up, why do the pitchers bat in All-Star games? I don't care where the game is played, stupid. You (Bud) already changed the rules when you made the game winner the home team in the Series, make DH mandatory for All-Star games, allow the players to play. Geesh, nice strike out, perhaps that will hurt Halloday's trade value to a NL team...

9:13 - closeup of Ichiro's silver cleats, sweet, I guess. Helava player, fashion wise I'm not so sure.

9:14 - nice Budweiser nostalgic commercial about baseball, baseball has the license on those kind of moments, expect a few more during the game tonight

9:15 - browsing during commercials, notice Pedro has come to terms with the Phillies. Not sure how to react. Pedro was, for his time in Boston, the greatest and most dominant pitcher in modern times. He won some games for the Mets but never the same. I cannot imagine he will be more than a 5 inning pitcher for the Phils.

9:18 - Obama in the booth, finally the view of his first pitch from behind. Barely made it to home plate, I expected better.

9:20 - Mr. President just gave his rundown on all the teams having hope this season...except the Nationals of course...even the most prominent resident of Washington is down on the Nationals.

9:23 - NL ties the game 2-2 on a single and error. Take the lead on a Prince Fielder ground rule double (pinch hitter).

9:28 - Franklin (nice beard) in to pitch for the NL, he is their closer so a little weird for him to be in for the 3rd inning. Jeter grounds out harmlessly to second. Mauer lines out to first, two down. Bringing Franklin in after taking the early lead might be a great move, he is lights out this year and often teams want to make sure you keep any momentum you have going.

9:47 - have run out of steam, not sure how the pro's do it, keeping a diary for an entire game, my hat is off to you Mr. Simmons.

Yawn...Stick A Fork In It

MLB's annual Homerun Derby, brought to you by StateFarm, was last night. I'll admit, I haven't watched the entire derby since the game was at Fenway back in '99. Last night however, I watched the whole thing, taken pitch after taken pitch. The format is set up for the hitters to lull you to sleep taking pitches until they feel like they have the right feel for one. The hitters this year seemed more headliners than they have had in recent years although that may be my perception and not fact.

Ever play in a coed softball intramural league in college? The one I played in you had somebody on your team pitch to you while you batted. You were allowed one lousy pitch per at bat. All the pressure was on the pitcher to lay a meatball over the plate. It sped the games up tremendously and added an element of barstool discussion for after the games. MLB needs to change something up. While the one pitch rule in college was extreme, how about something like this:

Round 1: you get 10 outs, but taking a pitch counts as half an out. No more taking 5 or 6 straight pitches, swinging at one, then taking 5 or 6 more.

Round 2: you get 10 outs, but taking a pitch counts as a full out. Less hitters here, should have the guys that hit the ball better in round 1, should be ready to hit again.

Finals : you get 10 pitches, period. Do what you can with your 10.

There really isn't much drama in the whole competition anymore. Don't know if it is backlash because of the steroid years or not but there is less excitement (unless you are in the park I would imagine). The biggest moment last night was whether hometown favorite Albert Puhols was going to smile at his kid after he took his turn and the kid was trying to towel him off. There needs to be something to make it more important, a must see TV moment if you will. Bud, you still there? You still the commish? How about making the Derby decide the home team in the World Series? Would you see a few more big hitters being encouraged to join in? Perhaps from the good teams that are likely playoff bound. Ok, it started as a joke and then got worse...bad idea.

How about each team sends their representative to the first round? Not only would there be some team pride introduced but you could then include some fans too? Each team brings a fan (from a local competition) to get some swings in as well. The fans' homers (maybe have a second fence in about 50' for the fan participants would not count toward the overall player's score but there would be a secondary winner (fan) and the team he/she represented. Imagine David Ortiz being there representing the RedSox and giving advice to Mr. Fan from Andover, MA?

Whatever MLB decides to do, which likely will be nothing, they need to do fast. I can likely say with confidence that I won't be watching the entire event next year unless there were some changes made.

Monday, July 6, 2009

All Stars

MLB's All-Star teams have been released, there are some notable ommissions (A-Rod, Manny) and some feel good nominations too.

The voters (fans) got most of this right for a change. Of the 16 spots voted for, there are only a couple that I would say are noticably wrong.


1) NL catcher, Molina is in because of the game being in St. Louis, strong local voting. Atlanta catcher Brian McCann deserved to be the starter but is going as a reserver.

2) AL outfield, Josh Hamilton battled injuries all season and this vote was for his performance last year, specifically in the HR derby.

It is hard to argue with any of the other voting results.

As for reserves, one AL pitcher selected will be a big story and highlighted during the pregame and during the game quite a bit. Tim Wakefield, 42 year old Tim Wakefield is making his first All Star appearance. Congratulations to Wake.

Here are the complete rosters to date, one more spot to be voted on for each league:

Leading the way as far as veterans with the most appearances are Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera with this being their 10th trip for each.

Trivia question I heard on the radio this morning on : Evan Longoria is the first Tampa Ray to be elected to start the all star game since....... Answer later in the day

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tommy Can You Hear Me?

With all due respect to the Who, Tommy Hanson is the most important Tommy right now.

Dating back to his 2nd start this year(career) against Baltimore, Tommy has now is in a streak of 21 scoreless innings.

His ERA is down to 2.48 AND he is not really throwing great yet.

See the stats below of his young career so far:

First few outings were not against the cream of the crop, Milwaukee is a good team but Baltimore and then Cincinnati are relatively easier starts...then the Yankees and then the Sox today.

I have predicted this kid would be next year's Cy Young winner in the NL, nothing he is doing yet would make me want to change my prediction.

His walks are high and should improve at he gains experience.

He is the bright spot in an otherwise dismal showing so far by the Braves.

On July 17th, the Braves will retire Greg Maddux's number in a big ceremony. It is too far away to be accurate but I hope Tommy Hanson pitches that night. Their styles are very different, Hanson can throw the heat, but it would also do him some good to take in the appreciation for a future Hall of Famer that never was confused for a hard thrower.

I am already looking forward to next Saturday when Hanson and the Braves go to Washington.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Role Models

Should superstars, whether in sports or any walk of life, be role models?

One of the blogs I check periodically is called Dugout Central, it is a collection point of writings by many people about baseball. One .recent post this week by a writer named Teddy Mitrosilis caught my attention. He writes about Manny Ramirez's "rehab" in Albuquerque and wonders outloud whether Manny coulda/shoulda done things differently. He speculates how great an opportunity it would have been for Manny to either connect with fans by signing autographs etc. as well as connecting with the minor league players and giving them insight into what it takes to make the jump to the majors and allow them to get a glimpse of what they are trying to elevate to. Here is a quote from Teddy's post:

He should have played his four innings, and then hung out with the other minor leaguers for the last five. He should have spent those five innings talking with the hitters, giving them two hours of total access to ask any question a kid would want to ask about hitting to one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game.

He should have spent the other five innings coaching. He should have paid attention to the other minor leaguers’ at-bats, and then talked to them about pitch sequence and approach when they came back in the dug out.

He should have had steaks and beers delivered to the clubhouse after the game – on his dime – and sat around with the rest of the guys telling them what life is like in the big leagues.

For all of Ramirez’s faults, he has a reputation of being a tireless worker. He should have sat around with the boys, enjoying a rib eye, explaining to them exactly what it takes to not only get to the big leagues, but also stick there.

He should have talked to them about all the fun you have in The Show, but also the professionalism and dedication it takes to taking care of your body and being ready to perform.

You don’t think those minor league players would have been hanging on every story and every line? That would have been like Bring Your Dad To School Day in the second grade. Those words would have actually made a difference.

You could argue that Manny should have gotten to the ballpark early, and stayed late to sign autographs for all of the fans that want them. That would have been a nice gesture, but I’m not going to say that he has to do that. Hey, if he wants to say thanks to the people who pay his salary and support him, that’s up to him.

But it’s not up to him to give his time to his current teammates. He owes that to them. He’s walking into their yard, taking the at-bats and outfield reps from a young kid who could use them to develop and chase a dream, all while he is suspended for testing positive.

What is the responsibility of the superstar?

I don't believe there is a responsibility to be a role model...but I do believe it would be great for everybody if more superstars took it upon themselves to do more with their status.

I am not talking about giving money, so many athletes, actors, musicians etc all give tons of money to great charities and causes. I'm talking about role models.

Again -not required but in the quote above, how great for those minor leaguers would it have been if Manny did any of those things while in Albuquerque?

Yesterday pop icon Michael Jackson passed away. While he obviously had nothing to do with sports, his passing raises the same type of questions. When MJ was at the top of the world, mid to late 80's, he made life changing choices that will be questioned forever. His influence, across traditional racial lines, was immense. Unfortunately, in my opinion, he started getting "weird" on the world and lost the opportunity to be a role model that could have affected many many people.

Celebrity brings riches and popularity by default. How any person handles that tranformation is anybody's guess. More and more, today's youth need role models out of the celebrity pages doing more of the right things.

I have heard the argument that the role model should be the parents. I agree as the primary role models. Parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, teachers all should be present and role models to some degree. Unfortunately, as a father of 5, I am not Superman, Derek Jeter, Brad Pitt, Lebron James or Barack Obama. Role models come from fiction, and from real life, they should make a person dream, dream to be better or great at something.

My role models growing up were sports related, Fred Lynn and Larry Bird. Lynn to me was the young, talented athlete that enjoyed what he did. I wanted to make diving catches like Lynn in centerfield and hit so effortlessly like he did. Larry Bird was the superstar that continued to work harder than everybody else to improve when he was already at the top of his profession. These two shaped my teenage years and likely added some values to who I was becoming. The didn't get busted doing something stupid, they didn't (publicly)get in trouble. I never met them or had any real interaction with them but it didn't matter, they were role models to me.

It is increasingly hard to find public figures that you would want your kids to have as role models, that is why I posted today.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Smoltzie time

After waiting a little over a year to get back out there, John Smoltz will take the mound tonight against the Nationals. The odd part about that statement is what was unsaid. He will be pitching for the Boston RedSox and making his first career appearance without the familiar tomahawk on his chest. He will have different players fielding behind him, different catcher to throw to, AND different expectations.

"I know I'm going to be judged really fast by a lot of people," he said. "First impressions are always nice, but they're not the lasting impression."

Many will claim he should have retired if he gives up a few runs or gets chased early. Some will cry that he is ruining his legacy.

The RedSox, and Smoltz himself, have said over and over that the goal is to push forward and have Smoltz available and healthy come September and hopefully October.

The dream is for Beckett, Lester and Smoltz to anchor the postseason rotation (no offense to DiceK, Wakefield, and Brad Penny). The Sox would have the best postseason staff (on paper) this side of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz 10-15 years ago.

Getting to the postseason and having some success along the way is their collective goal.

I think regardless of tonight's outcome in Washington, Smoltz will have outings where he gives up more than anybody wants him to but he also will have outings where he amazes people. Take a look at this excerpt from :baseball reference

I've highlighted where I want to make some points:

Grey - time as the closer, not for today's discussion
Blue - extremely consistent ERA, granted against NL and pitchers batting
Orange - Incredible WHIP by today's standards, very consistent
Green - Great strikeouts per 9 and walks per 9 stats
Yellow - only times when his ERA was above 4.00

Smoltz isn't a pitcher that was on the way out when he got hurt last year. He was a pitcher, converted back to a starter, that was still dominating and putting in 30+ starts over the last 3 years prior to the injury.

His stats in those three years are very nice, 44-24 record, about a 3.20 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, his strikeouts per 9 innings actually went up all three years and was abnormally high last year before the injury.

What fans in Boston don't know about John Smoltz (yet) is the fire he has burning. Sounds like a cliche but it really is different for him than others. He is an extremely intelligent pitcher that absolutely gets pissed off when he performs poorly. I can't imagine him ever shrugging off a bad outing.

If his body lets him, he could easily be the most important piece to the RedSox championship drive this year.

In case you missed the last statement I said Smoltz could be more important than David Ortiz's bat, than Josh Becketts golden arm, than Ellsbury's wheels. How deep would you like to have your rotation when you hit the postseason? How deep will the teams you face be?

Smoltz could be the best 3rd starter in the major leagues in about a month. If you judge him based on tonight, be prepared to change your judgement later on.

I think he does ok tonight, 5+ innings, couple of runs given up, gives the Sox a chance to win.

Does Vegas have odds on Smoltz getting a postseason start this year?
I would bet on it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Sometimes other interests other than sports connect with sports to form a union of sorts. Announcements came out that Fenway Park will be hosting Paul McCartney for two nights, Aug 5 and Aug 6.

Obviously I am a huge Beatles fan and hence a McCartney fan. I have seen Sir Paul 4 times in concert beginning in 1990. Seeing him in the shrine that is Fenway would/could be heaven. In case you can't figure it out I am vacillating over whether to fly up for one of the shows. Might be a once in the lifetime kind of opportunity.

One reason not to go to Boston to see him in Fenway is that McCartney also announced today that he will be playing in Piedmont Park in Atlanta (home for me) Aug 18th. Pre-sale opportunities are still going on for both Boston and Atlanta...what to do...

Hanson, Chamberlain, Buchholz

There are 3 teams in MLB that I follow closely. The RedSox, Braves and Yankees.

The Sox because I grew up in the burbs of Boston, the Braves because I have lived in Atlanta since 1990, the Yankees just to keep tabs on the rivals.

All three teams have exceptional starting pitching prospects currently.

For the Sox, Clay Buchholz:

Buchholz threw a no-hitter in 2007 as a rookie. Last year was a disaster, 2-9 record with a 6.75 ERA. He went into the offseason with work to do to regain confidence and find his approach again. He was lights out in spring training but ran into a wall of starters ahead of him. In AAA Pawtucket (Redsox) he is 5-1 1.94 so far this year and has been quoted as getting impatient in his quest to make it back to Boston. The added time in the minors has not been a bad thing for Buchholz as there will be some doubters when he does make it back to the majors. He needs to continue to improve and be absolutely ready when his chance comes up.

His chance may come up sooner than later. The big unknown for the Sox is what will John Smoltz bring to the mound tomorrow (6/25) against the Nationals in his first start in over a year. With DiceK going on the DL, Buchholz is one injury away from getting called up. If Smoltz doesn't continue to be healthy or anything pops up on the other starters Buchy is next in line.

I would expect him to be called up before too long, it is too much to ask that the rotation stay intact for the season.

For the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain:

Joba remains a mystery to me. The hype is huge, he is huge (not CC huge though). Chamberlain remains on a innings/pitch count to protect against further shoulder injuries. In 2008 he was 4-3 2.60 in mostly relief (setup). 12 of his 42 appearances were starts. In 2009 he began and remains as a starter and is 3-2 with a 3.89 ERA. Some would say that is what they would hope for as he progresses. I wonder whether the innings/pitch counts coupled with his increase in walks this year are keeping him from performing better. He has 37 walks through 69 innings pitched this year, last year he ended with 39 walks through 100 IP. Chamberlain at some point will need to be given the ball like they have done with Sabathia. It won't be this year but he needs to become the type of pitcher that pitches into the 8th inning with the dominating stuff he has it is getting underutilized as he pitches 5 or 6 innings now. The upside is huge for Chamberlain, whether he builds the stamina and control to allow him to get there remains to be seen. The last thing on Chamberlain I want to comment on is his maturity. He goes over the top when he gets a strikeout, often yelling/screaming and pumping fists. The Yankee fans will point to Jonathon Paplebon of the RedSox and say "same thing". I get that, don't like it for Paplebon either but there is a difference when a closer in the 9th does it, and does it against a rival or in a tight spot vs. a starter doing it in the 4th inning. Maturity may be the key for Chamberlain both in his control and pitch count as well as overall poise on the mound.

For the Braves, Tommy Hanson:

Last night Tommy Hanson pitched his 4th game in the majors, he shut the Yankees out through 5+ innings and got his 3rd win against no losses. He hasn't pitched well yet but has wiggled out of jams he has put himself into. His walks are way up compared to his minor league stats and he hasn't found a rythym yet in the majors. Watch out when he does. Like Chamberlain, he can throw 100 mph and has nasty breaking stuff too. While Hanson is in Atlanta to stay (no reason to move him back down to AAA) he will be monitored over the season most likely on success and confidence. He seems very poised for a 22 yr old. He is pegged as the anchor of the Braves staff for years to come. Chipper Jones was quoted on the radio yesterday as being amazed that Hanson is so poised and doing well without yet pitching the way he is capable of pitching. Quite high praise from a hall of fame hitter.

With each of the three teams I follow closely having a stud young pitcher it will be exciting to follow their careers. While the Sox and Yankees will get more attention because they share a division, I hope the Braves can again soon be contenders to give Tommy Hanson the spotlight I think he will deserve.