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