Sunday, April 24, 2011


Been away for a few days, so a few things:

--Don't look now, but the Sox are 7-1 in their past 8 games and are finally out of the cellar.

--Baltimore is now there, being one of the faster teams to go from first to last that I've seen.

--The top 3 are the Yanks, Rays and Sox, which you can bet will be the three playing the shell game for the rest of the season.

--A source tells me that you can bet that the Sox will not be paying Papelbon for his services next year.  As they have 3 closers on the roster now, they'll probably try to trade him if they don't think they'll go deep in the playoffs.  If they do, he'll stay, but then go bye-bye via free agency.

--I also hear that all indicators are that Papelbon will have a lights-out year, as he's mentioned he'll test the free agent market next year.  Nice enough guy, I'm told, and not as nutty as you'd think--but not the brightest bulb, either.

--The Angels will have trouble scoring runs consistently this year.  Their pitching and defense will have to be stellar.  This series they haven't been.

--Pitchers need to have better poker faces on the mound.  I'm getting tired of them showing lots of emotion when a call that's not even close doesn't go their way.

--The word is that some players in MLB are taking substances not being tested for yet, sort of a Stealth HGH.  I'm not surprised.

--I also hear that I may be surprised by the support that Manny may get from HOF voters after all.  If he gets in within a few years of eligibility, I will be very surprised.

--You have to wonder why Dice-K can't be like this all the time, if he can be unhittable in two straight starts.  What's going on in there?

--Varitek can go 0 for the season and still catch Game 7 of the World Series for me.

--Then again, so can Heidi Watney, if you know what I'm sayin'.

--The Yanks have 5 out of the top-10 batters in the league in terms of batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.  They'll have to be that way all year in order for them to contend.

--Mike Cameron must have pictures.

--Salty might be too tall to be a catcher.

--Ervin Santana, who could be Pedro, struck out 9 in 7 innings yesterday, but also gave up 9 hits and 5 runs, and some long homeruns.  That, in a nutshell, is why he drives his management crazy.  I remember when he came up, and he was lights out.  Now he's still lights out, but in a different way.

--I just saw Ellsbury thrown out on the second of two consecutive pitchouts.  Before the pitch, Scioscia was going through his signs in the dugout, and I thought: He's calling for another pitchout.  I swear.

--I called a Jim Rice homerun just like that, when I was 14.  A short story due to be in print soon (Space and Time Magazine; look for it in the summer) starts with a reference to the narrator calling a Manny homer, but it's based on me calling Rice's.

--Speaking of which, I was talking to a local former sports reporter yesterday, and when I asked him if he could guess the most perfect homerun swing I ever saw, he said, "Manny's game-winning homer off the Angels in the 2007 ALDS?"  Now, how the hell did he know that?  That was a little bit creepy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dodgers vs. Mets

Bud Selig, who I don't normally defend, has recently been under fire for stepping on Frank McCourt's toes and taking over control of his Dodgers.  Those attacking Selig have said that if he's doing that to the Dodgers, he needs to do the same to the Mets.  Frank McCourt himself, it seems, is suing MLB for exactly that reason.

These people don't know what they're talking about.  As Selig said today, these are two unrelated, different problems and are therefore being treated that way.  The Mets are in trouble because, in the process of trying to help the team, ownership gave money to Bernie Madoff, who then made off (sorry) with much of said money.  The difference here is that the intent was to help the team.  The Dodgers are in trouble because the McCourts are using the team in their divorce squabbles in the same way that some people use their kids and dogs in such squabbles--and the team, the fans, and MLB are suffering because of it.  So the situation there is that the mistakes made are not even meant to be in the team's best interest--they're just two rich and spoiled people being bratty.  Besides that, there's an illegal situation between the Dodgers and Fox, which is and has been the de facto owner of the team, to the extent that Fox illegally allowed McCourt to borrow $200 million recently just to make payroll, and if the situation there stood, Fox--which has a national baseball television contract--would essentially own the team even more so than it already does.  This would be a blatant violation of interest.  McCourt has a ton of other legal and financial things going on as well, all of them shady.

Selig did the right thing to step in--and if you don't think that the other owners saw what was happening, and saw how it effected them, you're crazy.  And consider this: The Dodgers hold the major league record for most consecutive seasons selling over 3 million home tickets.  And with a one year break, they held the same record for many years before that.  In other words, they've sold 3 million or more tickets for 81 home games for, let's say, 19 out of the last 20 years.  And the Dodgers players don't have the contracts that the Yanks and Sox players do.  So how can the Dodgers be losing so much money all this time?  There's something rotten in the state of Chavez Ravine, and Selig and the other owners know it.  And I suspect that what we know now is only the tip of the iceberg of all things wrong in Dodgerland.  Stepping in was the right thing to do.

(And the Sox were lucky to win last night against the Angels, too.  They haven't played well--the As and Angels just squandered more and played even worse.) 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Last Few Days

A few quick things:

--Okie-Dokie isn't ready.  Or, he's as ready as he's going to be, if you know what I mean.

--The McCourt situation with the Dodgers is a disgrace.  They're choosing their bitterness towards each other over the team, the fans, and everyone else.  A travesty.

--Let's hope Youk didn't break a bone tonight.  Looks exactly like Pedroia's injury last year.

--The Sox pitching looks A LOT better.  It's all about the starters, who've strung together five or six straight starts of five innings and one run or less.  They haven't done that since the 50s.  Lots of pitching and hitting firsts this year, most of them not good.

--The Sox tried to give the game away last night, but the A's didn't want it.  They left 15 on base.

--Nobody in the A.L. East is hot out of the gate, or for more than 4 or 5 straight games.  That's why the Sox are only 6-11, but just 4 or so games out.  Had a team started out 12-4 or so, they'd be at least 7 or 8 out, as they should be.

--I'm sick of the texting and driving commercial, though it needs to be said.  My barber got his expensive Jeep crushed in the street-side back corner by a young girl from CT who was texting and driving.

--I miss the AFLAC duck, but I'll say again that if I run AFLAC, I fire Gottfried, too.  Dumb.

--Angels pitching and defense look really good.  Their offense, a little less so.

--Umpiring has been ridiculously awful this week.  Pedroia slid past the bag and was tagged out--very obvious to the naked viewing eye, even with the bag, players and umpire blocking the camera view--but he was called safe anyway.  Even now, nobody knows what the call was on the Cameron/Ellsbury play.  (Though Cameron obviously obstructed the catcher, so he and Ellsbury should have been out.)

--The Sox finally agreed with me that Varitek needs to catch more.  The Sox brass obviously reads this blog.

--The Angels stadium looks great, too, but the excessive water beyond the outfield bothers me there just like it does in Royals Stadium.  What a waste, when a couple of cities in my state have lousy drinking water.  Why am I fixing my faucets when they're just wasting tons of gallons?  I hope they have the larger version of a smaller self-sustaining water system that keeps using the same water.

--Speaking of the Royals, they're doing much better than I, or anyone, thought they would.

--The Sox have 5 everyday players hitting at or below the Mendoza Line (speaking again of the Royals).

--So....Kendys, not Kendrys?  Whatever.  Break a leg, man.  (Sorry.)

--Rumor has it Trump wants to buy the Mets.  Didn't he file for bankruptcy several times?

--Let the circus begin when the potential buyers for the Dodgers line up.

--The relief you hear is Big Papi being happy about his start this year.

--Ellsbury leads the team in homers and yet is hitting below .200.  He shouldn't be hitting flyballs at all.  I want to see all of his hits be on a line somewhere.  I don't want him hitting homers.  Every time he hits it in the air, he owes me 20 pushups.

--Leave a comment below or send an email if you know who said the Mendoza Line reference and the movie and character I alluded to in the last sentence of the last bulleted item.  No looking them up!

Monday, April 18, 2011


Well, two in a row for the second time this year.  Let's not get too excited--let's at least reach .500 first--but here's what I saw yesterday:

--It begins and ends with starting pitching.  This was a close game for awhile there, but Lester had them all the way.  It helps that the Jays are a largely undisciplined hitting and running team.

--But if your starter goes 6 innings (and he could have gone 7 but for some questionable defense) and has the lead, you will win more often than not.  If your starter has to leave in the 4th or 5th, you will lose.  The Sox have done much better when their starters have done much better.  It's not brain surgery.

--Crawford continues to press.  The boos are loud on television now.  In today's (Monday) game, he came up with runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out, and couldn't at least hit it to the right side to move them over.  He's doing horribly with the fundamentals right now--as I mentioned in a recent blog; he needs to do the basics before he can drive the ball with authority right now.

--Jenks, Bard and Wheeler pitched last night like they're always supposed to.  This bullpen can be great if these guys only have to pitch one inning each, preferably with nobody on base.

--Bard seems to be the de facto save guy, the guy you bring in the 6th-8th innings right when the game is on the line.  Papelbon will do the 9th, but any fan knows that is often not where the save happens.

--Speaking of which, something must be done with hold and save rules and stats, as they are often indicative of nothing.  Bard may actually get 2 to 3 times more saves than Papelbon will, but they count as holds.  Both stats seem ridiculous, but I'm sure their agents have someone keeping tabs of how they perform in all situations.

--I'm not impressed by Gonzalez's hitting so far.  He needs to be more aggressive up there.  Let's start earning all that money, big guy.

--Speaking of that, his contract seems to be a good move to me.  But the Sox had better saddle up with Pedroia and Youkillis, too, or I'd have a bad feeling in my mouth if I were them.

--Papelbon is 30, which is older than most of the Sox players, for those keeping track.

--It's good to see Okie-Dokie coming back up.  I hope he can stay and show the form of a few years ago.  Doubront has promise--and I have his autograph, too--but he hasn't been severely impressing, and I feel that they're trying to make him attractive trade bait.  In the meantime, he's an emergency spot starter, if necessary.  Makes you wonder what they feel Wake is better doing at this point.

--They're looking better, but let's wait until they're at .500 before we say they're in the playoffs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Here's what I saw that worked yesterday:

--Beckett pitched.  He owns 2 of their 3 wins, and is by far the most impressive pitcher on the team.  His success now as compared to the past few years is simple to see: he's not throwing 100% fastballs (of any of the three types he throws) and he's getting his off-speed stuff over very consistently.  Before he dogheadedly threw the #1 all the time, to every hitter, and it didn't move much, so if you're a professional hitter and you're sitting on it, you can hit it.  And they did.  A lot.  Because he's throwing much more off-speed stuff (getting them over for strikes is a big plus), they can't sit dead-red.  Gives them something else to think about, and they're also not so comfortable hitting off of him.  I can see the difference in the confidence on their faces; they don't feel they can hit him as easily as before.  Now that he's getting the off-speed stuff over, they have to look for that.  But if they're looking for that, he can blow his #1 by them, thereby getting even more outs.  I'm tellin' you, it's that simple: If you can throw 93+ and get off-speed stuff over consistently, you can pitch in the major leagues.  (Another improvement is that he's not walking everyone.  Those totals are down because he's not missing with his off-speed stuff, which leads to an avalanche of positive things for him.  Dice-K should learn from this.)

--Varitek caught.  I know that one leads to the other these days, that Beckett wants Varitek catching him, but I still stand by my opinion about how important pitch-selection is.  Varitek knows all the hitters, but he can out-smart them back there, too.  (He also might be a little bit of Jake Taylor back there, too, for those of you who get the reference.)  NESN showed the stat yesterday that Varitek is 2-2 and the staff has an ERA below 3.0 when he catches.  Salty is 0-8 with an ERA over 6.  Granted that Varitek has half the control group that Salty has, but I can see what I see, and he is better back there overall.  He threw someone out yesterday, too.

--Crawford didn't play and Ellsbury didn't lead off.  Crawford will have to come around, and I feel badly about the boos he's getting, but, as he said, they should boo him, he deserves it.  But he can hit .300 and have 200 hits and 50 stolen bases, so he absolutely must come around.  Yesterday was a good mental health day for him, though.  Ellsbury looks more comfortable now batting 7-9, so I would keep him there.  I won't pretend to know what ails him; I haven't understood him for years, since just after he came up late in 2007, had a HOF second half...and then I don't know.  Sox fans don't, either.  A guy at Fenway a few nights ago (when I was there) yelled things at Ellsbury I won't repeat here, but also added the caveat that he hasn't been good for awhile now, that he had that mysterious year last year that people still whisper loudly about, and that he's only popular because women think he's handsome.  The guy wasn't all right, but he wasn't all wrong, either.  With the glut of outfielders the Sox have, I wouldn't be surprised if the brass grows disenchanted with him and trades him late in the year.  Having said that, Ellsbury's upside is only a smidgeon lower than Crawford's, and is therefore way too potentially good to give up on.  But now's the time to walk the walk.

--Jed Lowrie has always been a small favorite of mine, though I am still surprised by his hitting and defense this year, and I'm even more surprised to watch him lead off yesterday and not only go 3 for 5, but also hit scalding drives for his two outs.  I love the old-fashioned gloves hanging out of his back pocket when he hits; he's scrappy looking, weighs about 170, max, and frankly makes it look like you or I could also get a hit up there.  Jeff Frye struck me the same way, that if he can do it, I can do it.  I can't, of course, but that's undoubtedly some of Lowrie's appeal.  He looks like a throwback player, anywhere from the 1880s to the 1920s, and has the name to boot.  He's playing comfortable up there, and I think it's because he knows he's coming back next year and Scutaro isn't.  (Don't be surprised to see Scutaro traded, either.)  The SS phenom is waiting to be the starter late this year or definitely next year, so you can't keep Lowrie and Scutaro.  Lowrie can play short, second and third, and Scutaro can only play short.  Lowrie has also shown that he can hit first or second like Scutaro can.  His versatility makes him just a little more valuable than Scutaro.

--I'm not down on Scutaro, by the way.  He is what he is, which is a singles and doubles hitting, average fielding SS who can lead off or hit lower, bat .275 to .285 at the end of the year, drive in some runs with a good lineup, maybe 80 to 85, max, in a great year, and he comes to play every day.  What's not to like?  Plenty of teams could use him.  The problem for him is that the Sox can't.  Lowrie can do all those things, too, maybe a smidge better since he's younger, and he's also cheaper and has better range and versatility.  He's also never going to be any better than that, and has been that consistently for awhile now, but to the extent that, for him, there's nowhere else for him to go but down.  He's on the downside now, but I'll bet his declining years will be many, as his slow but steady descent will take a few years, too.  Still a valuable player for many teams.

--Yesterday the Sox were still terrible with RISP.  They were 2 for 12, or something like that, and left close to 11 on base again.  That has to stop.

--The umps and fans were dressed like they were watching a game in Siberia.

--Right now, it's Pedroia and Lowrie, Beckett and Lester, and pray for rain.  The core has to step up.  Now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

First Fenway Visit of 2011

Was very, very cold.  I had on a T-shirt, a Sox long-sleeved shirt, a very comfortable school sweatshirt, and a heavy black trenchcoat--and I was still cold.  Though not as cold as the Sox performance!  So a few notes of what I saw in person:

--The Fenway Faithful are quickly losing the faith.  Several booed most of the night, which isn't helpful for the players.  They're pressing enough as it is--and they ARE clearly pressing--and so putting more pressure on them by booing them is counterproductive.

--But when you're paying your mortgage to watch the games, how else can most vent their frustration?  I just shake my head and logically say what shouldn't have happened; but, in that, my friend is right when he says that, as a fan, "I'm kind of bland."

--And you're supposed to say that in your best Joe Castiglione voice--and make it very nasal.

--So Defense Exhibit A of a player pressing: Crawford, in the 7th, had a 3-1 count on him, with the bases empty, Sox down by 4.  In such a situation, you learn in high school to take that 3-1 pitch.  Always.  A solo homer by you does no good; you need to get on base, start a big inning, make things happen on the basepaths, and hope your teammates keep the line moving.  So you take that 3-1, and if it's a strike, you do what you have to on 3-2.  Plus, that's one more pitch for the reliever to throw, and the more relievers throw, the more you can get to them.  The worst thing you can do is swing at that pitch.  What's he do?  He swings and pops it up to third.  Crawford knows not to do this.  So why do it?  Because he's pressing and trying to do too much.  (Even players like Ortiz need to take on 3-1 there, though the player I'm speaking of here was Crawford, a leadoff guy.)

--Defense Exhibit B: Ellsbury gets on base in the 8th and steals second base, going to third on the errant throw.  At first I told my friend I liked the play because the Sox--yesterday and today--need a spark, anything at all to get them going.  While I still believe this, and while this example is not as egregious as the one described above because of that, you still don't steal 2nd down by 4 in the 8th inning, with your team pressing.  It's a percentage play that, had it failed, would have been disasterous for many reasons.

--The most glaring offensive problem is that they are not playing fundamental baseball when at the plate.  They are not swinging smartly, or working the count, or working the pitchers, etc.  They're flailing up there, or guessing and thinking too much up there.  At 2-10, it needs to come down to: Be smart.  Go back to basics.  And in a hitting count, don't think too much or guess: See the ball, hit the ball.

--The Sox are missing John Farrell.  And somebody needs to get on Curt Young, big-time.

--Francona sent a message to Salty by pinch-hitting Lowrie for him in the 8th.  I've said it a ton already this year, but I'll say it again: Salty is not calling a good game, and he's not hitting.  Maybe Varitek needs to be a backup, but not to this guy.  I want to see Varitek in there for at least the next 10 games.  Let's see what he can do.  He can't do any worse.

--The brand new Hi-Def screens look great, but the info. put on there is for the fan who otherwise would not know what was going on.  In other words, not the serious fan.

--The Sox don't make as much money on tickets as they do on concessions.  Our tickets were $30 each, not too bad for Fenway.  But a regular plastic cup of Coors Lite is $8, and a Sam Adams Summer Ale (perfect for last night's game) was $8.50.  A quick look around you shows you that a vast majority of the 38,000 fans had at least one.  And those who had more than one compensated for those who didn't have any, believe me.

--Jencks needs to pitch out of the stretch all the time.

--It's a mystery why J.D. Drew, with that swing, hasn't amassed 3,000 hits.  Except, of course, that he doesn't play when he gets a splinter, and he doesn't swing a vast majority of the time.  Okay, forget I said that.

--To show how unfaithful the Faithful are, when the Sox trailed by 4, the place emptied out, fast.  There was a sparse crowd after the 6th inning, and almost no one saw the 3 runs in the 8th.

--A quick look at today's news shows you that Dykstra has been arrested for stealing from himself (can't do that when you declare bankruptcy) and that he's been defrauding others for years.  Don't say I didn't tell you.  If you've forgotten, read my blog entry on him here.

--And Gooden got 5 years' probation for being high on cocaine while driving, causing an accident in which a child of his wasn't buckled in.  Call it the Curse of '86.  Buckner lives a life of guilt-free bliss compared to these guys.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sox/Yanks, Game 3

During Game 3, Sox/Yanks

--ESPN announcers now do a good job.  I was concerned about Bobby Valentine, but he's toned himself down some.  He's okay.

--But I'm not a fan of the K-Zone square.  Shocking, considering the baseball purist I am.

--The Sox are below the Mendoza line with RISP, the lowest in MLB.

--Their team ERA and starters' ERA are also the worst in MLB.  Not a good combination.

--The Rays have already lost today.  And the Mariners have lost 7 straight.

--Sox are 0-2 with RISP tonight at the end of the second inning, to worsen that stat.

--Word has it that Manny's not getting the love from the players.  And that he's okay with his retirement, which I do believe.  I also wouldn't doubt that the substance abused was pot, at least partially.

--Signing Buchholz to a 4-year deal is a good move.  He'll return to form soon.

--Beckett's pitches all have more zip this game than I have seen from him in a long time.  He needs to watch the film of these three innings and keep doing whatever he's doing.

--I'll be at Fenway Friday.  Maybe 7-10 total games this year.  I'll take it.

--Russell Martin looks like a steal so far.

--Big Papi has not been the same without Manny.

--Pedroia is putting on a fielding clinic the last few games.  He's hitting great, too.

--I threw the ball around a little today.  Felt good.  I think I'll start throwing 100 pitches a day again soon, maybe this week, definitely next.  When I finish my Masters, I'll play some games again.

--The Indians aren't this good.  The Rangers and Phillies are.

--The Sox and Rays aren't this bad.  The Mariners are.

--Hershiser does a good job, too.

--The tv ads superimposed over the ballpark ads behind the plate drive me crazy.

--Six hits and a couple of walks in three innings equal one run?  That's why they're losing--and the pitching.

--Go Sox!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Game 7--Sox 9, Yanks 6.

--Hate to say I was right, but I called it: the PawSox won a game before the BoSox did.  And Pawtucket starts its season a week later.

--If you're a situational lefty by definition, and you hit two batters and walk one, when your team is winless out of the gate, and down by a run late in the game, you can expect to be released as Dennys Reyes was.

--The Sox will need a great bullpen this year.  Theirs does have that potential.

--Hard to believe that Manny would fail another drug test.  His abrupt retirement is typical of him, and much easier to understand.  That truly is Manny being Manny.

--His numbers should get him into the Hall, but they won't.  I'm surprisingly okay with that.

--Pedroia leads the team in RBIs.

--Buchholz must pitch better than this.

--It's 5-4 here in the 4th inning of the 2nd game, and this series has made it very clear that the starting rotation of both teams is severely underachieving, to put it nicely.

--The Sox/Rays series coming up will be interesting in the sense that if one of the teams sweeps, the other team will be buried in the cellar.  In April.

--Reyes' release was a $900,000 "Eh, what the hell?"  Almost a million bucks for three appearances over a week of baseball.  It's a shrug of the shoulders.  Not a big deal.  That's just not the real world.

--It's Manny's way or not at all.  Makes you wonder what he knew about his own natural talent, and for how long.

--I was also right about the PawSox's attendance on Opening Night being greater than the attendance at Cleveland's Progressive Field during its second game.  Pawsox: 8,500.  Indians: 6,500.  A minor league team should not outdraw a major league team by 2,000.  Ever.

--The Phillies is one of the few great teams achieving like it's supposed to be.

--Epstein's pep talk is a classy act that you never see anymore.

--Ken Rosenthal makes me want to slap him.  His commentary isn't exactly inspired.

--Joe Buck is one of the better voices and callers in the game.  Tim McCarver has become bearable.

--Joe Morgan wasn't bearable.  Don't miss him.  Jon Miller deserved better.  He was pretty good.

--If ads during games have any bearing on the viewers' intelligence, then the admen think we're dumb.

--You can fry an egg on Youk's intensity.  I'll bet he's like that with everything in life.

--Varitek needs to catch more.  His games have been better pitched.

--Nova won't get the win today, another starting pitcher on both teams not pitching well.  The starting staffs of both teams are sick.

--Cars, trucks, beer, shows and movies.  Razors.  Alcohol.  All I can think of in terms of non-station advertising.  What am I, a Neanderthal?

--Scutaro or Lowrie?  It's a draw.  Lowrie, I guess, until he's sick or injured again.  It's a moot question, as next year's shortstop is at Pawtucket right now, and all three guys know it.

--Sox desperately need all 3 and will settle for 2.  Anything less and it's basically panic-time.

--Goodbye, Manny.  We barely knew ya.  Or, maybe we did after all.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pressing--Indians 8, Sox 4

--I can't imagine what the team is going through here.  It's 5 in a row now--and the Rays have lost 5 in a row as well--and I was right yesterday: It really will be a race between the PawSox and the BoSox to win their first game of the year.

--I've been on some bad teams in my playing days (ALL my teams really have been bad teams; no correlation to the fact I was on them, of course.), but the difference is that we knew we were terrible, and we didn't exactly expect to win most of our games.  But the Sox were picked to win the World Series by most experts, for God's sake.  There's still time to do so, of course, but they need to win a game now before they play the Yanks.  If you can't beat the Indians, how can you beat the Yankees?

--You can't hit 2 batters and walk another one, down by one late in the game, and expect to win.  Ever.

--The Sox lead the majors in homers allowed.  That won't get it done.

--Before today's game, the Sox as a team were hitting below .200.  That won't do it, either.

--Lester has to show he's the ace by stopping this losing streak.  That's what an ace does.

--No Sox pitcher, starters or relievers, have impressed overall yet.

--The Sox pitchers have the highest ERA in all of MLB.

--I don't think Youk purposely dropped the ball at third.  Bad call by the ump.

--Speaking of which, the homeplate ump. made about 20 lousy ball/strike calls tonight.  Even when he reversed his own call, how do you not see the ball drop and roll at the plate?

--Something annoys me about Jade McCarthy and I don't know what it is.  Though this may be just the losing streak talking.

--Bonds not taking the stand in his own defense is a no-brainer.  Someone that unlikable should never take the stand.  Period.  That was his lawyer throwing the personality white flag.

--Prediction: Bonds guilty on all remaining counts, or almost all of them.  And no jail time.

--Clemens is next.  Though not as unlikable as Bonds, his lawyers have to worry about his arrogance as well.  Fans around here will never forget when Clemens complained to the media in the late 80s about having to carry his own bags across the airport.

--You STILL cannot keep Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall--especially Bonds.  There's just something wrong with keeping the all-time hits leader and the all-time homerun leader out of the Hall.  What else does everyone but the most serious fan go to the park to see?  And Clemens is the Bonds of pitching.  Can't keep him out either.  You can keep them out until their last year of eligibility, but I don't like that, either.  Then it becomes more about the voting writers than about the players, or anything else.  And the writers as pariahs doesn't sit well with me, either.  Many of them aren't exactly saints, as well.  Keep the morality bloodhounds away from the voting process.

--There might be parity in terms of talent across MLB, but not when it comes to attendance.  Remember how the Rays and Braves didn't draw well, in a good economy, when both teams were in the playoffs?  Now, in a bad economy, I worry.  Have you seen the sparse crowds during the highlights across all of MLB?  About 6,500 in Cleveland tonight; I'll be in a Triple-A ballpark tomorrow night with over 9,000 others.  That's sad.  I've seen low numbers in most of the home games shown this week.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Game 4--Cleveland 3, Sox 1

--Losing to the Indians is a problem.  The pitching staff looked like hell against the White Sox, which besides their 3-5 hitters, aren't exactly a worry.  Their guy did well tonight, but I didn't see the whole game, so I can't say if he pitched well, or they hit badly.  Or both.  But you can't get your butt kicked against the Rangers, which is bad, but understandable, and then lose to the Indians, which is a very unbalanced team, 3-1.

--So let me say this about all those pickup truck ads during ballgames: The automakers know that 95% of all truckbuyers do not haul large trees, or spin around all the time in the mud, or drive hellbent through the forest, or carry large dirtbikes, off-road vehicles, or large numbers of cinderblocks, or dirty the truck up by splashing in the primordial ooze.  Enough of this male chest-beating and fake bravado.  Silly.

--Only 9,000 and change at Progressive Field tonight.  There'll be more than that at Opening Night at McCoy Stadium Thursday, which, for those who don't know, is the Red Sox Triple-A club.  There'll be about 9,500 people there, maybe more, and I'll be one of them.

--Speaking of that, a shout out to my friend, who's driving me there and back, and going very much out of his way to do so.

--Looks like Dr. Ting was not exactly on the level.  I'd say you heard it here first, but I can't take credit for stating the obvious.

--What are people thinking when they pay $75 a piece for tickets to the Charlie Sheen thing in Detroit?  The word is that he just ranted, mostly unintelligibly, and then his housemates came out on stage, at which point people booed him tremendously, he responded badly, he walked off the stage and the lights came on.  I mean, what were they expecting, exactly?

--You heard it here that the tour gets cancelled before he gets to Foxwoods.

--I didn't think they'd lose 4 in a row all year.

--Dice-K needs to impress.  And win.

--The Pawsox might get a win before the BoSox do--and their season starts a week later.

--I still say that the Rays losing three in a row to the Orioles, at home, is even worse.  The Orioles aren't the best team in the league, and the Sox aren't the worst.  It's still early.

--I know, I keep having to repeat that, too.

--Josh Tomlin 1, Josh Beckett 0.

--The Sox play the Yanks in a few days.  They're not ready, to say the least.

--Watch, they'll sweep the Yanks at Fenway.  That's baseball.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Game 3 and Cult Baseball Players

--Let us not dwell on the obvious.  But barring injuries, you can expect to see the Rangers in the playoffs.

--Finishing the book Cult Baseball Players right now, in which different people (John Lithgow; sportswriters; Joe Mantegna, other actors; sons and daughters of ballplayers) all write short articles of players.  Makes me want to write some, which I may do later in this blog.  And someone remind me to tell you about my Jason Bay story.

--Papelbon looked great striking out three consecutive great hitters with the bases loaded--after he gave up a run.

--In the book I'm reading, Roy Campanella II, son of the great Dodger catcher, wrote--shockingly--that Ernest Hemingway always had the Dodgers come to his home in Cuba, but only if they wouldn't bring Campy and Robinson with them.  The Dodgers complied.

--Also surprising is that Campanella II wrote that Casey Stengel was one of the biggest racists in all of MLB.

--Most of the articles are reminisces of lost youth.  The writers remember their adulation of players who they grew up to realize were flawed people with great--or not so great--baseball skills.

--Not surprisingly, the players written about most aren't the Mantles and Mayses, but the Minnie Minoso, the career pinch hitters, the could've beens and the never wases.  And the occasional Mays and Mantle.

--Turns out, while playing sandlot ball, Joe Garagiola outshined Yogi Berra.

Game 2--Beltre, Rangers 12 Sox 5, and More

--Still no time to panic, though you are allowed to feel a strong sense of unease.  I do.

--To state the obvious, the pitching looks to be a bit of a problem right now.  I'm more concerned about the relief pitching than the starting pitching, though you would think Lackey wouldn't leave a pitch middle in to a right handed hitter, especially one of Beltre's caliber.

--If you leave the ball up, the Rangers hitters will hit it.  Hard.  Everyone, of almost any caliber or type of pitcher, needs to keep the ball either down or away from them.  Even their 8th and 9th hitters look good.

--The worry with the starting pitching is that we haven't gotten to Beckett and Dice-K yet, who we expect to do badly.  So if the others do as well...

--It's early, but a win today is strongly needed.  You don't want to be swept during the first series of the season.

--A little perspective: The Rays lost 2 straight to the Orioles.  The Orioles are not better than the Rays, I assure you.

--Ortiz hit another homer, good for him.  Then again, so did Ian Kinsler...and Ellsbury looks good at the plate, too.  In fact, the whole Sox offense looks good, except for Crawford, who really looks like he's pressing.  I was guessing at that yesterday, but a golf-swing and miss on a pitch low and away yesterday proved it.

--The Cleveland pitching staff looks helpless.  This against the Chicago White Sox, who don't have a thunderous lineup.

--I won't look at the standings until the Sox win one.

--Lou Gorman was apparently a really nice guy.  That's always said when someone dies, but it's been the overwhelming thing that everyone's been saying about him, even before his 30 years or so in the business.  He was the GM when I first started watching baseball, in 1984, and I remember that during interview spots he would always talk very slowly, very muffled, and that he cared more about the players themselves than is usual for GMs, then or now.  He was the exact polar opposite of Dan Duquette.  I have a very vague memory of maybe talking to him--or at least he was in the same room with me--when I was at McCoy when very young.  This is back when Mike Stenhouse was involved with the team and he gave my Dad tickets, or maybe just AMICA in general.

--Dunkin' Donuts doesn't sponsor Sox games anymore?  No more Dugout?  I saw a Honey Dew commercial on NESN and I almost fell over.

--The Sox pitching coach will be earning his money starting right now.

--I want to see Varitek behind the plate today.  Let's see if he can bring the staff ERA down.  If he is in, and if Bucholz has a good game, I want to see him in there the next day, too.  Even if Salty has a batting average a 100 points higher than Varitek's, it won't be worth it if Varitek calls a superior game and takes hits and runs off the board doing so.  I believe this can happen, and that it has happened.  With the Sox lineup the way it is, they can afford a great game-caller with a weak batting average hitting ninth.

--Castig has gotten even more nasal, if that's possible.

--By the way, why's Lackey the Number 2 over Bucholz?  At this point, Lackey and Beckett are capable of each winning 20, but are presently lumbering innings-eaters.  Let's have the younger guys who've been pitching much better and winning more consistently at the top of the rotation, okay?

--If you have 3 doubles, 2 triples and 2 homers (one a grand slam) hit off you in 3 2/3 innings, now that's a bad day.

--Someone needs to keep the cameras off of pitchers during obvious f-word moments, such as Lackey's yesterday right after Beltre's slam.  They're obviously putting the lens on these guys at those moments so that we, the viewers, can see them mouthing the f-word.

--Completely unnecessary, by the way, as we are saying the same thing at the time ourselves.

--The guys next to me were very vocal against Francona, as if they expected him to pull his starting pitcher, who is getting paid about $12 million this year to win and eat innings, in the fourth inning of the second game of the year.  There's 160 of these left, guys.  Take it easy.

--I see now why sports pros from across the country say that Sox fans are unique in their rabidity for the team.  Every game really is life or death for many of these guys.  These guys yesterday were an example, confusing the second game of the year for an ALCS or World Series game.

--By the way, kudos to my better half, who sat through five innings of a game, at a local restaurant/bar, surrounded by these guys, watching her second game in a row--while not appearing tortured.  Though she still calls "uniforms" "outfits."  I tried to explain that ballplayers wear uniforms and tennis players wear outfits, but she was not deterred.

--She said that she was now a Rangers fan because they at least make things happen.  And said that all teams should use just one pitcher every day.  I took that opportunity to speak about the 1880s Providence Greys, and Old Hoss Radbourne, and how teams then did just have one pitcher, who would often win 40-60 games a season while tossing 400 to 600 innings.  Luckily she was on her second Mojito at the time and so was able to make it through my explanation without her eyes glazing over.  (I did have to explain who Nomar was.)

--Beltre 1, Sox 0 for those keeping track.

--Speaking of Beltre, I didn't know that he'd been offered a one-year, $10 million contract by the Sox last year.  Instead he signed a guaranteed 5 year, $80 million contract with the Rangers.  That's an average of $16 million a year, each year for five years, for those bad at math.  I'd turn down the Sox offer for that, wouldn't you?  Sox fans vilified him, as they had Damon when he left for much more money than the Sox offered.

--As part of that contract, Beltre makes $14 million this year, and one million more each year until 2016, when he drops back down to $16 million a year.  Included also is the stipulation that the Rangers can defer $12 million of the 2016 contract at 1% interest.  Oh, and it's in his contract that he gets uniform #29. 

--Remember that this guy was in the slush pile after 5 very bad years in Seattle, on an exorbitant contract that he landed after his one--and, at that time, only--great season with the Dodgers.  His stats that year, especially the 49 homers, are dubious when compared to those 5 terrible seasons, a drop-off that he has never fully explained.  Then one more great year, this time in Boston, and he uses that one good year again to garner an exorbitant long-term contract.  I hope he does well this year, or else this would form a very questionable pattern of behavior, if you know what I'm sayin'.

--And speaking of money, Cliff Lee said No to the Rangers this past offseason when they offered him a 6-year/$138 million contract so he could return to the Phillies.  That's an average of $23 million per year.  And he said No.  Tough to fathom, isn't it?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sox Opening Night

--This is for me and for everyone else: There's 161 more of these, guys.  Let's take it easy.

--The Sox are so good that it seems an outrage when they lose.  But as Bard said, "That's baseball."  (And as Chris Berman said, "That's why they play the games.")

--Speaking of Bard, you can't throw fastballs--even 95-97 mph fastballs--up, and out over the plate, without movement, and expect major league hitters not to hit them.  They will.  Hard.

--I have to admit that I stopped watching the game in the 8th inning and got in the car and did errands.  I did listen to the rest of the game on the radio, but I know that it was a frustrated cop-out.

--Despite the fact that I knew there were 161 more of these, I admit to thinking, "I waited 6 months for this?!?"

--If their starting pitching holds up, the Rangers look to be a complete team.  They should not be underrated.  Last year doesn't seem to be a fluke at this point.

--Hopefully this was a wake-up call for the Sox.  They did seem to have too much early swagger.  Let's walk the walk before we talk the talk right now.

--The Sox are a game out.  Shame on you if you took me seriously right there.

--I waited to hear from Francona before I did something else.  I realized that his and Belichick's schtick serve a valuable purpose: They calm you down for the next game.  Monotony is soothing, as is the party line.

--And the good thing about baseball--unlike football--is that the next game is the next day.  Which couldn't come fast enough after a frustrating Opening Day.  Just ask the Brewers.

--My better half won't stop calling "runs" "points."  This bothers me perhaps more than it should.  She also refers to "uniforms" as "costumes," which they technically are by definition--but I'm still right not to like it.

--Last night could've been worse: It could've been at Fenway.

--Papi has already had a better start this year than the last two.  Here's hoping he keeps it up.

--Ellsbury and Gonzalez look very good.  This year's offense, if everyone stays healthy, should be a juggernaut.

--Of course, you can say the same for the Yankees, the Rangers, etc.  (Sorry.)

--Pedroia looks recovered.

--Part of the reason the fans do not have a love affair with J.D. Drew is because he seems to be, by nature, a steel clad kind of guy.  Yesterday was perhaps an unfair example.  Francona felt he needed to switch his "everyday" lineup--in quotes because a stat- and numbers-driven manager will never have an "everyday" lineup, which Francona certainly doesn't--around to accommodate a tough lefty.  So he sat Drew and played Cameron, which doesn't make sense to me, but whatever.  (He played Ortiz, after all.)  The point here isn't that Drew shouldn't have let him do it; the point is that Drew seemed to be one of the guys Tito referred to this past week when he said that Opening Day was more important to some guys than to others, and he would take that into consideration when making out his lineup.  I'll, maybe unfairly, bet that Drew was one of those guys who don't care either way about Opening Day.  Sox fans will hate that.  They want unbridled passion.  That's why they howled when Nixon left and Drew came in: a kamikaze pilot got replaced by a wall.

--Speaking of which, another good thing about Ortiz's homer was that it was against a lefty.  He didn't have too much success with lefties these past few years.  I'll bet Drew has hit better against lefties the last few years, and therefore could've replaced Ortiz at DH.  But you can't get Big Papi going if you're already platooning him.  Good decision to keep him in, homer or not.  Ortiz needs the vote of confidence; Drew doesn't.

--Drew's gone next year, anyway, and he knows it.  Kalish, et al, are ready.

--I know it was just one (really bad) game, but Crawford looked like he was pressing to me.

--I'm not panicking, but if Bard is next year's closer, he can't have games like yesterday.  I saw too many of these last year.  He needs to show automatic closer's consistency, even if it's in the 8th inning all the time.  Mariano Rivera did that before he became the Sandman.  Bard needs to do it, too.

--To put a little perspective on yesterday, it should be noted that the Orioles beat the Rays last night.  That ain't gonna happen too often.