Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mackenzie and Nick from Longwood University, and Other Cool People at Pats / Ravens Game

I met a lot of cool people at all of the sporting events this year.  I met a few in Baltimore on Sunday.  I especially remember eating after the game at a Chili's near our (By "our," I mean my friend Chris and me) hotel, and meeting Mackenzie and Nick, from Longwood University, in Virginia.  They were nice enough to laugh at all my silliness.  Nick even tried a "Well, you know, Susan..."--which is my rendition of the New York Yankees' radio guy, John Sterling--and Mackenzie did an outstanding Inappropriate Slap.  (Don't ask.)  Funniest moment was when I told Nick that he was overachieving with such a pretty girl with him--and he agreed with me!  The smart ones know when they're overachieving.  (I'm always overachieving.)  She's going to be an elementary school teacher (the world always needs good teachers) and Nick's going to be something in the law, either a lawyer or a policeman.  Good luck to both of them, and if you're reading the blog, guys, please comment or email me!  The email address is to the right of this entry, below my other pages.  (And I'm upset that I didn't take their picture, while I did take the picture of the other cool people I spoke to, below.)

--Others I met in Baltimore include a Santa / Grinch cameraman:


And a very cool Ravens fan / Santa who was such a good guy that he deserved better.  He was such a solid fan that he was one of the few Ravens fans to stay to the bitter end.  And what did he get?  Two garbage-time touchdowns scored against his team.  Here he is taking a beard break:

--And, if you've never been there, here are a few pics of M & T Bank Stadium.  I was pretty high up, but I had such a great view that I was able to see every single play of the game, a rare occurrence at any football stadium.  (And the fireworks before the game were cool, too.)  I saw each play so well that I correctly overruled the refs on some plays, even in the Ravens' favor. That shows you how brutally bad the refs were that night.  And for the record, Ravens fans know the first name of one of the refs personally--that's how often, they say, he has screwed them over.  So, the pics:

 --I watched a Patriots game on December 22nd, sans jacket, and with my sleeves rolled up.  It was sixty-one degrees at game time.  Sure, it rained all the way back, but there were only a few scattered drops during the game itself.  What a great night!

A great, big, hearty thank-you to my friend Chris for inviting me along, and for driving me a total of about 13 hours, to and fro--including 6 1/2 hours in a pouring rain the entire time back.  Thanks for all the Fenway games, too!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Offseason So Far

Some very quick things to say about the offseason so far:

--Fans who spurt vitriol Ellsbury's way--and Johnny Damon's way before him--are simply ignorant of the fact that the Yankees offered much more money both times.  The Sox offered Ellsbury a three-year deal.  Even at $20 million per year, that would be "just" $60 million.  The Yankees offered him seven years for $153 million dollars, which by my simple math is four years and $93 million dollars more.  Bottom line: More security via a longer contract, and $93 million.  Plus whatever endorsements he can get in New York, which I'll bet will be incredible, especially after one or two very good seasons.  Would you turn down $93 million?

--Robinson Cano, don't ya know, going to Seattle is a shocker, though the 10-year, $240 million contract isn't a surprise.  It's just surprising that Seattle gave it to him and not New York.  Though the Yanks did spend roughly $280 million so far, it was on three full-time, high-impact players at three different positions, rather than just one high-impact player at one position.  And Cano won't win too many playoff games in his ten years in Seattle, though he will have a good pitching staff.  But he's now the only weapon offensively.

--I guess Jay-Z came through for his client--albeit a client who wants dollars more than he wants rings.

--Signing Napoli is a good move.  Though nobody can K like he can, it's also true that nobody around the team can field first base and motivate his team like he can.  And he likes Boston like college students do.

--Napoli will make more with this two-year deal, plus last year, than he would have with that three-year, $39 million contract that he lost because of the physical that found his deteriorating hip.  But he'd better rest more the next two years, or that hip will end his career.

--Signing the ex-Cardinals reliever Mujica is a good move, too.  He's a solid reliever who can pitch frequently, and for two innings at a time.  Two years for $9.5 million isn't bad for him.  Bailey's gone, and Hanrahan is just happy to be around.  Uehara will still close, and Tazawa and Breslow still have the eighth, and when one of them falters, either Mujica or Hanrahan can step in.  Relief still looks very good in Boston.

--As does their starting pitching.  Everyone's stayed.  They're a year older, but Lester and Buchholz are still young in baseball years (though Buchholz needs physical coddling and Lester needs emotional coddling), and Workman, Doubront, and other younger players in Pawtucket are ready to step in when needed.  The Sox are poised to get younger, and their farm system looks great.

--Which is why the Yankees had to spend $153 million for Ellsbury, $85 million for McCann, and $45 million for Beltran, for 7 years, 5 years and 3 years, respectively.  And the Sox?  Not a dime.  Because the Sox have a good farm system, and the Yanks don't.  And won't for quite awhile.

--Though, I would've liked to have seen Beltran in right, and Victorino in center.  But maybe Fenway's right field is too big for Beltran, though Beltran is a good athlete and a very good fielder, and he gives 100%--all of which we saw in the playoffs.  Plus, he's one of the best playoff hitters of all time.  (Which made the game-ending pickoff of that Cardinals rookie even more inexplicable--because Beltran was at the plate.)

--I still say that Choo would be a good fit in center or in right, as well.  He's an on-base machine, which the Sox covet, and he can run and steal, though not as prodigiously as Ellsbury.  Still, a very good fielder and a very good leadoff guy.

--Right now, the leadoff position is a little murky.  Victorino can, but you don't want him to, since he was great hitting second, plus he's getting older.  Pedroia can, but you don't want him to, since you want him at third.  Is Jackie Bradley fast enough?  Is he a good enough hitter?  If he is, he's your answer.  But I'm not sure that he is.

--I'll take Pierzynski over Saltalamacchia any day.  Fewer Ks, more walks, about the same batting average with better production and OB%, and a much better play-caller.  I like the Sox catching corps for 2014.

--They're both old, sure, but they can play the position very well, DH on rare occasion, learn first base, and get relieved by one of the Triple-A catching stalwarts every now and then.

--Salatalamacchia and Middlebrooks never played again after that horrible, game-ending play.

--And I'm not crazy about seeing Middlebrooks at third, so I hope the Sox re-sign Drew to play short, and put Bogaerts at third, and make Middlebrooks the first- / thirdbaseman to begin some games.  He's still great trade-bait, as he does have a great upside.  I just don't think he'll ever meet it.

--Though I'd hate to break up whatever he's got going on with Jenny Dell.  Did you notice how her before- or after-game interviews with him were a little sweeter than they were with anyone else on the team?

--Speaking of the off-field talent, I hope Jerry Remy is better and ready to go.  Sox fans will take him back, no problem.  Hopefully his lungs and head are well, and he wants to return.  If he's up for it, I think he will.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Next HOF Vote

The following players will be on the next HOF ballot:

Moises Alou
Jeff Bagwell
Armando Benitez
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Sean Casey
Roger Clemens
Ray Durham
Eric Gagne
Tom Glavine
Luis Gonzalez
Jacque Jones
Todd Jones
Jeff Kent
Paul Lo Duca
Greg Maddux
Edgar Martinez
Don Mattingly
Fred McGriff
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Mike Mussina
Hideo Nomo
Rafael Palmeiro
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Kenny Rogers
Curt Schilling
Richie Sexson
Lee Smith
J.T. Snow
Sammy Sosa
Frank Thomas
Mike Timlin
Alan Trammell
Larry Walker

Other players eligible on the ballot are:

Moises Alou
Armando Benitez
Sean Casey
Ray Durham
Eric Gagne
Luis Gonzalez
Jacque Jones
Todd Jones
Paul Lo Duca
Hideo Nomo
Kenny Rogers
Richie Sexson
J.T. Snow
Mike Timlin

The players passed over by the BBWAA for the HOF for at least fifteen years, who are now eligible this year via the Expansion Era Committee (formerly known as the Veterans Committee), and the managers and executives now eligible for the HOF, are:

Dave Concepcion
Bobby Cox
Steve Garvey
Tommy John
Tony La Russa
Billy Martin
Marvin Miller
Dave Parker
Dan Quisenberry
Ted Simmons
George Steinbrenner
Joe Torre

That's a lotta names.  I'll cover them, their stats, their HOF worthiness, and their HOF chances in the upcoming blogs here.  Feel free to pipe in now or then for your favorite (or least favorite) player. 

This might be one of the best ballots ever in the sport, all of them very good, many of them borderline great, and many of them jumping over that line into actual greatness.  The sheer quality of players here makes the list also one of the hardest ever to vote on, and PEDs is the monkey wrench into the whole system that might keep a few HOF-worthy players out permanently, even though they were never actually convicted by MLB for ever using them.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Boston Red Sox Win the 2013 World Series

One of my favorite teams, and favorite baseball years, ever.  An over-achieving Cinderella team of mostly baseball nobodies that wins a World Series just as improbably as the much more talented 2004 team.  Francona's team is still the emotional highlight of my baseball life, but you cannot ignore the feel-good of watching this team keep on winning, going from "worst to first" and climbing that mountain all the way.  Even David Ortiz said that this team was one of the least-talented (and I mean that with affection) that has ever won a World Series.  Consider:

* No pitcher on the team won more than 15 games.  Nobody had the chance to win 20.

* No pitcher (besides Buchholz, who didn't finish with enough innings to qualify) was close to winning an ERA title.

* No pitcher was in the Cy Young conversation.

* Only one player drove in 100 RBIs.  And he didn't drive in more than 110.

* Only two everyday players hit over .300.  Neither hit over .310.

* No player came close to leading the league in homers, RBIs, or average.

* No player was in the MVP conversation.

* Players in the top-10 in the league in any positive category were in the middle of the pack, or the back of it.

* And that player was either Ortiz (for average, on-base %, slugging %, and maybe homers and RBIs--but, again, placing 5-10 in the top-10 for any of those), Pedroia (for average and maybe on-base % only) or Ellsbury (for stolen bases, stolen base %, and, maybe, batting average).

* World Champions--and Division and League Leaders--always have someone in the Cy Young or MVP conversation, with eye-popping stats, like those of Chris Davis, but not these guys.

So how did they win? 

How can a guy who almost led the league in strikeouts also lead the league (and the majors) in pitches seen per at-bat, and be the offensive star of the 1-0 win over Verlander in the ALCS? 

How can a player like Daniel Nava, who finished in the top-10 in the league (but who just barely qualified with his low number of ABs) not play in the World Series, or many of the postseason games in general, and be replaced by a guy who, literally, didn't hit his own weight?  And not one Sox fan, including me, complained! 

How can a staff without a 20-game winner (or even a 17-game winner) and without a Cy Young or MVP candidate win the World Series? 

How can such a team beat a Tigers team in 6 games, when the Tigers have the MVP (Cabrera), the Cy Young (Scherzer), the perpetual Great Pitcher (Verlander), the overlooked Gold Glove-candidate (and ROY-candidate) and the wise sage as manager? 

How can Shane Victorino win games in the ALCS and in the World Series with a grand slam and a three-run double, and yet still hit way below .200 in each series? 

How can a team win two out of three in another stadium when they lost the first one in the bottom of the ninth due to an obstruction call? 

For that matter, how can a team go without a World Series title in 85 years, and then win three in the next ten?

God help us cynics, but I think the Sox did it with....teamwork?  Consistency?  Preparation?  Desire?  And a lot of luck, of course.

How lucky were they in the postseason?

Lucky enough that the best hitter in all of baseball had such a bad groin injury that it needed to be operated on at the end of the World Series--and it made him unable to get to the outside fastball.  How did Tazawa get him out in all of those clutch situations?  Outside fastballs.  It even hurt him to foul them off.

Lucky enough that a rookie pinch runner gets picked off first base, with one of the best hitters in postseason history at the plate, to end the game.

Lucky enough that they won although Ortiz had just two hits in all of the ALCS.  That's right--he was 2 for 22, or something horrible like that.  The second hit was a little blooper over second base.  The first was the grand slam that tied the second game and woke up Boston.

Lucky enough that Boston had one hit in the first fourteen innings of the ALCS--and still won the second game, and lost the first just 1-0.

Lucky enough that Victor Martinez decided to stop rather than run to second.  And lucky enough that Prince Fielder decided to stop rather than score from third.  On the same play.

Lucky enough that a magician at shortstop booted an easy double-play ball--and then watched as Victorino hit his grand slam.

Lucky enough that an umpire didn't see that Stephen Drew's foot was a zip code away from second base when Drew started the first of the many double plays that sank the Tigers.

Lucky enough that the Cardinals inexplicably decided to pitch to Ortiz in every single clutch situation in the first five games of the World Series.  Or did Napoli scare them that much?  Was Napoli the guy they couldn't let beat them, and not Ortiz?

Lucky enough that the other teams ran themselves, or fielded themselves, into all of their losses.  The Sox certainly did not hit themselves into all of their wins.  Their scarce hits were enough to win the game because the other teams kept shooting themselves in the foot, and not hitting with men on base.

Lucky enough that the one or two hits that a particular player got in an entire series was enough to win one game apiece in that series.  Ortiz in the ALCS.  Napoli in the ALCS.  Ross in the World Series.  And Victorino in both the ALCS and in the World Series.

Lucky enough that they were able to win despite David Ross being an offensive improvement over another catcher.

Lucky enough that, during the regular season, they lost their legit closer to injury, then lost their other legit closer to injury, and then plugged an embattled 7th and 8th inning guy as the closer--and got the best results of all!  (Bailey and Hanrahan return next year, BTW, so where do you pitch them if Uehara still closes?)

Lucky enough that the team loses three more games than it should have, according to the Pythagorean W-L Theorem--which is a huge sway in the wrong direction--and still handily wins its division?

Lucky enough that, during the regular season, Uehara (4-1), Breslow (5-2), Bailey (3-1), Brandon Workman (6-3), Jake Peavy (4-1), Alfredo Aceves (4-1) and Steven Wright (2-0) go a combined 28-9.  Read that one again.

Lucky enough that they win it all even though their top five starters (Lester, 15-8; Lackey 10-13; Dempster 8-9; Doubront, 11-6; Buchholz, 12-1) go a combined 56-37.  Which is pretty damn good, but not in the same universe as the top-5 starters for the Tigers, Rays, or Cardinals.  Or did you think most World Series-winning teams have two of their top-5 starters finish below .500? 

And little things--but lots of little things--like great baserunning, good starting pitching and great relief pitching, and awesome defense.  And timely hitting, to the extent that they were either hitting in the clutch or they weren't hitting at all.

And--by far the most important thing this whole year--fouling off pitches, taking the pitch just outside or inside, driving the pitch count up, and getting the starters out of there and slapping around the bullpen.

And having a Gold Glove-winner at second base, and in right field, and--with a combination of Iglesias and Drew--at shortstop.  And Napoli was very smooth, and a great scooper, at first.

Unbelievable.  What a great team to watch all year, especially after the catastrophe of last year.  Especially in the playoffs, when they hit under .220 total and still won each series in six.

We won't see anything like it anytime soon, maybe not even next year, so I hope you were watching as many games, and appreciating them, as I was.  You know how we hear all that B.S. about chemistry, about leadership, about working hard and sticking together, about playing hard until the very last pitch?

This year, it was all true.  All of it.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

World Series Tied, 2-2.

Quite a bit, so let's get to it:

--I've never seen a World Series game--or any game--end on an obstruction play.

--But when you commit lots of errors over two games in the World Series, you're likely to lose them.

--I've never seen a World Series game end on a pick-off.  But, as a holder of useless information, I can tell you that Babe Ruth, of all people, was thrown out trying to steal second to end a World Series.  Not just the game--the entire series.

--Ortiz singles, and Tim McCarver says that Napoli should come in at first for the bottom of the eighth.  With that, McCarver finally said something in this World Series that I agreed with.

--No matter what happens tomorrow, it's going back to Fenway.  What else could you ask for?

--The Sox are hitting a combined .189 in this World Series.  The Cardinals are hitting .234.  Also not good, but they're Murderer's Row by comparison.

--Considering this, the Sox are lucky to be 2-2.

--With two more errors tonight, they've now committed six in the past three games.  Again, lucky to be 2-2.  This is after they won Game 1 because of the Cardinals' errors.

--I don't want to see Middlebrooks in the field for the rest of the Series.

--I already didn't want to see him at the plate.  Neither, for that matter, did his manager, John Farrell.

--That goes for all of next year, too.  I'm happy with Drew at short for his defense, and Bogaerts at third.  Middlebrooks can go.  Get whatever you can for him, even if it's just a middle-of-the-road reliever.

--With the game ending on a pick-off, does the batter--Carlos Beltran--get credit for an at-bat, or a plate appearance?  I think the at-bat has to end before you get credit for it.  Feel free to weigh in if you know the (irrelevant) answer.

--Sox World Series ERA after this game: 2.27.  St. Louis's ERA: 3.60.

--That tells you how many Sox errors there've been.  Many, if not most, of the runs are unearned for St. Louis.  They still count, of course.

--Craig Breslow needs to sit for awhile.

--Seven total errors for the Sox in four World Series games.

--That was Gomes's first, and only, hit of this World Series.

--Kudos to John Lackey for coming in for a scoreless eighth for his first relief appearance at all since 2004.

--And kudos to Big Papi for firing up the troops in the dugout.

--Speaking of Ortiz, he doesn't make the pick-off tag that Napoli did to end the game.

--Doubront is suddenly effective in the past few games.  He can be Breslow for now.

--Why was Tazawa allowed to just face one batter, especially since he got him in the most tense part of the game?  I'm guessing his tank is empty.

--Just found out why I've never seen a World Series game end in the way the past two games have: Because neither has ever ended a World Series game before.  If it's never happened, I won't see it.

--Stephen Drew can hit zip for the rest of this World Series, and all of next year, and I'll still play him at short for his defense alone.

--At one point in this game, David Ortiz had 7 of the 21 total hits the Sox had in this World Series at that moment.  That's one player having 33% of his team's hits, for you math lovers out there.

--Buchholz was maxed out after just four innings.  He topped out in the mid- to high-80s.  Worried?

--I hope Uehara doesn't have to pitch tomorrow so he can have two days' rest.

--Has it occurred to anyone that, incredibly, the Cardinals have been better without Albert Pujols?  With the money they saved by not re-signing him, they signed two good starters and two relievers.

--For that matter, who would've known that the Angels would be much worse after they sign Pujols and Josh Hamilton?  And with Mike Trout leading off for them to drive in, if he doesn't drive himself in?

--Take a look at my regular blog soon to read about an actual nightmare I had with Will Middlebrooks in it.  Bizarre, is all I can say.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sox Win ALCS; Face Cards in World Series

A few thoughts after an exciting Game Six victory that opens the door to the 2013 World Series:

--I said in the last post that a commentator said the Tigers were a glorified softball team, and that I "sort of" knew what he meant.  Now I definitely know what he meant.  Great softball teams are usually big, slow sluggers who can't run or defend.  They throw hard and they hit hard, and that's usually enough for softball tournaments.

But that's not enough for baseball's postseason.  You have to be much more balanced.  You have to hit, but more important in a series is that you pitch, run and defend.  Though their starting pitching was perhaps the best ever in an ALCS, the relief pitching, the baserunning and the defending was terrible--perhaps the worst I've ever seen in an ALCS.  All of that reared its ugly head in Game 6:

* Austin Jackson, usually a very good baserunner, gets picked off first base by rookie Brandon Workman.  By a mile.

* Rather than get caught in a rundown so the (very fat and slow) runner from third can score, Victor Martinez--otherwise a very smart player--just stops in front of Dustin Pedroia.  Perhaps he wanted to block Pedroia's view and throw home, but Pedroia simply stepped around him, saw that Fielder had inexplicably stopped running home, and tagged Martinez out.  If V-Mart continues running, he at least makes it to second base, so there's one out and not two.  Or he gets caught in a rundown, which is what he should've done (and which he was taught in Little League to do), and so he's out but the run scores.  This is a common play, one he perhaps has done over a hundred times.

* Prince Fielder, one of the more seemingly-uncaring players I've ever heard and seen play in the ALCS (when told fans would get angry about his uncaring attitude, he said, "They don't play."), unforgivably stops halfway down the baseline and doesn't try to score on the aforementioned groundout.  Why?  If he's tagged out, again, there's just one out and runners are on first and second.  He shouldn't have tried to score at all, of course, with the ball never leaving the infield and his, shall we say, lack of speed.  Leaving third base is bad baserunning, but not continuing home to try to score is an unforgivable mistake that had his manager looking defeated and had Tim McCarver, who usually babbles incessantly about nothing, saying, "That's bad baserunning."  Fielder's unstylish bellyflop back to third base, which he missed by a few feet, will be a Defense Exhibit A of poor baserunning for years to come.  Adding insult to injury, he was signed last year to a 9-year / $215 million contract.  And he hasn't driven in a run in 18 consecutive postseason games.  No wonder why Detroit fans are booing him.  He would've already been driven out of Boston, a la Carl Crawford.

The Tiger defense was okay, since Iglesias is usually a magician in the field, and he loaded the bases, but he didn't give up the grand slam.  (And Pedroia booted an easy double-play ball earlier in the game.)  But the Detroit relief pitching was the worst in memory, or can you name another relief corp that gave up two grand slams in the same series?  The Tigers had the best starting pitching, and the worst relief pitching, in the same postseason series, at the same time.  Amazing.

--Speaking of $200 million and no playoffs, wave goodbye to the Dodgers.  I still don't get why they lost.  Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, or Clayton Kershaw are each able to win a postseason series, just by himself.  But they didn't, and Puig made more mistakes than even a rookie should make.

--The postseason brings out the worst in some players' personalities.  See: Alex Rodriguez.  Case Exhibit A was when he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand in the 2004 ALCS as the Yanks were blowing it.  Players learn in Little League that they can't do that.  And if they do it anyway, they don't have the nerve to look shocked, arms stretched out in surprise, while standing on second base.

--The two teams with the best record in each league are in the World Series for the first time since 1999.

--Stephen Drew doesn't get hits, but he does take them away.  He helped save Game Six with his great play in the seventh.  That's been heavily covered, but nobody remembers his athletic grab of John Lester's errant throw to second base to turn an important double play.  Lester has Roger Clemens's illness: Neither can throw the ball to any base with accuracy.

--Ortiz hit .091 in the ALCS.  Both hits were opposite extremes.  A little blooper over second base.  And a game-tying grand slam that woke up Boston in Game Two.

--Victorino hit .125, with just three hits.  But, like Ortiz, he made the big one count.

--Drew went 1 for 20, with 10 strikeouts.  But, again, the hits he didn't get aren't as important as the ones he took away.

--I'm okay with Drew at short and Bogaerts at third throughout the World Series.  Middlebrooks can sit.

--Middlebrooks and Mike Carp will be important pinch-hitters in the World Series while in St. Louis.  Though here's hoping the Sox don't need them.

--Good to see Uehara win the MVP of the series.  If for no other reason than to show that I don't just pluck these predictions out of thin air.

--I don't remember a single game in which two different players on the same team lost homeruns by about half a foot--combined.

--The Sox relief was perhaps the best I've ever seen in one series.  The whole bullpen deserved the MVP.  Tazawa, especially, manhandled the best hitter (only less so when injured) in the majors.

--I wouldn't want Fielder on my team, even with his homers and RBIs.  I just read that he's already over his offensive ineptitude--at the plate and on the basepaths--because he has two kids to raise, and he has to show them how to be men.  Like he doesn't have his wife and some hired help raise them during the season?

--Note to Prince: Not caring is not being a man.  Real men accept responsibility for their mistakes, internally if not externally.  (He doesn't have to say it to the press, but it doesn't sound like he's saying it to himself, either.)

--I wouldn't let Buchholz throw more than 85 pitches in the World Series, unless he has a huge lead, and / or he's just breezing along.

--Ditto for Lester, who, like Buchholz, start walking everyone when they're losing it.

--Peavy gets the chance to redeem himself.  He's the only one on the pitching staff who needs to.

--Like I said in the previous entry--Having come this far, let's go all the way.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

ALCS Sox Lead Tigers, 3-2

A few thoughts before the hopefully series-ending Game 6:

--If I'm the Tigers, I still like my chances.  Sure, they're down three games to two, with two games to play at Fenway, but they have the league's two best pitchers going back-to-back.  These two guys have given up one earned run between them in their two starts--and that was on one bad pitch to Mike Napoli.  I hate to say it, but the Tigers' chances are good.

--And so are the Sox's chances, of course.  They're at home.  They have the last at-bats and they're a last at-bat kind of team.  And their relievers are much better.  And they can play the park better.  And despite the success of the Tigers' two aforementioned starters, they're just 0-1 against the Sox in those two starts in this series.

--The way it's been so far, the Sox just need a lead by the seventh inning.  (Knock on wood.)

--Uehara is the MVP so far.  No one else comes close, not even Napoli.

--Neither team's offense has played correct fundamentals this series.  Runners aren't getting moved over, and they're not being driven in from third with less than two outs.  Frustrating to watch.

--I wonder if Peavy is in the bullpen tonight.  Everyone's in the bullpen if there's a game tomorrow.

--The first-half Clay needs to show up tonight.  If not, I hope Farrell has as quick a hook with him as he did with Lester last game.  Go with your strength; right now, that's the bullpen, not the starters.

--I agree with keeping Drew at short as long as Bogaerts starts at third.  Who would you rather see on the bench, Drew or Middlebrooks?  With his defense, Drew needs to play.  If the other batters hit like they should, his offense won't be necessary, anyway.  And I'll bet his defensive WAR is very good.

--What's the chance of Victorino sticking a forearm out there and getting hit to force in the winning run?  Better than me driving it in, that's for sure.

--Prince Fielder, who makes about $19 million a year and who hasn't driven in a run in about 16 postseason games, needs not to say things like he did the other night in Detroit.  When asked about the boos he got, he essentially said that if the fans could hit the ball, they'd be playing the game themselves.  Win or lose, at least the Sox have accountability.  If a player sucks lately, he'll say so.

--The talk radio station I listen to here called the Tigers the league's best softball team.  Reasons?  They're fat and slow at the corners, and the offense is not well-balanced.  Of course, their starting pitching is much better than a softball team's, but I sort of get what they meant.

--The Sox offense (actually, both teams' offense) has done much worse than anyone would've thought.  Not one single starter has hit well overall.  But they've hit well at the most opportune times.

--Then again, the Sox pitching has done much better than anyone would've thought.

--And who would've thought that the Sox would make it this far, anyway? 

--But having done so, let's go all the way, waddaya say?

Monday, October 14, 2013

ALCS Tied at 1

A few quick notes on this late night / early morning:

--I happened to have been lucky enough to watch the Patriots' comeback with 5 seconds left, and this Sox comeback, in the same night.  Ever since 2003, it's been great to be a Boston-area baseball and football fan.

--And I just caught the tail-end of both.  But what else was there to see?

--I know Bill James says there's no such thing as clutch, but I've been watching these two guys for a very long time now, and David Ortiz and Tom Brady sure look like clutch players to me.

--If there's no such thing as a clutch player, why would I want David Ortiz up at a crucial time, and not A-Rod, when the latter's numbers are clearly so much better overall?

--If there's no such thing as a clutch player, why is David Ortiz so respected as one by the other players--and why is A-Rod so not respected as one by the other players?  The players would know, right?

--Bill James has an open reservation to come to my house--or to take me out to dinner, preferably at a sports bar, so I can watch the games--and explain why he says that, statistically, there's no such thing as clutch.

--When your team has been held hitless for over 15 innings over two ALCS games, you should lose both.

--It is a testament to this team that they won one tonight, and actually could have, and perhaps should have, won it last night.

--I would agree that there's no such thing as momentum, but I saw the 2004 ALCS.  Then again, I also saw the 2008 ALCS, and was at Fenway for the eight-run comeback win, down by seven in the seventh, in Game 5.  If they come back from the brink and win that game, and they win game six, momentum stipulates that they'd also win game seven, right?  Nope.  So I'm undecided about whether momentum really exists.

--If it does, the Sox have it going to Detroit.  But you're only as good as your last game.

--Part of me thinks the Sox should be up 2-0.  The other half of me slaps around the first half, and says to be thankful that they're tied.  The Sox really should have won last night, and they really should have lost tonight, so I'll agree that the slate is as it should be.

--The Tigers bullpen doesn't impress me.  The only advantage the Tigers have is in starting pitching.  Which is huge, but if the Sox can hang in there and get into their bullpen, they have a good chance of winning one, and perhaps two, in Detroit.  They'll have to win at least one to bring it back to Boston.

--Cabrera's swing is coming around.  And most of the Sox's swings are not.  Even with the slam, Ortiz is hitting below a buck fifty.  And Ellsbury still doesn't have a hit.

--There've been four grand slams by Sox players in the playoffs, and I've seen them all.  Ortiz's tonight.  J.D. Drew's in the 2007 ALCS.  Johnny Damon's, of course, in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.  And Troy O'Leary's in the 1999 ALDS, in Game 5, after Nomar was intentionally walked to get to him. 

--In his next at-bat in that same game, after another intentional walk to Nomar, O'Leary hit a three-run homer.  This was Mike Hargrove's famously mismanaged series, when even the announcers said he used his bullpen like he was panicking--up two games to zero.  He was fired after that ALDS.  This was the same game that Pedro came in with a busted back and pitched six hitless innings.  For those who care about such things.  Don't ask me how I remember such things--I just do.  But don't ask me anything about yesterday.

--I'm not surprised that the Sox have struck out over 30 times in the two games.  Isn't that what some of them have been doing all year?  Luckily they walk a lot, too, which is why Napoli can strike out a team-record 187 times this year, and still have an on-base percentage of around .350, which is decent.

--Left unnoticed is the job of the Sox bullpen these last two games.  And, for the most part, its defense.

--And Joe West's strike zone was amongst the most inconsistent I've ever seen, for both teams.  He's just happy this ALCS isn't between the Sox and Yanks.  (He infamously said two years ago that those teams make a mockery of the game because their games last so long.  How dare the hitters work the count and try to get on base?)

--Let's not get greedy if the Sox lose.  I know you expected them to be middle of the pack, if not in the basement, this year.  I know you did, because I did, too.

--Ortiz is hitting about .500 against Verlander for his career, and the Sox overall handle him pretty well, considering how dominating he is to everyone else.  Daniel Nava infamously had a great game against him.

--Go Sox.  They do better when I don't watch, so I'll continue not to, and just catch the last few innings.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Red Sox to the ALCS

A few quick thoughts about the last few games of the ALDS:

--Peralta can quick-pitch Napoli for strike-three as often as he wants, as long as he uncorks a game-tying wild pitch first, like he did last night.

--The results were good, but I can't say I approve of how Maddon managed his bullpen yesterday.  Why he didn't do the same the night before--which was also a must-win game for them--is a mystery, if he thought the situation that dire.

--And you're instilling a sense of fear in your team if you're mixing and matching your pitchers so often that you're basically screaming out that your team can't afford to make even one wrong pitch.  I think that made the team more stiff at the plate as well.  Some players do not perform well under such intense alarm.  See: Fernando Rodney.  Perhaps Longoria as well; he had more indecisive half-swings in that one game that he probably had in the past few weeks combined.

--Farrell managed his team much better than Maddon, who's also a good manager, but sometimes steals the spotlight from the players during games and post-game interviews.  Pinch-hitting Bogaerts for Drew was a helluva move, and not one he made all year.  He normally sticks with Drew even at times when he must know he shouldn't.  But Bogaerts drew two walks in two PAs, and scored the tying run.  Taking out Peavy at just the right moment, after just 74 pitches, took steel nerve.  Bringing in Breslow earlier than usual, and leaving him in longer than usual, was just the right move.  Letting Tazawa face just that one batter, rather than having him finish the eighth, which he would normally do, was also just right.  Perfect decisions at exactly the right moments.

--Breslow speaks just like the Ivy-League educated guy that he is.  And I mean that as a compliment.  For a ballplayer, he's extremely well-spoken, and I mean that in the kindest of all possible ways.

--I don't know why Maddon didn't leave Moore in longer.  When he came in, the announcers (and me) thought he was in for at least four innings.

--The game lasted just under four hours, until 1:30 a.m., for those keeping track.  TBS might want to consider that next time it wants to start a playoff game at 8:30 pm.  If Girardi had managed the way Maddon did, and had the game been Sox / Yanks instead, it would have lasted past 2:30 a.m.

--Bottom line: The Rays were tired, and couldn't hit.

--I wouldn't want Rodney for my closer.  There seems to be something a little off-kilter rattling around in there.  And even when he does well--one person can't have a completely askew cap, off-center to the point that it draws unnecessary attention to itself, and a bow-and-arrow genuflect to God.  If he wanted to scream "Hey, look at me!" then he should have literally screamed "Hey, look at me!" as he was walking two and hitting a batter in the ninth inning of a must-win game.

--The Trop is a travesty that simply needs to go.  Has anyone considered the possibility that the team draws like crap not because the fanbase sucks, but because it doesn't want to come to that park?  It even looks terrible on television.  And what if the catwalk fiasco had been the final play of a Game 7 of the World Series?  If there was a great team playing in a great park and the fans still didn't come, then it would be time to move the team.  First, how about playing in an actual ballpark first?

--Tigers or A's?  Are you kidding?  Go A's!!!  (I wish a World Series for Billy Beane.  But not this year.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sox 2 Rays 0 2013 Division Series

A few things as we await the third game of the series.  Comments about a game refer to the second one unless specified otherwise:

--Let's not celebrate yet.  The third win is always the hardest, or so the players say.  Five teams have won the first two Division Series games and not the series.

--Each of the three double plays ended an inning, and none was more important than Tazawa's.  He's this bullpen's weakest link.  Out of the really important pitchers, anyway.

--Breslow continues to amaze, but I still hope Buchholz goes into the eighth inning next time.

--It is not as easy as Uehara makes it look.

--Speaking of which: Uehara threw 11 pitches.  All strikes.

--The most important stat of the night: Not Ortiz's two homers.  Not Pedroia's three RBIs.  It's Ellsbury's three hits and three runs scored.  He is the oil that lubricates this offense and keeps it running smoothly.  If he's not on base, and stealing bases, and creating errors, and taking the pitcher's mind off the other batters, then Pedroia doesn't drive in three because there's nobody to drive in.  As Ellsbury goes, so does the offense.

--Speaking of which: I've not been an Ellsbury fan the last couple of years, since he exploded on the scene in 2007, because of his many injuries and days on the DL, and his fragility and reluctance to play unless he's 100%.  (Which no ballplayer ever is.)  But I'm a fan this year.  The Sox need to resign him, though not at the expense of other players, of course.  He's beloved here, so I hope he doesn't take the money (the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Angels will all offer more during the offseason) and run.

--I have a very reliable source who says that Ellsbury is such a jerk that he will, in fact, take the money and run.  Of course, if someone offered me millions more than I'm making now, I might, as well.  Who wouldn't?

--But this very reliable source is firm on the fact that he is a very big jerk, and is known for being so.

--It was nice to hear the applause that Lackey got when he left the game.  Last year and a couple of weeks ago, all of those cheers were very loud boos.  Well, when his name was spoken, anyway, since of course he wasn't on the field when he cashed his checks totaling about $16,000,000.

--I'm closer to California than Stephen Drew was to second base when he turned the two late-inning double plays tonight.  But we'll take 'em.

--Next year, when the abomination of the instant replay starts, you won't see those proximity plays anymore.

--The Rays pitching and defense are tired.  Moore and Price usually manhandle and shackle the Sox.

--Breslow continues to impress during his interviews, which is not normally where players shine.  But this Ivy-League educated guy is yet to give a cheap or cliche answer to any question.  He must've missed Bull Durham.

--Rays' manager Joe Maddon said after the game that he looks forward to Game 5 at Fenway.  And he sounded like he meant it.  Gotta respect that.  (And let's hope he's of false hope.)

--A shout out to my friend Chris, who was at Fenway during Game Two of this 2013 Division Series.

--I've never seen the Sox run the bases as well as they have the past two games.  You expect Ellsbury to score from first on a double, but not on a hard-hit ball to left field at Fenway.  And Gomes scoring from second on an infield hit last night by Stephen Drew?  That's right out of Major League.  (Literally.  Remember Jake's bunt?)  Unbelievable.  The Sox I started watching in the mid- to late-80s were the exact opposite of this, barely-fit sluggers who clogged the basepaths and didn't hustle.  (For the most part.  Ellis Burks and a couple of second basemen were the exceptions.)

--I have to admit that I worried when Breslow came in, and was loudly critical of Farrell for bringing in Tazawa.  But what did I know?  (Except that Tazawa was brutally bad in September, and that double play perhaps saved the game right there.)

--I thought Breslow should've started the eighth, and bring in Uehara for a four- or five-out save, if necessary.  Breslow hadn't thrown many pitches at all, because of the double-play, and because the Rays swung early against him.  Tazawa worries me.  A lot.

--I thought starting Ross was a mistake, too.  But he hits a double, and scores a run, and there's only one base stolen against him.  So what do I know?

--Here's to hoping for a Game Three win for the Sox, and for a Series win by the A's over the Tigers.  Is that asking too much?


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

1923 Willard's Chocolates--George H. Burns--20 Fair 1.5

Today I'm starting a new feature that spotlights one of my cards per week.  I'll try to keep the cards and the players as varied as I can.  I'll write about the player first, then the card.  Sometimes the card will be available for sale.  I'll say so at the bottom of the entry.  So look back here for a new entry, on average once per week, about a card and player.  And look back to previous entries about some cards I've already written about.

This one is a 1923 Willard's Chocolates: George H. Burns--in 20 Fair 1.5 condition, which isn't too bad for the age.  I mean, this card is 90 years old, after all.  I hope I look as good at 90, if I even reach that age.

The backs are blank, like the 1887 N182 Old Judges and the 1921 Exhibits.  (Love those, too, but they're very expensive.  The 1887s cost at least $100 each, in authentic, presentable or fair condition, which are the three lowest.  Crazy money, for me, anyway.)  This one has writing on the back, which I'm not crazy about.  Normally I don't buy blankbacks that aren't blank, especially if there's writing on it.  But this card was at a price I couldn't refuse.  It's the only 1921 Willard's Chocolates I own.

The Player

I was interested in the card partly because I was vaguely familiar with the player.  I knew that a George Burns led the league in hits in the 20s for a year, and won an MVP, and was a solid player.  The Hall of Famers' cards cost more, of course, so I had to stay away from those.  But you tire of buying commons of good cards, too--though this card is more a commons than a star card.  Still...So if you look him up on baseball-reference.com, which is the site I always use to get stats, you'd find that there were actually two George Burns playing in the 20s.  There's my guy, at this address, and then there's another guy, who played in the mid-10s to the mid-20s, at this address.  They were both good players, but time being what it is, let's focus on my guy.

He had an odd career, if you look at the stats.  In 1918 he led the league in games, hits and total bases, while batting .352 and with an almost-.400 on-base percentage.  Despite this, he only scored 61 runs, which tells me that he either didn't bat leadoff (or even in the top-5 in the order) or that the Philadelphia Athletics of 1918 was a bad team.  Or both.  Anyway, in spite of his good play, he was a part-time player in 1920 and in 1921--two prime years, when he was 26 and 27, peak years for many ballplayers.  He apparently got stuck in the depth chart behind another first baseman, and he was flat-out bought by the Cleveland Indians (for whom he was playing in 1923, the year of my card).  He was a part-time player for them, before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for Stuffy McInnis, an extremely good player.  He played very well for Boston, which traded him back to Cleveland in a huge trade you can read about at the bottom, beneath all the stats.

He played great in Cleveland, batting .306, .328, .310, .336, .358 and .319.  While averages across the league were up between 1921 and 1939, this is still very good.  In 1926 he was the MVP, with 216 hits and 64 doubles, a record until Earl Webb hit 67 for the Red Sox a few years later.  (Webb's record still stands today, so Burns' 64 is still in the top-5 or so.)  He had 3 triples, 4 homers and 115 RBIs, which means those doubles drove in a ton of runs, plus whatever singles he hit.  (This also means Cleveland was a good team, with lots of runners on base, and that Burns hit between 2nd and 5th in the lineup.)

But something happened, because two years later he was flat-out bought by the New York Yankees, who barely used him for a couple of seasons, before selling him back to the Philadelphia Athletics, who rarely played him.  And that's it.  He played twice for two different teams, and he seemed to be wanted, yet easily sold or traded, at the same time.

A very strange career for a very good player.  He led the league in hits twice, eight years apart, which is hard to do in general, but especially if you're playing in the same league as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and all those guys.  He finished second in hits and average one year; finished second to Babe Ruth in RBIs during his MVP year, and constantly was among the league-leaders in hits, average and defensive statistics, including consecutive games played and fielding percentage.  He snagged an MVP from them as well, when he was 33.  He had over 2,000 hits and hit over .300 for his career.  A quick glance at his defensive stats shows that he was good, maybe a little better than average.  Not a Gold Glove winner, but solid enough not to make a jerk of himself there, and he once made an unassisted triple play, which is very rare. Burns also played in two World Series, and won both of them, nine years apart.

I went to his Wikipedia page to see why he was traded or sold so often, and why he was made a part-time player in the middle of his career after very good seasons, and at the end, just a year after winning the MVP.  It didn't tell me a thing, except that there might not be anything to say, and that he became a good minor-league player and manager, and then a sheriff of a small town.  I guess injuries could explain the part-time status and the trades, but I would've thought Wikipedia would show that.  Maybe he had Rogers Hornsby disease: despite a HOF career and being a world-class hitter as the National League's Babe Ruth (and a second basemen!), Hornsby was also an uncontested jerk who teams couldn't wait to get rid of, and which actually became better after getting rid of him, despite replacing him with a worse player.  (A-rod is a present-day example.)  But, again, I would guess that the Wikipedia page would've mentioned that he was hard to get along with.  Instead, this article's writer seemed to be obsessed with Burns' greatness as a right-handed hitter, and with right-handers in general.

I suspect that there's more here to know.  If you feel like it, please investigate and leave a comment.

The Card

As stated by PSAcardfacts.com (click this link and look at the beautiful Babe Ruth card):

"The 1923 Willards Chocolate set consists of 180 cards, each measuring about 2” x 3-1/4”. Produced by a Canadian firm, the Willards Chocolate Company, the unnumbered cards feature a sepia-tone player photo with a white border. A facsimile autograph is printed across the image. The back of every card is blank. The key cards belong to Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and of course, Babe Ruth. This set is also anchored by Grover Cleveland Alexander, Stan Coveleski, Hugh Duffy, Johnny Evers, Frank Frisch, Kid Gleason, Burleigh Grimes, Harry Hooper, Rogers Hornsby, Miller Huggins, Connie Mack, Branch Rickey, and Tris Speaker. The company inserted one card into packages of their products. The set’s unique imagery has kept the Willards Chocolate issue extremely popular with collectors, and partly as the result of coming from a Canadian manufacturer is seen as being relatively rare."

Apparently they're commonly found trimmed, with the white border cut away, leaving just the picture.  (Some of the T206s I've seen were trimmed, too, like we do today with a copy that has too much black ink.  I don't get the point of doing this to baseball cards, but whatever.  Who knew in 1922 that they'd be worth so much?)  Anyway, they're worth less, obviously, if they're trimmed.  Mine isn't.  A graded set of 6.+ sold in 2010 for $71,700.  The Babe Ruth was $35,000 in Mint condition, and $315 in poor condition, which is a worse state than mine's in.  The Ty Cobb was $18,000 in Mint condition, and $155 in poor condition.  I don't own those, of course.  I make it a point not to buy cards for more than $15 to $25, and for even less, when I can.  I did so for this card, and it's not for sale.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Letting Go--1975 Topps George Brett Rookie Card

Photo--George Brett's 1975 Topps Rookie Card.  From amazonaws.com

It's been a very long time, but I have a story about a baseball card:

I've discovered ebay lately, much to my happiness and my chagrin.  Happiness because I now own about 25 1908-1910 T206s, as well as a few 1935 Diamond Stars and a couple of more Goudeys.  (These are all popular, yet usually-expensive, baseball cards.)  I also now own 1 1887 N172 tobacco card in very good condition, and a great Pedro Martinez-autographed, bigger than 18 X 20 photo, in a walnut frame, with "2004 W.S. Winner" after his autograph.  It is one of the most beautiful things I've ever owned.

So why the chagrin?  Well, let me put it this way: I've shut down the account for now, and there are Post-It reminders on my laptop (which I usually type these on) to not bid on anything else for the foreseeable future.  I have become very good at winning bids.  I have a great system.  This is also a good and a bad thing.  The only specific I'll give is that the 1887 card cost $104 and change, and that's a steal for the card.

This was all well and good but for the hit-and-run driver who smashed into the back of my car as I was stopped in front of a side street that led to the parking lot of my job.  I got hit hard, and was dazed for a bit, and got some neck soreness and a fat lip--and just over $4,300 in damages.  The insurance covers most of that, thank God, but a $1,000 deductible still is what it is.  Considering what I spent on ebay, that was the absolute wrong thing at the wrong time.  (Though I admit that I could have been hurt much more than I was.)

So now the second part of the title of this blog entry: Letting Go.  I have to let go of the hopelessness that you feel that someone could smash into your car and drive away, and the woman who was a witness to it--who was, in fact, hogging the whole side street so that I had no choice but to stop to let her out--did not stay for the cop, or at least offer her name and number, or call 911, or anything.  She saw the car that hit me.  She must have seen it drive away, unless she was too busy driving away herself.  So I have to let go of the anger and bitterness of that whole situation.

But I also had to let go of a couple of things I've had for awhile.  I had to sell a couple of things because I needed the cash on hand.  I have some savings, but I have to leave it there in case something else like this happens.  I went through some of my many baseball things--which I don't usually do--and I had to sell a couple of my baseball things--which I never do.  After reviewing what I had, I set aside a second Dustin Pedroia autograph (this one on a baseball; I have a better one on a large autographed World Series photo of him) and about 50 to 75 baseball cards.

Letting go of the Pedroia ball hurt a little bit, but that's why you get duplicate autographs, right?  This one I got at a Picnic in the Park at Fenway a few years ago; the woman I was dating at the time paid for the expensive tickets and took me, and I had the time of my life--as well as many Sox autographs.  (One of my favorite memories was throwing a baseball against the Green Monster for a few hours on a perfect afternoon.  My spot was just to the left of the Jimmy Fund boy in the circle.)  Anyway, the ball (which had George Kottaras's autograph, too, and you can go to the front of the line if you remember him) reminded me of that day, and so I was sort of sorry to see it go.  I have other autographed baseballs from that day, but still.  I sold it for $50.  I would have asked for more, because it sells consistently on ebay for $85-$120.  I asked for $60 and settled for ten dollars less because I sold it to a co-worker, and he's a very nice guy.

Then I called a guy who had come to one of my yard sales this past summer.  We'd talked a bit and he'd mentioned that he liked older baseball cards, of which I have a plentiful supply.  It took me awhile to decide what to part with, and the way the sale went down, I had to part with a card I'd rather not have had to sell, a 1975 Topps George Brett Rookie Card.  This had been given to me when I was about 14, so I've had it for a very long time.  The book value on it was $40 to $80 in Near Mint condition, which my card maybe was, or maybe was just short.  I also sold 99 commons with it, and a 1975 Topps Steve Carlton, Phil Neikro, Hank Aaron, Dave Winfield (book value--$30 to $50), and Robin Yount rookie card (in faded condition).  I got $100 for all of that, which is a pretty fair deal for both the buyer and the seller.  You never get book value for cards.  It's impressive that I even came close.

Anyway, letting go of that Brett card hurt more because I've had it for so very long.  When I looked at it, I remembered the me that I was at that age.  It was also one of the more valuable cards I've had in my collection since I started collecting at age 12 or so.  But I needed the money, and it was all profit, since I didn't pay for any of the 1975 cards.  And I was never particularly fond of the 1975 cards anyway.  They're really hard to get in decent condition because of the color patterns Topps made them with.  And I'm more into pre-1970 cards, anyway.  The 70s, with maybe the exception of the 78s or 79s, were an ugly time for Topps.

Ebay makes letting go a little easier.  If it gets too much for me, I can just buy another one, maybe in better condition, maybe for even less than I just sold it for.  Years ago, it would have been impossible to replace a 1975 Topps George Brett rookie card if you'd sold it.  Now, it's just a mouse click away.

And I feel that letting go, and adapting, is necessary for growth.  And I've never been particularly good at doing that.  Not that keeping that Brett card forever would have been a bad thing if I'd liked it, or if I'd wanted to wait for it to increase in value.  But it probably wouldn't have gone up that much more anytime soon (although all vintage cards increase in value over time, just because they're old), and I never really liked the card in of itself.  I much prefer '51-'53 Bowmans and '52 and '53 Topps, as well as the '44 and '45 cards, and the 1887 N172s and, of course, the T206s.

I'm moving on, and I needed the money, and I like other cards now (and they're more expensive because they're so much older).  I've changed, and not just in my baseball card preferences.  I would not have been able to sell the Brett card 10 years ago, and maybe not even in the last few years.  But that's what you do with free stuff you're not attached to by anything more than nostalgia, right?

It's possibly a short story in of itself: a card given to me for free when I was 14 was sold (with other cards, but the Brett rookie was the creme de la creme of my 75s, and of the 1975 set in general) for about $75 to $80, with all of the other cards selling for about $20 to $25.  It's going to a new home now, and I know that this is inappropriate personification, but I asked the guy to treat it well, and to display it well.  He said he would, though I have my doubts, as he said he has a billion other cards, including many T206s, just hanging out in bureau drawers or something.  (I asked him to call me about the T206s.)  It's fulfilled its purpose for me, as it turns out, and so I hope it's good to someone else, too.

And if it sounds like I have some separation anxiety about it, it's because I do.  But you have to let go, right?  You have to adapt and change?  That's what the hoarders can't do--and I see now that it's possible to be an emotion hoarder, too.

P.S.--If you're interested in buying any baseball cards, send me an email (the address is at the top of this blog page, with all of my other associations) or place a comment, and I'll get back.  Let me know what you need, and if I've got it, we can talk.  The T206s and the 1887 card are not for sale.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Red Sox 27-17 May 19, 2013

Been gone for a long time.  The job, and getting a lot of reading and writing done.  But I've been watching (or listening to) most of the games.  Missed maybe 3 or 4 all year so far, maybe.  Here's what's been going through my head about the Sox, and about baseball in general, lately:

--The new one-game Wild Card playoff format is unbelievably bad, I've realized, and here's why.  Imagine you're the Red Sox, for example, and you win the Wild Card over the next team, the Tigers, by, let's say, five games, which is a lot for a Wild Card lead.  Anyway, since the top-2 Wild Card teams play in the one-game playoff, the Sox, who won by five games, play the Tigers.  The Tigers, of course, pitch Justin Verlander, possibly the one best pitcher in the majors.  He strikes out 12 and wins a complete game shutout, and the Sox are out of the playoffs.  Is that fair?  The format exists this year not to make it more interesting for the top two teams, but to make it more interesting for the middle-level teams, three or four of which will finish between one to three games away from the second spot.  Soon it'll be like hockey or basketball, where almost every team is in, or close to, the playoffs.  This is better for the owners, of course, but not for the game itself.

--Pedro Ciriaco isn't doing it for me this year.  After today's game, he's committed six errors in extremely limited playing time, and is hitting below the Mendoza line.  This is a far cry from last year, when he hit (it seems) about .300 and played great defense.  Right now, he's a glorified pinch-runner.  What happened?

--John Lackey is 2-4 with a 3.30 ERA.  And he's slim.  And he's not complaining.  Finally.  Not bad for $15.25 million per year for the past three years, including this one.

--Speaking of money, David Ortiz has made over $112 million (mostly for the Sox) over his career to, essentially, swing a bat.  And for the Sox, and even for Boston itself, he's been worth every cent--if anyone can be worth that much to swing a bat and to represent sport in a major city.

--Lester and Buchholz are finally pitching like they should--at the same time.

--Hanrahan never did it for me, anyway.  But Bailey can't spend any more time on the DL, especially when you consider last year.  If he does any more, you can't consider him a good signing.

--Uehara is amusing.

--I've probably said it before, but I'll do so again: Minnesota should not have an open-air stadium.  Target Field looks beautiful (and its ground crew is run by the guy who used to do Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium for many years), especially with the tan limestone and cityscape in the distance, but it's a mistake for the Twins to have an open-air stadium.  And without a great team, the novelty of it will wear off, fast.

--Ellsbury has been in a long, very quiet, slump.  (Napoli has, too, but not for as long.)  Currently he's hitting about .250, with an on-base percentage around .300.  That's bad in general, but it's catastrophic for a lead-off hitter.  How about Victorino there, and Ellsbury 2nd, or whatever, to let him get himself on track again?  Bradley may not be the answer next year, but I'm not sure Ellsbury is, either.  I have his autograph, so I want to be wrong, but he's got a lot to prove, since he's a free agent at the end of this year.  If the year ended now, I wouldn't resign him, no matter how much Sox gear he sells for the ladies.  (Yes, the management would take it into consideration when considering his free agency.)

--Pedroia's having a great year.  He's a great hitter almost anywhere in the lineup.  He could hit productively, with a high average and on-base percentage, between the first and the fifth spots in the lineup.  When batting cleanup, which he has the last few years when Ortiz was out, he drove in a lot of runs, too.  An amazing hitter who should have a long and productive decline phase, which shouldn't start for quite awhile yet.

--Saw Cecil Fielder on Tim McCarver's show for a short time, so I looked him up on baseball-reference.com, which I use to look up all players' stats, and the salaries mentioned above.  Anyway, he ate himself out of the major leagues.  His last game was at age 34.  The site mentioned above kindly listed his weight at 230 pounds, which is way off, I assure you.  Even now, he takes up the entire lens of the camera.

--Who're the only two American League batters to lead the league in RBIs for three consecutive years?  Answer: Babe Ruth--and Cecil Fielder.

--Speaking of whom...His son, Prince Fielder, will be making $23 million per year, every year, for the Detroit Tigers, until the year 2020.  By that time, he would've made over $225 million playing baseball.  Prince Fielder is hitting below the Mendoza line in his playoff games.  His playoff batting stats are, to be kind, abysmal.  A-Rod has been much better in the playoffs, despite his reputation otherwise.  Ewwwww......

--Tim McCarver is a terrible broadcaster, by the way.  His enshrinement was a joke.

--Daniel Nava is quietly hitting close to .300, with close to a .400 on-base percentage and close to a .500 slugging percentage.  Unbelievable!  Happy for the guy who hit a grand slam on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors--and hadn't done much since.  He was bought from an independent league team for $1.  Literally.

--To show the opposite, Julio Iglesias, who was hitting about .360 and playing Gold Glove defense for Boston when he was sent down to Pawtucket when Stephen Drew came off the DL, was benched for three games recently by the Pawsox manager due to his bad attitude.  His benching started in about the seventh inning of a game I attended.  He was his typical magician self in the field, but he wasn't running out ground balls, and he must've said the wrong thing at the wrong time to the manager.  This won't get him brought back up anytime soon.  He deserved the chance for his defense alone, but his attitude won't help hide how offensive he can be, if you catch what I'm sayin'.  But he has a major league career, even if he bats ninth for bad teams his whole career, just for his defense alone.  He'll give his teams a few wins a year just with his glove.

--Saw a Twins outfielder make a homerun out of a double for Pedroia when he went after a fly ball, and it bounced off of the heel of his glove and over the outfield wall.  (This should really be a 4-base error, rather than a homerun, but I don't know if the rules allow for such a thing.)  Anyway, I haven't seen that happen since Jose Canseco infamously let a fly ball bounce off his head and over the wall.

--A friend of mine imitates how Jenny Dell seems to point with her chest.  I mentioned that Dell does it better, which didn't help matters.  Jenny Dell seems to be having fun with a thankless job.  And she's definitely grown on me, since I said in the beginning of the year that she's no Heidi Watney. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 23rd, Aceves' Meltdown, 13-0

In a blustery, rainy, cold, and wind-swept Fenway, I saw the Red Sox do their Bad News Bears impersonation to a mostly-empty ballpark that became even more empty, fast.  A few other tidbits from this game:

--Took me more than half an hour longer to get to Fenway because Boylston is still partially closed off.  Not a complaint; just a traffic advisory for fellow fans going to Fenway.  Leave earlier than usual.

--Since I was one of the 200 or so left at the end of the game, in the seventh inning, I was given a free ticket to Thursday's Sox/Houston game.  I'll be there, of course, so look for another blog entry then.

--Aceves gave me a lot of firsts.  First pitcher I've ever seen balk twice in the same inning.  First pitcher I've ever seen commit two errors in the same inning, though one of them was generously scored a hit.  (This was on his throw to first, which he essentially threw into the ground.)  First pitcher I've ever seen in person be late to cover first, and then throw the ball nowhere close to the catcher to get the guy trying to score.  First pitcher to allow a large village of baserunners in such a low number of innings, and then blame his offense for not scoring any runs for him during the postgame interview. 

--Also, he was the first pitcher I've seen in such horrible--but great-for-the-pitcher-- weather conditions walk so many batters.  With the wind blowing in so strongly, and with the air so wet with rain, and with the ball so dead because of the weight of so much water on it, all pitchers know that they can essentially throw a shutout if they just throw the ball over the plate, with just a little bit of effort, and allow the batter to hit the ball slowly to an infielder, or as a dead weight to an outfielder.  Such conditions create a low-scoring, pitcher-friendly game.  All the pitchers have to do is throw strikes.  Aceves refused to do so.  Colon didn't, and so threw a shutout.  Amazing.

--I said before in the first entry this year that Aceves had better watch his act because he was on the Sox's S-list already.  With rookie Alex Wilson pitching pretty well, and with John Lackey coming back this weekend, there really isn't a spot for Aceves and his antics anymore.  He knows this, and it probably led to his meltdown.  That, and whatever goofiness he already has.

--The relief pitcher for this game, Steven Wright, was making his first MLB appearance after eight years in the minors.  He did not impress, either, giving up five runs in about three innings, with lots of hits and walks.

--Aceves's demotion will happen just as much for his remarks after the game, blaming the offense for his loss.

--Speaking of that, the word "demotion," should be used in this case, as sending Aceves down is exactly that, a demotion.  A reality check.  Commentators can choose when to use that word, as opposed to any other phrase, as with Iglesias.  I don't know why this is such an issue for me...See my bullet about this in the last entry.

--The Sox should be able to easily shrug this one off and win the next game, and therefore the series.  I used to play Vintage League baseball, where this sort of score is common.  (In fact, Vintage scores are much, much more lopsided than this.)  You just shrug it off.  It's still just one game, exactly the same as losing 1-0.  In fact, losing 1-0 or 2-1 hurts much more.  Again, a team tries to win every series, not every game.

--Probably I'm just being picky, but I'd like Napoli to walk more.  He has about five walks and twenty-eight Ks, or so.  His OBP is very low.  I know he gets paid more to drive in runs than he does to get on base, but it seems like he's only getting on base when he drives in runs.  This doesn't do much for the hitters behind him, all of whom are struggling.

--Middlebrooks needs a day off to clear his head.  He's playing good defense, though.

--I took a lot of good noir shots of Fenway and its environs with my cell phone.  Yeah, I'm like that.  I'll upload one for the picture for this entry when I get a chance.

--Okay, I didn't post this after the game, like I should've, and so now I can say that the Sox did indeed win the rubber game of this series, and they did indeed demote Aceves.  Nice to see I'm not just making all this up as I go, right?

--Bottom line: Sox are 14-7 and playing well, more with their pitching and defense than with their offense, which isn't doing too badly, either.  And who would've thought that possible this early in the year, after the debacle of last year?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston 11-4; 2 GA of NY

Photo: Movie poster for Major League, from its Wikipedia page.

It's been awhile since the Sox played a game, and even longer since I posted about it.  Hopefully Boston will play today--Saturday, 4.20.13--as the city needs the distraction and celebration.  It'll be a soggy Fenway, unfortunately, if they play.  Speaking of rain, I got rained out of Fenway last Friday, and my next game, on the 23rd, looks like rain, too.  Thanks...

--It's odd and sad to see Terry Francona in a Cleveland Indians uniform.

--About 9,000 people, on average, watched each of the three games at Cleveland's Progressive Field, ex-Jacob's Field, ex-Municipal Stadium.  That's pathetic.  The Red Sox's AAA team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, draw more than that at its McCoy Stadium on a nice summer day.

--I don't miss Mike Aviles.  And didn't he go to Toronto in the deal for John Farrell, the Sox manager?

--Nick Swisher doesn't look right in a Cleveland Indians uniform, either.

--The Indians team right now--and its attendance at the park--is exactly like the Indians in the movie Major League.  Watching the series was like watching the movie.

--I wouldn't pay to watch the Indians play, either, but I would pay to see some of the Indians play, and some of the players on any visiting team.

--Mike Napoli can motor for a big, stocky guy.

--The Sox are playing Billy Beane ball: Don't swing for the fences; work the count; make the pitcher throw a lot of pitches; wear out the starting pitcher; get into the bullpen; hit singles and doubles; draw walks; keep the line moving.  Just like 2003, 2004 and 2007.  And not at all like last year.

--The Sox defense is the most steady I've seen it, at least since 2007, and maybe better than 2003 and 2004.  Maybe the best, day by day, since I've been watching.  And I've been watching since Ned Martin and Bob Montgomery, if you know what I'm sayin'.

--I'll say it again: Lester and Buchholz are pitching with rhythm, efficiency and confidence, and they're both 3-0 with ERAs hovering near 1.00.

--And Lester is keeping his fastball down and not trying to blow everyone away with high heat he doesn't have, a la Josh Beckett.  (Though, truth be told, Beckett's pitching very well, so far, for the Dodgers this year, with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.1 WHIP.  But he hasn't won a game yet, which leads me to say--)

--This year's team is a perfect example of addition by subtraction.  Yes, the guaranteed money to these guys is gone, too, but so are Bobby Valentine, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and all of the obnoxiousness and ridiculousness.  Any team without these guys is bound to get better.

--Couldn't the Sox management have done all that and kept Francona to begin with?  (Though I do like John Farrell.)

--I'm changing my tune.  (Get used to that.)  With Ortiz due back, it's right that the Sox send down Jackie Bradley, Jr. and keep Mike Carp, who's hitting well, especially considering his lack of playing time.  Bradley needs to get himself straightened out.  His time will come again.

--Speaking of that, I don't like that sometimes these things are called "demotions," as in "Bradley was demoted to Pawtucket."  Iglesias was hitting over .400 when he was "demoted." Can't we just report it as "sent," as in "To make room for Ortiz, Bradley was sent to Pawtucket?"  It's not just semantics; sometimes it's inaccurate, as in the Iglesias example.

--Jamie Erdahl and Jenny Dell are wonderful, but they're not Heidi Watney.  Who's sort of wasted in MLB Network's Quick Pitch, I might add.

--If you're interested, my thoughts about the marathon massacre and its aftermath will soon be on my regular blog, here.

--And my review of the movie 42 will be on that site, and on this one, as well.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Game 3--Yankees 4 Red Sox 2, and Roger Ebert

Not too much to say about this one, mostly because I missed most of it, because...well, because I have a life, that's why, and I had other things to do.  But I caught a little, not enough to post a picture and to write a long entry, but just enough to say a couple of things:

--Though he lost today, if Dempster strikes out 8 in five innings, and gives up one solid run and two on a little blooper just over the infield, then he'll win more than he'll lose.

--But he can't walk four and throw so many pitches that he's over 100 in just five innings.

--I didn't know that David Ross, the Sox's back-up catcher, is the catcher whose pitchers have the lowest aggregate ERA in the majors over the past few years.  In other words, he's Varitek, but with a cannon for an arm, as he's also among the majors' best at throwing out runners.  And he hit well tonight, too.

--Pedro's doing furniture commercials, for those of you still wondering if an athlete can sell out many years after he's retired.

--Losing 4-2 is a good loss, if there can be such a thing.  Even the best teams, the 100-game winners, will lose 62.  I'm not saying the Sox will win 100 games--they won't--but sometimes the other pitcher just pitches a little bit better, like tonight.  Still a well-played game, one that didn't overly tax the bullpen.

--In fact, it was a well-played series.  You don't try to win every game if there are 162 of them; you try to win every series.  They did that, and in a hostile ballpark.  Against a Triple-A major league team, sure, but you have to beat up on those.

--I'm getting comments left for me to moderate by INSKATES.  It sounded suspicious, so I looked it up, thinking it may just be an online nickname for somebody.  It's not; it's an online company that sells ice skates.  So if you see it here, or elsewhere, let the blog owner know, and don't click on the link.  The comment itself was oddly worded and a little suspicious.

--Bradley continues to impress.  Victorino was maybe a little too aggressive, trying to come home on a ball that didn't get too far away, but that kind of an attitude towards the game will win more games than it'll lose.

--It's not sports-related, but I'll go there, anyway: Roger Ebert dying--I give that a thumb's down.  I looked forward to his review of a movie sometimes more than I looked forward to the movie itself.  The first Pulitzer-prize winner for movie criticism, his reviews of movies were often about more than just that movie.  His reviews were specific, yet irreverent, very knowledgeable about theory and about the business, yet also free of jargon and very easy to read.  Smart, and funny.  Very down-to-Earth, filled with common sense and a real affection for movies in general.  He will be missed.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Game 2--Sox 7 Yankees 4

Photo: Clay Buchholz, from his Wikipedia page.  (This isn't him pitching.  It looks sort of like he's keeping the ball in the air telepathically, after completing an ice-skating move.  But probably he's just tossing the ball underhanded to the first baseman, or something.)

My in-game notes during this one:

--Kuroda was (very quietly) the Yankees best pitcher last year, going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA, in about 220 innings.  Sounds like a lot of tough-luck losses amongst those eleven.

--Orsillo said the reason Nava is playing and Jonny Gomes isn't is because Gomes is 0-8 against Kuroda, and Nava is 2-8 against him.  That's it?  Eight at-bats?  Is that a big enough sample?

--The pitch location and speed graphic in the middle of the right side of the screen is already seriously annoying me, two batters into the game.  It wasn't there in the first game.

--Okay, so Nava gets a well-placed single into left field, and now is hitting .333 against Kuroda (3-9).

--Pedroia gets a lot of ugly-looking hits.

--Saltalamacchia looks better at the plate.  Less of a free-swinger.  This 2-out RBI and yesterday's three walks--also rare for him--will hopefully be a sign of things to come.

--Jerry Remy's act never gets old for me.

--Jackie Bradley Jr. is already so big that The Donald agreed to meet him yesterday.

--Iglesias looked ugly trying to lay down that bunt.  He must do those little things well to stay in the bigs.

--Heidi Watney has a gig on the MLB Network, for those of you following such things.

--Jackie Bradley's first Major League hit was an RBI single, driving in a small-ball manufactured run, since Victorino had a two-out RBI single and then stole second base.  The Sox win big when they manufacture runs.  They have the personnel to do a lot of that this year, so they'd better.  They're not the Manny and Ortiz bashers anymore.

--When Ellsbury drove in two runs in the top of the third, that made 5 out of the 6 runs two-out RBIs.

--Easiest way to tell the Sox and Yanks are in trouble?  Attendance.  Despite the 40,000 + sold tickets, maybe half of that showed up, and only five thousand or so stayed until the end, when they lost by just three runs.  The Sox are also offering free-ticket promotions for Opening Day at Fenway, which is unheard of, and they're half-pricing food and beer to sell more tickets in April.

--Last year, there were never any lines at Unos at Fenway, even half an hour before the game.  That was their horrible season, right there.

--Aceves was used correctly tonight--with a big lead.  He's the bullpen's innings-eater and the team's spot-starter this year.  And he'd better watch his antics this year, as he's still on the Sox's S-list from last year.

--Buchholz gave up one run in seven innings (a bad pitch that became a solo homer) and made it look easy tonight.  Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

--The Sox are 2-0, yes, but let's remember that the Yanks are a Triple-A team right now, without Jeter, A-Rod, Text Message, and Granderson.  And now maybe Kuroda for awhile.  Toronto and Baltimore will be more reliable tests for this team.

--Nava went 2-3 with a run scored, an RBI and a walk.  Like I said, he needed to start today instead of Jonny Gomes, who was 0-8 against Kuroda, which is obviously a big enough sample to make that decision.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Opening Day 2013--Red Sox 8, Yankees 2

Photo: Jackie Bradley, Jr., from nbcsports.com

So I'm going to give this blog another shot.  Hope springs eternal, right?  Gone seems to be the bitterness of last year, in which we had a manager nobody liked (including his own players), players nobody liked (including the manager, and the other players) and a front office that seemed to be a bit distant from the action.  Then came the fire sale trades at the end of the season, and things looked up, except for the players themselves, because by then nobody cared.

In all of that, you have the fact that the players weren't trying at all, despite being paid millions (or, tens of millions, in a few cases), and then when the Jerry Sandusky thing came around, that was it for me, folks.  Maybe I'll see you, maybe I won't.

After that, I tried with some baseball cards--which I liked doing, by the way.  And I liked how I went into the players lives, and delved a bit deeper into their backgrounds, or their issues.  In the meantime, I learned a few things as well.  But then some personal changes happened, and my writing took off, and I didn't have the time anymore.

But now I'm back.  The smoke has cleared, and the dust has settled, and whatever other trite cliches you can think of have happened.  Spring is here.  There's hustle and bustle and excitement and exuberance on this Sox team again--for now, anyway.  But there does seem to be a new attitude, and that's not just the Sox ads on NESN talking there.

So, the game.  Opening game, opening series, and at Yankee Stadium, no less.  True, this Yankees team is essentially their Triple-A team right now, but the Sox still had to face Sabathia.  They've handled him well in the past, sure, but this game wasn't even about facing him, beating the Yankees, or even winning, per se.  It was about the new look, new attitude Sox.  The new face of the team.  That's what I mostly wanted to see.

And I did.  Specifically, here are the notes I took during the game (when I watched it on DVR after returning from an appt.):

--I'm glad I thought ahead enough to get two autographed baseballs from Jackie Bradley, Jr. when he was at Pawtucket Red Sox Hotstove League in January.  One to keep, and one to sell when the time is right.  Already his autograph has sold on ebay for about $50.  After one major league game.

--Lester is noticeably taking less time between pitches.  He needs to do that all year.  He was told to do so the last couple of years, but didn't.  This was a Becket influence, I think, since Josh has a cup of coffee and a sandwich between pitches.

--Lester's keeping the ball down and not feeling, also like Becket does, that he can just blow his fastball by people whenever he wants.  He has to set up his pitches better, which is what he's doing now.

--Seeing what I've just written, I'm noticing how glad I am that Becket's gone.

--Bradley's first AB was brilliant and memorable.  Down quickly 0-2 to Sabathia.  Takes some (very close) pitches for balls that you would expect a player with his limited experience to swing at.  Fouls off some good pitches.  Finally draws a walk after a seven or eight pitch at bat.  This pushes runners to second and third, which is more important than the fact that it loads the bases.  This PA proves John Farrell's point about how impressed he was with Bradley's approach every AB.

--I don't know why Sabathia didn't continue to give him off-speed stuff inside and low.  He was susceptible to those in this AB.

--Iglesias infield hit to short; Bradley safe at second by an eyelash, which extends the inning and scores the run.  Speed on both counts, Bradley safe at second and Iglesias fast enough to not even draw a throw to first.  I like it!

--Ellsbury hard hit to first, throw home for one out rather than to second and back to first for a possible double-play.  Youkillis knew that with Ellsbury running, the DP wouldn't happen.  Again, speed.  Iglesias now on second and Bradley at third.

--Victorino singles in both speedy runners with a hard hit single.  I was wrong to question batting him second.  I forgot about his solid production the last few years, and I forgot about his Gold Gloves.  My bad.

--Pedroia singles in speedy Ellsbury.  With Bradley batting eighth, Iglesias ninth, Ellsbury first and Victorino second (and maybe even Pedroia third), the Sox have five consecutive above-average to speedy runners.  That's very nice.

--Napoli, who'd looked silly in his first AB, just (and I mean just) gets under one and skies to deep center to end the second inning.

--Good show here in the second, with lots of walks, speedy running, and clutch-hitting.  You can do a lot of things with walks and singles.  This is how the Sox won titles in 2004 and 2007.  This needs to happen every game, all year, in order for them to have a chance.

--Bradley's great catch on Cano's (don'tcha know) drive in the 4th.  He took an odd-looking route to it, but it's a results-oriented business, as Orsillo says, and he made a great catch.

--Iglesias's push-bunt single in the fourth.  He needs to do that much more often.  Every time he hits it in the air, he owes me twenty push-ups.

--That's a line from Major League, by the way.  That one was for you, big guy.  (Because Bunky's already taken.)

--I love Jonny Gomes, the second straight Jonny the Sox got from the Oakland A's who's an under-rated table-setter, run-producer and all-around making-it-happen kind of guy.  You don't see a two-run infield single too often.  I won't be surprised if the players talk more about Gomes's hustle than they do Bradley's play in this game.

--Bullpen is doing a good job, but we knew heading into the season-opener that the bullpen was actually going to be a major plus for this team.  That, by itself, is unusual for Boston, even for the World Series winning teams.

--There's so much talk about Bradley right now, it seems like Sox fans have him already ticketed for the Hall of Fame.  And he doesn't even have a hit yet.

--Great start for what hopefully is a new-look, new-attitude team.  They should at least be fun to watch, on tv and at Fenway.  I go to my first Fenway game on April 12th.