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

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.