At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

Archive for April, 2012

Pieces of April

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 28, 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It has already been a remarkable season, a roller coaster ride for the Nation.  Here are some highlights of a memorable April.

Josh Beckett allowed 5 homeruns to Detroit on April 7.

Clay Buchholz allowed 5 homeruns to the Yankees on April 20.

The Sox reeled off their 3rd straight win on April 15 – after having lost 5 of 6. Bobby Valentine then poisoned the clubhouse with anti-Youkilis rhetoric, which was followed by 5 straight losses from April 16 to 22.

All of that was followed by the Sox winning 5 in a row from April 23 to 27.  A rainout in between the streaks brought the healing.  Playing the Twins and White Sox didn’t hurt either.

200 former Red Sox were present at the 100th anniversary celebration of Fenway on April 15.

The next day’s NY Post headline shouted “100 Years of Kicking Ass” touting the Yankees’ 6-2 win.  Typical New York crass talk.

Johnny Pesky and Dobby Doerr were rolled out in wheel chairs at the Fenway anniversary.  It is sad to see such fine and loveable men constrained by infirmity.

Jon Lester looked absolutely lost in Minneapolis as he blew a 3 – 0 lead, seemingly perplexed by the Twins ability to hit him.

Danny Valencia, batting .218, and not noted as a power hitter, crushed a Lester fastball 410 feet for a 3 run homer to dead center.

The Yankees decided that starter Michael Pineda will miss a year with an anterior labral tear.  That news was quickly followed by a sighting of Mariners DH Jesus Montero taking Ricky Romero yard for his 3rd homerun of 2012.  Brian Cashman, I love you.

The Miami Marlins found themselves in last place despite the new stadium, new manager, and having signed Heath Bell, Mark Buehlre, Carlos Zambrano and Jose Reyes.  There was also Ozzie Guillen’s flippant support of Fidel Castro.  The Marlins have not sold out a game, even on opening day, in this beautiful new park that seats just 37,442.  What a mess.

We witnessed the sudden passing of Moose Skowron due to congestive heart failure and complications of lung cancer.  Although a true blue Yankee, Moose was a good and down-to-earth guy.  He spoke at the World Series Club of Hartford County on 11-17-03.  He impressed that audience with an ability to be abruptly honest and accidently funny.  Farewell and God speed, Bill.

The national media noticed Dylan Bundy, the top pitching prospect in the Orioles system.  All Bundy did was to pitch his first 13 innings of pro ball without giving up a hit.  The Delmarva Shorebird faced 40 batters, recording 39 outs and yielding a walk.  This 19-year-old Tulsa native has a fastball that touches 99 mph, plus a curve and change.  Watch out AL East.

Tim Lincecum surprised everyone with his 8.04 ERA and 1 – 2 record.

A psychic referendum is underway on the status of Bobby Valentine as Red Sox Manager.  Will he complete his 2 year contract ?  Will he last until Labor Day ?  Sox fans are now very familiar with the narcissistic, attention loving Valentine and stomachs are churning all over New England.  Bobby is a sideshow that the Sox do not need.  Larry, you’re the Man, but you need to find a better manager.

Carl Crawford hit the Red Sox lottery when he went pay-for-no-play with a wrist injury.  The ordinarily hard working Crawford will be lost for almost all of the 2012 season.  Carl is pulling down $19,500,000 for not swinging a bat or running down a fly or performing any other game activity this year.  Good god.

May the next month be brighter.   Go Sox !

Advertisements

Posted in Boston Red Sox | Leave a Comment »

Baseball is where you find it.

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 23, 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One never knows when one will stumble across “our game” as we go about living our non-baseball lives.  In the three cases featured in this blog, baseball is found at a magazine launch party, on a country road in search of lunch, and in a 83 year old book about a famed radio comedy act – and it isn’t Abbott & Costello.

Last week, while heading back to Connecticut from Exeter, R.I., I decided to get off the well beaten path.  I took Rt. 154 from Old Saybrook through the charming town of Essex and into the classic New England town of Deep River.  Rt 154 alternately hugs the wide waters of the Connecticut, than swings through the center of many a small town.  The sky was blue and clear.  The air was fresh.

I was hungry.  There was a healthy food option along this colorful route, an IGA 1 mile ahead.

I slowed and pulled over quickly when a small marvel came into view.  It was a concrete baseball, about 4 feet in circumference, on a landscaped pedestal adorning the entrance to a place named Devitt Field.

There were Little League fields in the complex behind the pull-in.  I parked.  I took a closer look at this 3 ton bauble.

It was inscribed “In Memorium, John George Desmond, Secretary & Treasurer, Middlesex County Baseball League, 1907 – 1942.”

Bummer, I thought.  Desmond died young at age 37 and they erected the memorial to him because he was a local figure in youth and rec leagues.

Wrong.

On, June 23, 1942, The Hartford Courant ran a story titled, J.G. Desmond Dies; Leader in Baseball.

Desmond was actually born in 1868, and was 74 when he passed at Hartford Hospital after a short illness.

J.G., according to The Courant, played in the Southern league in the 1880’s, later got a job at a piano factory in Deep River, and helped found the Middlesex County Baseball League, “one of the first semi-pro leagues in the United States.” , in 1907.

J.G. was much respected.  8 years before his death, he was given a dinner in his honor.  The featured speaker at the dinner was none other than George Moriarty, who swung a bat in the majors for 13 years, including 6 with Cobb and the Tigers, later followed by a career as an A.L. Umpire from 1917 to 1940.

The dinner was held at the Middletown YMCA.  All 300 tickets were sold in advance.  In addition to Moriarty, other speakers included James Murphy, a former Penn pitcher, Dr. Bill Wrang, a Red Sox team physician, and assorted Mayors, Judges and Selectman.

Courant Sports Editor, Albert Keane, not only spoke at the fete but wrote nuggets about the dinner in the 3 days following the event.  He recalled how Moriarty compared Big Ed Walsh (of Meriden, CT) to Christy Mathewson, he argued that as great as Big Six was he could not compare in stamina and durability to Big Ed.  He further said that Walsh’s spitter was “far more destructive to batting averages than Matty’s fadeaway.”.

Keane further observed that the spirited and sold out dinner should have  calmed the “calamity shouters who like to tell us that tennis, golf, soft ball and other summer sports have killed baseball….”.

Funny thing.  I had a friend tell me that soccer was killing baseball in 1999.  It was just a matter of time before soccer playing youth broke from their baseball bondage and left the national pastime in economic tatters.

Some things never change.

In the polite hyperbole of the 1930’s, Keane quoted one attendee as describing Mr. Desmond in this way:   “…he’s a kind hearted, good natured fellow who always wants everyone to have a fair deal and everyone satisfied.  Desmond and the league are one.”.

So there.  I’ve scratched the surface on the diamond of a man that was John George Desmond of Deep River, CT.

I’ve gone on longer than expected about J.G..  I’ll pitch the other two discoveries very quickly.

 And I’ll sign back on to do that soon.

.

Posted in BASEBALL | 2 Comments »

Get the bat off your shoulder, Cody

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 16, 2012

Daniel Bard pitched 6 and 2/3’s innings on Patriots Day, yielding only 1 run.  He struck out 7 and walked 7.  It is too bad that he lost, 1 – 0.  Had the Sox won, a 4-game sweep of the punch-less Rays would have offset the 1 – 5 start they recorded in Detroit and Toronto.

Cody Ross had a bad day, too.  The game ended with the bat on his shoulder and called strike three nipping the outside corner.

Jerry Remy disagreed with the way Larry Vanover called strikes this day.  The Rem Dawg has a lot of company. There are at this moment enough Vanover bashers to fill the blogosphere.

How bad is this Ump ?  Vanover doesn’t come up on the lists of deficient arbiters via google searches – as do CB Bucknor or Tim Welke.

But one wonders.  The NY Daily News reported 8 days ago that Jason Bay was called out on strike 3 by Vanover on a ball “that was clearly not a strike.”  And the normally reticent Bay actually beefed about the call.

As far as Bay was concerned, it was bad enough that he had to face Stephen Strasburg and hear the taunts of Mets fans over his slow start at the plate.  Being called out on a ball that was not a strike was salt in the wound.

Vanover is a seasoned veteran.  He is in his 19th year in MLB.  He has umpired in 1 All Star Game, 3 Championship Series, 2 Division Series and 1 World Baseball Classic. 

He is ranked on www.statfox.com as the 11th out of 66 umps for most frequently having a K occur when is the home plate umpire – called or swinging K’s.  Vanover averages 17.5 K’s per game.

Vanover is far higher up the ranks when it comes to calling a base-on-balls.  He is the 3rd highest out of 66 umps in giving a man his base.  He averages 10 BB called per game.

Let me tell you what I saw from my bar room view of the NESN broadcast.  Cody Ross allowed pitches to pass that looked less than 3 inches away from the black.  I would never presume to give batting instruction, but I think you have to swing at those.

And as for Mr. Bard, he seemed to be on the receiving end of the same fraternity paddle.  His pitches came within 3 inches of the black.  They were called balls.  I’m not a pitching instructor, and I know this isn’t completely fair to say, but I think when you come that close to the plate you have to take responsibility for not getting even closer and removing all doubt.

So I would not judge Mr. Vanover too harshly or quickly.

I’ll tell you one thing.  I really liked what I saw from Mr. Bard today.  He was a stalwart for 6 innings.  You can second guess Valentine for not pulling him earlier.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that the kid contributed a quality start from the 5th spot in the rotation.  Last year, no. 5 starter Tim Wakefield started 23 games.  He gave us 3 starts of this caliber in the entire 6 months of the 2011 season.  That’s 1 great start about every 7 starts.   This kid already has one in his 2nd start.

I think we are going to see many, many more from Daniel Bard.

Go Sox !

POSTSCRIPTS:  Yesterday’s odd triple play in the Dodger-Padre game is worth watching.  A bird’s eye view might show the ball first landing behind the plate in foul territory, but that perspective isn’t available and this one went down officially as a 2-5-6-3 triple play.  Anything can happen in baseball.  Check it out at:  http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120415&content_id=28774198&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

Michael Kay is an ignorant gas bag.  Not every day and in every way.  But he sounded like a moron when he chastised Dustin Pedroia for saying that Bobby Valentine’s public criticism of Kevin Youkilis is “not the way we do things around here.”  Kay opined that Pedroia’s analysis was not too swift because “the way they do things up there got their manager fired last year.”.  Kay showed how little he understands Dustin Pedroia, because if he did, he’d have said Dustin is a great player and great team mate, but it would serve everyone best if Dustin  stayed out of this messy, messy situation brought on by the narcissistic Mr. Valentine.  Question:  What kind of fool decides to stir the pot when the team he manages is on a winning streak ?  Answer:  The kind who lives to be in the white hot camera light.  That’s Valentine. 

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox | Leave a Comment »

Shoppach starts the Party at Home Opener

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 14, 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Things weren’t looking so good.  The Sox had gone 1 – 5 on the season opening road trip to Detroit and Toronto.  Except for scoring 12 runs in a game in which Detroit scored 13, our offense was scoring 2.0 runs per game.   Our starters had a 6.68 ERA to this point.  Ouch. 

The buzz before the home opener was not positive.  One pundit said the Sox were opening at home on September 37, not April 13, because the 1 – 5 start was a continuation of the 7 – 20 September collapse. 

Certainly, we needed a laugher.  And we got one.

The atmosphere around Fenway was popping.  I got to O’Leary’s on Beacon Street 2 hours before game time and scarfed down a beer, a jameson and a burger.  Then I hit the bricks.  The streets were sunlit and bright.   Yawkey Way was jammed with working class fans.  Though I did see one wing tipped baron towing a grandson while telling someone on a cell phone that they could hook up at the Four Seasons at 5 p.m..

It is always striking how Caucasian the Red Sox crowd is.  The only people of color I saw in the park were those selling hot dogs or working security.  The diversity of Red Sox Nation is limited to the fact that we reside in 6 different states.  Not too many black dudes.  But plenty of Maineiacs, Green Mountaineers, New Hampshireites, Rhode Islanders and others wearing Whaler caps.

I threaded my way through Will Call and into the park, noting a brand new staircase that has been built down to the field box level from where I entered at Gate A.  Rather than fight the crowd beneath the RF grandstand to get to my seat, I walked out into the stands, climbing to the top and walking from GS 18 to GS 1, where I took the stairway down to the bleachers.

I found my seat in the front row of bleacher 41.  There was nothing between my spot and the bullpen except the walkway and the row of folding chairs.  I moved up to the ‘pen for a look.

I leaned over the railing, standing 7 feet from where Josh Beckett was snapping off pregame throws.  From that proximity, his velocity looks impossible to hit and the ball slams into the catcher’s mitt with nasty violence.

You wonder how a man who throws that hard can embarrass hitters one inning and then be hit all over the park in the next.  Mere mortals cannot hit this stuff. 

Someone remarked that the Red Sox needed to get on the board early if they were going to beat David Price, Tampa’s starting pitcher this day.  Price is a 6’ 6” lefty out of Vanderbilt University who strikes out many and walks few.  He finished second in the Cy Young balloting in 2010.  The 26 year old has been to 2 All Star Games.  Price went 4 – 1 in 5 starts versus Boston in 2011.

This was not to be his day.  He got through the first without a challenge.  But he needed 27 pitches to get 3 outs in the second.  Youk started it by grinding out a long at bat before singling.  Ortiz did the same.  Although McDonald & Ross struck out looking and no runs were scored, the Sox had started to wear Price out. 

By the end of the third inning, the Valentine Men had run the lefthander’s pitch count to 84.  The Sox had been patient, making him throw strikes, fouling him off.  Price was now all done.  He faced 8 batters and gave up 3 runs.  He was ultimately bailed out by an inning ending double play.  84 pitches in 3 innings.  There was no way they were going to bring him out for the 4th.

The guy who started the party was Kelly Shoppach.  The 31 year old itinerant catcher has a habit of getting hit by pitches.  He led the AL with 18 HBP’s in 2009.  He has been hit 3 times already in 2012.

Mr. Shoppach started the 3rd inning rally by leaning into a Price fastball and taking his base.  The next inning, he doubled and scored.  In the 6th inning, he singled and stole second to extend the inning.  In the 8th, he doubled again, driving in Ross and McDonald.

Was this the greatest day of Kelly Shoppach’s career ?  Quite possibly.  I don’t know.  But I do know that on a day when it seemed a dozen soft liners fell for Red Sox singles, Kelly Shoppach was the party starter.  And it was beautiful to behold.  Especially his career first stolen base.  He looked like a water buffalo tripping in midstride when he got within 10 feet of the bag.

Mr. Beckett pitched carefully and pitched well.  His fastball varied at 90, 91 and 94 mph.  His curve was clocked at 74 and his cutter at 87 mph.  He claims to have been relaxed enough to hit the corners this day, with a confidence that comes from a great fielding performance by his team mates.

In all, it was a satisfying day.  The F-16 Fighters flew overhead.  The gigantic American Flag covered the Monster.  An 11 year old girl from New Hampshire belted God Bless America, briefly forgetting the words, but supported and sustained by the crowd.

The Boston Pops concert chorus sang the national anthem.  It was P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N.

Varitek and Wakefield threw out the first pitches.  Dewey Evans and Jim Rice were on hand to catch.

The Sox scored 8 runs in the 8th and won 12 -2.

One annoying drunkard in section 41, who is pictured in the above photo gallery with a blond gal seated nearby, convinced the bleacher crowd to harass Tampa Right Fielder Ben Zobrist for the last 4 innings by shouting childish insults and mocking him. It was moronic and ignorant.  I quietly cheered when Zobrist launched a home run that landed near the moron in the 9th inning.

Only cowards harass the right fielder from the bleachers.  The player has his back to you.  He can’t see his tormentors.  This would never happen on the left field side of Fenway, where the left fielder would easily glance to his right and see the face of the (insert bad word) who thinks he’s a genius.

Speaking of bad karma, the Sox were visited by some when Reid Brignac, Tampa shortstop, landed on Ellsbury’s shoulder while starting a double play at second base.  They say Ells may be out for two months.  That is not only bad for super agent Scott Boros, who is ready to milk the Ellsbury market for all it is worth in the coming offseason.  This is very bad news for the Sox.  We are down to FOUR offensively potent position players as a result.

Bad news indeed.  Unless Kelly Shoppach steps up and becomes the party starter on a more regular basis.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett | Leave a Comment »