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

Archive for April, 2013

Of “42”, Anibal Sanchez and Theodore Roosevelt Lilly

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 30, 2013

Ted Lilly keeps cool like his namesake

Ted Lilly keeps cool like his namesake

Last night Don Mattingly wrote in 37 year old Ted Lilly for a start against the Colorado Rockies.  Lilly, who was 10-2 lifetime against the Rocks, was making his second appearance of the year after coming off the DL .

With the Dodgers one game over .500 and angling to close ground on the Rockies and D Backs, Ted Lilly didn’t deliver.  He reinjured himself.  He is heading back to the DL.  Ted Lilly allowed 8 hits and 2 BB in 3 innings, yielding 5 runs. 

This is not a good harbinger for the old lefty’s future ability to stay in the big money game that is Major League Baseball today.   His days of expensive cars and real estate deals could be ending.

Not a good day for Ted Lilly.

Correction.  Not a good day for Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III.  That is his christened name.  His son is christened TR the IV, by the way.  This naming phenomenon, surely one of the most unique in baseball history, can be traced back to TR III’s great grandfather, who rode with the original TR and his Rough Riders in the Spanish American War.

Ted’s great grandfather admired Teddy Roosevelt greatly.  TR the III gains psychic power and confidence from his namesake and his legendary energy for living and accomplishing things.

TR was a wonderful conservationist who signed the proclamation creating Yosemite as our nation’s 5th national park.  Ted Lilly grew up 40 miles from Yosemite  and attended Yosemite High School.

Such beautiful continuity and connection.  Truth is more fascinating than fiction.

I wish Theodore Roosevelt Lilly well in his bid to continue his major league dream.  He is 2 years removed from complete health and a regular work load.  We can be confident that this reticent, determined player will not give up until they take the game away from him.

When it comes to ballplayers so Presidentially named, there have been 69 others.  There have been 19 George Washington’s, by far the most prolific Prez Player name, the best of which was 6x stolen base king, George Washington Case.

There have been 3 Abraham Lincolns, 4 U.S. Grants, 5 Andrew Jacksons, one Franklin Delano Wiend to play in the bigs.

3 William McKinleys.  3 Woodrow Wilsons.

The greatest of all these was of course Grover Cleveland Alexander.  Hall of Fame 1938,.  373 wins.  6 K titles.  5 ERA crowns.  He ranks far above Grover Cleveland Baichley, Land and Lowdermilk.

But the best and most unique Presidential Player name is by far the one-and-only CALVIN COOLIDGE JULIUS CAESAR TUSKAHOMA McLISH.

McLish’s Dad took use a full scoop of creativity when given permission to name the boy.  Cal McLish was monikered after our 30th President, a Roman Emperor and the capital city of Choctaw Nation.

Cal McLish had a wonderful career.  It came in 2 distinctive parts.  Starting in 1944, He struggled for 12 years, bouncing around the minors with an ERA approaching 8.00 and putting runners on base in plentitude.

But Cal put it together in 1956.  For the next 8 years, he started 315 games, completed 1300 IP, and registered a dandy 3.08 ERA.

Nice turnaround.

Like his linguistic teammate, McLish, Ted Lilly won’t give up either.  Not until they away the old apple.

Go Ted.

Go Sox.

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A tip of the hat to Anibal Sanchez, who K’d 17 Braves 4 days ago at Comerica, setting the single game record for the Motor City Kitty Kats.    That’s a nice trick and one that gives Justin Verlander a goal to surpass.  Wouldn’t be surprised if JV beats it one day.

This is a nice piece of work for this 29 year old with 149 career starts under his belt.  It goes nicely on his resume with his no-hitter against the D Backs in 2006, Sanchez’s rookie year.

Imagine if he had made 133 of those starts for a better team than the lowly Marlins, his previous employer.  Instead of a career 51-52 WL,  better hitting teammates might have netted him another 20 wins.

So add Anibal to the well-established list of talented Venezuelan big leaguers, a roster of 400+ men headlined by Aparicio, Vizquel, Armas, and Sanchez’s teammates Miggy Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

No wonder Venezuelans are fiercely proud of their own.

Anibal was Red Sox property until he was traded in 2005 with Hanley Ramirez +2 to the Marlins for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell +1.

No regrets on that one among Sox fans.  But you have to smile at how well things have turned out for Anibal Sanchez.  I wish him all the luck in the world against 28 major league opponents.

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Best line I heard this week:  “In the mid-1960’s, people used to say that the “TC” on the Twins cap did not stand for Twin Cities; it stood for Twenty Cubans, because the Twins signed so many talented Latins.”  (– Paul Hensler, Ellington, CT man and author of The American League in Transition, 1965-1975.)

Amusing debate:  On the Facebook Baseball Book group there has been jousting about the movie “42”.  The subjects of contention are whether the computer images of Forbes Field and Ebbetts Field are correct, and how the film failed to cover the very significant civil rights work that Jackie performed after retirement.  Lastly, there has been debate whether or not actor Chadwick Bozeman’s physique was too “cut” to resemble the barrel chested Jackie Robinson at age 28.

These are fine points of amusement but they matter little.  I am just glad the film was made.  I hope Rachel, Sharon and David Robinson consider making a sequel.  Jackie’s life story tells a long and important, heartrending and heart lifting, story about America.

Go Sox.

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Big Papi: please go to your happy place

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 26, 2013

Where David Hits It

Take a look at where the arrow is pointing in the above seating diagram.  Section 35 is Big Papi’s happy place.

David Ortiz went 3 for 4 in last night’s 7-2 win over the Astros at Fenway, boosting his 2013 BA to .550 (18 at bats.)  Papi continued his current hitting streak with a rbi single in the 1st inning.  It is a 17 game streak at the moment.

Another sign that we are seeing vintage Papi redux is where he deposited his first home run of the season in the 3rd inning.  It landed 6 rows deep in section 35, the straight away center bleacher section that is adjacent to normally canvas covered section.

Long time Papi watchers, all 20 million of them, know that straight away center is where David smacks homeruns when his swing is at peak efficiency.

Last week, several boo birds lamented David’s return when the Papi-less Sox were 12 – 4.  To them I say SHUSH and strap yourself in for the next few weeks.  The swinging F Bomber is making Pedroia-Ortiz-Napoli look like the most dangerous 3-4-5 in the American League. 

Cano-Wells-Cervelli, you say ?

Fahgettaboutit.

Cabrera-Fielder-Martinez, maybe.  But I’m putting all my loot on the big guy, the little a** kicker, and scowling Mike.

Let’s just hope David isn’t downing any magic milkshakes to keep things rolling at age 37.5.

Go David.

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As of this morning, The Astros have the poorest record in the American League.  But not by much.  They hold small margins over Seattle and Toronto for that ignominious title.

The American League licked its collective chops when the woeful ‘Stro’s brought their 55-107 record to the AL West for 2013.  BUT — how fair it is to the AL Central and East to provide the A’s, Rangers and the Angels each 17 opportunities to defeat baseball’s losingest team ?  The East and Central will face the Space City Weaklings just 7 times each.  Hence there is an unfair advantage in the wild card race for the western squads.

This is worth watching as the season grinds on.

To date, Houston is 5-12 against its division mates, with 4 of those wins coming against Seattle.

The Astros haven’t shown much against Texas and the Angels so far and that could be an indication that 2013 will pan out exactly as the East and Central teams feared.  Advantage West.

At least we have the Astros to enjoy for the next 6 games.  2 more at Fenway and 3 in the Bronx after which they will be welcomed in the Motor City.

The 2nd place Tigers will be salivating.

Go Sox.

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Big Fenway Day for Mr. Nobody

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 21, 2013

Nava

It’s been written that Baseball is the perfect game.  Today it allowed everyday heroes to stand center stage and take bows that will be remembered for decades.

Daniel Nava, occasionally familiar with a dramatic homerun, bailed out Clay Buchholz and the non-clutch David Ortiz with a 2-out, 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th.  His bash into the Sox bullpen was caught expertly by teammate Junichi Tazawa.  It drove in the winning runs in the first Fenway game after the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Nava put a fine swing on a 1-1 change-up, depositing it in about the same spot as he did another of Mr. Selig’s spheres on June 12, 2010, when he hit a Joe Blanton pitch to become the second player to ever hit a grand slam home run on the first pitch he was thrown in the majors.

Before that debut game, Johnny Pesky told Daniel that anything could happen in his first upcoming at bat.  Still, Nava wasn’t swinging for a homerun 3 years ago, and he wasn’t swinging for the fences today either.  Nor was he swinging for the big bam on April 8, when his homerun won the 2013 Red Sox home opener.

Ironically, that’s when it happens for Daniel.  When he just swings to make contact.

Baseball success has largely eluded Nava since he was a kid.  Nava was just 4’8 ” tall and weighed 70 pounds as a high school freshman.  He grew to 5’5” and 150 by age 18, but could not make the college team at Santa Clara State.  Thus, he became the Bronco’s equipment manager.  A successful stint as a junior college player later earned him a scholarship in a return to Santa Clara, but he went undrafted by the pro’s.  He had to play independent league ball to continue his dream after college.

The irony is that the man who came through when the city needed it today is the player that nobody wanted. He is the player that spent each of the last 6 seasons playing in the minor leagues while getting just 484 at bats in sporadic stays with the big club.

And the day, this day, that Nava honored Boston, the Red Sox honored on field other unrecognized heroes.   Heroes that wear a cap and badge for Watertown, Boston and the Staties.   Heroes that are everyday citizens.  People who run toward the trouble when hell breaks out, not away from it.

Mr. Nobody came through today, a day that capped a week of terror, heartbreak and relief.

Or should I say that it MIGHT have capped it ?  We don’t know what the 30 year old pride of Mountain View, CA will do for us tomorrow.

Daniel has mojo.  Daniel is the Talisman. 

Go Daniel.  Go Sox.

EMPIRE NOTES

Kevin “I’ll always be a Red Sox” Youkilis, now a Yankee, sports a .295 average currently and has had some timely hits.  No surprise that he doubled in the winning run today against the Jays.  Also no surprise that he left the game early with tightness in his back.  Yankee fans will learn what Sox fans already know about the wear and tear on Kevin’s body.  Youk is Mr. Emo.  He plays all out.  He gets hit, scraped and scuffed.  Youk is a warrior in April and May but will limp to the finish line in August and September.  No criticism intended.  Like former Yankee Paul O’Neil, Youk plays one way.  His intensity is a double edged sword.

Derek Jeter is banged up.  There’s a fracture in the bone that was operated on last year.  Is this the end?  Will he ever again present a reasonable facsimile of his old ability?  Perhaps not.  When the time finally comes for farewells, I’ll remember Jeter for his durability.  The home run he hit for his 3,000th hit was royal.  His 2004 nose bloodying dive into the stands ennobled him.  His patented fall-in-liner started or crowned many a rally.  His batting stats are princely for a shortstop (.313, 255, 1254).  He is almost the King of Shortstops with 2,531 games at SS in 18 years. 

In that count, Jeter is slightly ahead of HOF’er Ozzie Smith, slightly behind HOF’er Aparicio, and 178 games behind the all-time leader, future HOF’er Omar Vizquel. 

Jeter was tip top for a very long time.  He is a first ballot HOF’er.

He would have looked great in a Boston jersey.

Derek Jeter for Scott Cooper in 1994.

I think the Yankees owed us that much.

Go Sox.  J

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A Patriots Day like no other

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 16, 2013

Half Mast

The T ride out of Boston was somber yesterday. 

Patriot’s Day is and always should be one of the best days of the year.  The only morning game in the major leagues commences at the brisk hour of 11 a.m.  About 3 hours later the baseball crowd floods into Kenmore Square and other points on the route of the Boston Marathon.  At that hour, the elite runners have long since finished the race.  The thousands now running, walking and limping past are cops, college students, doctors, pilots, lathe operators and everyone else under the sun. There people dressed as Super Man, cape and all, or human hamburgers.  Or a giant beer cup.  In 2008, I saw 4 BU students each holding the corner of a sofa as they jogged it toward the finish line.   As if there was a furniture division.

More than anything else at that stage of the event, there are thousands with the names of a lost mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, co-worker or friend spelled out on their body.  These runners have lost someone to cancer.  Some of them wear the running shirts of Dana Farber and Boston Childrens Hospital, Mass General or another place of healing.  Fans line the street and shout.  GO DANA FARBER !  GO CHILDRENS !

In that way, Patriots Day is always bittersweet.  It is also always a celebration of life and an overcoming of death.

There is no better day to go to Fenway.  My seat in loge 154 was unimprovable.  The sun was mostly bright.  The crowd was bubbling.  66 years ago to the day, Jackie Robinson played first base for the Brooklyns, breaking the color barrier.  All the Red Sox and Rays wore Jackie’s number 42 on this day.  All MLB players do that on Jackie Robinson Day.

Ryan Dempster gave us a solid start.  Andrew Bailey coughed up the lead in the 9th.  Dustin Pedroia, Boston’s Pocket Hercules, drew a walk in the bottom of the 9th.  Then the newest Beast in Boston, hairy, scowling, hulking Mike Napoli hit a shot off the Monster.  Pedey dashed home with a pop up slide.  Game over.  Sox win.  Bedlam on the field.  Sox storm the diamond.  Tampa heads hang low and stride quietly away.  35,000 exuberant fans scream I LOVE YOU MIKE, and GO SOX, or YOU DA MAN !

Then, Mike Napoli did the on-field TV interview like a man holding his nose and changing a diaper.  He couldn’t wait for it to end.

After 30 minutes of lazing about the Park, I walked two blocks to my spot on Beacon Street. There is a bridge there over the Mass Pike on the Marathon Route.  My friend, Steve McLaughlin, sports photographer extraordinaire, always positions himself on the bridge to snap shots of runners bearing the Dana Farber running top.  By the time I reached Steve at 2:20, he had already snapped 1,400 photographs and filled a 16 MB memory stick.

This was to be a special year.  My cousin Kimberly was running her first marathon today.  I very much looked forward to shouting YOU GO, K-I-M-B-E-R-L-Y ! as she ran past.  I had been receiving text updates for her bib number.  I knew she was about 8 miles or 1 hour away.

While Steve worked I offered encouragement to the runners.  We were at the 25 mile mark.  These athletes were nearing the finish line.  Their faces showed elation, pain and exhaustion.  One runner was decked out in formal attire.  Another one, tall and fit, wore a bright orange body suit with a little red speedo over it.  A gymnastically inclined runner stopped every 100 feet or so to snap off 5 of the sharpest cartwheels ever.  Then came the man in a bright gold spandex suit and a red cape with the letter K emblazoned on it.  He was is the Kancer Killer, perhaps.

Friends screamed out the names of runners as they passed.  Smiles and shouts exchanged.  Brief hugs.  Pure joy.

Just after 2:50, Steve said, “Look at all the cops leaving their posts and heading for Kenmore.”

“Maybe somebody is hurt.”, I offered.

“Maybe.  But I’ve had this gig for a few years and I have never seen the cops do that.  Something is up.  Something has happened.”

Steve was right.  We soon heard there had been 2 explosions at the finish line.  For the next hour, runners continued to run past us.  But many soon came back heading in the opposite direction, walking away from the finish.  Cops, cruisers and emergency vehicles sped past us down Beacon.  Caution and doubt took over. 

Although I stayed until 4 pm, Kimberly did not run past me.  She had heard there was trouble and walked off the course after mile 24, prevented from completing her first marathon by uncontrollable events.

As I cut through a lot on the way to the Fenway T stop, I heard the details about what had taken place.  A carload of fans had the doors of their wagon open with the radio news pouring out.  Clusters of strangers stood in the lot, listening silently.

It had become a very bad day.

Those of us on the train back to the suburbs, mostly strangers, looked each other in the face and talked about what we had seen and how the day’s events would change things.

“It will never be the same.  That’s the sad part.”, said a 50-something man who had enjoyed Boston’s remarkable day for decades.

“It will never be the same.”

We Americans, especially the ones in Northeastern cities, don’t practice hospitality easily.  We don’t look strangers in the face.  We don’t talk to each other unless we are friends.

That train ride was different.  Everyone was thinking the same thing.  This is America.  This is Boston.  We don’t stand for this kind of stuff.  We will do what we have to do.

Of that, there can be no doubt. 

Go Sox.

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A Joel Hanrahan Primer

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 16, 2013

Hanrahan

I can’t believe it.  I haven’t yet posted a Joel Hanrahan Primer.  I did one for John Farrell and another for Ryan Dempster.  The notion of a Hanrahan post floated around in my head for 2 weeks.  And floated right out of it.

The thing that kept popping into my noggin was Hanrahan’s 1.39 career WHIP, which he registered before arriving in Beantown.

Make no mistake.  1.39 is high.  Never mind that his 2013 WHIP is already 2.357.  A career 1.39 is not what you expect from a purportedly excellent closer.

1.39 approaches the Boston WHIP of 1.53 for John Lackey — still a Dead Man Walking until he proves otherwise.

1.39 is miles from Papelbon’s 0.77 in 2007 and Foulke’s 0.94 in 2004.  Hanrahan may statistically resemble Alfredo Aceves in 2012, when there was absolutely no one else to close.

What this all means is that the bearded one puts a lot of runners on base.  He gives up hits.  He walks batters.  A lot.  Not good.

John Farrell did the absolutely right thing on Saturday when the game was tied 1-1 in the top of the 9th. Johnny pulled Hanrahan after he walked the first two Ray batters.  Thankfully, 38 year old Koji Uehara  took care of business that night.

As he pulled Hanrahan for a lack of command, Farrell was influenced by JH’s implosion against the Orioles two nights prior.  The Sox led that one 5-3 when JH was handed the ball in the 9th.   We lost 8-5. 

There may be gremlins in the attic. But what else should we expect from a guy who has never played for a fan base that would drink strychnine if it meant having a solid rotation and a dependable bullpen.

Here are a few nuggets on Mr. Hanrahan.

This is no way to prepare for Broadway, Joel

There are great Baseball traditions in D.C. and Pittsburgh, the two towns that Joel Ryan Hanrahan has called home in the Bigs.  But these cities lack fans and W’s.  His Bucs finished 15th in NL attendance. In the standings, they finished last twice and 4th twice.  His Nats finished 13th and 14th in attendance while finishing last in their Division twice.  Combined, they lost 99 games or more in 3 of 6 seasons.   His teams have had as few as 57 W’s in a year.  They were, overall, 461 – 671, with a .407 winning percentage.  Welcome to the bright lights, Joel.  Try not to feel the pressure.

From Here to There to Millionaire

Hanrahan was drafted by the Dodgers in the 2nd round of the 2000 draft, well ahead of Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb and well behind Adrian Gonzales and Boof Bonzer.  He left the Dodgers organization through free agency in 2006 after 7 years in the minors, signing with Washington.  He was traded in June 2009 to Pittsburgh in a 3 player deal that included Nyjer Morgan, Mr. Tony Plush himself.  He is aged 31 years, with his best years possibly behind him.  But his $7 million salary this year is more than his combined salaries in the last 5 seasons.

The Good, the Wet and the Ugly

JH is from Norwalk, Iowa, which earned an unofficial record with 9 inches of rain in 24 hours on June 9/10, 2011.  Two movie studs grew up in Norwalk, i.e., Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns).  In addition to being just 11 miles from Des Moines, Norwalk is 27 miles from Van Meter, home of Bob Feller, and 50 miles from Boone, home of Jerry McNertney, the ugliest man ever to play pro ball, according to Jim Bouton.

Riding the Roller Coaster

On July 19, 2011, Hanrahan’s team, the Pirates, were 7 games over .500 and in 1st place with a .5 game lead.  On Sept. 28 of that same year, the Bucs were 18 games under .500 and 24 games out of 1st

The Big Fella in a Melting Pot

Andrew Miller is the tallest Boston reliever at 6’7”.  Clayton Mortenson is the lightest at 185 pounds.  Alfredo Aceves is the most loco with infinite peccadillos.  Joel is is the beefiest at 6’ 4” and 250 lbs.   The average BoSox reliever is 6’2” tall and 213 on the scale.  This ‘pen is a cauldron of diverse birthplaces, including Osaka, Yokohama, New Jersey, Florida, Mexico, Saudi Arabia….and Iowa.

Go Sox.

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2007      Wash     Manny Acta                       73-89     1,943,182            4 of 5     14 of 16

2008      Wash     Manny Acta                       59-102  2,320,400            5 of 5     13 of 16

2009      Wash     M. Acta/ J Riggleman      59-103  1,817,266            5 of 5     13 of 16

2009      Pitt         John Russell                       62-99     1,557,833            6 of 6     15 of 16

2010      Pitt         John Russell                       57-105  1,613,399            6 of 6     15 of 16

2011      Pitt         Clint Hurdle                        72-90     1,940,429            4 of 6     15 of 16

2012      Pitt         Clint Hurdle                        79-83     2,091, 918           4 of 6     15 of 16

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