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Round Up: Nelson “Heat Seeking” Cruz and the Boston Soap Opera

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 11, 2011

Photo: Dallas Morning News

It is 8:46 p.m. EST and Nelson Cruz is circling the bases on a walk-off grand slam ending a ballgame that began 4 hours & 26 minutes ago.  Nelson is immensely popular among the Arlington faithful.  Nelson is good.  Nelson is a masher.

This was news to me in April.  At the Rangers home opener, 167 games ago, I watched Texas spank Jon Lester and my Red Sox, 9 – 5, at the Ballpark at Arlington.  It was a treat to personally experience this marvel of a stadium on Opening Day, to take stock of Ranger Fans, their 3 foot tall Margaritas, their Nolan Ryan Aged Beef Barbecue, the nonsensical yet mind bending centerfield office condominiums, the raucous-yet-clean-mouthed fans, and a signs that said “WE LOVE YOU NELLIE !”.

Nellie ?  Nellie Who ?  Nellie Fox.  Nellie Figueroa.  Nellie Briles.  Nellie Rockefeller.  Who ?

Nelson the Masher.  Nuking Nellie.  The Arlington Assassin.  The Crucifier from Monte Cristi.  Thunderclap Nelson.  Heat Seeking Cruz. 

That Nelson Cruz.

31-year-old Nelson Cruz is not going to the HOF, but he has averaged 28 HR’s over the last 3 years, was an All Star in 2009, bats .270 lifetime, and has been an enduring bargain, making about $400,000 a year for the last 4 years until finally  jumping to $3.6 Million in 2011.

He has now hit three dramatic HR’s in this 2011 post season for the Texas Rangers.

Nellie significantly increased his free agent salary potential when he took Ryan Perry yard for the walk-off in the 11th, not to mention the game tying HR he belted off Max Scherzer in the 7th inning, not to mention the game winner he hit off Verlander in Game 1 of this ALCS.

I should have known Nellie was a rain maker when I saw the Love You sign.  And when he hit a game tying HR on Opening Day.

Hats off to you Nellie.  May your post-season Free Agency also be a Big Blast and may they keep you in the Ranger outfield for years to come.

******************

The Boston Soap Opera continues to play every day on WEEI and everywhere else in Beantown.  Francona is gone.  Theo may be negotiating with the Cubs.  Ben Cherrington may be the next Boston GM.  Dave Martinez could be the new Manager.  All those who leave us are being run out of town with a stench for the ages and a cloud of shame following them.

Terry Francona was discharged after leading the Red Sox to a .634 record in May, June, July & August.  At that pace, the Sox could have won 102 games over a full season.  For those 4 superior months they lived up to their preseason billing.  The starters were good enough.  The bullpen was tight.  Bard didn’t allow a Run for 2 months.  Pap was better than expected.  Even the catchers did better than predicted.  The Sox were a dominating team.

Terry Francona was not a different manager in April & September than he was in the middle months.  The culprit is the damaging injury to Clay Buchholz, the fading of young Daniel Bard, the albatross of the Lackey contract, and an aging & nicked up roster. A 39 year old catcher got 40% of the games, and a 44 year old knuckler became a rotation regular. The Rays have the youngest roster in the A.L..  The Red Sox have the oldest. 

Francona deserved a Pitching Coach that could motivate the staff.  He did not  deserve a farm system devoid of starting pitching.   He deserved the backing of Henry & Werner.

Francona deserved better.  Period.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Talk Radio Dudes repeatedly mention how plummeting ratings at NESN financially hurt Messrs. Henry and Werner.

I can explain how that works.

If Sports Authority, e.g.,  is told that a Sox game will pull a 7.0 rating, a rate is negotiated to reach that audience with a .30 second spot.  Using an estimate of $2,000 per rating point,   if Sports Authority purchases 3 spots during the broadcast at that rate, the per-game investment is $42,000.

The next day, the overnight ratings are received.   If the ratings are less than a 7.0, NESN owes Sports Authority the difference.  Let’s say the overnight rating turns out to be a 6.0.   NESN now owes Sports Authority $6,000 in the form of FREE .30 spots on the same kind of broadcast.

That’s how it works.

Thus, plummeting ratings dilute the monetization of TV spots.

This can be very hurtful.  Assuming a cost per point of just $1,000, and a total of seventy-two .30 second spots per 3 hour game, and a 1 point drop in ratings for 150 NESN games per season, the net effective loss in advertising dollars is $ 10,800, 000 per year.

That’s conservative.  NESN’s rating could be off several rating points, and ad revenues could be off in the multiple $10 millions since the bubble years of 2004 to 2007.

Someday, I hope, the public will get a thorough look at the insides of the Boston Baseball profit machine.   The stakes are huge.  The story will be riveting.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

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HAIL TO THE RAYS

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 20, 2008

Lucky at Love, Lucky at the Baseball Wars, too, evidently

As much as it hurts to see Dustin, David and Jon go down with the rest of the Sox, I am compelled to tip my cap to the Rays.

The Sox were zotzed in game 7 by a measley 2-run margin by a team that is every bit as good as they are.

The Rays infield, though star studded w Longoria & Pena,  is no match for ours.  They can hit with us.  They can’t field at our level.

Their catcher is better than ours.  Send me a fish wrapped in a bullet proof vest if you must, but accept the fact that our beloved 36-year-old leader is not as well rounded as Dioner Navarro.

Their starting pitchers are equal to our own.  No question.

Their outfield isn’t as good as ours is in the corners, but what they lack in fielding they make up for in power hitting that our outfielders do not have.

Bullpens ?  I love them both.  How in the hell did two so talented bullpens get assembled and located in the same division ?

Even-steven in many ways, there was certainly a tie breaker:  Matt Garza.

This talented guy is a major pain in my ass.

Matt Garza is a major pain in my ass.

Matt Garza whipped the Sox, period.  Yes, he could not stop Pedroia from reaching base 6 times in 9 at bats.  Yes, he walked some, hit some, and wiggled out of self-created jams.

But overall, he made terrific pitches to places on the black (or just off) at high speeds with movement.  In the jazz lexicon, he is a bitch or a monster.

He grabbed his axe and put a fork in us.

He slew us with bordello music.

But Jazz isn’t his thing.

He’s a Tupac fan.

I guess we should have BELO for his bammer.

Posted in ALCS, BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX, Tampa Bay Rays | Leave a Comment »

ALCS: Playing with house money

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 19, 2008

 

 

Oct. 19 6:00 PM EST

 

 

IT DIDN'T GO AS THIS KID PLANNED.

IT DIDN'T GO AS THIS KID PLANNED.

 

Three-quarters of my Red Sox cronies had tickets to an ALCS game at Fenway. 

 

We were drooling on Monday morning, Oct. 13.

 

The Sox had split two in Tampa.  Negating the Ray’s home field advantage was a tremendous plus.   Now, our little Connecticut group would be there for the first two Fenway games.

 

Cassidy and I would bring the mojo on Monday and we’d go ahead 2 to 1 in games.

 

Nick and Mike would be there to curse the Rays on Tuesday, giving the Sox a commanding 3 to 1 lead.

 

Oh, brother.

 

Cassidy and I rolled into Boston before noon on the 13th. 

 

 

The service at Legal Seafood was an A+.  The coincidental placement of 5 Rays fans at the table next to us was wonderful.  These Tampa-ites (Tampaneans ?) were primarily male and of middle age.  One of them was loud, slightly boastful, but non-controversial.  He probably hadn’t been a Rays fan for more than two weeks and hadn’t learned any zingers.

 

 

Much warmer in Tampa.

Much warmer in Tampa.

At 2 p.m., we conversed with the media photogs near the visitors on-deck circle.  These photogs are knowledgeable sports fans.  They knew Hinske was off the roster but was traveling with the Rays.  They knew that the Rays were a distant fourth at home to SEC Football, the NFL and the NBA.  They knew that their last minute addition to the press entourage meant their newspapers were trying to save a buck.

 

 

And there 20 feet from us was Joe Maddon, peering from behind the portable batting cage during BP.   He looked relaxed and confident, hands tucked into the pockets of his hoodie.  Joe exuded nonchalance in the festive post season atmosphere.

 

But what was Maddon thinking ?  And what did he know ?

 

Like us, did he think that anything could happen ?

 

You’ve got to admire this guy.  He’s clever, bright, and not pre-packaged.  Manager of the Year.

 

AT 4 p.m., we settled into our seats in bleacher 42, on the aisle.

 

In the top of the first, Lester fired two 94 mph fastballs to Iwamura, inducing a ground out to Cora at short. Upton grounded unassisted to Kotsay at 1st on another fastball.

 

Pena then flew out to Ellsbury in center on another heater.

 

Oh, boy, I thought.  Three outs on 4 pitches.  Lester is in no-hitter form today.  I wiped the drool off my UConn jacket.

 

I continued to salivate in the bottom of the first when Pedroia hit a wall ball double off Garza on a 1-2 fastball.

 

The drooling soon stopped.   We didn’t score.  Then, in the top of the 3rd,  Upton and Longoria jacked homeruns into a 17 mph wind and the Monster. 

 

Those bashes came shortly after “Tek stranded two runners in scoring position the prior inning.

 The ‘Tek strikeout was hard to watch.

Garza turned his heater up to 97 mph just for the old catcher.

 

Our recurrent lack of clutch hitting was followed by fearless, confident swinging by the Rays’.

 

The Rays scored 4 times in the third after scratching out one earlier run in the second.  End of 3, we were down 5 – zip.

 

Garza would allow runners every inning he pitched but would allow no runs.  That’s the  price we paid for not getting to him early when we had the chance.

 

Lester would pitch until there were two gone in the sixth and yield no more runs.

 

The Fenway crowd was as quiet as a church mouse by the end of the 4th inning.  And cold.  BY the 6th, it was C-O-L-D. 

 

I have been here for some bitter losses including season-enders, but I have NEVER EVER heard the Fenway crowd silently contained before.

 

 Byrd came in later and gave up 4 more runs and the outcome was 9-1.

 

The next night, Nick and Mike watched Wakefield, one of the best pitchers in Sox history, throw grapefruits as if in batting practice.  A 13-4 laugher gave the Rays the commanding 3 -1 lead in games.

 

Surely, the youngsters from Tampa were staging a coup.

 

The life was sucked right out of the crowd.

 What This Series Has Now Come to Be

We think we know the Rays.  But, they are still becoming what they are — right before our eyes.

 

These two teams are so evenly matched there is no way to see a clear favorite. 

 

And now the Sox have erased the Rays’ 3-1 advantage at home when they triumphed in games 5 and 6.

Pummeled in games 3 & 4.  Victors in games 5 & 6.

 

Anything can happen.   When we went down in those first two games at Fenway, we all but lost the ALCS.  When we came within 7 outs of losing the Series before rallying on Thursday, we had pushed all of our chips in.  And had lost.

 

The Rays lacked the killer instinct.

 

The Sox are steady poker players.

 

We are playing with house money now.

 

And anything can happen.  

 

Anything.

 

 

 

 

Posted in ALCS, BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Matsuzaka | Leave a Comment »

ALCS: Now even, Sox will take 3 of 4 next

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 12, 2008

Oct. 12, 2008

 

Tacky Tampa Fans Will Not Taste The Bubbly

Tacky Tampa Fans Will Get Zero Bubbly (AP photo)

 

 

The ALCS is now a best-of-5 Series. 

First team to take three games this week goes to the Series.

 

Let’s review what we learned from the six head-to-head games played in September by the new-look Mannyless Sox vs. never-say-die Rays

 

 

·        There will be low scoring games

·        There may be extra innings

·        Put Timlin in late with risk

·        There will be strong starting and relieving from both teams

·        There may be stretches of no hitting by the Sox with RISP

·        David Ortiz should continue to hit at .250 and he may power up

·        Jason Bay will star

·        The Rays are resilient

·        Every Game is pivotal

 

 

 

Rays take September 4 games to 2

 
 

rays.com

Andy Sonenstine (rays.com)

Sept. 8 to 10 Boston 

 

TIGHT GAME:  EARLY RUNS MAKE DIFF

 

Sept. 8 – For the 13th time in 13 games between Bos & TB, the home team wins..

Lester and Papelbon shine.  Edwin Jackson sparkles, too, only losing as the Sox get a walk and two hits including a Bay HR to score 3 in the first.  After that, Jackson and Howell are lights out.  We win 3 – 0.

 

PAP BLOWS IT:  CLOSER NULLS BAY’S 8th Inn HR

 

Sept. 9 – Dice K labors but again yields little, giving the Sox a chance to rise up.  And it happens !  After Kazmir allows just 2 runs in 6 IP, Wheeler yields a 2 run HR to Bay in the Bottom-8th to take a 4-3 lead.  And Pap, the automatic, needs only to record 3 outs in the 9th.  BUT, he fails.  Pap gives 2 runs and we lose, 4 – 5.

 

 

TIMELY HITTING FAILS:  TIMLIN ENTERS WITH GAS CAN

 

Sept. 10 – The Sox fail to score.  They strand 5  (3 in scoring pos.) in innings 10,11 & 12.  Then, Timlin enters & allows a 3 run HR.  Sox then load the bases in the Bottom-14th, but squander the opportunity.  The bullpen shined and Beckett was very good.  Sonenstine sparkled.  Sox left 16 LOB.  We lose, 2 – 4

  

 Sept. 15 to 17 Tampa

 

 

SOX BITCH-SLAP KAZMIR

Sept. 15 – Had Chris Smith not given up two 2-run HR’s to The Rays in one inning, this 13-5 laugher would have been a 13-1 shellacking.  Dice-K and the bullpen (other than Smith) are terrific.  Sox hit 4 HR’s.  We win 13 – 5

 

BOTH STARTERS GEMS:  MASTERSON YIELDS LOSING RUN

 

Sept. 16– A flat out gem is tossed by both Beckett and Sonenstine.  At the end of 8 Innings, it’s a 1 – 1 tie.  Masterson victimized in ninth by a soft fisted single, a BB after a recalled strike call, and a HBP.  We lose, 1-2.

 

WAKEFIELD DOESN’T HAVE IT

 

Sept. 17 – Three HR’s allowed by Wakefield gave TB all they would need since the Sox would muster only 6 hits and 3 runs, all 3 on 2 hr’s by Ortiz.  Sox trot out Hansack, Smith, even Pauley in relief.  That’s the bottom of the barrel.  A default.  We lose, 3 – 10.

 

 

 

These two teams are evenly matched.  For the Sox, it’s the second consecutive series of playing a postseason opponent just as good as they are.

 

The Rotation

 

Sure, we don’t know this for sure, but the starters could be as follows:

 

Fri  Shields v Dice K  (win)

Sat  Kazmir v Beckett  (loss)

Mon Garza v Lester

Tue Sonnenstine v Wake

Thu Shields v Dice K

Sat Kazmir v Lester

Sun Sonnenstine  v Beckett

 

 It comes down to Lester & Matsuzaka

 

Speed against speed.  Solid starters & effective relievers on both sides.  Youth is just a tad on the Ray’s side.  There are no dominant power hitters on either team.  Lady luck has been with the Rays in the close games, but luck is a pendulum.  Stealing one in Tampa on Friday the last is a real advantage.

 

 

Expect the Sox take it in 6 on Saturday Oct. 18 as Lester wins 5 – 2.  Lester and Dice-K contribute all 4 of the Sox wins in this Series.  No game 7.   Our #1 & #2 starters MUST provide quality starts for the Sox to have a chance.  And both of them are hot right now.

 

And our hitters have to produce against Sonenstine, Shields and Garza.  I’m confident they will hit Kazmir.

 

All that said, I wouldn’t preclude Wakefield from disrupting this prediction by shutting the Rays down on Tuesday.

 

What do you think ?

Lester now at the Height of His Game  (AP)

Lester now at the Height of His Game (AP)

Posted in ALCS, BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX, Tampa Bay Rays, Terry Francona | Leave a Comment »

Prediction: Sox stun Angels in ALDS Sweep

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 1, 2008

 

redsox.com

redsox.com

 

 

Lester, Beckett, Wakefield Star

 

Oct. 1, 2008

6 p.m. EST

Red Sox Nation

Suffield, Ct.

 

 

Game 1:  3-1 Sox

Game 2:  5-4 Sox

Game 3:  6-3 Sox

 

 

On the early eve of the ALDS, the Sox do not have the Angels exactly where they want them.

 

The National Media is leading with the injury angle.  The Sox are banged up and the Angels are not.  Thus, with the Angels taking 8 of 9 from us this year, Vladimir & Co. must be the better team.

 

The Vegas odds makers agree.  The BoSox are solid underdogs in the first two games.  Lackey and Santana have the edge.

 

Fortunately, it all will not come down to who has the fewest injured players.  It will come down to what the healthy players do on the field.

 

Momentum.  Chemistry.  Motivation.  That’s what it’s all about. 

 

And Parts.  You got to have the parts.

 

HOME AND AWAY

 

The Sox are lucky to be catching Lackey and Santana at home.

 

Lackey’s ERA away is 3.23.  At home it is  4.29.  Lackey’s ERA against lefties is 2.59.   And 5.07 against righties.  With 3 switch hitters in our line up, we can send 6 righty hitters.  Make that seven if Lowell plays.  Also consider that 4 of Lackey’s last 5 starts have been less than quality.    I like getting Lackey now in Anaheim.

 

Santana has been excellent in 3 of his last 5 starts.  But he got spanked in the two sub-par starts by the Rangers and the Yankees, both of whom have star studded line-ups that can generate runs. Just like us.  (Yes, just like us  — when we are getting timely hitting.)

 

And both of those September beat downs of Santana came in ANAHEIM. 

 

Santana excelled in September against Seattle (twice) and Detroit, teams that both finished last in their division.

 

Media Hype Distraction

 

The talk around the Cali baseball scene is about a potential Highway Series between the Angels and Dodgers.

 

Today an LA Times columnist is shouting, “MANNY KNOWS HOW TO HAVE FUN, AND HE KNOWS HOW TO WIN !”

 

Hollywood ?  Mannywood.

 

Mike Golic joined the pickers picking Dodgers vs. Angels today.

 

Thank you, electronic media, for underestimating the Sox, moving the discussion to a context that will never happen, and lowering expectations.  The injured Sox are flying a little lower on the radar.

 

Great.  Let these visions dance in Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick’s heads.

 

Meanwhile, David Ortiz is thinking, “Now we gotta do what we can do.”.

 

I think that David means We are bad muddafukas. We throw an adrenaline switch when we reach the playoffs.  We become the creature. Then we do what we can do.

 

 

 Let the media paint the Sox with defeat.  Go ahead.

 

THE LINE UPS

 

It is dangerous to underestimate the Angels.  One flight around their depth chart reveals a proficient MLB hitter at every non-pitching position except catcher, where Jeff Mathis bats 30 points lower than Jason Veritek.

 

Whoa, what a line up of hitters.  Hunter, Guerrero, Teixeira, Kendrick, Aybar, Figgins, Anderson.  Mathis.

 

These hitters should be feared on the same level as the White Sox, Yankees and Rangers in terms of pure hitting talent.

 

Shit.  These guys are good.

 

*************.

Then again….

 

Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Youk, Bay, Casey, Lowrie, Tek, and Crisp.

 

If anyone doesn’t believe our 9 is as good as their 9, they need to calm down.

 

They have a little more outfield pop than us.  We have potential gold glovers to offset that.

 

Let’s call it a draw.

 

Momentum Case:  Them

 

Who-is-hot and who-is-not is a huge factor.

 

The Angels won 17 of 26 games in September, a sterling .654 win pct. in the final month.

 

9 of those wins came against last place clubs and 4 more came against a team without a pitching staff  Texas.

 

The Seattle wins point up the fact that the Angels play in the weakest Division in the A.L..  They were the only AL West team that won more than they lost.

 

In September, they were 12-5 against the West, and 5-4 against the other divisions.

 

Think they’d have won 100 games if they had to play the Yankees, Jays & Rays a total 57 times ?

 

 

Momentum Case:  Us

 

The Sox in Sept. were 16 – 10.   We drilled Baltimore and Texas.  We played up to the Rays’ level in Tampa but lost two heartbreakers and a 3-game series down there, 2-1.  Then we lost a Series 2-1 again to the Rays the following week.

 

 

We won 5 of 8 series in the month, dropping the aforementioned two to Tampa and the last rain-marred Yankee series.

 

We were 4-3 the last week of the season.

 

We were 12 W – 8 L against teams with .500 or better records.  5-1 with teams under .500.

 

It was a very good month in black and white.

 

The feel and the touch of it was, however, much better than that.  Our middle relief hiccupped against the Rays, turning an 18-8 month into 16-10.  We could been heading into the playoffs having won 11 of 12 series that stretched from August into September.

 

And we were red hot in August.

 

That’s a damn strong case for momentum before we even throw the mojo switch.

 

“Now we gotta do what we can do.”.

 

 

Head to Head

 

THE FLU, THE QUALITY START & THE PAULEY

 

April 22 to 24

  • Pauley, our worse starter, starts and we win 7-6.  How ironic.
  • Lester is subpar on 4 days rest spotting up for a flu struck Dice-K, we lose 4-6
  • Masterson makes his MLB debut w a GEM, but DelCarmon and Lopez blow it, yielding 4 runs, we lose 5-7

BUCHHOLZ FADES, & HITTING FAILS

July 18 to 20

  • Buchholz continues to fall apart, gives 8 runs, we lose 3-11.
  • Beckett pitches a complete game GEM, but gives up a homer, a seeing eye single & a dying quail in the 7th…we lose 2-4.
  • Wakefield gives a quality start, but we suffer a lack of timely hitting, out-stranding the Angels 7 – 2 in LOB’s, and we lose 3-5.

IN A MANNY FUNK, WE PLAYED LIKE POOP

July 28 to 30

  • Matsuzaka, who would lose only twice all season, gives up two HR’s scoring 5 runs to take the L as the gopher ball takes us down 5-7.  Dice K would go on to yield only 12 HR’s all season, at a rate of about 1 HR every 3 games.
  • Buchholz continues to distintigrate, allowing 6 runs in 6 innings.  Pedroia singles and Youk HR’s in the 9th to break up Lackey’s no-no. We lose 2-6.
  • Beckett is awful.  We commit 4 errors. We lose 2-9.

 

 

Let’s Be Bullish !

 

Fellow Soxaholics, let’s expect nothing less than a terrific two games in L.A., and let’s expect to win.

 

The peculiarities of the nine games against the Angels this year were aberrations.

 

Aberrations.   Dammit.

 

We’ll kick their arses.  A sweep, I say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in ALCS, angels, BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, Los Angeles Angels, RED SOX, World Series | 1 Comment »