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Keeping my Cabreras straight

Posted by athomeatfenway on May 23, 2013

Miggy got his Triple Crown in 2012.  Can he do it again?

Miggy got his Triple Crown in 2012. Can he do it again?

Coming from the primitive 1960’s when there were just 20 teams in the majors, it is sometimes difficult  to keep track of the 750 names that come and go on today’s big league rosters.

If you said McLain or Howard in late 1968 there was a 99% certainty that you were referring to Denny and Frank because Ellie had just retired and there has only ever been one Denny McLain, thank goodness.

Multiple players with the same surname were a simultaneous rarity.

Sure, we had the Alou brothers back then but they were the exception.  Besides, they were all different and that made it easy to remember.  Matty was the brother who hit .342 and won the batting crown. Felipe was the next best Alou, batting .286 and the only one of the brothers with real HR power.  Jesus, the baby, played 15 years and wasn’t so good as his kin but still batted a nifty .280.

Those were simpler times.  Today, we have 50% more big leaguers.  That’s an extra 250 players to know.  And I’m having trouble with that.

The worse part of this is that I can’t keep my Cabreras straight.

There is the Cabrera who won the Triple Crown.  There is the Cabrera who helped end the curse in Boston.  There is the Cabrera who disgraced himself with PED’s.  Plus the one who stole 44 bases last year for the Padres.  And there is the Cabrera who plays short for the Tribe and went .270, 16, 68 in 2012.  Nice !

That’s it, correct?

Nope.  

Let’s go over this slowly.

You got Miguel, Orlando, Melky, Asdrubal and Everth.

And there are many others, all recently retired.  Jose in 2002. Jolbert in 2008.  Francisco in 1993.  Fernando in 2010.  Edwar in 2012.  Daniel in 2009.  Alex in 2000.  Alberto in 2012

And lastly, there was Alfredo, who played only in 1913, and was nicknamed El Pajaro, which translates to “The Bird”, a la Fidrych. 

El Pajaro was born in the Canary Islands, Spain, in 1881 and died in 1964 in Batanbano, Cuba.  In between he found time to play 1 game for Miller Huggins’ 1913 St. Louis Cardinals. He also played 14 seasons in the Negro Leagues and 8 more in the white minor leagues.  Connecticut bugs will be interested in knowing that he spent 4 seasons with the New Britain Perfectos and 1 with the Waterbury Spuds.  Plus 3 with the Springfield (Mass) Ponies and 1 with the Worcester (Mass.) Busters.

The Bird must have had family in the Hartford-Springfield market.

Al Cabrera’s history is a research project for another day. 

The important things to know about the 14 Cabreras who have labored in the bigs are….

Alberto Antonio Cabrera was born in 1988 in the DR.  The righty pitcher spent 8 years in the minors and 25 not-so-good appearances out of the Cubs bullpen in 2012, his only year in the majors to date.  The only MLB HR he allowed was to a guy who hits one every 300 AB’s:  Pittsburgh SS Clint Barmes.  I’m guessing that Alberto is not coming back up.

Alexander Alberto Cabrera was born in 1971 in Venezuela.  The 1st baseman/outfielder labored for 5 years in the minors, batting .270 with decent power.  He then spent 2 years in the Mexican League before jumping briefly to the Diamondbacks, where he registered .263, 5, 14 in 31 games in 2000.  Not bad, but not good enough to keep him in the U.S..  He then averaged 26 HR’s and a .300+ BA for the Seibu Lions, Orix Bufflaoes and Fukuoka Sea Hawks of the Japan Pacific League over 11 years in the land of the rising sun.

Daniel Alberto Cruz Cabrera was born in the DR in 1981.  Likely the largest of Cabreas at 6 ft 7”tall, Danny went 12-8 with a 5.00 ERA as a rookie in 2004, finishing 3rd in the ROY voting and just ahead of Zack Greinke.  Playing for the mostly bad Orioles from 2004-07, he never saw the post season.  He did start 155 games, and in 2007 led the AL in losses, earned runs and walks allowed.  Ugh.  Still, he earned $8 million in a 5 year MLB career that ended in 2009.

Edwar Cabrera was born in the DR in 1987.  The lefty starter made his baseball home in 9 minor league towns over 5 years before he debuted for the Rockies in 2012, where he started 2 games, allowing 3 HR’s and 9 ER in 5.2 IP’s.   All three homers came on 6-27-12 to the Nationals at Coors Field. (Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Tyler Moore.) At this writing, Edwar is nowhere to be seen on the American BB radar.

Fernando Cabrera was born in Puerto Rico in 1981.  The righty reliever appeared in 132 games with a 5.24 ERA for Cleveland, Baltimore and Boston (2004 – 2010).  He never lived up to the promise of his 2005 season in Cleveland (15G, 2-1, 1.47 ERA, 29K’s in 30.2 IP’s) but he did make a bit over $2 million in a 7 year career.  He is an oddity on this list because he was actually drafted.

Francisco Paulino Cabrera was born in the DR in 1966.  Francisco, was signed as an amateur by the Blue Jays right before they became post season regulars.  Funny thing was that this versatile PH/C/1B played in two World Series during his short career, but he did it with Atlanta, not the Jays.  Francisco made a smidge more than $600,000 total in his 5 year career.

Jolbert Cabrera was born in Colombia in 1972.  The IF/OF utility man logged a decent .257 BA over 8 years with 4 teams, but he seemed to like it best in LA, where he hit .284 with the Dodgers.  Jolbert did not pitch or catch, but he played the other 7 fielding positions in his major league career.  He retired after 2008.  JC earned more than $2.5 million in the bigs.  Which is considerably less than the $51 Million his brother Orlando, the O Dog, made.

Jose Alberto Cabrera was born in 1972 in the DR.  Mostly a reliever, the righty had a 19-17 record with 4 saves when he finished his 6 year career in 2002.  Jose was either very good (ERA of 2.42 for 1997, 1999 & 2001) or pretty bad (ERA of 6.32 for 1998, 2000, 2002).  This human box-of-chocolates made $1.3 million at the highest level.

Orlando Luis Cabrera was born in Colombia in 1974.  He led the league in Sac Flies three times, and games played twice.  His lifetime .272, 123, 854 nicely complement his 216 SB’s.  As any Red Sox fan can tell you, Orlando had the mojo of a winner, something he also brought to the Expos, Angels, Twins, Giants, A’s, Reds, Indians and White Sox, too.  He won two Gold Gloves at SS.  He was top 10 in doubles 4 times and in stolen bases twice.  The dude hung it up after the 2011 season with the Giants.  And he is missed.

Everth Cabrera was born in Nicaragua in 1986.  The smallish shortstop led the NL with 44 steals in 2012 (in 115 games) and currently leads it with 18 (in 46 games).  He projects to 60+ steals in a full season, and given that he is at age 26 now the regular Padre SS, he will probably reach that plateau.  He also projects to 90 runs scored over 162 games.  Everth has the 4th best range for an NL shortstop and is an interesting young player.  He is arbitration eligible after this season, and free agency eligible in 2017.  Watch him.

Asdrubal Jose Cabrera was born in Venezuela in 1985.  The 6 ft, 205 lb infielder has moved permanently from second base to short where he shows above average range and makes few errors.  The two-time All Star has one Silver Slugger in his closet, hardware earned when he went yard 25 times for the only major league team he has ever played for, the Indians.  He is capable with the bat, no doubt, as his 5 hits and 2 HR’s versus the Tigers last night evidences.  This guy is just another of those 5 or 6 very solid shortstops playing in the AL right now, all nice combinations of proficient hitting and fielding.

And then there is Melky.  The Melk Man. Leche.  Melky Cabrera was born in the DR in 1984.  The switch hitting outfielder sports a .284 BA lifetime which was dramatically inflated when he batted .305 and .346 in 2011 and 2012, far above his otherwise .267 career BA.  Of course, the steroid suspension of 2012 hangs over him like a cloud, following him indoors to the Rogers Center where he holds down left field and the DH slot for the Jays.  The $20 million he has earned to date will assuage his pain.

And there is Jose Miguel Torres Cabrera,  the big Kitty Kat, the top Tiger.  Muscles.  This 6 ft. 4”, 240 lb third baseman was born in Venezuela in 1983.  And like every Cabrera on this list except for Fernando Cabrera, he was a free agent signing, not a draft pick.  Miggy has led his league in doubles once, HR’s twice, RBI twice, and BA twice.  The seven time All Star has one MVP plaque on his wall, and his .330, 44, 139 in 2012 made him the first Triple Crown winner since Yaz in 1967.  The big dude is hitting .387 with 13 and 52 currently and it is reasonable to say he has a decent chance to be the first guy to earn the Triple Crown in back-to-back years.

That’s a bakers-dozen-plus-one of Cabreras.  Not as hard as charting the 19 MLB players named after George Washington, or as easy as the 1 named after Julius Caesar, but still a fascinating list, one that shows how important the DR and Venezuela are to baseball’s recent history, and to its future.

It says a lot that there was one major league Cabrera in the 76 seasons from 1913 to 1988, and 13 more in the last 25 years.

Now if I can just keep them all straight.

Go Sox.

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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.

Xxxxxxxxxxx

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.

Xxxxxxxxxxx

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.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, RED SOX | Leave a Comment »

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.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

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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George Brett prefers Pine Tar to Hemorrhoids

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 26, 2013

Pt and P H

When July 24 arrives this summer with it should come 30th anniversary remembrances of the Pine Tar game.

Talk about a different world. 

George ruled the roost.  Billy was the skipper.  Berra, trim and bespectacled, coached at 1st base.  Don Zimmer’s corpulent form was poured into pinstripes as he stood in the 3rd base coach’s box.

These were the Yankees of Winfield, Nettles, Piniella and Rags.  They were destined to go 91 – 71 and finish 3rd, 7 games behind Baltimore and 6 behind the Kitty Kats.

These were the Royals of Brett, Wilson, White, U.L., Hal McRae and 44 year old Gaylord Perry in his final tour of duty.  KC would finish under .500 at 79 – 93, good for 2nd place and 20 games behind the Pale Hose.

Haven’t at least 34,000 different people told you that they were at the Pine Tar game?  Some of them were kidding.  33,944 was the official count.

It was a scrappy game played by two teams that had faced each other in the ALCS 4 times in 8 years.  With George holding a grudge that he hadn’t won all 4.

It was a scrappy game, as I said.

KC scratched out one run in the second on a Frank White ground out.  NYY answered with a Winfield solo shot in the bottom of the 2nd.  Frank White got his 2nd RBI in the 4th on a single.  White and Slaught hit back to back triples in the 6th for a 3 to 1 KC lead in the 6th.  Baylor tripled in Campaneris and Piniella, and then Winfield singled in Baylor all in the bottom of the 6th.  Yankees 4, Royals 3.

Thus, with the Yankees ahead by 1 run with 2 outs in the top of the 9th, George Brett did turn on a shoulder high fastball thrown dead  red from the hand of Rich Gossage and Mr. Brett did blister a high line drive that landed 10 rows deep in the sunny right field grandstand.  It was a laser.

Beautiful.  KC takes the lead.

Oh, but then Billy Martin acted on something 3rd baseman Graig Nettles told him before the game.  Nettles had told Billy that Thurman Munson had once been called out in a game for placing pine tar too far up his bat, and that Brett’s bat looked just like it.  Nettles suggested Martin use the rule against Brett should he hurt the Yanks with a big hit that day.

The rest is history.

It was a unique year for the Yankees.  They played .562 ball and finished 3rd.  Winfield killed a seagull in Toronto and was arrested.  Righetti no hit Boston but was converted to a closer.  Martin gets Brett called out on a technicality and gets reversed.

There were also some peculiarities to the Pine Tar TV broadcast.

Bill White and Frank Messer started the broadcast.  White was replaced by Rizzutto in the middle innings.  Bobby Murcer, who had been driven from the playing field to duty in the booth by George, took  Skooter’s place in the 6th and finished the game with Messer.

Early on, White asked Messer if he thought Lou Piniella would someday manage in the bigs.  Messer said, “No, he won’t manage.  Lou says he doesn’t want to stick around the game after he retires.”  Of course, Lou went on to manage for 23 seasons with the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs.

At another point, White comments on U.L. Washington’s cleats:  “U.L. is wearing New Balance baseball shoes.  You don’t see a lot of those.  They do make a fine sneaker, though.”  Today, Miguel Cabrera, CJ Wilson and Curtis Granderson are web-site poster boys for New Balance, a dominant brand.

Skooter had his Skooter moments, too.  When someone noted the misty weather conditions, he said it reminded him of that Johnny Mathis tune.  When Bert Campaneris got an infield single, Skooter exclaimed, “Campanella beats it out !  Hey, did I just say Campanella ?”  When a Bobby Murcer Day was mentioned, Skooter asked that somebody please give Murcer a solid gold spittoon for his Skoal shots on his day.

When Bud Black began to unravel somewhat in the 6th,  Messer observed that “This young man does not have a complete game in 11 starts this year….he may have a history of running out of gas.”  Maybe so.  He would go on to have 3 CG’s in ’83, far below Ron Guidry’s league leading 21.  It was a different world.  3 CG’s in 2012 would have been a top 5 performance in the A.L..

Wondrously, ironically, baby faced Don Mattingly, getting just his 100th career plate appearance in this game, prompted Bobby Murcer to say, “He’s a good defensive first baseman.  He likes it in Columbus (the minors) but he knows the majors are the place to be.”  Bobby did not recall that Mattingly had a .332 BA in 5 minor league seasons, I guess.  He had a glove….and a stick.

Credit Murcer with seeing the protest coming.  After Messer’s call of Brett’s pine tar home run….”Uh Oh!  Uh Oh! It’s gone !”, Murcer immediately explained that Martin was telling the umpires that Brett had broken a rule and could be called out, and he explained why.  Bobby was on the money.  And as it turns out, George Brett should have been called out.

Murcer concluded the broadcast saying, “You know, Frank, you and I may have been a part of history today.  I just talked to some people with 50 years in the game and they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Amen, Bobby Mucer.  May you rest in peace, brother.

Today, George Brett says he’s happy for the entire incident.  “Instead of being remembered as the guy with hemorrhoids in the 1980 World Series, I’m the guy with the pine tar bat.  I’ll take it.”

Go Sox.

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Around the bases: Tito, Tigers and Trials

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 7, 2013

TITO

The New Idiots

There is an interesting story by Albert Chen in the March 4 issue of Sports Illustrated about the new look Cleveland Indians.  Chen tags them the strangest, most fascinating camp in Arizona.

Nick Swisher twirls a baton, hugs groundskeepers and bubbles with enthusiasm in the outfield.  A former fireballing first-rounder named Scott Kazmir, now skinny and wan, seeks a roster spot.  Daisuke Matsuzaka, the 32 year old Japanese hurler who once elicited $103 Million from John Henry’s coffers, is present.  There is also Jason Giambi, the 42 –year-old former MVP who once had p.e.d.-related tumors removed from his privates.  There is Michael Bourne, the free agent speedster that should have been grabbed long before the Tribe got him.  And there is Mark Reynolds, a 1B/3B/DH man that could K 220 times, but might also deposit ball over fence 40 times.

And this is Terry Francona’s new team.  There he is, stuffed into an Indian uniform and smiling broadly on the SI contents page.

After going 68-94 last year, the Tribe could rise with Francona and a new bunch of idiots.

There will be a happy clubhouse.  There will be loosey goosey players hitting it, catching it, throwing it.

Go Tito.  Go Tribe.

Amen, Westmoreland.

Today comes the news from Paul Doyle @ The Hartford Courant that former Red Sox top prospect, Ryan Westmoreland, has retired at age 22.  He has twice had brain stem surgery to correct a cavernous malfunction and it has been determined that it is impossible for Ryan to continue his dream of a MLB career.  The kid was said to have a tremendous upside although fate only gave him 60 pro games at Lowell in 2009 (.296, 7, 35 with 15 doubles).   There is a good message in the following words from this young Rhode Islander for anyone who has taken a hit in life:

“I believe that there is a plan for me that will utilize my experiences, however painful some may have been, to do something special in my life. It is time for me to find that path, and to pursue it with the same focus and effort that I pursued the dream of playing professional baseball.”

Amen, Ryan.  And thanks to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal for his piece on Westmoreland yesterday.

Be assertive, Jerry.

The Chi Sox circulated a new video to their fan base this week, the intent being to fire up the bugs for 2013.  “To make an impact” featured hitting, throwing, running, sliding and leaping action from Alexei Ramirez and Paul Konerko while Hawk Harrelson makes the call.  Other than praising off season workouts, I’m not sure what they are saying.  The 85-77 White Sox finished a smidge behind the World Series bound Tigers.  I hope the Chicago players shake up the Central Division better than their marketing folk are.  Compare ”Impact” to “162 Chances to Restore the Faith”, the 2013 tag line of the last place Red Sox.  Maybe take a Dale Carnegie class, Mr. Reinsdorf?

Young Tigers rising from the ashes

2013 is the 45th anniversary of the 1968 Detroit Tigers World Championship, the first Detroit crown since 1945.  The Kitty Kats went to camp in Lakeland after having been eliminated by the Red Sox on the last day of the 1967 season.  Ernie Harwell asked 26 year old Bill Freehan about the team’s chances in 1968.  He answered, “I am convinced we can do it.  We have some real good young talent.  Our young guys went through something last year that they had never been through.  I’ll tell you what, if we can stay healthy, yes, we can win it this year.”   Freehan led his team to the ultimate victory, becoming an All Star, a Gold Glover, and finishing 2nd in the MVP voting only to team mate Denny McLain.

Keep the faith.

Go Sox.

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A John Farrell Primer

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 1, 2013

Farrell n GM Farrell pitch monmouth beach

Here are 9 quick hits to better understand the new Red Sox Skipper as we prepare for the restoration of order in the AL East.

THE SIMILARITY ENDS THERE
Farrell was born in New Jersey on Aug., 4, 1962. On the same day, 600 miles away in Ohio, little Roger Clemens was born. Both babies would grow to stand 6 foot 4 inches tall and weigh 205 pounds. Over their MLB careers, the right-handed birthday boys combined for 5,027 K’s, 7 Cy Young Awards and 390 wins. All of Farrell’s stats are apparently legit.

A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
Bobby Valentine will be a tough act to follow for many reasons not the least of which is the number of games from which he was ejected. While he was exploring the meaning of life and sarcasm in Beantown, Bobby was ejected from 6 games by 6 different umpires. Farrell was boring by comparison, getting chucked only twice in 2013 with the Jays.

NUMBAS, NUMBAS, NUMBAS…
Farrell made his MLB debut and got the win on August 18, 1987, the same calendar date that Tony C gets beaned, Brooks Robinson hit into the third triple play of his season, and Black Sox Buck Weaver was born. Then again, it is also Roberto Clemente and Bob Zupcic’s birthdays.

THE STREAK STOPPER
On August 26, 1987, Farrell stopped Paul Molitor’s 39 game hitting streak. Farrell K’d him, doubled him up 6-4-3, grounded him out 6-3, and let him reach first in his last at bat on an error by Pat Tabler.  Molitor was on deck in the 10th when Rick Manning hit Doug Jones for a walk-off single. This was the 7th longest streak in history, the 5th longest since 1900.

THOSE WHO CAN’T DO – USUALLY TEACH…BUT NOT ALWAYS.
Gray ink is the HOF measurement that reflects how much a player finished (or didn’t) in the Top 10 statistically during his player seasons. Farrell has a gray ink total of 3…..vs. 185 for the average HOF’er. He made the Top 10 only in 1988 and 1989 for CG’s (1x), Shut Outs (1x), Losses (1x), HBP’s (2x), ERA (1x), and Fielding (1x). And those HBP’s aren’t good. But that’s OK. Terry Francona’s gray ink total is 2. Sparky Anderson’s is 1. Earl Weaver is Zero. So it doesn’t matter, right? Then again….Casey Stengel’s is 44. John McGraw’s is 50. Joe Torre’s is 71. And Gil Hodges is 128.

THE COWBOY
Farrell’s athletic career at Oklahoma State (1981 – 84) yielded four Big-8 championships and 4 College WS appearances. Farrell went 20-6, 4.51 with 168K’s in 219 IP, plus a no-no vs. Missouri Southern. He is in the OK State BB HOF along with Allie Reynolds, Pete Incaviglia, Robin Ventura, Jerry Adair and Mickey Tettleton, among others. OF COURSE, The Cowboys Football history is more glamorous with former Stillwater residents Pappy Waldorf, Bob “The Blond Bomber” Fenimore, Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas all in the College Football HOF.

IS THERE STILL A BEACH THERE?
Yes, there is. Farrell originally hails from Monmouth Beach, NJ, which has 3,279 residents, a median HH income of $94,583 and one square mile of beach. The beach doesn’t look as it did before Super Storm Sandy, though. See the Reuters photo above.

HE HAD THE K THING GOING
Over 6 starts in 1989, Farrell K’d 10 or more dudes THREE TIMES. A nice run for a guy with just 4.6 K’s per 9 IP in his career. On August 11, he K’d 10 Brewers, baffling every Trebelhorn Man except Yount and Surhoff. On August 17, he rang up 11 Athletics, TWICE whiffing Canseco, McGwire, Parker and Henderson. On Sept. 5, he smoked 10 O’s, having an especially good time with Mike Devereaux, who he made look bad FOUR times.

IT’S JUST NOT FAIR
Farrell made something slightly north of $1.2 Million in total as a player. The fellow the Sox sent to Toronto for Farrell, Mike Aviles, made $1.2 Million last year as a super sub. Aviles is signed to a combined $5.25 Million in ’13 and ’14.

Go Sox.

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Francona & Shaughnessy explain 2011….finally

Posted by athomeatfenway on February 18, 2013

Francona

On Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, Terry Francona stood in front of the Palace Hotel in Manhattan waiting for DeMarlo Hale. His team had lost 12 out of their last 15 games and were hanging onto a playoff spot by a thread.

Francona was approached by a stranger with a foreign accent who said, “You must win today.”

“Hey asshole, what do you think we’re trying to do?” said the stressed out manager.

Security intervened. The foreigner turned out to be a diplomat. Apologies, introductions and a friendly photo taking followed. No damage done. But the incident speaks volumes. Tito had flared in a way not inconsistent with the captain on a sinking ship — and for good reason.

The Sox had blown a 9 game lead over Tampa in a disastrous September during which the pitchers didn’t pitch, the hitters didn’t hit and the fielders didn’t field.

And unlike earlier rough spots, Francona, who is usually a master at damage control, only made things worse.

But why?

That is the question some Red Sox fans, myself included, have been asking since Sept. 28, 2011. How could a team that was capable of 100 wins be 39 games over .500 from May 1 through August 31 and play like the ’62 Mets in September?

Francona, The Red Sox Years by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy goes a long way to providing the answers. It may be fair to say that the answers have been previously spoken or written many times by others. But this book lays out the chronology and context for the narrative in a way no one has before.

The trick the authors turn is in making the reader understand the forces that were acting upon Tito and the team.  It was not just that something was wrong with the Sox, it was that most everything was wrong.

It was a perfect storm. Veteran coaches had left and with them went the established connection points to the team that Francona used to discuss bad behavior or poor play.    This was a critical change.  If you read Michael Holley’s book about Francona, Red Sox Rule, then you know that Tito used peers, coaches and team leaders to keep the team on track.

Problems emerged every where. Youkilis said there was a festering conflict between position players and the pitching staff. Three starters (Lackey, Lester & Beckett) had enormous egos, all having pitched a WS clincher by age 26, and they formed a narcissistic clique that became unconcerned with management and team. Aging players were in the final year of their contracts and grew discontented. Players placed personal rewards above team success. Rumors broke out about Theo Epstein going to the Cubs as G.M. Injuries abounded. The medical staff was cluttered and nervous. The owners were fixated on playing all 81 home dates in order to maximize revenue even as Hurricane Irene threatened. The bullpen ran out of gas. All of the above…..all at once.

The tipping point came on Saturday, August 27, the day before Irene punished the Massachusetts coast. After a long road trip the owners insisted that a day-night doubleheader be played. Not hiding their unhappiness, the players performances thereafter landed in the outhouse, never to rise again in 2011.  Or in 2012.

A lot has been said about how Francona criticizes Lucchino, Werner & Henry in the book. There are several instances in which the ex-manager reveals their shortcomings but I didn’t read anything new or surprising. I’d have been surprised if Tito had written that Larry is a paternal cuddlebunny, another Johnny Pesky.

Larry is a bit of a tough guy. Theo can be manipulative. Henry is a geek. Werner is best suited to running NESN. So what. That sounds like the expected case.

Terry comes off as a flexible and devoted boss.  He’s not going to quote Winston Churchill like Theo. He is going to drop F-bombs. He may even moon you, as he mooned Theo and the coaches in the privacy of the manager’s office one day (when PR chief Pam Ganley barged in).

He’s down to earth.   He honors the 15 men who managed him as a player, spelling out which valuable lesson he learned from each one in a lovely Acknowlegdement at the end of the book.  These men were his highschool, minor league and big league skippers.  Even the one that scared the heck out of him, Dick Williams.

I like that about Tito. He’s a true diamond lifer who will never take himself too seriously or place his value high above his brothers and sisters.

He is the greatest Boston Red Sox manager in my 47 years of fandom. He’s probably the best in the history of the Sox.

No one was better at handling the press. Or difficult personalities.

This book is a must read. Don’t miss it.

Go Sox.

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