At home at fenway

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

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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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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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A Ryan Dempster Primer

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 20, 2012

Dempster n Ben

So who is Ryan Dempster, the 35 year old moundsman ?  We know he was a long time Cub.  Many say the man is very hittable.  How will he fare in Fenway, you ask ?  No one can say for sure, but here are 9 insights into the man to help you build a vibe and feng your shui.

 

CARL HUBBELL LIKES DEMPSTER

And why shouldn’t he ?  They are both All Star Game K specialists.  Hubbell is famed, of course, for striking out 5 consecutive future HOF’ers in the 1934 classic.  In 2008, Dempster made his only ASG game appearance in the 9th inning whereupon he K’d Ian Kinsler, Dioner Navarro and JD Drew.  It’s not Ruth-Gehrig-Foxx-Simmons-Cronin, but it’s close, isn’t it ?

 

NO PUCKING FILM CAREER – YET.

Ryan played in the 2002 NHL All Star Game Celebrity Challenge on film producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s Bad Boys team.  Ryan passed the puck to Phil Esposito, Bobby Farrelly, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jari Kuri and Alex Trebek, among others.  According to imdb.com, Dempster has yet to parlay Bruckheimer into anything more than playing himself in the 2009 Cub documentary, WE BELIEVE.

 

THE PRICE OF MEDIOCRITY

Ryan has made at least $76 million in his career to date.  Add to that a new 2 year, 26.5 Million contract with the Red Sox.  All for a guy with a 1.43 career WHIP and a 124 – 124 WL record.  Then again, there was 2008, when he went 17-6, 2.06 and finished 6th in the CY voting.

 

IT’S A LONG WAY HOME

Gibsons, British Columbia is where Dempster was raised.  Gibsons is 3,270 miles from Fenway Park; 2,270 miles from the Ballpark @ Arlington; 3,475 miles from Marlins Park; 2,512 miles from Great American Ballpark; and 2,219 miles from Wrigley Field.  Ryan could have added Seattle to his list of MLB home.  It’s only 169 miles from Mom and Dad.

 

THIS IS THE GOLDEN AGE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA IN THE MLB

Since Jim McKeever & Henry Mullen broke in with the Boston Reds in 1884, there have been 31 players in MLB history who, like Dempster, were born in B.C..  For whatever a recent surge in BC players might say about expansion and expanded rosters, Baseball Almanac recognizes 15 BC’ers who are active today.  They include prominent names like Jeff Francis, Brett Lawrie, Jason Bay, and Justin Morneau.  Plus Adam Loewen, Trystan Magnuson, Scott Mathieson, Keving Nicholson, Mike Nickeas, Scott Richmond, Michael Saunders, R.J. Swindle, and Blake Hawksworth. Larry Walker could well be the best B.C. hitter historically.  Dempster the best pitcher.

 

A #5 FOR A #5

The Rangers and Marlins made a prescient trade on Aug. 8, 1996, when they traded Dempster even up for John Burkett.  Both players pitched for 5 different teams over 15 years.  Their career ERA’s are a tick apart, Burkett at 4.31, Dempster at 4.33.  In 2002-3, Burkett finished his career with the Red Sox in the #5 rotation position, the same position that is destined for Dempster in Boston. 

 

#46 IS A MIXED BAG

22 Red Sox players have worn #46, most notably Bob Stanley, Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury.  Not too shoddy, right ?  Then again, so did Dwayne Hosey, Devern Hansack and Steve Barr.  Dempster should fit in somewhere in the lower-middle of this spectrum.

 

 

1918 K’s

It was fun watching Wakefield climb to #57 on the all time strikeout list, passing Catfish Hunter  and others who were decidedly better hurlers than Wake.  In the next 2 years, Dempster could raise his K total from 1,918 to 2,100, from position #83 to #59.  But unlike Timmy, he won’t pitch until he is 44 so he’s not headed to rarified climes.  Still, 2,000 K’s is impressive on its own.

 

 

NO POST SEASON COULD BE A GOOD THING

Ryan has been up and down in 2 playoff appearances.  The Cubs let him relieve in the 2007 NLDS, when he pitched just 1 inning vs. the D Backs, getting 3 outs with 11 pitches, including 2 strike outs.  Nice !  The following year, the Cubs gave him a start in the DS against L.A. in which he walked 7 and didn’t make it out of the 5th inning.  That effort was punctuated by walking Furcal, Ethier and Manny, whereupon James Loney took him yard for a grand slam.

 

 

Go Sox.

 

 

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The Ever Popular Rico Petrocelli

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 19, 2012

Rico 1 Rico 2

Rico Petrocelli, the Brooklyn boy who became an all-time fan favorite in Beantown spent the evening of Dec. 17 with 180 rabid fans at the World Series Club dinner in West Hartford.  http://www.worldseriesclub.com/

Rico was a multi-sport star athlete in High School.  NC State, Cal & Wisconsin all offered the young quarterback a full scholarship.  But he was too smart to bite on a football career.  He was also a power pitcher in High School.  8 MLB clubs were after him until he snapped a ligament in his throwing arm.  The interested teams dwindled to 4.  The Sox signed him as an amateur free agent on June 2, 1961.

Rico’s talk at the WSC was frequently related to the tale of 2 teams:  the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox.

Rico roomed with Dalton Jones when the Sox were a young and undisciplined team.  They formed a keystone combination that was mostly in place from 1964 to 1969.

When Rico & DJ came up to  Boston, the Sox led the league in batting average but committed the most errors with 330.  They finished 8th.  3 years later they made 142 errors and approached the summit of baseball.

In 1967, the team was coming off 190 losses in two years.  According to Rico, they could not field, throw or run.  Dick Stuart (’63-’64) was a prime example of fielding incompetence.  “For every 3 RBI he got, he allowed 4 unearned runs to score.”, said Rico.

In 1966, when the Twins were top-top, the Sox beat them only once, and they needed an error and an unearned run to make that happen.

The 1967 Sox hated Dick Williams because he was a stickler.  Williams stressed fundamentals right from spring training.  He had a conniption when Conigliaro air mailed a throw over 3rd into the 15th row of the grandstand.  He roared.  He laid down the law.

And things started to change in Boston.  After 8 consecutive losing seasons some magic took hold.  O’Connell, the new General Manager swung some deals.  The discipline-oriented Williams established order.  A young batting champ and slugger named Yaz reported in fantastic shape from an off season of heavy conditioning.

The pitchers were pitching, the hitters were hitting and the fielders slowed their rate of making errors.

Rico pointed out, “We came out of the All Star break and went on a 10 game winning streak.  That’s when it happened.  We never looked back.”

That streak was July 14 to 23, 1967.  The morning it started, the team stood at 42 – 40.  They went 50 – 30 the rest of the way, a .625 clip.

The big difference between the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox was the tension level. 

The ‘75 Sox were laid back.  When Manager Darrell Johnson wandered out to the mound to pull the pitcher, they’d tell him to get back in the dugout…and he did !

One of the closest friendships that Rico continues to keep with a ’75 teammate is with Luis Tiant.  “Luis Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame.  He belongs.”

Tiant was Mr. Laid Back himself, speaking in a calm, high pitched voice.  He enjoyed creating special nicknames for his mates.  Petrocelli was Salami for obvious reasons.  Bob Montgomery was Mr. Ed because he had a head the size of a horse’s.  Carlton Fisk, due to his imposing & squarish build, was tabbed Frankenstein, and Tiant delighted in doing the Frankenstein walk with extended arms when he teased Pudge about it.

PARKING LOT

–When asked about how it was to face Koufax, Rico said, “The ball whistled when it went past.  You had no chance.”

–When asked what moundsman he hated to face, Rico said, “Well, there was this guy named Nolan Ryan who threw 98, but when he needed to crank it up he threw 102.  Sure, when Nolan was pitching and I got in the on deck circle, he just used to get this little smile on his face.”  A contented smile, to be sure.

–Rico has 4 sons: Michael, James, Bill and Danny, and improbably, one of them is 6 foot 7 inches tall.

–On John Lackey:  “If he had been on one of our Sox teams and had stared down his teammates like he did (in 2011), we’d have freaking choked him right there on the mound.”

–On Ted Williams:  “Ted came to spring training.  I talked to him many times about hitting.  I should say HE talked to ME about hitting.  You didn’t talk to him about it, he did the talking.  And he was always loud.  Ted was a loud person.  It was like he had 3 lungs.”

Gotta love Rico.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant, RED SOX, Ted Williams | Leave a Comment »

Changing Sox & Fallen Heroes

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 23, 2012

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It’s bad enough when the team that hired you as a batting coach has to defend itself just because you were an obvious juicer in your days as a player.  It’s still worse when in the first 6 years on the HOF ballot the Knights of the Keyboard gave you woeful support levels of 23.5%, 23.6%, 21.9%, 23.7%, 19.8% and 19.5%.  Not even close.

 

But you know you’ve hit bottom when the memorabilia from your playing career goes unsold or yields pennies on ebay.

 

Here is the title on a lot that just ended un-bid on the undisputed champion of internet bidding sites:

 

“Mark McGwire 1998 Ticket Stubs Home Runs #60,61,62,63,66,69,&70 Cardinals L@@K”

 

Only $65 was asked.  As mentioned, there were no bidders.

 

In the pre-Mitchell Report days, the asking price for these stubs would have been more like $500.

 

A quick search of McGwire items offered in the last 30 days on ebay shows that about 3% of them sold, and at bargain prices.  100 assorted MM cards went for $6.22.  A 1985 Topps rookie secured $3.49.  A new-with-tags Majestic Diamond Collection Cardinals McGwire home jersey went un-bid at $14.95.  Even at 90% off, no one wants to be seen in Mark’s uniform.

 

It’s a long way from the obsessive days when all Cardinals games were nationally broadcast as we breathlessly waited for the Maris record to be surpassed.  In those days, a single pack of 13-year-old 1985 Topps cards brought $30, just for a long shot chance there would be a McGwire rookie inside that pack, a card that was then valued at $125.

 

Collectibles are funny things.  A wise man once scoffed at the foolishness of paying good money for momentoes, like rookie cards, things with no inherent value.  Another wise man once said that people will always collect the past.

 

They were both correct. But You can’t get as much for the items that are connected to sure fire HOF’ers who have fallen from grace.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

Further in the realm of the fallen are my current Red Sox, the team I never will abandon, though the names on the uniforms will change.

 

How the names have morphed in recent years.

 

In an effort to drop a few pounds I printed out some motivational thoughts and went to tape them to my shaving mirror.  I saw something taped there that I had not considered of late.  It was a 3 square inch newspaper cut detailing the 2007 Red Sox roster.  I believe I taped it up that April.

 

Starting pitchers included Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling, Tavarez and Wakefield.   This was an interesting year.  Beckett would win 20 and finish 2nd to Cleveland’s CC Sabathia for the Cy Young.  Schilling would put the finishing touch on a 20 year career with a 1.19 ERA in the World Series.  Matsuzaka, in his American debut, would muster 15 wins with a 4.42 ERA in 32 long, long outings as a starter.  Knuckles Wakefield would sport a 4.76 ERA but get enough bat support to record 17 wins, matching his career high.  Julian Taverez, who seemed poised to be the John Burkett of 2007, went 7-11 (5.15) in only 23 starts, leaving 12 starts for a young man named Lester who beat cancer and would go 4 – 0, and pitch shut-out ball for 5 and two-thirds innings in the World Series.

 

Consider the prospects for the 2013 starting staff and their 2012 records.  Lester, 9 – 14 with a 4.82.  Buchholz, 11-8 & 4.56.  Doubront, 11-10, 4.86, but pitching very well in his last 4 starts.  Morales, 3.77 in 9 starts.  Bard, atrocious in 10 starts.  And John Lackey, Mr. Question Mark himself.

 

The 2013 starting pitching is at best incomplete, and at worse, worrisome.

 

Unfortunately the position players do not sport the offense needed to support this starting staff.  Gone from the 2007 World Champs are Manny, Youkilis, Lowell, Lugo, Crisp, Drew and ‘Tek. In their place, Gomes is in left, Middlebrooks at 3rd, no one is at first yet, shortstop is undetermined, Right fielder Cody Ross is not signed, and we have Salty behind the plate.

 

Is there any reason yet to believe Boston will not duplicate their 69 – 93, last place performance of this year ?

 

Well, things are a brewing amongst the position players.

 

Middlebrooks may be the 3rd baseman of the future.  Xaender Boegarts may become the X factor in 2013.  Johnny Gomes might hit 30 home runs in Fenway Park.

 

And John Lackey may rebound at age 34.

 

But I doubt it.

 

The only thing I see for sure is more change.

 

Patience, fellow Farrell Men (and women).

 

Damn that sounds weird.

 

I guess I hate change.

 

Go Sox.

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

Sox Broken at the Break, but there is Hope

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 8, 2012

 

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I am a firm believer that bad precedes the good, pain precedes pleasure, and sacrifice precedes reward.

 

There are so many painful things for which to be grateful.

 

When I heard that Bobby Valentine was named Sox Skipper I thought, What a relief.  They picked the perfect short term manager to be the bridge to a new team in 2014, the Post-September Collapse team,.

 

I was certain that the curse that settled on the Sox last September would have Katrina-like effects, with long term damage both obvious and mysterious.

 

The damage was quite evident in yesterday’s line-up.

 

Nava, LF

Ciriaco, 2B

Ortiz, DH

Gonzalez, 1B

Gomez, 3B

Kalish, CF

Aviles, SS

Shoppach, C

Lillibridge, RF

 

Morales, SP

 

I count five out of nine starting position players as replacement parts for Ellsbury, Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Crawford and Reddick.  Of the four MIA players, 3 are on the DL and 1 is resting with an injury.  Josh Reddick, of course, was traded on Dec. 28 to Oakland for closer Andrew Bailey, who is on the DL with Red Sox pitchers Buchholz, Carpenter, Hill, Lackey and Matsuzaka. 

 

Josh Reddick is hitting .265 with 20 HR and 42 RBI for Oakland, by the way.

 

Yesrday’s starter, Franklin Morales, is a career relief man pressed into starting service due to the decimated starting staff.

 

With all this pain, boy are we in for good times.

 

Our Sox limp into vacation time with a 43 – 42 WL record.   The starter in tonight’s game with the Yankees on the eve of the AS break is John Lester, who has a string of 7 quality starts intact.

 

Let’s root for ending this half with a W.

 

We saw some crazy stuff happen in June and July.

 

 Clay Buchholz shined like a CY Young candidate for 3 starts, had a shaky game, and then disappeared to a sick bed with a mysterious stomach malady.

 

Daniel Bard was sent to Pawtucket after allowing 1 hit, 2 HBP’s, 5 walks and 4 runs in just 1.2 IP’s on June 3.  The one time ace set-up man has looked terrible (8.78 ERA) for the Paw Sox ever since.

 

We were swept at home by the Nationals, with Bryce Harper (3 hits) and Stephen Strasburg (13 K’s) dazzling the Fenway crowd the first night.

 

Listless Sox bats were shut down on various dates by Ryan Dempster, Bruce Chen, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Jair Jurrjens, Aaron Laffey, Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Jerrod Parker and Bartolo Colon.  All in one month.

 

At one point in June, the Sox scored just 14 runs in 7 games.

 

On June 24, Youkilis tripled and was traded to Chicago because Will Middlebrooks had delivered .298 BA, 10 HR & 37 RBI  in about the same at bats that Youkilis produced .233 BA, 4 HR & 14 RBI.

 

Overall, the consistency of the last 8 years is gone.  The Sox were 11 -11 in April.  15 – 14 in May.  15 – 12 in June.  2 – 5 in July.  Pathetic.

 

But help is on the way.

 

Ellsbury, Crawford and Buchholz will be back soon.  Salty has been hot.  Big Papi is still raking.

 

The starting staff, which has used 8 different hurlers so far, has provided 52 starts in which they pitched well enough for the Sox to win.  Give those hurlers a steady offense and this team is 52 – 33 instead of 43 – 42.

 

The Sox may be in 4th place and 8.5 games behind the Yankees, but they are just 4 games behind the Angels in the Wild Card.

 

Let’s see where they take us.

 

Go Sox.

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Stark Facts about Big Papi & Johnny Damon

Posted by athomeatfenway on June 18, 2012

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BIG PAPI & THE AGE OF THE PITCHER:  The large father is a well-rounded hitter in 2012, batting .306 B.A., with 15 HR’s and 41 RBI in 64 games.  He is tracking to match his final 2011 numbers of .309, 29 and 96.  So, if the rest of Baseball’s hitters have been declining, why has David maintained his hitting prowess?

If you have not heard that we are living in the new Years of the Pitcher, you should read Jayson Stark’s recent essay, The Age of The Pitcher, which you can find here:  http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8048897/the-age-pitcher-how-got-here-mlb

Stark provides the stats to show that a 6 year decline exists in HR’s and Runs-scored since the 50 game penalty for steroid use came into being.  Current amphetamine testing is also having an impact.  More young pitchers reach MLB with a 95 mph fastball, and an increasing percentage of first pitch change-ups are being tossed.  All of these factors confuse and constrain the already steroid-free batters.

Buster Olney and Stark chewed on this subject on-air yesterday.  Stark quoted David Ortiz as saying that he is frustrated by more and more hard throwers who keep the ball out of the strike zone and also mix in offspeed pitches, with Justin Verlander being a prime example.

So why has David actually looked more consistent, if less powerful, in recent years?  Could be that he is slimmer.  Could be that he is older and wiser.  But shouldn’t his aging bat be slowing down?

With or without his use of magic milkshakes, David has always been a very good hitter, capable of protecting the plate and getting a good pitch to hit.

As Bobby Valentine said in Hartford while appearing in November 2011 at the World Affairs Council, “It’s easy to pay one person to be your dedicated DH instead of doing it by committee when you have as good a hitter as David Ortiz to do the job.”

Couldn’t agree more.  Papi will sniff out the change-up.  He doesn’t freeze on the outside curve.  He can hit a 95 mph heater.  The hole in his swing (lower inside quadrant) seems to be gone.  And yes, he swings better without the 25 pounds he dropped.

The man is an inspiration.

Think I’ll start my diet right now. 

NO HALL FOR JOHNNIE:  There are JUST 3 players with 3,000 hits who will never be in the HOF:  Pete Rose, Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro.  Gambling and steroid-use will keep those three out of Cooperstown.  But if your reputation is clean like Johnnie Damon, and you have 2,723 hits at age 37, and you just collected 152 hits for Tampa in 2011, you have a clear path to the HOF to pursue. 

Johnny needed only to produce in 2012 & 2013 as he did in 2011 to finish with 3,047 hits.  Ticket punched.

It is not to be.  The Rays went with 33-year-old Luke Scott at DH instead of Damon.  Scott is now  batting .220 with 9 HR and 35 RBI in 2012.  Scott is pacing below Johnnie’s 2011 performance of .261 BA, 19 HR and 73 RBI, 19 SB, 79 Runs and 29 doubles.

After Tampa did not re-sign him, Johnnie hunted for a job throughout the winter.  No one wanted him.  Finally, in May, Cleveland picked him up for $1.2 million annually, $4 million less than Tampa paid him last year.  $4 million less than Luke Scott is making this year.

As of June 15, Johnnie is batting .180 with 20 hits.

It is sad that Johnnie didn’t get his chance to stick with one team at the end of his career.    I’ll always remember him as a dangerous man at the plate, a fleet base runner, an able centerfielder, and a great teammate who happily took the media heat in the clubhouse. 

Johnnie certainly had enough talent to reach the HOF.   He’ll miss by a smidge.

Go Sox.

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