At home at fenway

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

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Baseball Roundup: Boring Sox, Rocking Nats & Farting in Church

Posted by athomeatfenway on June 15, 2012

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SIGN OF THE TIMES:  The Marlins put a e-blast out to ticket-alert customers about a 50% off ticket deal for the last game of the Red Sox series on June 13.  Not only do the Marlins’ bolstered roster and lovely new stadium not fill the stands, but the Red Sox, able to pull huge crowds everywhere for the last 7 or 8 years, don’t seem to sell too well there, either. 

BEWARE, YANKEE FANS.  The Bronx Butt Heads play a 3-game set at Nationals Park against the squad with the (almost) best record in Baseball.  The Nats are 38 – 23, a whisker below the Dodgers 40 – 24 status.  Hughes vs. Gonzalez.  Pettite vs. Zimmerman.  And Nova vs. Jackson.  GG, Zimmy and EJ have recently gone an average of 7 IP’s while allowing under 3 runs.  The Yankee bats had better not cool off or  Nats fans will be getting out their brooms on Sunday night.  Just like they did in Boston last week.

 

WINNER, WINNER, GET YOUR OWN DINNER.  Longtime Sox fan, co-worker, Johnny V., is not too excited about heading to Fenway this summer.  Johnny is a 50-something fan that cherishes his photo of Johnny Pesky, worships Yaz, Rice & Lynn, and himself batted .375 for Pittsfield High School.  Red Sox baseball is in his D.N.A..  But he sold his 4 tickets to the Sox-Yankees game in July.  Seems his family is not too interested in our Mediocre Sox, and thus, neither is he.  The Sox are not Winners anymore.  They are former Winners.  Feel the indifference.

 

THE PRIDE OF ITALY FARTS IN CHURCH.  (beat.)  Sorry.  I know how vulgar that sounds.  I wanted to write THE PRIDE OF ITALY SHITS THE BED.  Something like that…..something dramatic.  You get the idea.  Some to really punctuate how Gene Auriemma has tarnished his permanent record. 

 

My 82-year-old Italian father takes great pride in all of Geno’s accomplishments.  My Dad is from an era in which Italians trusted Italians, liked Italians, took great pride in the accomplishments of other Italians.  Recent news about alleged misconduct by Geno has raised many an old Italian eyebrow.

 

If you don’t know, a woman has filed a discrimination suit against the NBA.  In part, the suit accuses Geno of first asking the woman to bed, and subsequently demanding that she be penalized by the NBA because she rejected him. 

 

Of course, my Dad thinks the woman, Kelley Hardwick, is full of poop.  He thinks this is a money play.  However, if you read John Altavilla’s column today, you would know that Ms. Hardwick is not after a quick payday.  You can read the column here:

 

http://courantblogs.com/uconn-women/trying-to-understand-the-point-of-law-on-a-difficult-case/

 

No, Ms. Hardwick is going after the female-hating NBA at large, and she is taking Geno down with the League to attract attention.  If she was just after the bucks, this would have been settled before it was made public.

 

 

 

 

COOPERSTOWN ON THE HORIZON.  In case you hadn’t heard, two fine players will be inducted on Sunday July 22 in the old village by the lake.  Barry Larkin, a National leaguer who I did not see play much, will be enshrined after earning 86% of the vote in his 3rd year of eligibility.  While I wasn’t watching he won 9 silver sluggers, 1 MVP, 3 Gold Gloves, was selected for 12 All Star Games, and posted .295 BA, 198 HR, 960 RBI with 379 SB over 19 years at shortstop with the Reds.  He might have won another 7 Gold Gloves had Ozzie Smith not locked them up through Larkin’s 7th year in the Bigs.

 

Another man about who I know little is being inducted, the venerated Ron Santo.  No Chicago icon is more beloved.  Beginning in 1960, he anchored the Cubs batting order and infield for 14 years.  Then, from 1980 to 2010, he came into Chicagoland homes 162 times per year as a Cubs broadcaster.

 

Were that constancy not enough to cement a place in the hearts of Midwesterners, Ron Santo’s contributions on the field laid the foundation of the job.  Ronny included a .277 BA, 342 HR, 1331 RBI, 5 Gold Gloves and 9 All Star Games appearances.

 

When Cub fans think of Santo, they could rightly remember him in 1964, when he fielded everything hit to third base, won his first Gold Glove, batted .313, poled 30 dingers, drove in 113 runs, hit 13 triples, 33 doubles, and led the NL in BB, Assists, Put Outs and Double Plays.

 

If you are within a 5 hour drive from Cooperstown do not miss this induction.  Make it to the great lawn with your accordion chairs and cocktails.  All 30 nationalities in the Baseball World will be gloriously present, but Cub nation is sure to be there in force to give Ron Santo the loving welcome he deserves.

 

 

Go Sox.

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Fenway Perfection: Dice K, a nap & Evil

Posted by athomeatfenway on June 11, 2012

It was the 744th consecutive sell-out, tying the Portland Trailblazers.  Ho-hum

The Mediocre Sox featured a 29 – 30 WL record.  Zzzzz.

The repurposed-player outfield consisted of Daniel Nava/LF, Darnell McDonald/CF, and Adrian Gonzalez/RF.  Snoooore.

Still, it was a special day because Daisuke Matsuzaka was making his first MLB start in over a year.

That is what got the crowd excited.  Asian kids in grandstand 2 held up Japanese pictographic signs, which no doubt offered words of support to the Interminable One.  They screamed for him as he began to run warm ups under sunny skies in front of the bullpens.

Last we saw of Daisuke, he yielded 7 BB and 5 hits in 4 1/3 IP’s to the Orioles on May 16, 2011.  The Sox beat Baltimore at Fenway that day, 8 – 7, coming back from a 6 – 0 deficit, capped by a 2 run double by Gonzalez.

The 5-16-11 wrap-up was all about the offense.  Nary a word was written about the pitcher who would soon be lost from the rotation.  Except for one thing:  Terry Francona did say that Dice K did not look like he was allowing his arm to become fully extended, and that was something about which he needed to speak with the pitcher to find out what was happening.

390 days later, he was back and not too shabby looking either.  He went 5 innings.  He K’d 5 of the first 9 he faced, 3 of them swinging.  The guy got 15 outs and 8 of them were strikeouts.  EIGHT !

That’s damn good.  And that little 3-run Washington rally in 4th was cheaply fueled by a BB, 2 singles and a ground rule double.

I was the Dude who in March said that Doubront would contribute this year.  So, hear me now and smell me later, as Hans and Fritz often said.  Matsuzaka will contribute much more than expected in 2012.  He’ll be a solid #5.  And uncharacteristically efficient.  Watch.

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The sweet sunshine of June is upon us.  These are blessed days at Fenway Park.  Even the blaring of Celtic Rock through the P.A. system cannot strip away the bliss found in the 9th row of bleacher 43, with feet kicked back and cool breeze touching the tanning skin of our faces.

No half-assed nimrod bleacher creature fool was taunting the Nats’ 19-year-old rightfielder, Bryce Harper.  No leather lunged cretin was screaming Yankees Suck on this fine day.  No snake muscled hot dog vendor knelt for an extra long period of time before us, blocking our view at a critical moment.

For long stretches, I relaxed in my seat, my arm cuddled around Little Lee, the light of my life.  The curvey one.  We basked in the warmth of the sun and the mild mannered crowd.

It was, again I say, a divine day at Fenway.  Perfect to play.  Perfect to watch.  This is God’s blessing to the Nation.  The perfect little park on the perfect day.  Amen.

Somewhere around the 6th inning, I fell asleep sitting up.  I had been whisked away to dreamland by the gentle breezes and sunshine.  Then, abruptly, I felt something was near me, the heat of another creature.  I opened my eyes and there before me was the hand of my neighbor clutching two over-priced but ice cold bottles of water.  My snooze had monkey wrenched a retail transaction.  Little Lee had left my side to shop with daughter #3 and my sister.

I snapped out of it.  Passed the Bottles.  Passed the money back.  And I was back in the living world.

A good day at Fenway can include a little nap, too.

XXXXXXX

My brother , Ben quizzed two Nationals fans on the T out of town.  Ben was adorned in a non-descript soft fabric baseball cap, sans team logo.  The Nats boyz were decked in bright crimson Nationals jersey T’s.  They were polite and low key.  Were they taking the Nats 4-2 victory with humility, you ask ?  Oh, no.  Not at all.  They were wolves in sheep’s clothing, laying low and under the radar for their own safety.  Ben quizzed them until they admitted they were Yankee Fans.  Red Sox H-A-T-I-N-G Yankee fans.  They disguised themselves so they could root openly against the Sox inside Fenway without attracting special attention.  And worse.

The evil ones, as always, were present. 

Beware children of the Nation.

Go Sox.

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Oil Can Boyd & the Red Menace: 2 we can do without

Posted by athomeatfenway on May 7, 2012

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On Nov. 19, 2007, Oil Can Boyd arrived late at the World Series Club dinner for which he was to be the featured speaker.  He wasn’t apologetic.  He strutted in with a big chip on his shoulder.

There was hope that the eccentric hurler would be insightful and entertaining.  Perhaps he’d explain why he became angry when he wasn’t selected for the 1986 All Star team, subsequently going AWOL and being suspended by the Sox.  Or maybe he would tell us how it felt to pitch the Division clincher at Fenway, propelling Boston into the ’86 playoffs.

No chance.  He was all working class braggadocio, asserting his greatness (in his own mind) and fudging his way through 30 minutes of innocuous and boring drivel.  His speaking skills were non-existent, his focus spun out of control.  Never again, I told myself.  The Can is a mess.

Boyd is all over the media this week promoting his new book, They call me Oil Can, co-written with Mike Shalin.

Can wasn’t any more coherent this week than he was in 2007.   He told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan that…and I am paraphrasing…although he had smoked pot and crack cocaine while playing in the MLB, he was still the greatest athlete on any field when he was on it, so imagine just how great he could have been sober, but never second guess his right to smoke crack or pot before a game because doing drugs is an inalienable right, and even with the drug habit he was still better than everyone else, and his drinking and drugging was an abomination…but he doesn’t regret it…yada yada yada. 

He further told the EEI guys that he was blessed with “a super uncanny ability to play baseball”.  “I went 16 – 10 in ’86 but missed a month, I should have been 20 – 6.”

“I smoke pot…I’ve been doing that since I was 12 years old…I made it to the Major Leagues smoking weed…I made my high school baseball team smoking weed..I’m in my college Hall of Fame…I’m in my conference Hall of Fame.”

I think we can guess where Oil Can stands on legalization of marijuana.

And then there was his take on racism on the Red Sox.  Can is certain that one Hall of Fame 3rd Baseman and the front office that tolerated him were the tandem that fomented bigotry in Beantown.

“I know Wade Boggs was a bigot.  He was raised that way.  His Daddy was.  He was.  He used the word nigger every day.  I confronted him about it every time he did it.  But I would turn out to be the bad guy every time I did.”

You can listen to the 20 minute interview on www.weei.com.  By the time it concludes, Can has dropped several F bombs and hung up on the radio hosts.

He’s out of control.

He is an embarrassment.

xxxxxxxxxxxx.

Speaking of embarrassments to Baseball, I am enjoying the Mike Bass book about the most eccentric owner in baseball history, Marge Schott Unleashed.

I like that title, with its leash reference. It recalls how the red menace would lead her German shepard, Schotzie, around Riverfront Stadium, where he one day peed in a luxury box near, but not upon, the Commissioner of Baseball.

Bass explains how MLB did not properly vet Marge Schott before approving her purchase of the Reds in 1984.  Had they dug a bit, they may have run away like a hound in a hornet’s nest.

Bass defines Marge’s constant and casual use of the N word.  She referred to Dave Parker at the Millionaire N****r.  She called Eric David the Trouble Maker N****r.  Her nickname for Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was The Little N****r.

Her bigotry wasn’t limited to African Americans.

When her GM was closing a lucrative deal with Ticketmaster for her, she instructed him to watch his back because she didn’t trust those “sneaky Jews”.

She also didn’t like homosexuals.

She also didn’t approve of pre-marital sex.  She fired Davey Johnson for living with his fiancé even though he won a Division title.

She didn’t like people purchasing “cars made by Japs”.  She didn’t like it that Asian American kids outdid others in school.

She had a Nazi armband.  She praised Adolf Hitler.  “He was good at the beginning but went too far.”

Great gal, wasn’t she ?  Marge Schott’s racism was so acute it bordered on the surreal.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Oil Can Boyd and Marge Schott are/were car wrecks.  Oil Can ruined his career with drink and drugs.  He made himself miserable.  Marge Schott, as far as I can tell, made everyone around her unhappy.

These are two rare and strange birds, indeed.

Let’s count our lucky stars they don’t make them like that anymore.

Go Sox.

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Pieces of April

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 28, 2012

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

Josh Beckett allowed 5 homeruns to Detroit on April 7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the next month be brighter.   Go Sox !

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Get the bat off your shoulder, Cody

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Sox !

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

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

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Shoppach starts the Party at Home Opener

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Sox.

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10 things to make a Sox fan smile

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 14, 2012

View from inside Green Monster at Jet Blue.

1.  Last year Donald Trump tweeted that A Rod is “an average player now that he is unable to use drugs.”  2 days ago, Trump compared singer Debby Gibson to Derek Jeter and then said, “We love Derek.  That’s not an A Rod statement.  It’s a Derek statement.”  Another slap.

2.  Yankee set up man David Robertson was diagnosed with a sprained foot after slipping on a step while emptying a box in the recycling can outside his home. His Opening Day is in jeopardy. The NY Daily News reports that the Yankees are alarmed.  Love it.

3.  Lawrence McCutchen, Buc centerfielder, wore #25 before veteran A.J. Burnett arrived in the Steel City.  McCutchen told A.J. he could have his old numerals if he agreed to pay a fee of $500,000.  Turns out the financially shrewd Pirate was just starting high so that Burnett could feel good about working him down.  The 2 players settled on a $20,000 payment.  In what major field is McCutchen’s college degree from Oklahoma, you ask ?  Why, a B.S. in Economics, of course.

4.  Felix Doubront has just completed a sterling outing against the Yankees in Tampa as I write this.  The lefty went 4 innings, yielding 2 hits and 0 runs. He faced only 14 batters to secure 12 outs.  This guy is going to contribute.

5.  The Red Sox will be a lot harder to hate in 2012 according to the Wall Street Journal.  The primary reason for this is that “goofy, slow, arrogant”, and yes, “excellent”, Jonathan Papelbon is now a Phillie, and has been replaced by “a pair of genial, vanilla New Yorkers.” i.e.,  Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon.  Perhaps the WSJ is forgetting that Yaz and Rico were both mild mannered New Yorkers that thrived in Boston in an era when the 5 Boroughs lacked no bellicosity for the Sox.

6.  The two jamokes broadcasting tonight’s Yankee – Red Sox game from Tampa on YES just said that Pete Rose had 33 triples for the minor league Tampa Tarpons in 1962 or 1963.  Pretty close.  Charlie Hustle had 30 triples for the Class D Tarpons, batting .330 and leading his team to the best record in the Florida State League in 1961.  The Manager of that team ?  Double no-no man, Johnny Vandermeer.

7.  Clay Buchholz spoke with self-confidence to Ron Chimelis of the Springfield Republican after pitching 4 scoreless innings on Sunday.  He said he knew early in spring training that he would “…be ready to throw with maximum effort in game situations.”  The lower back stress fracture is a thing of the past.

8.  Tom Caron explained on NESN.com that Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Gonzales are all each capable of winning the 2012 AL MVP.  Moreover, Caron said, “I do expect Adrian Gonzales to have an even bigger year this year.”  Seriously, Tom ?  Better than  2011, when he posted .338, 27, 113, and a league-best 213 hits ?    I’ll have whatever Tom is drinking.

9.  The Globe’s Pete Abraham predicts that these 5 Sox will be on the D.L. on opening day:  Carl Crawford, Rich Hill, Bobby Jenks, John Lackey and Dice K Matsuzaka.  Crawford won’t be out for long.  And MLB.com’s Ian Brown reports that Dice K threw free and easy on Saturday.  The Interminable One may be back earning his pay before Hill, Jenks and definitely before John Shell Lackey.

10.  WEEI’s Gerry Callahan took credit this morning for the installation of 258 seats inside the Green Monster at Jet Blue Park in Fort Meyers.  The self-absorbed Callahan explained how the idea to create those seats was derived by Larry Lucchino from a conversation Callahan had years earlier with the BoSox President.  I guess you have to have a healthy ego to be the unerring airborne voice of authority in Boston.  Crazy Callahan.

Go Sox.

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Varitek: All Time Leader in Respect

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 2, 2012

Jason Varitek hung it up 16 days after Tim Wakefield.  The only team that would want this pair was no longer interested in either player. 

After 3 years of not hitting in the clutch and not throwing runners out, Tek was toast.

I will never forget how Matt Garza threw it by the old catcher in game 3 of the 2008 ALCS.  The Spitting Man struck out Tek with one down and runners on 2nd and 3rd.  Jason was by then either too banged up or too weathered to have sufficient bat speed any longer.  Those of us present at Fenway saw it so, so clearly.

One of my friends can cite the day, dates, opponents and sequence of events for every game in which ‘Tek came up big.  Guys like Mark Kantor of S.A.B.R.  The details are burned into their memories.

I’ll remember ‘Tek for select accomplishments.

Like for surpassing Ray Schalk’s all time record for catching the most no-hitters by different pitchers. Tek’s record is four – Lowe, Nomo, Lester & Buchholz.    He did not secure a fifth one only because Curt Schilling shook off ‘Tek with two out in the bottom of the 9th on June 7, 2007.  After the shake, the A’s Shannon Stewart singled to right.  Then Mark Ellis popped up to make the 27th & final out.  Sox win 1-0 on a 1-hitter.

Had he called a 5th no-no from a 5th pitcher, a HOF argument would have gained momentum.

I’ll remember Tek for being a team player on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy cable show, a special Red Sox edition episode.  With pregnant ex-wife Karen skooched from the room, Tek quietly allowed himself to be waxed, groomed and dressed by the Fab Five as Carson drooled over Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar pronounced himself a big gay dude after the team transformation was complete.

I’ll remember standing on the 2nd floor walkway in right field at Fenway, the one between Bleacher 43 and Grandstand 1, on July 24, 2004, watching Sox and Yankee relievers jump over the bullpen wall and run to the diamond where Tek was giving A-Rod a leather facial and a wrestling move.

I’ll remember the May, 1995 episode of Talking Baseball with Ed Randall in which 23-year old, buzz-cut, jowly cheeked Tek explained that he still refused to sign with the Mariners after the June ’94 Draft because they offered a bonus that was $800,000 less than what his draft peers were offered.  He explained that he was staying strong, working out and not worrying about anything that was beyond his control.  (See it now on streaming Netflix.)

I’ll remember Tek leaping into Papelbon’s arms after catching swinging strike 3 for the last out of the 2007 World Series.

I’ll remember Tek for not drawing criticism in his 15 Boston playing years.  Fans loved him and felt nothing but sorrow when his skills declined.  Ambush-prone radio talk show hosts let him be because they couldn’t find a character flaw.  Team owners gave Tek a measure of respect until the end, overpaying him in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and never embarrassing him through his last unsuccessful contract negotiation.

He was selfless.  He was deep in his preparation and in his character.

He is the all time leader in Sox games caught and respect earned.

Thanks for staying in the family, Tek.

Farewell  — for now, Jason.

Go Sox.

 

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Hot Stove Pairings: Morgan-Bagwell, Lucchino-Valentine & Santo-Larkin

Posted by athomeatfenway on January 10, 2012

On November 28, the man who stabilized the Dysfunctional Sox came to Hartford.  Joe Morgan, the Red Sox  Manager who lifted the Sox from 4th  to 1st Place and won the first 12 games of his tenure, appeared  with current Sox game announcer Joe Castiglione at the World Series Club of Hartford County.

Castiglione acted as Morgan’s straight man.  Rather than make a prepared speech, the announcer threw questions to the manager in an easy, rehearsed manner.

And Walpole Joe was very entertaining.  He has that old New England accent heard in Eastern Mass. and Rhode Island.  He’s a down to earth wit.

Morgan spoke about the infamous Bagwell-Anderson trade of 1991 and how he tried to alter history.  When Joe attended a management meeting at which the boss, i.e. Lou Gorman, proposed Bagwell for Anderson, Morgan realized this was a clear mistake. He argued that Scott Cooper was a better bargaining chip; Cooper was young and highly ranked and the Astros would find him acceptable. Joe was poo pooed.  The group went with Gorman.  The Sox missed out on Bagwell’s career .297, 449, 1529.  They got Cooper’s career .265, 33, 211. 

A few years later, the Sox would let Wade Boggs leave Boston via Free Agency.  As Boggs would tell an interviewer in 1996, the Sox made him expendable because they thought they had a budding star in Cooper.  Cooper would be out of Baseball after 1997, while Boggs and Bagwell played on – and completed HOF careers.

Out of left field came a Morgan story about how he made a buck in the off seasons when he was the Paw Sox Manager.  He didn’t make much more than minimum wage driving a snowplow for the Commonwealth.  But he did figure out people were losing dollar bills at the toll booths when the winter winds whipped along the Mass Pike.  Morgan said he found hundreds of dollars along the Pike, pulling off the road and scampering down the banks to claim the lost bills, finding $100 in one spot alone.

Guys like Francona or Valentine, both bonus babies in their day, never hustled like that to make a buck.  Joe never made more than $7,000 a year as a player or a modest salary as a MLB Manager. 

He did get a few things right though.  One of them was his prediction at the WSC on Nov. 28 that Bobby Valentine would be the next Red Sox Manager.

SPEAKING OF BOBBY V,

Jeff Jacobs wrote in The Hartford Courant that the spontaneous combustion of Bobby Valentine in a Red Sox uniform is a future certainty.  Valentine will go up in flames, says Half Baked Jake.  Just a matter of time.

Not sure about that prediction, but Jacobs also says the Valentine candidacy for Manager began here in Hartford on Nov. 5 when Bobby Valentine and Larry Lucchino headlined a charitable dinner at World Affairs Council at the Hartford Club.  I was there.

I  spoke with Lucchino and Valentine at the function.  I made a bee line for Larry.  He was great to chit chat with and he signed a nice white Selig official ball for me. 

Soon enough I was standing near Valentine.  I contemplated getting his autograph as well.  I did not want this former Mets manager and disguise-wearing narcissist to ruin my Lucchino ball with his signature.  I decided to ask him to sign a program instead.  I half heartedly asked what he thought his chances were of getting the Manager job, a question I really felt was meaningless and specious.  He chuckled and said, “Yeah, right !” and strode away.  Truly, his vibe was that even he didn’t think he had a shot.

And that would help to explain his tears of joy and noted speechlessness when he got the job.

Good luck, Bobby.

Hey, Ron & Barry.

Sorry everyone.  I can’t appreciate Ron Santo.  I have tried.  I look at the stats and I see a good player.  He’s a local legend in Chicago.  If his 342 HR’s and 1331 RBI came with a .305 B.A. he’d have been a HOF selection 40 years ago.  But he batted .277.  The 9x AS and 4x Gold Gloves help, but there are no batting titles, RBI or HR crowns, either. Few stolen bases.  Led the league in walks four times.   This much loved Cub comes close.  But he doesn’t make it.

Santo’s BA/HR/RBI totals are similar to Dwight Evans, one of the best fielding right fielders ever.  Putting Santo in will inspire some people to make the case for Evans.  But, unfortunately, neither player should be in the HOF.  They are very good but not All Time Greats.

Barry Larkin’s .295, 198, 960 are terrific for a shortstop.  Ozzie Smith won 7 Gold Gloves in Larkin’s first 7 years, precluding the Cinci-born Barry from copping the award until he was 30 years old.  Still, Barry nailed 3 GG’s.  A 12x AS with 9 Silver Sluggers and 379 SB’s, I’d say the guy was the complete package.

Only 7 other shortstops in history have more RBI’s than Larkin — Hans Wagner, Joe Cronin, Miguel Tejada, Vern Stephens, Luke Appling, Alan Trammell and Ripken.  4 are in the HOF.

Hit.  Hit with power.  Speed.  Arm.  Field.  He had it all.

Congrats to Barry Larkin & to the late Ron Santo, and the families of both men.

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Farewell Pap, Hello Heffers.

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 30, 2011

 

I’m going to miss Papelbon.  I’ll miss his insane behavior, like the 2007 underwear dance on the Fenway diamond with cameras rolling and fans agog.  I will miss the personality transformation he frequently effected after fist bumping Captain Porky at the BP gate, striding to the grass aside the pitching mound where he would be still and silently transform into a glaring, fire throwing mounds man.  

Awards eluded Pap in Beantown.  Pap failed to take the Rolaids AL Relief Award even once.  The honors went to K Rod (twice), JJ Putz, Mo Rivera (twice), Rafael Soriano and Jose Valverde.  Rolaids or not, there were 3 or 4 years in which batters feared no one more than Papelbon.  He relieved hitters of their bats.  He extinguished them.  Made them look hapless.

Pap finished 2nd to Justin Verlander for the 2006 ROY, a year in which Verlander’s 17 wins trumped Pap’s .092 ERA and 35 saves.

Awards or not, Pap was the Man in Boston.

Pap posted a 2.33 ERA with 219 Saves in 6.5 Red Sox seasons.  If he can continue to do what he has been doing for the next 7 years he will finish with the 5th most saves in history.

Yankee fans suggest that Pap wasn’t really that effective anymore.  I say he is what he has always been:  one of the top 5 closers in Baseball.

Moving On

The Sox Bullpen has shaped up very nicely with Melancon hired for the 8th and Andrew Bailey for the 9th

The 27 year old Bailey has a 2.07 career ERA, 75 Saves and, even better, a career 0.954 WHIP. He  doesn’t let put a lot of men on base.  He’s a 6’3”, 240 pound Hoss, but he doesn’t throw like one.  He’s a control pitcher.  This all sounds good to me.  If we had to lose Papelbon, at least we got a young and capable replacement.

You really have to like the trade for Mark Melancon.  Big Ben sent often injured Jed Lowrie and soft throwing Kyle Weiland to the Astros for the 26 year old former Yankee farmhand, who secured 20 Saves and a 2.78 ERA for Houston in 2011.

Melancon.  Bailey.  They have lots in common.  Both are young, right handed, with the size and build of a linebacker, and both are C-H-E-A-P.  They are each making less than $500,000 in 2012.  Melancon isn’t arbitration eligible until 2014.

The Bullpen moves are a feather in the Cherrington cap.  Put these guys together with “Everyday” Alfredo Aceves and the healing Bobby Jenks and one begins to feel optimistic about the 2012 relief corps.

And a meaty corps it is.  These 4 fellows weigh in at a combined 950 pounds.  Although they are all big guys, there is some disparity in price.  Andrew Bailey comes to us for just $1,937 per pound.  Bobby Jenks, on the other hand, costs $26,636 per LB.  And there is 275 pounds of him to go around.

I believe we’ve got more imported ham than bologna in this crew.

Go Sox.

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