At home at fenway

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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.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett | Leave a Comment »

Smoky Joe Wood to Josh Beckett : Speed aint enuf

Posted by athomeatfenway on January 24, 2010

Somethings never change in Baseball.

As Joe Wood wrote in the 1914 instructional, Pitching Course, “Speed, terrific speed, in my opinion, is the greatest essential that any pitcher can possess.”

Joe Wood had terrific speed.

Walter Johnson said, “Nobody throws a ball as hard as Joe Wood.”

Joe also had a change up which he threw 10% of the time.  He could hold, load and release the change in exactly the same way he did the fastball.  Still, 90% of his pitches were heaters.

From the time he debuted in a loss to Doc White and the White Sox on Aug. 24, 1908, to his last adventurous start in 1920 for Cleveland, Joe was a power pitcher.

But it takes more than speed.

Wood elaborated:  “The man who possesses ordinary speed in a limited degree and nothing else is likely to have his troubles in the major leagues.  If a pitcher has only ordinary speed than he must have ‘something on it’ as we say in baseball.”

“There must be a break to it.  Or better still a ‘hop’.  Straight dead speed is not enough to carry a pitcher.”

Wood’s thoughts conjure how Josh Beckett, a modern power guy, from time to time gets knocked all over the yard even while throwing mid-90’s.

Beckett is said to be someone who could benefit from a 6 man rotation.  He is nasty on an extra day’s rest.  But when Josh is worn down, his fast ball come in hard and flat.

96 years after he wrote it, Joe Wood is still right.  You’ve got to have a hop.

++++++++++++

Smoky Joe Wood won 37 games in 1912, 3 of those in the World Series.  He posted a 1.91 ERA, 35 CG, 10 Shut Outs, 344 IP’s and 258 K’s.  He won 16 consecutive decisions that year.

Although he would finish 117-57 with a sublime 2.03 career E.R.A., he really only pitched 3 more years after 1912.  He averaged only 16 starts and 12 wins from 1913 to 1915.

Joe started his first game at age 19, and his last at age 26.   Bam.  Pitching career over.  He took a year off after leaving Boston in 1915, moved on to Cleveland, and spent 5 years patrolling right field in League Park.  He batted .366 and .297 in his last two years. (’25 and ’26).

Soon he was off to coach at Yale, where he prospered from 1923 to 1942.   His players included Bruce Caldwell, Johnny Broaca, Eddie Collins, Jr., and Joe Wood, Jr., Ducky Pond, Faye Vincent Sr., Albie Booth and Larry Kelly

++++++++++++

It was a major injury that preempted Smoky Joe’s HOF pitching career.

Many a Red Sox history book generically cites arm trouble as what ended his hurling days.

In an interview with The Diamond Angle, Joe’s son, Bob, explains what happened.

“The 1913 injury incident happened in Detroit in early July. He slipped on the wet grass while fielding a bunt and broke his right thumb. Perhaps he tried to come back too soon because the Red Sox were in a pennant race with Philadelphia, Washington and Cleveland. Manager Jake Stahl checked his condition daily. In any event, he never pitched again without severe pain in his right shoulder, although he was able to win 25 games in the next two years, even though in 1914 he had his appendix taken out in February and didn’t start the season until May 27.”

++++++++++++

In the two years that immediately followed the breaking of Smoky Joe’s thumb, the Sox dropped to 4th, and then to second.

The dynasty had been derailed.  The team lost two potential pennants along with a dominating arm on the wet grass at Navin Field.

The Bean Eaters would rebound in 1915 when a 20 year old lefty from the Charm City would start 32 games and go 18 – 8, adding youthful depth to a rotation of Ernie Shore, Dutch Leonard, Rube Foster, and Wood.

They went on to win it all in 1915, 1916 and 1918.

Joe Wood missed the ride for the last two Championships.

To hear his son tell it, he never complained.  He just moved on.  He enjoyed his time in Cleveland, in New Haven, and in the Pocono’s.  He was a family man.  He understood how important he was to his four kids and wife.

“Dad retired after the 1922 season, even though he was a regular and had a very good year. When asked why he retired, his only comments were that he had nothing further to prove to himself or the fans, plus he would come home and his four young children (Joe, Jr, age 7; Steve, 5; Virginia, 4; and Bobby, 4) would hardly recognize him. He was quite a family man……Yes, our parents were always there when we needed them. They were super people.”

++++++++++++

So put Joe Wood in the same box of chocolates with Thurman Munson and Tony Conigliaro, baseball eternals that fate did not allow enough time to earn a HOF plaque.

But don’t feel sorry for Joe.  He didn’t waste his time on sorrow.  He knew what was really important, and kept his focus on the day.

++++++++++++

The 1914 Pitching Course instructional booklet is a marvelous 48 page guide with lessons written by Christy Mathewson, Big Ed Walsh, Walter Johnson, Nap Rucker, Joe Wood, Doc White, and author Irwin M. Howe.   Packed with truisms, some things never change.  It’s a little treasure.

++++++++++++

The Diamond Angle ceased to publish in 2008, but its rich and varied Baseball content remains available at www.thediamondangle.com.   It’s worth your time, so take a look.

Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS, Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett, RED SOX | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

ALCS: Playing with house money

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 19, 2008

 

 

Oct. 19 6:00 PM EST

 

 

IT DIDN'T GO AS THIS KID PLANNED.

IT DIDN'T GO AS THIS KID PLANNED.

 

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

 

We were drooling on Monday morning, Oct. 13.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Oh, brother.

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Much warmer in Tampa.

Much warmer in Tampa.

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Like us, did he think that anything could happen ?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 The ‘Tek strikeout was hard to watch.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Surely, the youngsters from Tampa were staging a coup.

 

The life was sucked right out of the crowd.

 What This Series Has Now Come to Be

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

The Rays lacked the killer instinct.

 

The Sox are steady poker players.

 

We are playing with house money now.

 

And anything can happen.  

 

Anything.

 

 

 

 

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

Josh Beckett a bore; Angels 5 Red Sox 4

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 10, 2008

  
 
 
 

Stephen King a bad omen

Stephen King a bad omen

Horror Show starts with Stephen King

Cassidy and Johnny V. scooted down to the field near the Sox dugout to watch Heidi Watney interviewing someone in pregame.  Not much was happening under a chilled & blue Fenway sky.

 

Two young ladies pointed 15 feet away to the second row of Field Box 34.  One said, “There’s Stephen King.”

 

Sure enough, there he was.  Gigantic head skootched under a non-MLB ball cap, relaxed, chatting with his buddy.

 

“Wow ! I’ve got to get his autograph”, I said, knowing the wife would be pleased.

 

“He’s not going to sign.”, the petite, raven haired 20-something gal said.  “He wouldn’t sign for us.”

 

Bullsheet, as El Tiante would say.  I had to  try.

 

Thinking of how to get his attention….

 

Stephen, my wife goes to bed with you every night.  Would you sign this for her ?

 

Or,

 

Stephen, how come we don’t see you speaking at the Bookfest in D.C. ?  We get stuck listening to bores like Salman Rushdie.  Hey, sign this for my wife ?

 

Or,

 

Stephen…Stephen…my wife is in treatment…..would you…could you…sign this for her ?

 

I went legit.  I tried the the Bookfest angle.

 

King glanced at me, “Not going to D.C..  Been there, done that.”

 

“Oh, I see.  Would you sign this for my wife ?”

 

He shook me off like he was shaking off a fastball for Vlad Guerrero.  He broke eye contact.  

 

Being famous has got to be a bitch.  Putting up with wife-pleasing, beer-clutching fans is a burden.

 

That poor rich bastard.

 

I did snap 2 photos of King, however.  And one of the young ladies, at the prompting of Cassidy, said she’d email me a photo of herself in a bikini if I’d email her the photo of King.

 

I promptly lost the email address she had scribbled and pressed into my hand.

 

Things were off to a bad start.

 

 

Slowing twisting in the wind…upside down

 

 

Beckett struck out two and induced a grounder to Pedroia to record 3 crisp outs in the 1st. 

 

Josh K’d Anderson on a curve.  He whiffed Teixeira on a 93 mph cutter.

 

But, there was also a double to Figgins, a single to Hunter and walks to Vladi and Rivera – before that inning ending ground out to Dustin.

 

With 30 pitches to 7 Angels in the first, Beckett set the tone for an excruciatingly long game.

 

5 hours and 19 minutes long.

 

In this freakish contest, the Angels out hit us 16 to 7 while scoring just 5 times.

 

Platoon catcher Mike Napoli crushed two homers.

 

Napoli broke the tie, scoring the game winning run in the 12th inning.

 

Before Napoli’s first HR, the Angels had played 68 innings in the post season without one.

 

The Sox snapped their long winning streak in elimination games, dating back to the 2004 ALDS.

 

The Angels snapped an 11 game losing streak to the BoSox in the post-season.

 

The Angels misplayed a pop-up into a 3-run single for Ellsbury.

 

It was the first 3-run single in post-season history.

 

Beckett yielded four runs, nine hits, four walks, and struck out six in five innings. His postseason ERA nudged from 1.73 to 2.09.

 

The Sox did have opportunities. 

 

They left the bases loaded in the 10th.

 

Dustin, Bay and Jed dotted the frame with 2 whiffs and a fly ball out.

 

And perhaps hardest to watch of all, Dustin went hitless again.  He is 0-for-13 in three A.L.D.S. games.

 

Our best hitter didn’t hit. 

Our post-season stud couldn’t locate.

Our hunger for the kill evaporated.

 

 

I don’t know when Stephen King checked out.

We left Fenway at 12:40 a.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in ALDS, angels, BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Angels, RED SOX, Stephen King, World Series | Leave a Comment »

90 wins

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 20, 2008

Sept. 19, 2008

A place within Red Sox Nation sans Yankee fans. 

Suffield, Ct

 

 

April was cold...but the team got hot.
April was cold…but the team got hot.
 

The Sox defeated Toronto on the road, 4-3 tonight, bringing their record to 90 W – 63 L.

 

For the second year in a row.   For the 6th time in 7 years.

 

This campaign hasn’t been a day at the beach.  But it has been the inspiration for many reflections.

 

Here are a few random ones:

 

Papelbon is fallable.  He hasn’t many clean consecutive appearances.  Opponents say he shows signs of fatigue.

 

The big man has begun to break down.  It’s inevitable.  God made that body for protecting a Queen or President, not running the bases and sliding into home.  I’m going to enjoy watching David while we have him.

 

Red Sox Ownership believes that one should always behave in a courteous fashion.  Even when Manny Ramirez was just begging for a suspension.  He should have been sent home without pay and left to stew until after the season was over.  The Sox would have given the union a good fight.

 

Pedroia is a mini-Michael.  He’s a talented freak. 

Pedroia is nearing cult figure status in Boston. 

 

In Baseball, mediocrity is good because it adds up over six months.  The Sox were not terrific throughout this year.  They won a few more than they lost every month from March through the end of July, then got hot in August.

 

A no-no doesn’t necessarily mean much.  Buch, godspeed and good luck in the Arizona Fall League.  Soxaholics saw the no-hitter as foreshadowing a long career and a bag full of Cy Young trophies. Well, we’ve all gotten past those expectations by now. Clay, you need a few moments of Zen.  The desert is the perfect place for that.  Check out Sedona.

 

 

4 good starting pitchers make up for lengthy patches of dismal hitting.  I think that one is self-explanatory.

 

Knuckle ballers will never get the respect they deserve despite significant heroics.  It is how bad Wake looks (3 or 4 starts a year) that prejudices the crowd.  They forget about the other 28 outings.  Many fans abhor the extreme bad beyond rationality.

 

Fenway continues to be cleaned, painted, sandblasted and spiffed up.  And it’s dandy !

 

Fenway continues to need a major, major o-v-e-r-h-a-u-l !  May it begin by correcting the orientation of seats in Grandstand 3, 4, 5, and 6, and the Right Field Boxes in sections 88 through 92.  Untwist our necks.  Let the healing to begin.

 

Sean Casey looks like a Dentist.  An Insurance Salesman.  A Civil Engineer.

 

We are seeing the results of the greatest BoSox minor league production in history.  Lester, Masterson, Youk, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Cash, Bowden, and Delcarmon.  This is unprecedented.

 

Keeping Jon Lester has more than worked out.  I would have traded him with two prospects for Santana.  I thought he’d never make the leap he made this year.  Wrong.

 

Unthinkable though it was on Oct.17, 2003, we now have a chance to triple the pleasure in this golden era of Red Sox Baseball.  2004, 2007…2008.  Unthinkable.

 

Dan Duquette continues to be regularly and wrongfully ignored by the Sox.  Remember Varitek and Lowe for Heathcliff Slocomb ?

 

Jed Lowrie is way better than Julio Lugo.

 

Jason Bay is just compensation.

 

Manny was as great a hitter as he was a loveable cartoon character.

 

The Yankees have little left to motivate them other than beating down the BoSox on Sept. 26 – 28.

 

Paul Byrd is to 2008 what John Burkett was to 2003.  A #5 when needed, but never intended for the post-season.  Burkett always started when I went to Fenway in 2003 and he would just flumox batters for 4 innings, sometimes for 5.  Then he’d just give it up.

 

John Burkett
Age before beauty: John Burkett

Some fans drive a hundred miles to see a game at Fenway, then sleep in their car so they can wake up and see another Red Sox home game the next day.  I kid you not.

 

It hurts to see Eric Hinske, former BoSox Super Sub, star for the Rays.

 

10 hits in a game at the right time create 10 runs.  10 hits at the wrong times create none.  Funny game.

 

Come the postseason, it is best to miss the team that had your number all season.  Like missing the Yankees in 2007.  Maybe — like missing the Rays in 2008.

 

Nothing curtails the demand for BoSox tickets.  Not gas prices, home heating fuel, declining home sales, growing unemployment, the collapse of Financial giants.  Nothing yet.

 

Hats off to Naomi Calder and the BoSox for finding creative ways to spread the ticket opportunities around so fans get a shot at them.  This week’s lottery for post-season tickets made thousands of fans happy.  One post-season game in October makes up for a summer with no trips to Beantown.

 

Hats off to Lou Gorman, classy guy that he is, for repping the Sox with intelligence and wit where ever he is met.  I’d like to have a cup of coffee with Lou and his Fenway office mate, Bill James.

 

Terry Francona’s stress level would decline without the unrelenting crush of Boston fandom.  Once you see it up close, you realize how rude fans can be.

 

Soxaholics are passionate when in Baltimore, Phoenix, Tampa, etc..  But we’ve gone over the top at times with loud and bullying demonstrations about how dominant we are.  And the local papers have referred to us as a traveling circus.  We need to be respectful of the houses and traditions of others.  We represent the teams of Young, Williams, Ruth, Ortiz, Yaz, Tony C..  We give till it hurts to the Jimmy Fund and the Red Cross.  We represent Triumph over Tragedy.  Our sell out streak is 5 years running.  Sox fans are the classiest in Baseball.  We should show we understand the traditions of other teams and show respect.  This isn’t the NFL.

There are places to stand and watch the game that are not standing room, but with a better view than all of Fenway’s bad seats.

 

 

“Parts is Parts”, said the venerable Frank Perdue when speaking of thighs and legs.  It sure takes a lot of parts to win a pennant.

 

True:  A giant two-legged beer cup ran in the 2008 Boston Marathon.

 

True:  4 B.U. Students carrying a sofa ran in the 2008 Boston Marathon.

 

Obviously True:  Spectators were drunk by 10 a.m. while watching the 2008 Boston Marathon.

 

 

There are 9 games left.  Let’s take 6 !

 

 

 

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Matsuzaka | 2 Comments »

Michael Bowden impresses with Win #1

Posted by athomeatfenway on August 31, 2008

Aug. 30, 2008

Fenway Park

 

All of this on Ted Williams’ birthday.

 

 

Michael Bowden took the mound today for his first MLB start backed by a makeshift Sox line-up featuring the “strongest 160-pound man in Baseball” batting cleanup.

 

Ellsbury (CF), Lowrie (3rd), Ortiz (DH), Pedroia (2nd), Kotsay (RF), Bay (LF), Tek (C), Bailey (1b) and Cora (ss).

 

Pedroia would reach safely for the 10th AB in a row and hear the MVP chant. 

 

 

Bowden did not have it easy.

 

He faced a ChiSox starting 9 that already poled 185 HR this year. 

 

The 3-4-5 hitters, Quentin, Dye and Thome, have 96 HR between them. 

 

Add to that the sensational rookie Alexei Ramirez (.310/15/60), a still potent 38-yr-old Junior Griffey, and a few other clutch performers, and this was no team of pushovers facing Mr. Bowden.

 

Bowden was as advertised in terms of a powerful, condensed pitching motion.  After walking Cabrera on 5 pitches to start the game, he fired four 92 MPH fastballs to Pierzynski, inducing a 1-3 double play.  5 fastballs later, he grounded Quentin out to third to record his first MLB inning, facing the minimum 3 batters.

 

Bowden would put up only 5 innings this night.   He wouldn’t go unmolested.  But he limited the damage, showing great character and composure in tight spots.

 

In the second, he worked his fastball and a 77 mph cutter to get 2 strikes on Jermaine Dye, but with the crowd calling for the rookie’s first MLB strikeout, Dye smashed the ball 390 ft. to the Garage Door area in dead center.  It had HR distance but hit the CF wall 10 ft below the fans in Bleacher 36.  Two batters later, Bowden gave up his first run in the majors when Alexei Ramirez stroked a 2-2 fastball on a line before Bay in left and turned on the speed to register a double and an RBI.

 

With the crowd still waiting for his first K, Mr. Bowden then fed Nick Swisher a fastball and three 78 mph Cutters, striking Swisher out on a cutter in the dirt.   Swisher, a very good player, looked like a bad one.

 

The 2nd inning damage was 1 run.  Ramirez was stranded on second.  Bowden kept his cool.

 

Bowden gave up one more run this day.  That run almost never scored because Joe Crede, the runner, almost produced an out instead of a triple.  Crede led off the 3rd by smacking the 8th pitch Bowden hurled 379 ft to the base of the left center wall. There, Ellsbury caught up with it, and on the ball’s descent, tipped the fly up not once but twice before it fell for a triple.  He stuck his glove out at the end and just missed it.  Not an easy catch potentially.  A great try by the centerfielder.

 

Crede, who could have been out, trotted in two batters later on Pierzynski’s ground out to Pedroia.  1 run.

 

Bowden fired fastball after fastball over the course of his outing.  He threw about 60 fastballs out of 89 total pitches. 

 

Power Against Power

 

Bowden disarmed Carlos Quentin, holding the MVP candidate to personal O-for-three before leaving. 

 

Bowden displayed his intangibles in the fifth.  After yielding two singles to Cabrera and Pierzynski, and with Dye on deck, he fed the power hitting Quentin four 92 mph fastballs, two of them partially over the plate, two of them not. 

 

On the second pitch, with a 1-0 count, two ducks on the pond, Bowden was not afraid to pound another fastball in letter high to the White Sox slugger.

 

Power against power. 

 

Quentin couldn’t catch up to it. 

 

Bowden did not get Quentin to chase the pitches out of the zone, but he did make him fly out to Bay on the last pitch.   Then he stranded two ChiSox when the slugger Dye flew out to Bay on a ball with HR height to the track.

 

Bowden never looked to be in serious trouble.  He surely put runners on base, yielding 4 hits in the 4th and the 5th, but no one scored.

 

He was aided by one double play, initiated by him self in the first.

 

 

More than a fastball

 

At the end of the day, Bowden had a fine first outing.  His fastball, 5 or 6 mph slower than Manny Delcarmen’s or Josh Beckett’s, had the movement needed to stay away from the heart of the plate and give the White Sox batters conniptions.  Although heavy on the heater, Bowden mixed in an effective Cutter (77 mph), Curve (78 mph), and a Change (85 mph).  He really made Swisher look bad with the curve in particular.

 

Licking His Chops

 

Young Alexei Ramirez stood on deck while Griffey made the last out in the 9th.   He was asked what he thought of the kid who started tonight.  Alexei smiled sweetly at the questioner in the second row.  He looked like a cat licking its whiskers after biting the mouse on it’s hind quarter, but somehow letting it get away.  He smirked, but said nothing.

 

Bowden gets an A+ for cool.  He gets an A+ for getting ahead in the count.  He gets an A for controlling the rythym of his outing.    

 

He gets a B- for overall performance though, unable to keep the able ChiSox batters off the bases. 

 

We’ll someday see how he does against the Ginger and Mary Anne’s in Baltimore, Kansas City and Seattle.  

 

Ellsbury, Pedroia & Kotsay win it 8-2

 

Mr. Bowden owes thanks to the self-acknowledged “Strongest 160 pound Man in Baseball”, and a few other mates, for notching his first MLB victory on Ted Williams’  90th birthday, by a score of 8 – 2.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Charlie Zink, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Manny Ramirez, Matsuzaka, Michael Bowden, Mike Lowell, NESN, RED SOX, Ted Williams, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield, Uncategorized, Youkilis | Leave a Comment »

Josh Beckett — High & Flat

Posted by athomeatfenway on August 19, 2008

August 17,2008 Fenway

Field Box Dream Becomes Nightmare by Josh.

I was never so confident in the fact that the Sox would win a ball game.  Wake, Beckett, Matsuzaka and Lester already have 55 quality starts between them.  With Wake on the DL, the other 3 would respond out of pride.  Starting with Josh on Sunday.

Beckett, Matsuzaka and Lester.  The 3 strongest legs on the table.

Beckett is the strongest.

Ballplayers are almost universally taller and thinner than you think when seen up close.  This even applies to Sean Casey.  I kid you not. 

Viewed from a field box in the 4th row of Field Box 29 on Sunday, Beckett looked every bit of  the listed 6 ft. 3”, and a solid 190 to 200 lbs.

Even a bull has weak moments.  Weak moments, emotional moments, moments when you make a mistake and then reflexively repeat the mistake 30 times in less than 3 innings.

In one of the poorest outings of his career, Beckett chucked a 96 mph fastball time after time, mixing in several 78 mph curves and 90 mph changes.  The curves were pretty darn effective.  The Fastballs came in high and straight and came back at Beckett & his teammates as sharply as they went in. 

The Blue Jays batted .600 against Josh and .458 against Boston pitchers for the day.

**********

Beckett looked sharp at first.  He snapped the leather in Tek’s mitt facing Inglett, the first batsman of the day.  That snapping sound was sharp, almost painful.  He was pounding it.

Inglett didn’t succumb easily.  He fouled off 3 fastballs and 2 curves before striking out swinging.  He could see it coming in flat, he just couldn’t time it.

Scutaro then singled sharply by a leaping Cora in the hole.  Just missed it.


Rios doubled on the next straight 95mph fastball Josh threw.  The first of 4 doubles Rios would rifle on the day.

Wells walked.  Lind singled on another fastball.  Barajas was then HBP.  McDonald soon doubled in the 6th and last run of the inning.

Parade of Porkchops

With 1 on and 1 out in the 3rd, the Sox sent in Aardsma.

They altogether trotted out 7 relief pitchers to stop the bleeding. 

The first 6 relievers pitched woozily, like a bottle of cough syrup was being passed around the bullpen.

6 firemen in 6.2 IP yielded 14 hits, 3 walks and 7 Runs.

When the top of ninth arrived, intoxicated by success, Barajas and Overbay drooled from the on deck area as they watched Papelbon warm up.

Clearly, they expected the parade of porkchops to continue.

But Pap succeeded where Beckett, Aardsma, Timlin, Buchholz, Masterson and Okijima had not.

Pap K’d Barajas looking on a 2-2, 95 mph fastball.


Then he K’d Overbay looking on a 1-2 94 mph fastball.


Finally, leading with his heater for the third time, he induced a fly to centerfield to record the only inning of the day in which a Blue Jay did not reach base.

 

The Ides of August

The Sox looked tired.  Just like they looked in August 2007 when they went 16 W – 13 L and suffered through a lack of timely hitting.  That lacking, for some reason under the radar of the press, has been present for 3 seasons.  You can look it up.

They then went 16-11 in September 2007 despite dropping a 4 game set to Toronto,  and then recorded 11 W -3 L in the post-season.

They can do it again.  They will do it again.

 
 
 
 

 

 

Dejected Josh

Dejected Josh

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett, RED SOX, Ted Williams | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

FOR THE RECORD

Posted by athomeatfenway on August 4, 2008

 

Fri., July 25    Joba outduels Beckett  1-0

 

Sat. July 26    Wake’s first bad outing since May 18, Yanks win 10-3

 

Sun. July 27   Lester cruises over Ponson, 9-2.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Fred Lynn, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jim Rice, JOBA CHAMBERLAIN, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, NEW YORK YANKEES, RED SOX, Ted Williams, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield | Leave a Comment »

JOBA CHAMBERLAIN SHOULD BE OH K

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 26, 2008

As we head into this late-July Red Sox Yankee confrontation at Fenway,anticipation over pitching is high. 

 
 

 

Beckett v. Chamberlain on Friday. Wakefield v. Petitte on Saturday. Lester v. Ponson on Sunday. No contest this weekend ? As El Tiante would say, Bullsheet.

Friday’s game will be very tough, featuring two pitchers who are their team’s present and future. Joba Chamberlain is 23 and could have anchor the Yankee starters for the next decade. Beckett, the star of the 2003 & 2007 World Series Championship teams is but 28 years old. This sensational match up is between one established star hurler and a newcomer upon whose shoulders rests the Yankee’s ability to compete with the Sox and Rays. We could see 5 or 6 years of this match up. I’d like to see the Sox smack Joba around to teach the newbie some humility. But it ain’t gonna happen. (Last year, I kept shaking my head with his every appearance and asked, “when is someone going to kick this guy’s ass ? And it didn’t happen. ) Joba can bring it, and he has an aggressive, winning attitude. If he has the composure, expect a 0 – 2 loss to the Yankees. If Beckett matches him, expect a scoreless tie when he leaves in the 7th, and a 1 – 0 bullpen victory for the Sox.

Saturday ? Wakefield is the Sox statistical ACE this year with 14 Quality Starts. He will defeat the Yankees 7 – 4.

On Sunday, The Sox are highly likely to win with Lester. Not just because the lefty is focused and imperturbable. The 5th spot in the Yankees rotation is still TBD, with the portly Ponson the best spare part available. I expect a 4 – 0 Sox win on Sunday. Easy pickings.

Hitting won’t be in the spot light this weekend. Which is counterintuitive given that the Large Father is Back. Given that Pedroia and Youk are hot. Given that The Yankee hitters have propelled their team from last to 3rd in 10 weeks.

But this weekend will be about the letter K.

286 batters have been K’d by Boston’s 3 starters. 220 by the Yankee trio. 506 K’s to date.

We may see 40 more this weekend.

-Karl Cicitto 
 

 

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, JOBA CHAMBERLAIN, Josh Beckett, NEW YORK YANKEES, RED SOX, Terry Francona | 1 Comment »

Red Sox Ace: Tim Wakefield at the all star break

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 13, 2008

There has been much debate about which Red Sox starter is the Ace in Beantown:  Wakefield, Beckett, Lester or Matsuzaka.

 

UM….I guess Wakfefield doesn’t fit into the discussion too much.  That 68 mph flutter ball and his advancing age does NOT get much love.

 

Well…….. 

 

The “Ace” is an imaginary designation which doesn’t mean much beyond bestowing extra praise and pressure on a player.

 

But for the fun of it, I’ll take a shot at it.

 

Let’s start by looking at the starting staff overall – and then focusing on just the four guys who have made 71 of the team’s 96 starts.

 

The team ERA for all Sox starting pitchers is a combined 3.77 before the man from Tokyo makes the Sox’s last pre-All Star break start today.

 

3.77 ? 

 

Soxaholics, let us not ever, ever complain about our starters this year.    Heck, we’ve had stretches of the inverted — 7.33.

 

Our motto used to be, “We’re good, we’ve got enough pitching.”.  

The Yankees motto was, “You can never have enough pitching.”.

 

Wow.

 

Our world is upside down.  Cats sleeping with dogs.  Hank Steinbrenner admitting he’s brash.  The Rays and Cubs in first place.

 

The Sox are just one small step from pitching dominance akin the Orioles of the late sixties-early seventies.

 

Dear God, grant us one decent middle reliever, load him up with a nasty sinker, a change and a slider, and make his name Justin Masterson.

 

This season is making me dizzy.

 

But  — back to the question at hand — who is the Ace ?

 

Wakefield’s made 19 starts, 13 quality starts, with a 3.60 ERA.  Team 9W-10L.

 

Beckett’s made 17 starts, 11 quality starts, with a 3.93 ERA.  Team 10W-7L.

 

Lester’s made 20 starts, 11 quality start, with a 3.38 ERA. Team 13W-7L.

 

Matsuzaka’s made 15 starts, 10 quality starts, with a 2.84 ERA. Team 12W-3L.

 

I go by quality starts, i.e., a start in which the pitcher goes 5 to 7 innings, hangs up a game ERA that is below 4.00, and thus gives his team a good chance to win.

 

Immediately, Tim Wakefield becomes the default Ace.  He’s got the most quality starts, a very respectable ERA, and you can throw out the team 9W-10L record when he starts because wins and losses do not reflect the quality of pitching.  W’s and L’s are all about the team performance.

 

Besides, if we went by wins and losses only, we’d have to evaluate who Julio Lugo has screwed more with his poor fielding.  The guy has almost as many errors as he does RBI.

 

And, if we were going by W’s, Matsuzaka walks away as the Ace by virtue of his 12W-3L team record.  The team just consistently outscores the competition when Matsuzaka is walking the tightrope, getting out of jam after jam.

 

Run support per start is very close among these 4 guys — Matsuzaka at 5.33 Runs per start, Beckett at 5.82,  Lester 5.1,  and Wake 5.2.

 

And that closeness in average run support is matched by closeness in percent-of-quality starts among Wake, Beckett and Dice Kay.  (Range:  65% to 68% quality.)

 

 

Translation:  You get about the same chance of a quality start whether it is Wake, Beckett or Matsuzaka who starts. 

 

So, there is no real Ace.   

 

My hair-splitting & inconsequential vote at the break for Sox Ace thus goes to the 41 year old (turns 42 on Aug. 2) senior citizen of the staff.   He’s the most boring starter, throwing the 68 mph knuckler 85% of the time, mixing it w an 80 mph slow, uh, I mean, fastball.  He gets my vote by virtue of having accumulated 2 more quality starts than anyone else.

 

Had Matsuzaka not missed 4 starts he may have eclipsed Wake in quality starts. 

 

In the long run, this Race to Be Ace may turn out in Matsuzaka’s favor.  It’s a long season and we’re only 59.8% done.

 

Then again, Dice Kay’s high pitch counts could produce a fatigued arm by Labor day.

 

What do you think ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Matsuzaka, RED SOX, Tim Wakefield | Leave a Comment »