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Arms Race in the AL East

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 17, 2014

200 Inning & 254 K's ?

200 Inning & 254 K’s ?

If Baseball is 90% pitching and starting pitching represents about 70% of the hurling, then it must be so that the AL East, the best Division in MLB, will be won by the guys who take the mound in the first inning.

But which AL East team has the clear edge after the first 2 weeks of play? And which starters represent the best of the best?

Surely Cobb, Tillman, Tanaka, Kuroda, Pineda, Lester, Lackey and Peavey are presenting their teams with the most quality starts and/or dominating performances.

Those are the contenders for top AL East starter of 2014 so far.

If the season ended today and Boston & New York went to the postseason it is a certainty that Kuroda-Tanaka-Pineda and Lester-Lackey-Peavey would present formidable playoff rotations.

Don’t underestimate Tampa Bay’s 3 best starters, Cobb-Archer-Price,. They are clearly 3rd best but Price and Archer are capable of delivering more and probably will.

The tasty question is who is the top starter in the Division. Tasty, because the answer is Tanaka. He is distancing himself from the pack in a delightful way if you are a Yankee fan, and at an alarming rate if you are everyone else.

Tanaka leads the Division in K’s, IP, and fewest walks. His ERA is a sparkling 2.05. His strikeout rate per 9 innings is 11.45. That works out to 254 K’s if he throws 200 innings. If you have watched him pitch you know that of not for 1 or 2 mistakes he would have allowed no runs at all.

Pretty damn good start to a career, no?

Wait a second. There are 2 A-listers who have an even better ERA than Tanaka. Pineda sits at 1.00 this morning. And Chris Tillman is at a breathtaking 0.84.

What madness. They say that pitchers begin the season more ready than position players but these guys are hotter than hot.

Overall, the eight hurlers mentioned here are racking up innings, limiting hits, registering K’s and providing quality starts. They are definitely the best of the AL East so far.

Unless you consider Toronto’s Mark Buehrle, who is 3 – 0, 0.86 ERA and a WHIP of 0.90.

Wow.

Go Sox.

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5 things to like about the Red Sox & this season, part 1.

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 19, 2014

Winning breeds much happiness, but it no longer sells all the tickets.

Winning breeds much happiness, but it no longer sells all the tickets.

TED AND PEDEY. Baseball fans know that Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941 and no one has done it since. A less known fact is that Ted suffered a wrist injury in spring training that year. The injury may have caused Ted to dial down his plate aggressiveness, the result being improved selectivity and batting immortality.

Dustin Pedroia returns to Fenway this season after successful surgery to repair the thumb tendon he ripped when sliding into first base in Yankee Stadium on opening day. 2014 will be Pedey’s age 30 season. 1941 was Ted’s age 22 season, an incredible fact by itself.

The two men are dissimilar in many ways. Ted was from SoCal. Pedey is from NoCal. Pedey had 2 caring involved parents, one of them an amateur tennis champion, and Ted had a difficult upbringing by an absentee Mom. And so on.

But this may be the year Pedey dials it down like Ted. Like a great actor playing all of his scenes at the height of his intelligence, we may get Dustin’s best now. He is capable of a .350, 20, 120, with 100 runs and 30 SB’s, and that spells M-V-P #2.

Watch out for Pedey. This may be his big bounce back season.

THE SLIPPERY ONE ? Perhaps. I watched the NESN game cast on March 9 and saw a gentleman of Hispanic heritage picthing for the Sox, baffling Pittsburgh batters. His fastball came in on a slight drop, belt high, and then moved with a pronounced wiggle before it reached the batter. Could there have been a foreign substance on the ball? He repeated the pitch several times while trimming the Bucs. I only caught one inning and do not remember his name but after checking the box score I see it may have been Dionis/Daniel Hinojosa, or more likely, 38 year old Francisco Cordero. The same Codero with the 329 career saves. The Sox are wondering if Cordero can regain his old form, a la Grady Sizemore.

Big Ben is no doubt dreaming of the 49 Saves and a 2.13 ERA Mr. Cordero recorded for Texas in 2004.

Would a 38 year old has-been who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2012 (with a 19.80 ERA) pull a Gaylord Perry?

In a heartbeat.

INCREASED AVAILABILITY OF TICKETS. Gone are the days when the Sox sold every ticket offered including all Sox Packs at Christmas At Fenway in December. Gone are the days when there was a waiting list for group tickets. Step right up if you need 20 ducats or more to a single game.

Want Green Monster tickets on Opening Day? No problem. Tickets on the Monsta are available for $100 standing room and $700 in the first row. And they are available for much less on non-premium game dates. The new dynamic pricing for Monster Seats is a genius idea….and simultaneously ugly. But the point is that there was a time when these GM ticks would have been snapped up.

The Sox are being increasingly creative to monetize tickets. They need to be creative.

I believe tickets will be available at reduced prices later this year because after many fans walked away in 2012, not all of them walked back last year.

And that is going to be good for you and I, my friends.

FENWAY FOR 30 MORE YEARS. Someday the love affair will end but John Henry says the grand old park can remain playable until about 2044. If that comes to pass, my children and my children’s children should thank Osborne Engineering, the original architect, and the Henry/Werner/Lucchino group. The former designed a cutting edge (for 1912) property that was conceived for a second deck expansion, making the base sturdy enough to take 100 years of use. The latter have invested upwards of $150 million to conserve our home away from home.

The oldest current ballpark is Fenway, built in 1912. The next oldest is Wrigley, built in 1914. Third in line is Dodger Stadium….1962.

Let’s count our blessings.

ARE THE YANKEES ARE SET UP TO FAIL? Have you noticed a chippy attitude from Yankee fans of late? I have. The followers of the twisted cross believe their team has reloaded and is ready for championship #28. And they have reloaded. They have improved at catcher, center field, right field, and starting pitcher. But two problems remain. First, the Yankees lack depth — on the bench and in the bush leagues. Second, they are following a first ballot HOF closer with a dude who has never closed as a professional. The Yankees may certainly jump to 95 wins this season. But if Dave Roberts cannot follow Mariano Rivera effectively, they may win 85, and finish out of the post season again.

How delicious that would be.

Go Sox.

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Marty Barrett is still a winner

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 13, 2014

Read the rest of this entry »

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Sorting out the Red Sox, vol. 1

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 9, 2014

Grady

The last time Brad Penny posted a 15.75 ERA he rebounded, becoming a World Champion with the Marlins.  Once again, 15.75 is his ERA, this time in Spring Training for the Royals, who released him today.  Brad was a subpar starter for Detroit in 2011.  He had a 6.11 ERA as a reliever in 2012 for San Fran, the same year he flamed out with the Fukuoka Hawks after one outing.  He got engaged to (another) dancer and got married in 2013, a year in which he did not pitch professionally.  He will be 36 in May and hasn’t delivered good value on a contract since 2010.   It might be time for the fun loving wide load to sit ringside at UFC bouts full time.  He made $50,000,000 in 13 MLB campaigns.  He can afford to retire.

For Sox fans, Brad was to 2009 what Paul Byrd was to 2008 and what John Burkett was to 2003.  He was a gift in the 5 hole. 

Farewell and bon voyage, big man.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will make $21 million over the next 3 seasons.  He must be feeling giddy.  He donned Jose Fernandez’s purple pants and uniform jersey for team warm ups, just for laughs. 21 million is $13 million more than he made in total during his first 5 years in MLB.  Yes, winning a Championship was berry, berry good for Salty. 

Expect him to go .246, 18 & 60 while catching 120 games per season for the Marlins.  Hopefully, he will improve at stopping pitches that are truly wild, and pitches that are just a little bit wild.  His lack of range behind the plate is what put him on the bench and David Ross in the starting role for the post season. 

Best of luck, Salty.  You deserve the paycheck.  We’ll catch you on the highlight reels.

Leah Hextall.  Sarah Davis.  Can’t NESN get some intelligent, great looking female on air talent that was born before 1980?

I’ll get over Jacoby Ellsbury becoming a Yankee.  But could he look a little less happy as he poses in pinstripes for the camera?  God, Jacoby.

Jake Peavy cut his finger and can’t catch the ball.  Buchholz needs to prove he can stay healthy and start more than 15 games.  Jon Lester is auditioning for a 6 year, $100 million dollar contract elsewhere.  Ryan Dempster is with his family, as he should be.  Felix isn’t fat and Lackey is our best returning starter.  I’m glad the rotation is all set.  (Not.)

Bryce Brentz, the 26 year old outfielder, has 3 HR’s in 7 games this March.  He leads the Sox in hits, runs, rbi and slugging.  But when it comes to being the next Daniel Nava (spare outfielder), Mr. Brentz doesn’t stand a chance.  Not against the born again Grady Sizemore, a.k.a. the human lottery ticket.  Nick Carfado gave Sizemore passing grades on all the early tests and the Sox are drooling.  4 years ago Sizemore could drive in 90 runs, steal 25 bases and score 100 times a season.  He garnered MVP votes in 4 seasons and owns one Gold Glove.   Brentz is competing against what Sizemore used to be.  And the delicious possibility that he can become great again.

Go Sox.

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The best Red Sox shortstop on roster is……Pedroia!

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 6, 2014

Pedey fields!

I admit to being a pathetic Red Sox fan who had a difficult moment this morning. 

Hartford Courant Sports Editor, Jeff Otterbein, gave us about 1200 words in today’s paper to describe the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.  He focused on 1978 to 2004.

I felt the dull twinge of 1978, the soul snuffing crush of 2003, and the overwhelming release of pain from 2004, all rushing to my brain in a teary surge.

I have this dead spot in my brain.  Only the Red Sox exist within it.  Inside this inner zone the sun is always shining, I am sitting behind the plate with my Mom and siblings and it is 1968.  This place is my second childhood home.

I am incapable of having a team other than my Sox fill my primary fan allegiance.  Sometimes I slip up in speech, meaning to say “UConn Huskies” and out comes “Red Sox”.  Or I go for my home town or high school team with the same result.  I have a Red Sox speech impediment.  Truly.

A 57 year old should be moved by much more serious subjects than the NYY-Boston saga.  But…..it’s very real for me.  And there is no doubt that I am not alone in my vulnerability.

THERE IS HOPE AGAIN

As we count down the days until March 31, there is hope.  Hope for a 4th title to salve a  long & difficult fan history.  There is hope that this team can win 97 games again.  

Uehara is the biggest variable. If Koji cannot present a decent facsimile of his 2013 performance than the Sox are in trouble.  He looks good at the moment.

 I am not too worried about the starters or the middle relievers.  The absence of Ellsbury stings but the defense will be good and the offense will be almost as good as last year, I expect.

 It is concerning that Stephen Drew is gone.  He cleaned up messes for every Sox starting pitcher all year.  With SD gone, the best SS on the team is stationed (with 3 Gold Gloves) at second base.  Mr. Pedroia, the high school and college shortstop, could adapt to the 6 position quickly.  I expect he’d stun the baseball world at shortstop.  But he’s too small.  Too slow.  His arm might not be strong enough. (A High School Q.B.) All the stuff they have been saying about him since he was 8.  What bullshit.

 Xander Boegarts could hit a lightening bug over the CF wall.  He is an offensive dynamo with a laser quick bat.  He’s also a lot better 3rd baseman than he is a SS.

 Will Middlebrooks is a “7” with the glove at 3rd base.  But he might hit 30 HR.  That is why Stephen Drew is gone and Boegarts is at short.

 Among the possible outcomes is that the left side of the infield blows a few games and the improved infield offense wins a few.  In the balance of those games, they play .500 ball and fail to gain ground on an improved Yankee, Oriole or Ray team.  Not to mention a Blue Jay team that should be healthier.

I hope Mr. Cherrington guesses correctly.  I hope Middlebrooks stays healthy and fields his position adequately.  I hope Boegarts gets better with the glove in a hurry.

I hope the  Sox someday learn the value of a smooth fielding SS.

I am hoping.  Again.

4 in my L-I-F-E-T-I-M-E.

Here’s hoping.

Go Sox.

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Back, back, back with George Scott

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 30, 2013

boomer

Boomer.

The two things I remember first about George Scott was how smooth he was for a big man when fielding his position……and how much trouble I had understanding the Greenville, MS native when he spoke.

At this moment I am thinking of George Scott and I smell Fenway Franks and coconut oil.  The skin on my forehead is heating up from the sun and my legs are burning in my blue wooden seat in grandstand 8.  

I have a little belly and no fear of dying.  It is 1970.  “American Woman” is playing somewhere and a large black man deftly takes ground balls at first base.  

His grace defies his bulky build.  Inside that 235 pound frame there is a platinum timing chain.  He body and mind are perfectly synchronized.  I cannot believe how effortlessly he moves his weight, grabbing, pivoting and dashing to the bag.

He is unmitigated grace.

Except when he speaks.

When asked about a 3rd world nation that at the time suffered a famine, he was asked “What about Biafra?”.  He answered:  “I don’t know da muddafuka, but when I face him, I will hit a tater.”

Straight faced.  Straight up.  That was Boomer.

And now we say farewell.

The 3x All Star, 8x Gold Glover, home run & RBI champion will forever be

remembered by Sox fans as a valuable part of the ’67 Pennant winners and the

1977 Sox that smashed 32 home runs in 22 games.

He won a minor league Triple Crown.  He wore the Golden Sombrero, striking out 5x in his  MLB debut.  

His 27 HR’s and 90 RBI as a Rookie placed him 4th in the 1966 ROY voting behind Tommy Agee, Jim Nash and Davey Johnson.  At the AS break that year, his stats were .271, 18 , 53.  So good that he started for the AL All Stars over Norm Cash.

He hit one ball so far off of Whitey Ford at Yankee Stadium that Mickey Mantle estimated the ball would have travelled 550 feet were it to have sailed unfettered.

By 1971’s end, Boomer had struck 115 home runs for the BoSox, and been called the best fielding first baseman since Gil Hodges.

He was a rock solid cog in the machine.  I looked forward to the next decade with him at first.

But on Oct. 10, 1971, he was the key man in a 6 player package that went to Milwaukee for Tommy Harper, Marty Pattin and Lew Krause.

In 1975, Brewer team mate Hank Aaron coached him on hitting in ways previously unknown to George. He subsequently posted his best offensive stats with .285, 36 and 109.

Mr. Scott later returned to the Sox for whom he hit another 49 home runs over less than 3 seasons.

He hit 154 HR’s for Boston and 271 total in his career.  He would have ranked 5th all-time in HR’s by a Red Sox player had he played his entire career in Beantown.

Injuries ended his career in 1979 but he went on to bat .335 and .350 in the Mexican League in the early 80’s.

He also managed and coached in the minors until 2002.

He leaves behind three sons: a realtor, a high school principal and an athlete.

Red Sox fans of a certain vintage will always remember you, big man.  You carried a stick of dynamite and a slick piece of leather.

Rest in Peace, Boomer.

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Desparately seeking Buchholz…and a few good Sox

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 2, 2013

Buch is 9-0 and needed.

Buch is 9-0 and needed.

Welcome to the penthouse, my former outhouse colleagues.  The air is fresher, the bar is better stocked, and “the women all have long legs and brains”.  (Ron Shelton, Bull Durham.)

Dogs are sleeping with cats, Rush Limbaugh has a woody for Hillary and the last place Red Sox are 50 – 34.  The good guys are owners of the best record in the AL, perched atop the Eastern Division, with Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester a combined 17 -4.  What’s more, Papi, Ellsbury and the Muddy Chicken are back from injuries and rocking classic offensive stats.

Of course, the closer role is an unmitigated train wreck.  Ryan Hanrahan, the closer designate, is out for the year, just as last year’s designate, Andrew Bailey, was lost for that season.  But the Sox have found the bullpen to be just good enough in 2013 if they re-designate as they go, from Hanrahan to Bailey to Uehara.

(Did you know that Uehara was traded by Baltimore to Texas for Tommy Hunter AND home run basher Chris Davis in 2011?  Can you say Bronson Arroyo for Willy Mo Pena ?)

With big Sox stars raking it and new role players like Iglesias, Victorino and Gomes adding mojo to the effort, with 50 wins and the top spot…..I SHOULD FEEL GOOD !

But I don’t.

Our Sox are riding the coat tails of an 18-8 April and a 5-1 record that closed out June.  Factor out the 5 excellent weeks of play and the Sox are 27 – 25.

You can sense there is a vulnerable underbelly.  And it isn’t the offense.

Through 84 games, the Sox have scored just (11) eleven runs more than the hapless Valentine Men of last year.

What has been different then is the starting pitching.  It has made all the difference.

In April, the month of all wonderful pitching months, Sox hurlers started 26 games and delivered 15 quality starts, plus 8 more quality-cusp starts in which they yielded 3, 2, 1, or 0 runs and went 5 to 5 2/3 IP. 

Rounded for simplicity, the Sox starters gave million dollar performances in 23 of 26 starts.  With a 3.22 ERA.  It’s amazing that the Sox managed to lose 8 times.

We are only as good as our starting pitching and once that factor is proficient, we are only as championship viable as our bullpen.

The 1969 Mets batted just .242, had only one starter who hit .300 and one who hit more than 14 home runs.  9 other NL teams scored more than Hodges boys that year.  The Orioles, champs of the AL, scored 132 more runs in the regular season than the Mets, but superior pitching triumphed in the 1969 World Series.

And it always will.  Which is what has me worried.  Buchholz hasn’t pitched since June 8.  Lester hasn’t pitched well since June 6.  Lackey has been far better than his 5-5 record indicates.  But the Sox won’t make the post-season with a rotation of Doubront, Webster, Dempster, Lackey and Lester.

The Orioles have a ton of offense, a brilliant manager and underdog mojo.  The Blue Jays are fully capable of blowing by everyone if they keep their pitching going.

First place feels great.

But we are just 3 laps into a 6 lap race.

Bring us more pitching.  Bring us a starter, a swing and a closer backup.  Bring back a healthy Buchholz.

Bring it now, Mr. Cherrington.

Go Sox.

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Big Papi: please go to your happy place

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 26, 2013

Where David Hits It

Take a look at where the arrow is pointing in the above seating diagram.  Section 35 is Big Papi’s happy place.

David Ortiz went 3 for 4 in last night’s 7-2 win over the Astros at Fenway, boosting his 2013 BA to .550 (18 at bats.)  Papi continued his current hitting streak with a rbi single in the 1st inning.  It is a 17 game streak at the moment.

Another sign that we are seeing vintage Papi redux is where he deposited his first home run of the season in the 3rd inning.  It landed 6 rows deep in section 35, the straight away center bleacher section that is adjacent to normally canvas covered section.

Long time Papi watchers, all 20 million of them, know that straight away center is where David smacks homeruns when his swing is at peak efficiency.

Last week, several boo birds lamented David’s return when the Papi-less Sox were 12 – 4.  To them I say SHUSH and strap yourself in for the next few weeks.  The swinging F Bomber is making Pedroia-Ortiz-Napoli look like the most dangerous 3-4-5 in the American League. 

Cano-Wells-Cervelli, you say ?

Fahgettaboutit.

Cabrera-Fielder-Martinez, maybe.  But I’m putting all my loot on the big guy, the little a** kicker, and scowling Mike.

Let’s just hope David isn’t downing any magic milkshakes to keep things rolling at age 37.5.

Go David.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

As of this morning, The Astros have the poorest record in the American League.  But not by much.  They hold small margins over Seattle and Toronto for that ignominious title.

The American League licked its collective chops when the woeful ‘Stro’s brought their 55-107 record to the AL West for 2013.  BUT — how fair it is to the AL Central and East to provide the A’s, Rangers and the Angels each 17 opportunities to defeat baseball’s losingest team ?  The East and Central will face the Space City Weaklings just 7 times each.  Hence there is an unfair advantage in the wild card race for the western squads.

This is worth watching as the season grinds on.

To date, Houston is 5-12 against its division mates, with 4 of those wins coming against Seattle.

The Astros haven’t shown much against Texas and the Angels so far and that could be an indication that 2013 will pan out exactly as the East and Central teams feared.  Advantage West.

At least we have the Astros to enjoy for the next 6 games.  2 more at Fenway and 3 in the Bronx after which they will be welcomed in the Motor City.

The 2nd place Tigers will be salivating.

Go Sox.

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Big Fenway Day for Mr. Nobody

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 21, 2013

Nava

It’s been written that Baseball is the perfect game.  Today it allowed everyday heroes to stand center stage and take bows that will be remembered for decades.

Daniel Nava, occasionally familiar with a dramatic homerun, bailed out Clay Buchholz and the non-clutch David Ortiz with a 2-out, 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th.  His bash into the Sox bullpen was caught expertly by teammate Junichi Tazawa.  It drove in the winning runs in the first Fenway game after the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Nava put a fine swing on a 1-1 change-up, depositing it in about the same spot as he did another of Mr. Selig’s spheres on June 12, 2010, when he hit a Joe Blanton pitch to become the second player to ever hit a grand slam home run on the first pitch he was thrown in the majors.

Before that debut game, Johnny Pesky told Daniel that anything could happen in his first upcoming at bat.  Still, Nava wasn’t swinging for a homerun 3 years ago, and he wasn’t swinging for the fences today either.  Nor was he swinging for the big bam on April 8, when his homerun won the 2013 Red Sox home opener.

Ironically, that’s when it happens for Daniel.  When he just swings to make contact.

Baseball success has largely eluded Nava since he was a kid.  Nava was just 4’8 ” tall and weighed 70 pounds as a high school freshman.  He grew to 5’5” and 150 by age 18, but could not make the college team at Santa Clara State.  Thus, he became the Bronco’s equipment manager.  A successful stint as a junior college player later earned him a scholarship in a return to Santa Clara, but he went undrafted by the pro’s.  He had to play independent league ball to continue his dream after college.

The irony is that the man who came through when the city needed it today is the player that nobody wanted. He is the player that spent each of the last 6 seasons playing in the minor leagues while getting just 484 at bats in sporadic stays with the big club.

And the day, this day, that Nava honored Boston, the Red Sox honored on field other unrecognized heroes.   Heroes that wear a cap and badge for Watertown, Boston and the Staties.   Heroes that are everyday citizens.  People who run toward the trouble when hell breaks out, not away from it.

Mr. Nobody came through today, a day that capped a week of terror, heartbreak and relief.

Or should I say that it MIGHT have capped it ?  We don’t know what the 30 year old pride of Mountain View, CA will do for us tomorrow.

Daniel has mojo.  Daniel is the Talisman. 

Go Daniel.  Go Sox.

EMPIRE NOTES

Kevin “I’ll always be a Red Sox” Youkilis, now a Yankee, sports a .295 average currently and has had some timely hits.  No surprise that he doubled in the winning run today against the Jays.  Also no surprise that he left the game early with tightness in his back.  Yankee fans will learn what Sox fans already know about the wear and tear on Kevin’s body.  Youk is Mr. Emo.  He plays all out.  He gets hit, scraped and scuffed.  Youk is a warrior in April and May but will limp to the finish line in August and September.  No criticism intended.  Like former Yankee Paul O’Neil, Youk plays one way.  His intensity is a double edged sword.

Derek Jeter is banged up.  There’s a fracture in the bone that was operated on last year.  Is this the end?  Will he ever again present a reasonable facsimile of his old ability?  Perhaps not.  When the time finally comes for farewells, I’ll remember Jeter for his durability.  The home run he hit for his 3,000th hit was royal.  His 2004 nose bloodying dive into the stands ennobled him.  His patented fall-in-liner started or crowned many a rally.  His batting stats are princely for a shortstop (.313, 255, 1254).  He is almost the King of Shortstops with 2,531 games at SS in 18 years. 

In that count, Jeter is slightly ahead of HOF’er Ozzie Smith, slightly behind HOF’er Aparicio, and 178 games behind the all-time leader, future HOF’er Omar Vizquel. 

Jeter was tip top for a very long time.  He is a first ballot HOF’er.

He would have looked great in a Boston jersey.

Derek Jeter for Scott Cooper in 1994.

I think the Yankees owed us that much.

Go Sox.  J

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A Patriots Day like no other

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 16, 2013

Half Mast

The T ride out of Boston was somber yesterday. 

Patriot’s Day is and always should be one of the best days of the year.  The only morning game in the major leagues commences at the brisk hour of 11 a.m.  About 3 hours later the baseball crowd floods into Kenmore Square and other points on the route of the Boston Marathon.  At that hour, the elite runners have long since finished the race.  The thousands now running, walking and limping past are cops, college students, doctors, pilots, lathe operators and everyone else under the sun. There people dressed as Super Man, cape and all, or human hamburgers.  Or a giant beer cup.  In 2008, I saw 4 BU students each holding the corner of a sofa as they jogged it toward the finish line.   As if there was a furniture division.

More than anything else at that stage of the event, there are thousands with the names of a lost mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, co-worker or friend spelled out on their body.  These runners have lost someone to cancer.  Some of them wear the running shirts of Dana Farber and Boston Childrens Hospital, Mass General or another place of healing.  Fans line the street and shout.  GO DANA FARBER !  GO CHILDRENS !

In that way, Patriots Day is always bittersweet.  It is also always a celebration of life and an overcoming of death.

There is no better day to go to Fenway.  My seat in loge 154 was unimprovable.  The sun was mostly bright.  The crowd was bubbling.  66 years ago to the day, Jackie Robinson played first base for the Brooklyns, breaking the color barrier.  All the Red Sox and Rays wore Jackie’s number 42 on this day.  All MLB players do that on Jackie Robinson Day.

Ryan Dempster gave us a solid start.  Andrew Bailey coughed up the lead in the 9th.  Dustin Pedroia, Boston’s Pocket Hercules, drew a walk in the bottom of the 9th.  Then the newest Beast in Boston, hairy, scowling, hulking Mike Napoli hit a shot off the Monster.  Pedey dashed home with a pop up slide.  Game over.  Sox win.  Bedlam on the field.  Sox storm the diamond.  Tampa heads hang low and stride quietly away.  35,000 exuberant fans scream I LOVE YOU MIKE, and GO SOX, or YOU DA MAN !

Then, Mike Napoli did the on-field TV interview like a man holding his nose and changing a diaper.  He couldn’t wait for it to end.

After 30 minutes of lazing about the Park, I walked two blocks to my spot on Beacon Street. There is a bridge there over the Mass Pike on the Marathon Route.  My friend, Steve McLaughlin, sports photographer extraordinaire, always positions himself on the bridge to snap shots of runners bearing the Dana Farber running top.  By the time I reached Steve at 2:20, he had already snapped 1,400 photographs and filled a 16 MB memory stick.

This was to be a special year.  My cousin Kimberly was running her first marathon today.  I very much looked forward to shouting YOU GO, K-I-M-B-E-R-L-Y ! as she ran past.  I had been receiving text updates for her bib number.  I knew she was about 8 miles or 1 hour away.

While Steve worked I offered encouragement to the runners.  We were at the 25 mile mark.  These athletes were nearing the finish line.  Their faces showed elation, pain and exhaustion.  One runner was decked out in formal attire.  Another one, tall and fit, wore a bright orange body suit with a little red speedo over it.  A gymnastically inclined runner stopped every 100 feet or so to snap off 5 of the sharpest cartwheels ever.  Then came the man in a bright gold spandex suit and a red cape with the letter K emblazoned on it.  He was is the Kancer Killer, perhaps.

Friends screamed out the names of runners as they passed.  Smiles and shouts exchanged.  Brief hugs.  Pure joy.

Just after 2:50, Steve said, “Look at all the cops leaving their posts and heading for Kenmore.”

“Maybe somebody is hurt.”, I offered.

“Maybe.  But I’ve had this gig for a few years and I have never seen the cops do that.  Something is up.  Something has happened.”

Steve was right.  We soon heard there had been 2 explosions at the finish line.  For the next hour, runners continued to run past us.  But many soon came back heading in the opposite direction, walking away from the finish.  Cops, cruisers and emergency vehicles sped past us down Beacon.  Caution and doubt took over. 

Although I stayed until 4 pm, Kimberly did not run past me.  She had heard there was trouble and walked off the course after mile 24, prevented from completing her first marathon by uncontrollable events.

As I cut through a lot on the way to the Fenway T stop, I heard the details about what had taken place.  A carload of fans had the doors of their wagon open with the radio news pouring out.  Clusters of strangers stood in the lot, listening silently.

It had become a very bad day.

Those of us on the train back to the suburbs, mostly strangers, looked each other in the face and talked about what we had seen and how the day’s events would change things.

“It will never be the same.  That’s the sad part.”, said a 50-something man who had enjoyed Boston’s remarkable day for decades.

“It will never be the same.”

We Americans, especially the ones in Northeastern cities, don’t practice hospitality easily.  We don’t look strangers in the face.  We don’t talk to each other unless we are friends.

That train ride was different.  Everyone was thinking the same thing.  This is America.  This is Boston.  We don’t stand for this kind of stuff.  We will do what we have to do.

Of that, there can be no doubt. 

Go Sox.

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