At home at fenway

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

A PODGE OF HODGES, CUBBIES & MARIANO

Posted by athomeatfenway on August 12, 2013

 Hodges Mariano pic

Some observations from my baseball life today…..

Today, Mariano Rivera gave up a game tying HR in the 9th to the devastating Miguel Cabrera.  In so doing, he blew his 3rd save in 3 consecutive opportunities.  That had never happened in Mariano’s 19 year career. 

This inspired me to look at Mariano’s game logs on BBRef so I could savor his greatness but then I thought why waste my time.  The game logs will only show he was the perfect closer, totally unique and unimproveable.  It’s a good thing for Yankee fans that Big Stein was banned while Gene Michael assembled the Core 4 back in the day.  As Pete Golenbock wrote in his 2009 book on The Boss, “Another trade that George ordered that Michael refused to make was twenty-one year old Mariano Rivera for veteran free spirit David Wells.  When Michael saw that Rivera was throwing 94 miles per hour, all talks were off.”

Boy.  Without Mariano, the Yankees might be shooting for championship #24 these days.  He’s a true great and he could blow his next 10 saves without diminishing his luster.

Rivera, you would have looked great in a Boston uni.

Xxxxxxxxx

Larry Colton, author of a baseball and Civil Rights book (Southern League) was on Book TV today.  Colton has written a number of books but he was also a bonafide pro player in his youth, mainly in the minors.  He did however appear in one game for the Phillies in which he struck out 2 in 2 IP.  He K’d Vada Pinson and George Culver on May 8, 1968 as his Phil’s lost to the Reds 10 – 1. 

Colton’s cup of joe came after 3 years of apprenticeship in Eugene, Macon and with the old San Diego Padres of the PCL. 

Culver, his first victim, was a righty reliever who batted .124 lifetime.    Not too memorable. 

Pinson, however, was a 4x All Star, a lifetime .286 hitter who batted over .300 four times.  He led the NL in 4 key hitting categories 7 x:  Runs (1), hits (2),  doubles (2), and triples (2).

How happy is the memory of K’ing Pinson for the 71 year old Colton?  I wanted to know.   Turns out, Colton was happy just to not screw the pooch and lose his composure as he debuted against the likes of  Johnny Bench (ground out), Pete Rose (double) and Tony Perez (double).  Colton is a fine writer and you can read his blog post about his one and only game in the bigs with this link:

http://www.larrycolton.com/1992/03/13/my-first-game-a-goat-brothers-excerpt/

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Is it my imagination or is the unpopularity of the Cubs on a never ending downswing ?  Vintage  Cub publications from the 50’s and 60’s seem to be offered on eBay at 70% off and go unsold week after week after week.  And their local broadcasts ratings in Chicagoland are off 15% from one year ago, drawing half the audience that Bulls games get and one-third the audience that Black Hawk games enjoy.  Oddly, the Cubs are 52- 64 today,  certainly better than the 46 – 70 mark they were at one year ago.  (I’d mention how their attendance is also off but so is everyone else’s this year.)

Xxxxxxxxx

Should Gil Hodges be in the HOF ?  Some folks really care about this subject. 

Hodges was a wonderful player on a mythical team, a perennial contender, the Brooklyn Dodgers of 1947 to 1957.  He hit 370 homeruns, was probably the best fielding first baseman of his era, and he was a very, very good hitter for 7 years.

As a manager, he led the Mets from  worst to first, flipping the oddsmakers on their heads in 1969 before he was taken suddenly by a heart attack in 1973, a middle aged man gone far too early.

Unfortunately for Hodges supporters, he wasn’t great in his own time and thus isn’t a HOFer.  Hodges  never led the NL in a key offensive category like average, OBP, Hits, Walks, doubles, triples, stolen bases, runs scored or RBI. Not even once.

He did lead the league in striking out once, sacrifice hits twice, and games played twice. 

Sorry, Hodges supporters.

Go Sox.

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Posted in BASEBALL, NEW YORK YANKEES | Leave a Comment »

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.

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

The Yankee Depression of ’13

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 13, 2013

When will Suzyn get her Buffalo leashed?

When will Suzyn get her Buffalo leashed?

In this year when Suzyn Waldman and her trained buffalo are having trouble finding nice things to say about the Yankees I am having no difficulty finding the bad.

Waldman and her loudmouthed Yankee broadcast partner saw Ryan Doumit’s line leave Yankee Stadium.  “IT’S GONE!”, the Buffalo exclaimed.  “No doubt about it, it was a laser.  Two runs on two home runs for the Twins, and they lead the Yankees 2 – 1 here in the 6th.”

“And for this Yankee team, a team that cannot score, that’s bad.”, said Waldman. “ In the past, being down one run in the 6th you would say ‘who cares’, but not with this team.”

“So true”, said the Buffalo.

There was a pregnant silence.

“Well, even with the two homeruns given up by Hughes, he has pitched fantastically today.  I would have him pitch this way every time he makes a start!”, asserted the Buffalo.

“True.”, said Waldman.

Waldman and Buff are in the unusual position of having to dig deep to find something nice to say.

They are subdued and beaten.  They are in a dark mood, sounding like reprimanded adolescents.

There is a lot to be bummed out about.  

Jeter is on the DL again.  The everyday line-up is largely unrecognizable.  The 37-53 (4th place) Twins were out slugging the Yankees in the Bronx.

The Yankees were on a 3 game winning streak as they entered this game.  Good news, right ?  Well….not really.  Those 3 wins were preceded by 3 straight losses.  And those 3 losses were preceded by 6 straight wins – which were preceded by 5 straight losses.

That’s some ugly streaking.

It’s an ugly year in the Evil borough.  I am taking as much relish in these Yankees difficulties as I would in casting a ballot to block Herr Steinbrenner from entering the HOF.

There is so much to enjoy.

CC Sabathia lost his last start by a 3-1 score.  He threw a 113 pitch complete game against the Royals but the Yanks could not score for him.   Nice. 

Yankee fans are sticking a shiv in Joe Girardi’s back again, ignoring the fact that the former Yank catcher has the team 9 games over .500 despite the $90 million of Bomber payroll on the D.L.. 

“I don’t think Girardi is handling the pitchers well.  They should get rid of him.”, says Yankee fan Ray in the Credit Union.

I love it.

 

Even better, the Yankee line-up is a mess.

Cast your eyes around the Yankee infield and say hello to 4 All Stars:  Teixiera, Cano, Jeter and A Rod.  Whoa.  Hang on a second.  It’s Overbay, Cano, Nunez and Cruz.  I feel downright disoriented.

And do we have Ichiro, Granderson and Swisher in the outfield ?  No.  Swisher went to Cleveland and Grandy has a broken pinky.  So the Yankees have Almonte, Gardner and Suzuki chasing fly balls.

The catching is less than tip top.  The Bombers have Austin Romine behind the plate.  He is batting .162.  Russell Martin and Jorge Posada are long gone.

The Yanks can’t score.  They are inconsistent.   They start 5 guys with whom the casual fan is totally unfamiliar. Jeter is back on the DL after missing 90 games with a broken ankle.

And CC loses a gem.

I hope you are enjoying this baseball season as much as I am.

Go Sox.

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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.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, RED SOX | Leave a Comment »

The Aaron Hernandez media circus

Posted by athomeatfenway on June 27, 2013

Rest in Peace, Odin Lloyd.

Rest in Peace, Odin Lloyd.

It’s rough out there today on the airwaves.  The media circus is doing a brisk business.

“I would rather be raped by a gang of Latin Kings than give up my coffee!”, quoth WEEI shockmeister, Gerry Callahan this morning in reference to the coffee-free penal culture in which Aaron Hernandez is now held.

As much as Gerry gets under my skin every time he leans against “the lazy”, against Larry Lucchino, or against Barack O’Bama, as much as I dislike his controlled aggression, even I do not want the Latin Kings taking him up on his suggested quid-pro-quo.

Careful, Gerry.

There was a somber moment today, possibly an accurate one, in which Attorney Harry L. Manion was on air and suggested that one year from today Hernandez would be represented by the Public Defender because he would be penniless.  Manion explained that legal costs will cause a cash-drain that could be accelerated by a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of the deceased, and further accelerated when the Patriots cut off scheduled payments of Hernandez’s guaranteed signing bonus, should such an action be legal under the present collective bargaining agreement.

The WEEI hosts thanked Manion for making us all smarter than we were before he came on the air.  But really, Manion’s appearance was all about continuing the shock effect of the 24/7 coverage.  It helps to paint the picture of a 23 year old man who couldn’t control his anger, killed a man and lost a fortune — quickly.  It’s a classic tragedy.  Tragedy boosts ratings, ratings sell radio advertisements.

Another of today’s media moments was positively prescient.  “He looked like he thought he had ended up where he would always end up, at his felony arraignment.”  That is what one WEEI caller, a man who had served 56 months himself, said Hernandez looked like when he was brought into court to face the charges.

Wow.  That former convict read the look on Aaron Hernandez’s face via TV and that is what he ascertained.  You could almost see what he was talking about.  If you think you can read minds.

Lastly, there was a caller who expressed his disgust that Aaron Hernandez was being partially excused for allegedly killing Odin Lloyd, excused because he is young, and because he lost his Dad at age 16.

I don’t get that.

As far as I can see, no one is making any excuses for Aaron Hernandez.  In fact, the media, talk radio specifically, already has him tried and convicted.

And maybe Hernandez is guilty.  The long list of leaked evidence indicates as much.  But it doesn’t serve a useful purpose for the media to make a spectacle of this tragedy. 

The terrible loss of Odin Lloyd, a child of God, is of great pain to his mother, Ursula Ward, and his father, and his sister, Olivia Thibou, and others.  The death of Odin need not be fodder for ratings sharks and a violence addled audience.

The death of a child or brother is a nightmare that never ends.  The memory of their laughter, the day they first tied their shoe, their first date, a graduation, the little things unbalance the mind and break the heart just when you have stopped thinking about them.

Rest in Peace Odin.  May God now hold your family in his hands.

Go Sox.

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Keeping my Cabreras straight

Posted by athomeatfenway on May 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

Multiple players with the same surname were a simultaneous rarity.

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

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

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

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

That’s it, correct?

Nope.  

Let’s go over this slowly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now if I can just keep them all straight.

Go Sox.

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Of “42”, Anibal Sanchez and Theodore Roosevelt Lilly

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 30, 2013

Ted Lilly keeps cool like his namesake

Ted Lilly keeps cool like his namesake

Last night Don Mattingly wrote in 37 year old Ted Lilly for a start against the Colorado Rockies.  Lilly, who was 10-2 lifetime against the Rocks, was making his second appearance of the year after coming off the DL .

With the Dodgers one game over .500 and angling to close ground on the Rockies and D Backs, Ted Lilly didn’t deliver.  He reinjured himself.  He is heading back to the DL.  Ted Lilly allowed 8 hits and 2 BB in 3 innings, yielding 5 runs. 

This is not a good harbinger for the old lefty’s future ability to stay in the big money game that is Major League Baseball today.   His days of expensive cars and real estate deals could be ending.

Not a good day for Ted Lilly.

Correction.  Not a good day for Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III.  That is his christened name.  His son is christened TR the IV, by the way.  This naming phenomenon, surely one of the most unique in baseball history, can be traced back to TR III’s great grandfather, who rode with the original TR and his Rough Riders in the Spanish American War.

Ted’s great grandfather admired Teddy Roosevelt greatly.  TR the III gains psychic power and confidence from his namesake and his legendary energy for living and accomplishing things.

TR was a wonderful conservationist who signed the proclamation creating Yosemite as our nation’s 5th national park.  Ted Lilly grew up 40 miles from Yosemite  and attended Yosemite High School.

Such beautiful continuity and connection.  Truth is more fascinating than fiction.

I wish Theodore Roosevelt Lilly well in his bid to continue his major league dream.  He is 2 years removed from complete health and a regular work load.  We can be confident that this reticent, determined player will not give up until they take the game away from him.

When it comes to ballplayers so Presidentially named, there have been 69 others.  There have been 19 George Washington’s, by far the most prolific Prez Player name, the best of which was 6x stolen base king, George Washington Case.

There have been 3 Abraham Lincolns, 4 U.S. Grants, 5 Andrew Jacksons, one Franklin Delano Wiend to play in the bigs.

3 William McKinleys.  3 Woodrow Wilsons.

The greatest of all these was of course Grover Cleveland Alexander.  Hall of Fame 1938,.  373 wins.  6 K titles.  5 ERA crowns.  He ranks far above Grover Cleveland Baichley, Land and Lowdermilk.

But the best and most unique Presidential Player name is by far the one-and-only CALVIN COOLIDGE JULIUS CAESAR TUSKAHOMA McLISH.

McLish’s Dad took use a full scoop of creativity when given permission to name the boy.  Cal McLish was monikered after our 30th President, a Roman Emperor and the capital city of Choctaw Nation.

Cal McLish had a wonderful career.  It came in 2 distinctive parts.  Starting in 1944, He struggled for 12 years, bouncing around the minors with an ERA approaching 8.00 and putting runners on base in plentitude.

But Cal put it together in 1956.  For the next 8 years, he started 315 games, completed 1300 IP, and registered a dandy 3.08 ERA.

Nice turnaround.

Like his linguistic teammate, McLish, Ted Lilly won’t give up either.  Not until they away the old apple.

Go Ted.

Go Sox.

Xxxxxxxxxxx

A tip of the hat to Anibal Sanchez, who K’d 17 Braves 4 days ago at Comerica, setting the single game record for the Motor City Kitty Kats.    That’s a nice trick and one that gives Justin Verlander a goal to surpass.  Wouldn’t be surprised if JV beats it one day.

This is a nice piece of work for this 29 year old with 149 career starts under his belt.  It goes nicely on his resume with his no-hitter against the D Backs in 2006, Sanchez’s rookie year.

Imagine if he had made 133 of those starts for a better team than the lowly Marlins, his previous employer.  Instead of a career 51-52 WL,  better hitting teammates might have netted him another 20 wins.

So add Anibal to the well-established list of talented Venezuelan big leaguers, a roster of 400+ men headlined by Aparicio, Vizquel, Armas, and Sanchez’s teammates Miggy Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

No wonder Venezuelans are fiercely proud of their own.

Anibal was Red Sox property until he was traded in 2005 with Hanley Ramirez +2 to the Marlins for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell +1.

No regrets on that one among Sox fans.  But you have to smile at how well things have turned out for Anibal Sanchez.  I wish him all the luck in the world against 28 major league opponents.

Xxxxxxxxxxx

Best line I heard this week:  “In the mid-1960’s, people used to say that the “TC” on the Twins cap did not stand for Twin Cities; it stood for Twenty Cubans, because the Twins signed so many talented Latins.”  (– Paul Hensler, Ellington, CT man and author of The American League in Transition, 1965-1975.)

Amusing debate:  On the Facebook Baseball Book group there has been jousting about the movie “42”.  The subjects of contention are whether the computer images of Forbes Field and Ebbetts Field are correct, and how the film failed to cover the very significant civil rights work that Jackie performed after retirement.  Lastly, there has been debate whether or not actor Chadwick Bozeman’s physique was too “cut” to resemble the barrel chested Jackie Robinson at age 28.

These are fine points of amusement but they matter little.  I am just glad the film was made.  I hope Rachel, Sharon and David Robinson consider making a sequel.  Jackie’s life story tells a long and important, heartrending and heart lifting, story about America.

Go Sox.

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Big Papi: please go to your happy place

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 26, 2013

Where David Hits It

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

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

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

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

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

Cano-Wells-Cervelli, you say ?

Fahgettaboutit.

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

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

Go David.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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

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

This is worth watching as the season grinds on.

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

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

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

The 2nd place Tigers will be salivating.

Go Sox.

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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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