At home at fenway

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

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.

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

Fenway Sleeps. Bring the Memories.

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 4, 2013

1

The snow isn’t on the Fenway infield quite yet but I am already thinking about what this season has been and has meant.

In late March, my cerebral friend and über Sox fan, Marc Wise, predicted about 75 wins for a very broken team coming off the sarcastic rule of Valentine.  Late in game 6 of the just concluded World Series, Marc tucked his new baby boy into his crib and sat back down to watch his team close out the Cardinals for the  championship.  Marc is rich indeed.

On April 1, when the Sox opened the season in the Bronx, I took the Metro North train from New Haven to new Yankee Stadium.  It was supposed to be an easy, streamlined in-and-out of NYC trip.  But it is still a cold, dirty amble to an overbuilt, impersonal concrete slab of a ballpark.  Greed rules.  The historic bones of a baseball shrine have been scattered.  Thank God we still have Fenway and Wrigley.

Speaking of opening day, Dustin Pedroia tore a thumb tendon sliding head first into 1st base that day.  He played injured all year.  He managed to register  .301, 9, 84, with 91 runs scored, playing in 160 games and leading the AL with 724 plate appearances…and won his second gold glove.  I pray that the little man stays healthy another 7 or 8 years.  Then we’ll see about Cooperstown.

The 2013 team threw dirt on the grave of the 2011 team and its legendary, gut wrenching collapse.  Beneath the surface of that soil lies the sadness surrounding Terry Francona’s departure and the bitter bile of Bobby Valentine’s hubris.  All is forgiven now.  I wish Tito good luck, and the same to Valentine’s bosses at Sacred Heart University.

Speaking of Valentine, how many revisions do you think his tell-all book has undergone ?  March 1 Draft Title: ” It wasn’t me; the Sox really suck!”. July 1 Draft Title:  “Even the Titanic started out well!”, and the Final Draft: ” I would have won it all if Cherrington had gotten me these guys!”

I was at Fenway on Opening Day, when Buchholz was brilliant and Daniel Nava, the player nobody wanted, hit a 3 run HR in the 7th to post a 3-1 win.

I was there on Patriots Day, when Napoli’s 9th inning wall ball double won it, 3-2, 90 or so minutes before two twisted boys detonated bombs near the finish line of the Marathon.  The T ride out of the city was somber.  Strangers looked each in the eyes and talked softly about what needed to be done.

David Ortiz’s unfortunate F Bomb on April 16 before the Fenway crowd, and a seemingly total lack of disapproval for it.

The leaving of Jose Iglesias, whose speed and fielding I adored.   The coming of  Xander Boegarts, who I saw hit a laser out of Hadlock Field in 2011, and who wears the “next great” tag.

The hard-to-watch on-camera awkwardness of Erin Andrews on the World Series broadcasts on Fox.  Heidi Watney is tip top and Rachel Nichols is almost as good as Heidi as an on-field reporter.  Andrews’ queerish self-awareness and odd interview questions make her a square peg in a round hole.  I can’t believe Fox prefers her to the others.

Fox broadcasters made a shallow & disconnected attempt to get a charge out of this championship being the first won in Boston since 1918.  It was an attempt to recall and reignite the emotional relief New England felt in 2004 when an 86 year drought ended.  It wasn’t the same.  It was poorly scripted.

The presence of Jonny Gomes, John Lester and others in Gillette Stadium for the Nov. 3 Pats vs. Steelers game was a master stroke, as was the observance at the Marathon finish line made the day before by the parading duck boats.

Fair thee well, Jacoby and Salty.  I’ll be rooting for you unless you put on pinstripes.

Congrats, Ben Cherrington.  Perhaps it was you who worked the magic that Theo got credit for in 2007.

Thanks again Larry.  I owe you.  Three times now.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL | Leave a Comment »

The Papi Slam +1: These guys are human

Posted by athomeatfenway on October 18, 2013

UntitledI am going to make a strong effort to remember that MLB players are just people.   I saw something the other day that made me decide this.

The Papi Slam and victory in ALCS game 2 were rarified highs.  After the game I slept smiling ear-to-ear in a hotel 6 blocks from Fenway.  I snoozed  in a bed of dreams that made all my championship wishes seem possible.

The next morning I decided to walk past the new Yaz statue on Van Ness Street outside Fenway.  It was beautiful and sunny.  Yaz looked great.  So did his bronzed colleagues Ted, Johnny, Bobby and Dom.

There were busses lined up near the corner of Van Ness & Fenway, some labeled Player Bus 1, Player Bus 2, Staff Bus 1, etc..

It was approaching 10 a.m..  Looked like the team would soon be showing up to bus it to Logan, then fly to Motown for Game 3.

I stood with a flock of camera men and TV reporters behind a barrier near the first bus.  Before long, Fenway security placed another barrier behind us ensconcing me and the news folk in a media bullpen between the busses and the players entrance.

The fun soon started.  20 fans lined up in less proximate positions.  Everyone strained to identify the players in street clothes.  Easier said than done when trying to ID a part time player with one of many bushy beards.

Don Orsillo, NESN & MLB talent passed the gauntlet and received warm greetings.  Don drives a 2005 Volvo S60 just like my wife. 

Joe Castiglione walked through, sadly unrecognized by everyone but me, and that only at the last moment.

John Lackey, on foot, strode quickly into the ballpark , mute and surly.  He ignored my call of Go get ‘em, Johnny boy”.

Buchholz soon entered and like Lackey maintained a frozen façade that my Go Get ‘Em quips couldn’t break.

Shane Victorino came through and he too played the Ice King.

I decided to take a different approach with these young millionaires.

Jacoby Ellsbury, toting a drag bag and tailed by a red coated brunette, came briskly through the partition with eyes fixed straight ahead.  “Hey, Ells, GREAT GAME last night!”, I shouted.  Ellsbury looked squarely at me.  He face relaxed and broke into a beautiful smile.  “Thank you.”, he nodded, exuding joy and pride.  Don’t think for a minute that being gifted, young and rich makes you immune to the intoxication of making baseball history.

Pedroia soon scooted through.  “Great Game, Pedey!”, I yelled.  The Boston player with the biggest heart turned to me with a great big smile and said, “Thanks, man.”  He was really feeling it.

PedeyNo question about it.  When your team almost gets no-hit on Saturday, gets no-hit for 6 IP’s and down by 4 runs in the 8th on Sunday, and then pulls it out with 5 runs in the 8th and 9th to avoid going into a 2 games to 0 hole, you feel like your crew is writing one dramatic story.

The exposition goes back to Sept., 2011.  The Sox went 7-17 and were eliminated from the playoffs on the last day, frittering away a 9 game wild card lead.  Francona exited in shame.  Theo hauled ass to Chicago.  Valentine brought his special sarcasm to the mix.  A super storm of injuries hit the team and they went 69 – 93 in 2012.

Picked to finish 4th, these Sox have already written a terrific story with a 97 – 65 WL record.  Even their most loyal fans predicted  75 wins. 

This group of gritty Sox ground out a fairy tale turn around.

Dangling from the ledge of near-elimination on Sunday, they pulled out another crazy comeback.

It’s dramatic.  It will be talked about for decades.  The players know this.

More players arrived.  More softened and responded when praised for the great turn-around the prior evening.

Even the News people noticed and started to yell Great Game.

The scene took a turn for the worse when Jonny Gomes drove up in his uber truck, a big black behemoth with a dozen manufacturer decals.  Jonny’s wife popped out of the passenger side as Jonny rounded the front to her side.

“Why are you taking pictures of my wife?”, Jonny shouted at a TV reporter who had been tweeting photos of the arriving players.

Jonny Gomes, looking not at all chubby as he can look in his baggy uniform, stood ram rod straight, a stack of muscle and fuming testosterone, glaring at the reporter.

“I…..I was absolutely NOT shooting your wife.”, the newsman stammered.

“YES, YOU WERE!”, the outfielder said as he took 3 menacing steps toward the man.

“No, no.  I wasn’t.”, he offered, humbly and softly.

“100%!”, Gomes yelled, indicating his level of confidence that the reporter was a lying dirtbag.

“No, no…..here, look at the camera, look at my shots.  Your wife is not in them.”

For one stone silent moment Gomes stared at the scribe, seeming to weigh whether or not to pummel him.  Then Jonny Gomes picked up a baby carrier from his back seat, a wee one tucked inside, and walked silently away.

I later chatted with the reporter, congratulating him on getting Gomes to talk.  The tension gone, he offered to show me his photos to prove his innocence.  Still later, when I asked for copies of his shots, he mentioned he was also taking photos with his personal I Phone. 

Gomes may have been right.  Or maybe not.  But I’d like to think it was a simple misunderstanding.

One thing is for certain.  These players are human.  They soar with historic victory, and they bristle when they think that someone they love might be used.

They’re just folks.  I’ll remember that.

As always, I’ll be rooting for the Sox.  And I’ll be thinking about the people on that team.

Go Sox.

Gomes

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury | Leave a Comment »

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/

Xxxxxxxxx

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.

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.

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

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.

Posted in new england patriots | Leave a Comment »

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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