August 31, 2007

G135: Orioles 9, Red Sox 8

I had written this one off as a loss during the seventh-inning stretch, with Baltimore holding a 9-3 lead.

Mike Timlin made his 1,000th game memorable for the wrong reasons. In seven batters, the White Flag allowed four hits, one walk and four runs. I'm not sure why Manny Delcarmen was not used in that 6th inning spot -- the score when Timlin came in was only 4-3. MDC did start the eighth.

But the Red Sox rallied against the weak O's pen. Three runs in the seventh: Dustin Pedroia doubled and scored on Kevin Youkilis's single and then -- after a walk to David Ortiz, two outs, and an infield single from Coco Crisp -- Eric Hinske doubled to right to make it 9-6.

With one out in the eighth, Pedroia singled (he finished the game 4-for-5) and Yook was HBP for the second time in the game. But Ortiz, who hit his 26th home run in the first inning, stepped in as the tying run -- and grounded into a 1-6-3 double play.

In the bottom of the ninth, against Danys Baez, it was the "automatic outs" who nearly pulled the game out of the loss column. Mike Lowell (3-for-5) singled to left, pinch-hitter Alex Cora singled to right and after Crisp flied to center, Hinske (3-for-3, walk, 4 RBI) singled to make it 9-7. Julio Lugo hit a smash off Melvin Mora's glove at third for an error. The 8th run scored and Hinske moved to third as the potential tying run. Jason Varitek, who had batted for Kevin Cash and made the first out in the eighth, grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

So it's a loss, but it's a loss that doesn't bother me a whole lot right now -- an hour after the last out. Plenty of good news from the bats and Crisp made a couple of great grabs in center, one saving Jonathan Papelbon's bacon in the top of the ninth.

New York managed only two hits against Tampa Bay and lost 9-1. Toronto beat Seattle 7-5. So the standings remain the same. Boston 5 GA in the East, MFY 1 GA in the wild card.

***

Globe, 5:16 pm:
Tim Wakefield has been scratched from tonight's start because of a sore back. Julian Tavarez will move from his scheduled tomorrow to tonight. A starter for Saturday has not been determined.

Wakefield ... is expected to miss just one turn in the rotation. ... Dan Shaughnessy notes that Wakefield was in the outfield earlier working with pitching coach John Farrell, not his usual routine. Perhaps they were testing out his back.

Kevin Cash will remain in the lineup at catcher.
Sexy Lips (4.84, 93 ERA+)

***

Radhames Liz (7.50, 59 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.16, 109 ERA+)

Wakefield hasn't allowed a run in 22 innings. He beat the Orioles on August 2, allowing three runs over seven innings. ... Liz made his major league debut on August 25, giving up five runs to the Twins in six innings. He was 11-4, 3.22 Bowie (AA), with 161 strikeouts in 137 innings.

New York (5 GB) hosts Tampa Bay: Sonnanstine/Hughes.

Vote for Coma Guy

Vote: Steve Manganello for president of Red Sox Nation.

Despite my personal feelings about this election, it's happening and Steve deserves it more than anyone. He was in a coma -- and missed the entire 2004 postseason.

Can you imagine? You follow the Red Sox for decades (including the crushing pain of 2003), you get hit by a car as the 2004 ALDS against the Angels begins, you are unconscious for weeks, and when you come out of it, you are told that what you'd hoped your whole life to see, actually happened while you were out.

Someone is gonna win this thing. It should be Steve.

Rookie Starters v Red Sox

There is a perception among Boston fans (including me) that the Red Sox do poorly against starting pitchers they have not seen before, specifically rookie pitchers just promoted to the major leagues.

But is it true?

In the last four seasons -- 2004 to 2007 -- the Red Sox have faced a starting pitcher with 10 or fewer career appearances 31 times. (They will face #32 tonight.) Here is the list.

There are some gems in there (Scott Kazmir's first start, Brandon McCarthy, Joe Saunders, Micah Owings, Jesse Litsch), but there are also plenty of duds (Josh Stewart, Shawn Hill, Alay Soler, Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright).

Stats by season:
         G   IP    H   R  ER  BB   K  HR   ERA
2004 7 35.2 25 13 12 16 35 3 3.03
2005 5 25.2 18 11 10 16 23 1 3.51
2006 12 60.0 85 49 46 30 36 13 6.90
2007 7 31.1 45 18 18 16 19 6 5.17

Totals 31 157.2 173 91 86 78 103 23 4.91
The Red Sox went 15-16 in these games, including losing six in a row in 2006. I'm not sure when this perception really took hold -- it goes back to at least 2003 with me -- but it undoubtedly got a big boost in early July 2006 -- after Boston lost three of these games in approximately two weeks (although were also some of the worst starting performances on the list).

This theory may have held water in 2004 and 2005, but it doesn't reflect the reality of the last two seasons.

Pedroia: "You've Created A Monster"

Hacks with Haggs has an exceptional interview with Arizona State University baseball coach Pat Murphy. Dustin Pedroia played for Murphy at ASU from 2002-2004.

One snip:
One time we're playing Fullerton or something like that and he's a freshman and he strikes out to lead off the game, which is something he rarely ever does, and I come over to Dustin and say 'Hey Dustin, how was that slider?' and he says back to me 'Coach ... that thing is so nasty.' Well the rest of the team heard him say that and they're going to start thinking it's nasty and if Pedroia can't hit that slider then the rest of them can't hit it either.

I pulled him aside and I said 'Pedroia, for the rest of your life if someone asks you about a pitch you say 'ah ... it's alright but I should have hit it.'

But now you've got the other side of it where you've created a monster and for the next three years every time ... every time you asked Pedroia how the pitchers stuff was he would say 'this guy sucks ... he's terrible.' ...

Oh my God ... when we were facing a pretty good pitcher from Wichita State or Duke or something he'd lead off the game and hit a line drive and come running past the pitcher yelling 'you better get used to it ... I'm going to be hitting rockets off you all day.' Then he hits a home run against [Mike] Pelfrey and he yells to him '97 mph coming in and 197 mph going out' as he's rounding the bases. He'd just be chirping the whole game.

August 30, 2007

G134: Yankees 5, Red Sox 0

Never a dull moment.

Wang followed the TCM (5.1 no-hit innings) with six no-hit frames of his own this afternoon before leaving with a 7-1-0-4-5, 103 line.

Cano hit two solo home runs off Schilling (7-6-2-1-4, 88) -- leading off the 3rd and 5th innings -- then the MFY tacked on three more runs off Jeemer in the eighth (an RBI double from Abreu and a throwing error by Varitek (which allowed two runs to cross)).

The bats were non-existent: 13 hits in the three games, only six in the last two. And six runs in 27 innings. ... But as the true measure of the offense was not the White Sox series, neither is it these past three games. There will be panic, but my glass in (at least) half-full. A 80-54 record and a five-game lead at the end of August.

Now we feast on the dregs of the East for 13 games: the Orioles (at Fenway tomorrow), Blue Jays and Devil Rays. Then the Yankees invade Fenway on September 14.

***

Curt Schilling (4.11, 110 ERA+) / Chien-Ming Wang (3.95, 109 ERA+)

Random notes:
Schilling has allowed five earned runs all three times he's faced the Yankees this season. Twice, the team has won, though the right-hander was long gone on both occasions. ... the Yankees are hitting him at a .372 clip. ...

Wang has been shaky in three starts against the Red Sox this year, allowing nearly two baserunners per inning, but still managing to win two of his three starts. ...

Bobby Abreu is the only Yankees regular to have never homered off Schilling. But with 14 hits in 37 career at-bats, he also holds a .378 average off the right-hander, tops on the team.
In New York, even after two wins against Boston, they are talking only about the wild card.



Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
Last night's 4-3 Yankee win over the Red Sox might not have the city of Boston in a panic-stricken uproar this morning. But maybe it kept the Beantowners from getting a full night's sleep while the Bombers were daring to dream.

Yes, the Yankees still trail their rivals by six games in the American League East, a huge margin with just 29 games remaining in the season.

Fashion Police

New York Post:
... Bob Watson entered the Red Sox dugout during last night's game to talk to Terry Francona about not wearing a uniform jersey while managing. Francona opts for a red pullover, which is sanctioned by MLB properties. ...

"Get out of the dugout during the game," Francona firmly told Watson, who left.

Watson ... recently docked Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long $1,000 for not wearing a jersey.
Doesn't Yankee Bob have other issues with which to waste his time? ... Also, Connie Mack agrees with Tito: Watson can go pound sand.

August 29, 2007

G133: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3

Comeback falls short.
Red Sox - 000 001 020 - 3  4  1
Yankees - 030 000 10x - 4 14 0
Gotta push it back to 7 GA tomorrow afternoon.

***

Josh Beckett (3.21, 141 ERA+) / Roger Clemens (4.34, 99 ERA+)

Was Gagne Tipping His Pitches?

Rob Bradford of the Herald writes that after watching hours and hours of video with pitching coach John Farrell, Eric Gagne may have found a flaw in his delivery:
What the Red Sox reliever was doing was holding his glove down by his waist before his delivery and then grabbing for the ball in a different manner, depending on the pitch. For a fastball he was coming in more from the side, for a breaking ball from the top.

To fix the problem Gagne started with his glove higher, eliminating the tell by grabbing every pitch in the same manner.
Gagne changed his approach on August 19. His Boston stats:
           G IP  H  R BB  K  ERA   AVG  OBP  SLG
Aug 2-17 7 6 14 10 3 8 15.00 .452 .500 .742
Aug 19-28 4 4 4 0 1 5 0.00 .250 .294 .250

August 28, 2007

G132: Yankees 5, Red Sox 3

Distance to the RF pole at Yankee Stadium? 314 feet. Distance of Johnny Damon's two-run, tie-breaking home-run in the seventh inning? 315 feet.

New York got two runs in the first off Dice, the second on coming on a double by Jorge Posada. After that hit, Matsuzaka retired 12 of the next 13 batters -- and the Red Sox tied it up. Manny Ramirez hit a solo shot to right in the second and Julio Lugo tripled and scored on David Ortiz's fly ball to left in the third.

The teams' captains traded solo home runs (Derek Jeter in the 5th, Jason Varitek in the 7th) before Damon gave the MFY a 5-3 lead.

Facing Joba Chamberlain in the 8th, Kevin Youkilis walked and, with two outs, Mike Lowell singled. But JD Drew fanned against the Hut. Mariano Rivera set down Varitek (K), Coco Crisp (K) and Lugo (L4) in the ninth with a problem.

This was a game the Yankees had to win -- and they did. Nothing to do but brush this one aside -- which is easy, knowing it's August 29 and we have a seven-game lead -- and get ready to humiliate Fat Billy tomorrow.

***

Daisuke Matsuzaka (3.76, 120 ERA+) / Andy Pettitte (3.69, 116 ERA+)

Stats 'n stuff.

Less Drama, More Fun


Nine days ago, Boston's lead over New York in the AL East was down to only four games. Tonight, as the Red Sox invade Yankee Stadium for a three-game series, the margin has doubled. Aren't you glad you didn't listen to fools and go leap off the top of a tall building?

(OMG: Look at that headline!! Why do so few people know how to correctly use an apostrophe? Does the Herald employ professional editors? ... Do they even teach this shit in school anymore? How embarrassing.)

With the eight-game bulge, the series has lost a bit of urgency. Sean McAdam calls it more of An Afterthought than The Showdown. Nick Cafardo writes that "for a flickering moment, there was a race in the American League East."

Mark Feinsand of the Daily News admits this series will likely "have a different feel to it than your typical late-season New York-Boston matchup. In the Post, George King says the Yankees are "just about out of contention in the AL East and fighting for their wild-card lives".

So ... less drama for the media, but a lot of fun for us. There is very little downside in this series. A sweep would sound the death knell for the Yankees, but even if Boston drops two of the three games, New York would still be 7 GB with 28 to play.

Elsewhere: Jeff Goldberg looks back to last Friday, August 24 as the season's most pivotal day. "It began Friday at 1 p.m., with 18 innings, and ended Saturday at 3:30 a.m., in extra innings. For the Red Sox, the day brought a dominating doubleheader sweep in Chicago. For the Yankees, a demoralizing defeat in Detroit."

Mike Lowell and David Ortiz were named co-AL players of the week. Lowell batted .500 (14-for-28) with three doubles, a homer, 11 RBI and a .714 slugging percentage. Ortiz hit .478 (11-for-23) with two doubles, a triple, three homers, eight RBI and 11 runs scored. All three of his homers this weekend came on first pitches.

Rob Bradford notes that Flo is 26-for-58 (.448) with six home runs when he puts the first pitch in play. (Dustin Pedroia has the team's best first pitch average: .474 (18-38)).

Lowell loves batting in the #5 spot. "I think my mind-set works good for that. Not that it doesn't at No. 6, but I like it. I've been a 5-hole hitter a lot in my career." In 68 plate appearances in the 5-hole this season, Lowell is hitting .458/.529/.746. He has 93 RBI, the most by a Boston 3B since Butch Hobson had 112 in 1977.

Mike Timlin Appearance Meter: 998. ... The Red Sox outscored the White Sox 27-2 from the seventh inning on during their four-game series. Boston has scored a major league-best 226 runs after the sixth inning this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury extended his club-record hitting streak at Pawtucket to 23 games. ... Jon Lester pitched six inning for Portland last night, allowing one run, five hits and four walks. He struck out four as the Sea Dogs beat Trenton 5-2.

August 27, 2007

Schadenfreude 22 (A Continuing Series)




You know it's coming ...

Monday night:
Yankees  000 000 000 -  0  3  1 
Tigers 123 130 60x - 16 20 0

IP H R ER BB SO
Mussina 3.0 9 6 6 1 0
Ramirez 1.0 1 1 1 1 1
Henn 2.2 8 9 7 5 4
Bruney 1.1 2 0 0 0 0

Verlander 7.0 3 0 0 2 6
Miner 2.0 0 0 0 0 1
8 GA.

Road Runners

The Red Sox's romp through Chicago's pitching staff (11-3, 10-1, 14-2, 11-1) was the first time in major league history that a road team has swept a four-game series with 10 or more runs scored in each game.

Also, it has been 85 years since an American League team had scored 10+ in each game of a four-game series (the other three times: St. Louis Browns 1920, St. Louis Browns 1922, Colorado Rockies 1996).

Here are the previous times the Red Sox have scored in double figures for four consecutive games (with a little bonus from 1950).
June 14, 1901: Red Sox 16, Tigers 7
June 15, 1901: Red Sox 12, Tigers 4
June 17, 1901: Red Sox 11, Tigers 1
June 17, 1901: Red Sox 10, Tigers 1

June 20, 1912: Red Sox 15, Yankees 8
June 21, 1912: Red Sox 11, Yankees 3
June 22, 1912: Red Sox 13, Yankees 2
June 22, 1912: Red Sox 10, Yankees 3

June 2, 1950: Red Sox 11, Cleveland 5
June 3, 1950: Red Sox 11, Cleveland 9
June 4, 1950: Red Sox 17, White Sox 7
June 5, 1950: Red Sox 12, White Sox 0
June 6, 1950: White Sox 8, Red Sox 4
June 7, 1950: Red Sox 20, Browns 4
June 8, 1950: Red Sox 29, Browns 4
P.S. The Red Sox-Yankees 1912 series was five games; Boston won the opener 5-2. After sweeping that five-game series in New York, the Red Sox split four games with Washington before winning five of six games from the Yankees at Fenway: June 28 to July 2, 1912.

In 14 days, Boston went 10-1 against the Yankees, outscoring them 95-42!

Schadenfreude 21 (A Continuing Series)

Q: When was the last time the Yankees won a game in which they scored fewer than five runs?

George King, Post:
A two-week dance through the elite gardens of the American League was supposed to tell us a lot about the Yankees. Four games against the Tigers in The Bronx. Three in Anaheim versus the Angels. Four more with the Tigers at Comerica Park.

With four tilts (one against the Tigers; three with the Red Sox) remaining, here is what we have learned: The Yankees don't have enough starting pitching to be a serious threat to the Red Sox in the AL East or catch the Mariners in the wild-card chase.
Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
For the third time on this road trip, the Yankees came up on the short end of a close game, having dropped a pair of extra-inning games before yesterday's loss.

These defeats might tell Joe Torre that his team is playing on the same level as some of the American League's top contenders, but at some point, the Bombers will have to start winning these games if they plan to play into October.
No tabloids today. The back pages are more concerned with David Wells beating the Mets:


Tonight, the Yankees send Mike Mussina to the hill in Detroit. In his last seven starts, Mussina has a 6.63 ERA (52 hits and 28 runs in 36.2 IP).

A: The last time the Yankees won a game in which they scored fewer than five runs was on July 17, when they beat Toronto 3-2 in 10 innings (a stretch of 38 games). (And since June 29, they have won only two such games.)

Mazz: It's Over

Tony Massarotti, Herald:
Let's get right to the point: For all intents and purposes, the Red Sox just wrapped up the American League East. ...

Upon completion of their last homestand, they left Boston with a four-game lead in the division. Since, they've gone 6-1 while the Yankees have gone 2-4, pumping the Sox' advantage to a beefy 7½ games in the AL East. ...

If the Sox win only one of the three games in New York - Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling are scheduled to start - they'll still be six games up when they leave town. ...

If the Red Sox merely go 15-16 the rest of the way - and they still have 13 games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore - they will finish with 95 victories.


Cool Standings says Boston has a 97.7% chance to win the East (99.8% to make the playoffs). Baseball Prospectus' three projection systems agree.

Enjoy the off day!

August 26, 2007

Moderation

JoS comments are now moderated.

This will hinder discussions somewhat, but the ability for us to gather and chat without interruption is certainly worth it. (And with a three-game series in New York up next, this is very good timing.)

There should be little lag, if any, in comment approval during games. Obviously, when I'm away from the computer, there will delays.

The Fifth Year


The Joy of Sox begins its 5th year today!

Special thanks to the growing community of commenters and the many visitors during the past four seasons.

G131: Red Sox 11, White Sox 1

Sexy Lips allowed only two hits over six innings for the second start in a row.

Commenter mikelove says it's the first time (since 1957, maybe earlier) a team has swept a four-game series while scoring 10+ runs in each game. Boston outscored the White Sox 46-7.

The Red Sox lead the Yankees in the East by 7.5 games. New York finishes up against the Tigers tomorrow night, then heads home for Tuesday's showdown.

***

Julian Tavarez (5.01, 90 ERA+) / Javier Vazquez (3.66, 125 ERA+)

Hi, Javy! It's been a while since 2004, but we remember. And we thank you.

In 23 career AB againat Vazquez, J.D. Drew has hit .391/.440/.870.

Interesting 'toid that means next-to-nothing:
Vazquez is trying to become the only pitcher in the Major Leagues to record at least 10 wins, 30 starts and 150 strikeouts for the seventh straight season. He needs five more starts and three more strikeouts to extend the streak.

August 25, 2007

G130: Red Sox 14, White Sox 2

The first five innings: three baserunners (single, walk, fielding error).

Last four innings: 25 baserunners, 14 hits, 9 walks, 14 runs. Nine men batted in the 6th and 14 more batted in the 8th.

Two of the batting stars:

Lowell: 4-for-6, 2 runs, 2 RBI
Kielty: 3-for-5, walk, double, 1 run, 4 RBI

Wakefield allowed a single to his first batter, then did not allow another hit until there was one out in the 7th inning (7-3-0-3-6, 112).

We are rolling: 11-3, 10-1, 14-2, ... It's the first time the Red Sox had scored 10+ runs in three consecutive games since July 3-5, 2000 (11-8, 14-4 and 11-8 at Minnesota).

***

Tim Wakefield (4.35, 104 ERA+) / Mark Buehrle (3.42, 134 ERA+)

Many of the Red Sox hit Buehrle quite well (stats):
         PA   AVG   OBP   SLG
Kieley 52 .356 .442 .556
Ortiz 43 .375 .419 .650
Crisp 30 .379 .400 .621
Manny 29 .381 .483 .857
Varitek 25 .391 .440 .652
Join the Game Thread! In the past month, we've referred to Augusto Pinochet, Marshmallow Fluff, Helicobacter pylori, the Availability Heuristic, Slavoj Zizek, Walker: Texas Ranger .... and the Red Sox.

Schadenfreude 20 (A Continuing Series)

Not much tabloid action for #20. The actual game will have to suffice: an 11th-inning loss that ended less than three hours before sunrise, dropping the MFY 6.5 GB.


We'll have a big blow-out for #100. ... Collect 'em all, kids!

August 24, 2007

G129: Red Sox 10, White Sox 1

SWEEP!

Tizzle: 4-for-5, 2 HR!, 3 RBI.

In both games, the White Sox starter breezed through the first three innings, but in the second time through the lineup, the Red Sox pounced. Boston scored a total of 9 fourth-inning runs today.

Also: It's 11 PM as I type this and the MFY-Tigers are close to starting.

***

Curt Schilling (4.25, 106 ERA+) / John Danks (5.30, 86 ERA+)

The East lead is 5.5. Magic #: 30.

In Detroit, it's Fat Billy / Andrew Miller at 7 PM.

G128: Red Sox 11, White Sox 3

Josh Beckett (3.15, 143 ERA+) / Jon Garland (4.84, 94 ERA+)

Game 1, Take 2.

August 23, 2007

G128: Red Sox at White Sox, PPD

10:30 PM Update: Doubleheader tomorrow -- 2 PM / 8 PM.

***

Rain Delay -- possible 10:15 start (Boston time).

***

Josh Beckett (3.15, 144 ERA+) / John Danks (5.30, 86 ERA+)

First of four against the White Sox (56-70, 13.5 GB in the Central). STATS!

Rookie LHP Danks has a 6.75 ERA in his last six outings. He faced the Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 21, allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings. Boston won the 11-2.

P.S.: I added some stuff to the 30-3 post below.

Yankees are off today before starting a weekend series in Detroit.

Lester Sent To Portland (AA)

Jon Lester (5.67 ERA in six starts since July 23) was sent down to Portland (AA) today.

Why AA? According to Ian Browne, "Red Sox PR spokesman John Blake said that Portland's rotation lines up better for Lester to stay on his regular day." ... The Sea Dogs have 14 games remaining on its schedule, which ends September 3.

Javier Lopez was summoned from Pawtucket, so we'll have another lefty for the White Sox and Yankees games (Lopez stats versus CWS).

Julian Tavarez will start on Sunday.

Sox Sign Royce Clayton

37-year-old shortstop Royce Clayton (.254/.304/.344, 69 OPS+ in 210 PA with Toronto) signed a minor league contract and will report to Pawtucket.

He's not really gonna get ABs in Boston, is he? Other than a 16th-inning pinch-hitter for Cora?

What Has To Happen

Boston    76-51 .598  --
New York 71-56 .559 5
For the Yankees to win the East, with 35 games remaining:

If Boston goes 18-17, New York must go 24-11 (.686, roughly the same pace they have played since the ASG: 28-13, .683).

If Boston goes 19-16, New York must go 25-10 (.714, a better pace than their historic 1998 season: 114-48, .704).

If Boston goes 21-14 -- its 2007 winning percentage to date -- New York must go 27-8 (.771, the equivalent of a 125-37 season, something no team has ever done).

Turn it around:

If New York plays at its current season percentage of .559, they will go 20-15 (actually, 19.6 wins). Boston would have to go 14-21 to lose the East.

A New York comeback is not impossible -- the six games remaining against the Yankees make it more probable than if we were through with them for the year.

If the Red Sox somehow get swept next week, the media will go insane -- but, with Boston playing 19 of their 35 games against the Devil Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays, I don't see any reason for serious concern.

August 22, 2007

G127: Tampa Bay 2, Red Sox 1

Red Sox LOBotomy:
122 121 212 = 14
It took Boston four batters to get their run in the fourth: Pedroia HBP, Youkilis double, Ortiz BB, Lowell L7 sac fly. After scoring the run, Pedroia left the game with an injured left elbow.

Dice had a one-hitter going with one out in the sixth when Upton cranked a two-run shot to right. So the Red Sox had three innings against the Rays bullpen to get one run.

7th: Youkilis K, Ortiz line single to RF, Lowell P4, Drew line single to LF, Varitek K.

8th: Crisp P6, Kielty L3, Lugo double RF corner, Cora K.

9th: Youkilis PF5 (1st pitch), Ortiz BB, Lowell L9 (replay showed Young trapped it, no argument from anyone), Drew ground single to center, Varitek F7.

Francona will never pinch-hit for Varitek, but I would have loved to see Manny hitting there. Varitek was useless tonight (0-for-5): foul pop to catcher, groundout first to pitcher, strikeout swinging, strikeout swinging, fly out to left.

Evan Brunell wrote today about The Fall of Jason Varitek.

***

Daisuke Matsuzaka (3.79, 119 ERA+) / Edwin Jackson (5.69, 80 ERA+)

Manny off tonight.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Oritz, DH
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Coco Crisp, CF
Eric Hinske, LF
Julio Lugo, SS

Texas 30, Baltimore 3 (Not A Typo)


Texas is the first team in the modern era (after 1900) to score 30 runs in one game. (And all the runs came in four innings -- box!)

It was the ninth time a major league team has scored 30 runs, the first since Chicago set the all-time record in a 36-7 rout of Louisville in a National League game on June 29, 1897. The previous post-1900 record for runs in a game was 29 shared by the Boston Red Sox (1950) and the Chicago White Sox (1955). (The Rangers' previous high had been 26 runs, also against Baltimore on April 19, 1996 (26-7).)

Here is the 1897 linescore (more info on that game here):
Chicago    357 121 278 - 36 32 1
Louisville 001 050 100 - 7 14 9
(One of the very few times a team has scored in every inning! Also, the game was played in Chicago, but the Colts (later the Cubs) had the option of batting first, which they did.)

With nine runs in the nightcap, the Rangers set an AL record with 39 runs in a single day. The major league record is 43: Boston beat Cincinnati 18-3 and 25-8 in an NL twinbill on August 21, 1894.

It reminds me of a minor league game on June 15, 1902: Corsicana beat Texarkana 51-3. (Justin Clarke hit eight home runs -- in eight consecutive at-bats.) Many newspapers got the wire report, assumed it was a typo, and reported the final score as 5-3.

JoS Endorses _____ For RSN President

First, there was the absurdity of the Red Sox Nation membership card. Who in their right mind would pay $15 to make his or her status as a Red Sox fan "official"?

This summer, we have been subjected, on an almost nightly basis, to Jerry Remy blathering on during NESN broadcasts about the ongoing campaign to elect a "president" of Red Sox Nation. (Whether this silliness is worse than the Remdawg's constant pimping of his website when he should be discussing the game being played in front of him is a very close call. Either way, shut up and do your job, Jerry.)

As dumb as I think this idea is -- it cost another $15 to enter the campaign -- I did enjoy reading about an event last night in Boston, at which the 25 candidates (chosen from more than 1,200 submissions by what Larry Lucchino called an electoral college of team personnel) gave their initial campaign speeches.

Q: If this is so damn important to the Red Sox and its fans, why wouldn't NESN put this on the air? Why have it while the Red Sox are playing a game? Shouldn't it have been scheduled for an off-night?

Some thoughts:

I like Rich Garces's promise to "give each member of Red Sox Nation 'El Guapo' bobble-bellies. Like a bobble-head, except the belly shakes." I really want one of these.

Peter Gammons is a strong candidate, but his obscene fawning over George Steinbrenner and the entire Yankees organization (and the concurrent bashing of all things Red Sox) during the Dan Duquette Era should torpedo his campaign. (LexusNexus search, anyone?)

My choice? Steve Manganello.

The self-proclamined "Coma Guy" was struck by a taxi while crossing a street in Japan as the 2004 playoffs were beginning. He remained in a coma for 17 and was barely conscious for another two weeks -- oblivious to the fact that the Red Sox had won their first title in 86 years.

As he said last night, "It's been 89 years for me."

For what it's worth, Joy of Sox endorses Steve Manganello.

...

In other news, I am running unopposed as Prime Minister of Red Sox Nation.

Papelbon's New Pitch: The "Slutter"

Jonathan Papelbon debuted a new pitch last night.
It's in between a slider and a cutter. I tried the cutter and it was hit-and-miss. The slider really wasn't me, and I just kind of cut the ball at the end and it moves like a slider. It's a 'slutter'. ... When I throw it, I don't pronate [downward twisting motion with his fingers] when I let the ball go. I leave my palm [up]. I kind of cut the ball. That's the angle it comes out.
(A couple of his teammates expressed amusement. Kyle Synder: "It's a slider." Jason Varitek: "Whatever, Pap.")

Snuffer also talked about how happy he is to be a closer.
[Starting] seems so far away and seems so boring. I was dying a slow death in spring training. Now I'm in situations where I feel confident and happy. ... My goal is to be a dominant closer, not just one year, but year after year. I want to stay healthy, do my work and break records. ...

Last year was a grind for me. It was my rookie season and something where I really grinded and grinded until I couldn't grind anymore. This year, I'm knowing my body better, I'm knowing the system, how to take care of myself. A ton of things you can throw in there for why I feel darn near 100 percent this time of the season.
Papelbon became the first Red Sox pitcher to record 30 saves in multiple seasons and the fourth pitcher in major league history to record 30 saves in his first two full seasons, joining Billy Koch (1999-2002, his first four), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000-02) and Todd Worrell (1986-88).

Jacoby Ellsbury has a 17-game hitting streak for Pawtucket -- two games shy of the Pawtucket record shared by Dave Stapleton (1979) and Dave Berg (2005). Ellsbury is batting .386 (27-for-70) during his streak -- which did include an 0-for-3 showing for the Red Sox last Friday.

Mental Image Of The Day: David Ortiz "dancing in the buff back and forth in the shower room while singing over and over at the top of his lungs the theme from Monday Night Football."

Schadenfreude 19 (A Continuing Series)


George King, Post:
The stench coming off Mike Mussina's stuff last night invaded your nose like low tide. And the rest of the Yankee hurlers reeked, too.


Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
The 18 runs were the most the Angels have ever scored against the Yankees ... The Yankees trail the Red Sox by six games in the division, having lost two games in the standings in two days. The Mariners also gained another game on the Bombers, pushing their wild-card lead to 2-1/2 games, four in the loss column.

August 21, 2007

G126: Red Sox 8, Devil Rays 6

It was the bottom of the order who put this one out of reach in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded, one out and the score knotted at 2-2, Varitek singled home one run, and Crisp and Lugo both followed with two-run doubles.

Boston led 7-2, although Tampa closed the gap to 7-5 in the fifth and 8-6 in the seventh. ... Also worth noting was David Ortiz's triple to left-center in the first inning and his infield single to the pitcher (who fielded it on the third base side of the grass) in the third. Wheels!

Papelbot came on for four outs, getting three strikeouts and an infield pop on 15 pitches. He is the first Red Sox pitcher in history to record 30 saves in back-to-back seasons.

***

Jon Lester (5.14, 87 ERA+) / Andy Sonnanstine (6.17, 73 ERA+)

Note: Threadsox remains open for business, but I'll be here for tonight's game.

That's All?

70%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Ortiz Selling Car on eBay

The Globe reports that David Ortiz is selling his red "2005 Mercedes-Benz convertible SL-Class SL65 AMG with 6.0-liter twin-turbo charged engine". It has only 4,034 miles, "driven predominantly to and from Fenway Park".

The auction description says he bought it as "a gift to himself after winning the 2004 World Series". Tiz told the Globe from Tampa: "I personally will hand it to the person that buys it at Fenway."

Pena Bids Hub Fans Adieu

Wily Mo Pena says thanks:
To my sisters, brothers and fans of the Red Sox Nation. I want to take a moment to thank you and the entire Red Sox organization for your support during my time in Boston. Your constant passion for baseball and your beloved Red Sox is unmatched and has touched me deeply. I will always consider you with a special place in my heart. The Red Sox organization deserves only the best and the Red Sox Nation is just that. Peace in life, Wily Modesto Pena.
In three games for the Nationals, Pena is 5-for-11, with two home runs and more walks (3) than strikeouts (2).

(See Nats blog: We've Got Heart.)

Lowell in '08?

Mike Lowell's solo home run gave him back the team lead with 85 RBI. It also broke Scott Kazmir's string of 61 consecutive innings without allowing a long ball.

According to Runs Created Per 27 Outs, Lowell (6.57) has been Boston's third most-productive hitter behind David Ortiz (8.60) and Dustin Pedroia (6.91). He's having what could be a career-best year at the plate, but he also will be a free agent after this season.

The Globe's Nick Carfado notes "there's been an unsaid, unwritten, nudge-nudge notion that Kevin Youkilis will wind up at third base [in 2008] and the Sox will bring in a first baseman". Lowell, 33, has said he does not want to sign a one-year deal -- presumably he'd like at least three, something that would take him to the end of his career.

I'd apply Branch Rickey's philosophy in this case: "Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late." Lowell could have a nice 2008, but his 2010 season will likely not be worth the money.

Also: Would Yook, who is having a second half slump for the second straight season, get more worn out playing third every night? Will Mark Teixeira re-sign with Atlanta?

Wakefield Left With Stiff Back

Tim Wakefield was pulled from last night's game after seven innings (and only 77 pitches) because of a stiff back.
It happened to me last time here. Maybe it's the turf or the mound, or the beds. It started to get tight in the fifth. I got through the sixth and the seventh and told [Francona and pitching coach John Farrell] about it to give them a heads-up.
Tito: "We didn't want to push it."

Catcher Kevin Cash was unable to catch five of Wakefield's first 11 pitches. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little rattled ... I didn't know what was going on." After the second inning, Cash said Jason Varitek and bullpen coach Gary Tuck "brought up the point that Dougie kind of shifts a little bit and angles his body. Once I did that, I got a heck of a lot more comfortable."

Manny Ramirez now has 1,600 RBI -- 28th place on the all-time list. With Francona trying to rest his regulars before the road trip hits New York, Manny may get tonight off.

Matt Clement threw 50 pitches in the bullpen before last night's game. He is hopeful that he will pitch this season, but with minor leagues seasons winding down, it might be too risky to have Clement make his rehab appearances in a pennant race. "Maybe we'll win 20 in a row and then it will be easier to get me in there again. If I get in there in the middle of the month, maybe I can even contribute an inning or two that matter."

August 20, 2007

New Poll

I've made the game thread poll less confusing. Sorry to start over. Thanks!

G125: Red Sox 6, Devil Rays 0

Bats got to Red Dot early (5 runs, 6 hits, 57 pitches in the first two innings) and Wakefield (7-4-0-1-5, 77) did the rest, with a little assistance from MDC and Timlin.

Lowell had a 2-run double, a solo home run and two walks, and Crisp and Pedroia had two hits each.

***

Tim Wakefield (4.55, 99 ERA+) / Scott Kazmir (3.44, 132 ERA+)

Wakefield's career numbers at Tropicana Field: 8-0, 2.33 ERA, .190 opponents average. Kevin Cash will be behind the plate:
I feel fine about it. I played catch with Wake [Saturday]. I caught him a couple times this spring. I feel very comfortable. The last couple weeks of spring I would stay back from games to catch his side [sessions].
Red Dot has faced the Red Sox 14 times, more than any other team. He has held David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to a .143 average (10-for-70).

NOTE: A lot of the JoS crew is spending games at Thread Sox, a new message board set up by our good friend Cakey. Check it out. (I'll have more to say about the board soon.)

Threadsox: A New Message Board

Cakey has set up a new Red Sox discussion board -- Threadsox -- as an offshoot of Joy of Sox.

Part of his reasoning for it was that in the comments of some posts, we often have several different discussions going on (sometimes on a topic I haven't even posted about) and a message board could be better for organizing the many topics during a season. Also, JoS discussions tend to end after a day or two as the post gets pushed down the page; if you haven't bookmarked it (and why would you, really?), it becomes a pain to scroll down and find it again. Any post on a board would bump the thread to the top of the folder and everyone would see the discussion was ongoing.

I'm conflicted over Cakey's board. It looks great and has potential (Sunday's game thread was fun), but I also really like the game threads here. All last season I wished I had them and I'm happy they've grown over the last few months. But is Threadsox a worthwhile addition to our little community or is it a distraction?

I've set up a poll on the right-hand side of the blog. Please vote (once!) and add any comments here (perhaps I missed a possible option), if you like.

Name That Reliever

This late-inning specialist has had an excellent 2007 season, but he stumbled terribly in the past week, not doing his team any favors in the AL East pennant chase.

In three games, he blew a save, lost another game in extra innings (two doubles to start, then a one-out, three-run home run) and struggled to save another (allowing two singles and double to his first three batters, putting the tying runs in scoring position).

In 3.1 innings, he allowed nine hits and five runs. Opposing batters lit him up to the tune of a .500 batting average and a .833 slugging percentage. His ERA for those three outings was 13.50.

Thankfully, for his team, he settled down in his last outing and did not give up any runs. But one has to wonder how much he can be trusted with the ball in the late innings at this stage of the season.

Dusty Says Relax

Both Tony Massarotti and Dan Shaughnessy are having some trouble understanding that over 162 games, a baseball team will have some good times and some bad times. For example, David Ortiz hit .129 (4-for-31) in his eight games before the Angels series. Then he went 7-for-16 (.438).

Dustin Pedroia, on the four-game lead:
I don't care what people's nerves are. We have a four-game lead with [38] games to go. It's better than being four games behind. Confident? Why wouldn't we be? We have the best record in baseball. Let off the panic button a little bit, you know what I mean?
(In the fine tradition of sports columnists, I have used a beyond-stale pop culture reference as the title of this post in an attempt to be funny and hip.) And for those people who think the Red Sox are choking, Eric Wilbur invites you to look at what the Dodgers and Brewers have done lately.

Bobby Kielty, on his Fenway debut: "I was very excited, extremely excited about it. It's the team I always wanted to play for since I was a little boy. My dad was from the area. It's the team I always rooted for."

Kevin Youkilis is hitting .114 (4-for-35) in his last 10 games. His OBP hasn't been this low (.389) since April 26. He has also struck out 25 times in his last 21 games. Plus, as Chad Finn writes, Yook "was a lot more likable before he decided he should be able to call his own balls and strikes".

Sexy Lips vs O-Cab

The trouble between Julian Tavarez and Orlando Cabrera began back on August 6 -- when Cabrera doubled off Tavarez in the seventh inning -- or maybe it was August 8 -- after Cabrera lined out to end the fourth inning.

Either way, Sexy Lips believed O-Cab had been looking back at the catcher, hoping to see where Jason Varitek was setting up. "I only said to him in Anaheim, 'I think you are looking at the [catcher's location signal] every time you are hitting ... with your face down. Stop doing it because I will hit you if you are doing it.'"

Cabrera: "In Anaheim, he said 'You're like Lugo — Lugo likes to give signs. If Lugo played on another team, I'd hit him.' I said, 'OK, I play on another team. Are you going to hit me?' ... It didn't take much to know he was going to hit me."

Tavarez said the pitch, which grazed the front of Cabrera's shirt, was not intentional. "I'm not looking to give up runs out there or hit him on purpose, already down 2-0. ... [But] I pay bills, too. I want to pitch inside and I've got a game plan."

A couple of hours later, Cabrera and Tavarez talked outside of the Boston clubhouse.

"We are not stealing signs," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "If we are, change your signs."

August 19, 2007

G124: Angels 3, Red Sox 1

Sexy Lips pitched great (6-2-2-2-2, 87), but his rough start -- two singles and a walk to start the game -- put him in a 2-0 hole. The bats did next to nothing.

Gagne allowed two hits in the ninth, but struck out the side to a huge ovation. Kielty went 2-for-3, Ortiz 2-for-4, Lowell got a single and a walk and Manny walked twice.

MFY beat the Tigers 9-3 -- they are 4 GB. The Angels go home to host the Yankees, while we go to Tampa, where the wins come in bunches.

***

Joe Saunders (3.50, 122 ERA+) / Julian Tavarez (5.12, 88 ERA+)

Saunders beat the Red Sox in Anaheim on August 7, allowing eight hits and four runs over 5.1 innings. Final score: LAA 10-4.

With Sexy Lips starting today, Tim Wakefield will pitch in Tropicana Field tomorrow night. Jon Lester goes on Tuesday (on two extra days rest) and Daisuke Matsuzaka gets one extra day and pitches Wednesday.

That means Matsuzaka would start the opening game at Yankee Stadium on August 28. He would be followed by Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. It also means that Boston would have those guys pitching in the September 14-15-16 Yankees series at Fenway.

Terry Francona said Kevin Cash will catch Tavarez today and Wakefield Monday. In addition, new outfielder Bobby Kielty (#32) would likely start today and Monday.

Tito Sticking With Gagne

In seven appearances since coming over from Texas, Gagne has allowed 14 hits and 10 earned runs in six innings (15.00 ERA). He's allowed a .452 batting average (14-for-31), an OBP of .500 and a slugging percentage of .742. Not good.

But Francona gonna stick with him.
I don't think using him differently helps. You put a guy who pitches on adrenaline in a blowout game, it's not going to help him. ... If you're talking about a guy pitching a mop-up inning to give him work, I understand the questioning, but flip-flopping the inning? The runs still count, and you're getting the guy further away from his comfort zone. I don't know if that makes sense. ...

I guess, without being confrontational, my job is to do my job. His ERA in five or six outings is very high. If I were to -- and it seems like this is the way we're going with this [the media questions] , bench him -- that would be, in my opinion, incredibly stupid on my part.
I agree with this. There is no way Gagne has suddenly become a 15.00 ERA pitcher allowing a 1.242 OPS.

Schilling Still Struggling; Weaver Irked By Papi's Stance

Curt Schilling:
As much as I hate to say it, I'm a work in progress in a lot of ways right now that I don't want to be. I don't have the consistent low-to-mid 90s velocity, and I have to be much more of a pitcher. It's difficult to figure out how the pieces work together for me right now. ...

[The Figgins homer] puts out there for everyone to see how inconsistently bad my fastball command has been. I missed by probably 3 feet.
Jered Weaver did not like seeing David Ortiz watch his grand slam.
Just round the bases. I'll remember it next time we play them, that's for sure. I'm not saying anything is going to happen, but it's definitely in the back of your mind.
When Doug Mirabelli left Friday's game with an injury, several players volunteered to be the day's backup catcher: Alex Cora, Eric Hinske, Mike Lowell. Tito: "Hinske said he caught in Babe Ruth. Lowell said he caught in Little League. Everybody but Ortiz was volunteering."

August 18, 2007

G123: Red Sox 10, Angels 5

The runs are coming in bunches for the Sox in this series.

Down 5-0 in the fifth, Boston gets six in the fifth (four on a long grand slam from Ortiz) and four more in the eighth.

After Schilling (6-8-5-0-3, 85), it was White Flag, Jeemer and Snuffer (retiring nine of 10 batters).

***

Jered Weaver (3.85, 111 ERA+) / Curt Schilling (4.06, 111 ERA+)

Schilling lost to Weaver and the Angels 4-2 on August 6, in his first start since coming off the disabled list. In six innings against the Orioles (August 12), Schilling did not record a strikeout. In his last start, Weaver held the Twins to five hits and two earned runs in 7.1 innings.

It's likely that Bobby Kielty will be called up (and Jacoby Ellsbury sent down) before tonight's game.

Also: Fat Billy and the Brownshirts (5 GB) face Detroit's Chad Durbin at 4 PM.

In The Papers: Clay, WMP, Cash

Clay Buchholz:
There were a lot of [nerves in the first]. I felt like I was doing everything wrong. Then the second inning passed and then the third inning and fourth inning on, I felt good out there. I still tried to overthrow a couple of pitches but that comes with the territory I guess. ...

It was nerve-wracking, but it wasn't as big a difference as I though it was going to be as far as the competition. ... If you still make your pitches, you get outs. If you make mistakes, they hit it.
And more often than not, he made his pitches. Home plate umpire Bruce Froemming was impressed:
This guy has pretty good command of his pitches for a guy starting out. Reminds me of Randy Jones [1976 Cy Young winner for San Diego] in that regard. And this guy's got some changeup. It surprised me to see him go to that changeup right away.
Clay:
All season, it's been the changeup. I have been able throw it in a lot of counts that I shouldn't be able to throw it in, and getting swings and misses out of it, and a couple of ground balls.
Theo Epstein, on the Wily Mo Pena trade:
It [Arroyo for Pena] didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. It certainly wasn't a good trade, in retrospect. I still think there's a good chance he really blossoms as a hitter. But here, the fit never materialized.
The player the Red Sox will receive from Washington has already been agreed upon, but Epstein said the "complexities of the rules at this time of year" prevent him from being announced. Epstein did say that the Sox "ended up getting a player who we really like".

New backup catcher Kevin Cash:
We were watching Buch pitch on [the Internet] on the way to the field on the bus. It said Mirabelli got hurt and two seconds later [manager Ron Johnson] got a call. There was one flight to Boston. Crazy day, but exciting.
Cash has experience catching knuckleballers Charlie Zink and John Barnes in Pawtucket, but it's not known who will catch Tim Wakefield in Tampa on Monday night. ... Drew went 5-for-9 in the doubleheader; he now has 999 career hits.

August 17, 2007

G122: Angels 7, Red Sox 5

Beckett was fine (7-5-2-1-1-8, 103), but Santana (6.1-4-1-0-5, 100) decided to relearn how to pitch tonight. MDC allowed two in the eighth, to give the Angels a 4-1 lead.

Five outs from defeat, the Sox scored four times (Lugo BB, Ellsbury BB, Pedroia single, Ortiz 2-RBI double, Manny RBI double) to go ahead 5-4. But then Gagne coughed up three in the top of the ninth.

A bad loss, but it's a regular ol' doubleheader split at the end of the day.

***

Ervin Santana (6.22, 69 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3.24, 139 ERA+)

With Mirabelli injured and Varitek playing eight innings of the afternoon game, the Red Sox are hoping Pawtucket catcher Kevin Cash can get from Ottawa to Boston for the second game.

Update: Sounds like Mirabelli is going on the disabled list (strained right calf). Jacoby Ellsbury is starting in center field and leading off. ... More in comments.

G121: Red Sox 8, Angels 4

Buchholz: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 91 pitches

A six-run first (10 batters, 46 pitches, 7 hits) off Lackey provided the cushion. The first four Boston hits were a double (Pedroia), home run (Ortiz), single (Ramirez) and triple (Drew).

***

John Lackey (3.07, 140 ERA+) / Clay Buchholz (MLB debut), 1 PM

The Clay Buchholz Era has begun!

In 21 combined starts at Portland (AA) and Pawtucket (AAA), Buchholz posted a 2.15 ERA (117 innings). He leads all minor league pitchers with 164 strikeouts.

RedSox.com:
Red Sox Nation will be watching to see if Buchholz's extraterrestrial curveball is the real deal. Buchholz also commands a plus changeup and an above-average slider, while his fastball runs in the mid- to low-90s. He will likely benefit from facing the Angels, an aggressive lineup lacking in thump.
Buchholz was chosen by the Red Sox in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft as compensation for departed free agent Pedro Martinez.

It looks like Buchholz will be sent back down to Pawtucket after the game and Jacoby Ellsbury will be recalled for today's nightcap.

Thanks to Detroit's 8-5 win over the Yankees last night, the East lead is now 5.5.

Schadenfreude 18 (A Continuing Series)

Kat O'Brien, Newsday:
All the momentum the Yankees gathered by winning 12 of 14 is suddenly rolling away.
Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
If last night was any indication, these could be two long weeks for the Yankees.

As the Bombers began their crucial 14-game stretch against the American League's three division leaders, Mike Mussina was lit up for seven runs in five innings - including four in the first, courtesy of a Carlos Guillen grand slam - in an 8-5 loss to the Tigers at the Stadium. The two teams, who had not met since Detroit's victory in last October's AL division series, will play seven more times in the next 11 days. ...

After winning 24 of 32 games to start the season's second half, the Yankees (67-54) have dropped three straight for the second time since June 28.
George King, Post:
How bad was Mussina?

Joe Torre summoned Kyle Farnsworth into the game in the sixth inning with the Yankees trailing by four runs. Brought to The Bronx to be Mariano Rivera's setup man, Farnsworth has turned into a $5.25 million mop-up man.

The loss was the Yankees third straight and started a 14-game stretch against the Tigers, Angels and Red Sox on a downer.
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
It had to feel like an eerie and altogether unsettling continuation of the last time the Tigers and the Yankees met on the field, last October, in what remains one of the few low points of the modern Yankees era. ...
I can think of a lower one.

August 16, 2007

Schadenfreude 17 (A Continuing Series)



Selig talks tough on Barry Bonds, but ...

Two Book Reviews Posted Today

Jim Gorant's Fanatic and Leigh Montville's The Big Bam.

Book Review: Fanatic by Jim Gorant

When Jim Gorant emailed me and asked if I would review his book, I thought the subtitle (10 Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die) marked it as one of those cutesy "list books" and I wondered why he was naming only ten.

Thankfully, Fanatic is much more thoughtful, humorous and enjoyable than a book of lists. While Gorant was covering the 2004 Masters for Sports Illustrated, a dinner conversation evolved into naming various must-see sporting events. A little later, he compiled a list from what he remembered from that night, did some more research, and decided he'd take a year and attend them all.

Gorant is not a passive observer. He wants to understand not only the main events, but the lure and history behind them. He hooks up with various people at every stop, mostly strangers, listening to their own tales of fandom and comparing them to his own. In that respect, the book is also part-memoir, as Gorant looks back, exploring how his own relationship to sports has changed as he has gotten older, from an obsessive who sulked all night after a loss to someone who still watches and cheers, but at an emotional distance.

Gorant begins at the 2005 Super Bowl in Florida with an old college roommate. He rents sleeping space in an RV inside the track at the Daytona 500, he embeds himself in different groups of highly-exuberant fans at the Final Four, and he attends an afternoon game at Wrigley Field with his sports-obsessed friend Billy. A trip to Wimbledon brings back a flood of memories of his mother, who had died recently of cancer.

(At the Cubs-Braves game, Gorant falls victim to the same silly myth that many people believed about the Red Sox prior to 2004 when he writes about the Cubs' "ritual of suffering. If the Cubs ever won, the team and its fans would lose their identity.")

Gorant ends the book at the 2006 home opener at Fenway Park (his year is really about 14 months). He had made plans to attend the game with Ignatius Giglio, a season ticket holder since 1935, but Giglio passed away the previous summer. Instead, Gorant reminisces with Giglio's widow (the talk invariably turns to 2003 and 2004) and goes to the game with his son.

Gorant is a perceptive writer and I would have liked each chapter to have been longer (the book totals 222 pages). If you're interested in how the complex relationship between fan and these "terribly important and unbearably trivial" games changes as the years go by, check out this passionate travelogue.

Book Review: The Big Bam By Leigh Montville

George Herman Ruth -- the greatest baseball player of all time -- died 59 years ago today -- August 16, 1948.

In remembrance of the man Boston Red Sox fans once worshipped as The Colossus (aka Tarzan, the Caveman), I have these notes about Leigh Montville's Ruth biography, The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth (Doubleday, 2006):

At the height of his baseball career, Babe Ruth was one of the most famous people on the planet, but much of his background was shrouded in mystery. Next to nothing was known about his childhood on the Baltimore waterfront, his parents, or his first marriage. Indeed, some biographical basics were unknown to Ruth himself; he did not learn his true date of birth until he was in his 40s.

Montville refers to these mysteries as "the fog", and now, nearly 60 years after Ruth's death, it's clear that the fog will never lift. Montville believes: "The fog will make everything greater. That is the weird beauty of the fog." I'm not so sure. I would not choose fog over facts. For me, learning about Ruth's life and career actually has made his story more unbelievable. The fog is not magical, it's maddening.

Montville accepts the fog and he know how to work with it. We enter The Big Bam on the morning of June 13, 1902. George Ruth is taking his seven-year-old son by streetcar to St. Mary's Industrial School. Those are the facts. Yet Montville spends nearly 10 brilliantly written pages imagining the scene from every possible angle.

In the mid-1970s, at least three Ruth biographies were published. No real significant information on the man has surfaced since. So what can Montville tell us about the man he calls "the patron saint of American possibility"?

Montville had access to the notes/interviews of three of those biographers – Robert Creamer, Kal Wagenheim, Marshall Smelser – as well as Ruth's personal scrapbooks. He also relied on a handful of more recent books (my book on the 1918 Red Sox was one of them).

Montville turns what seems like previously well-trod ground to his advantage. The Big Bam is not meant to supersede any of the older bios. The facts laid out in those books afford Montville an opportunity to stray from the main outlines of Ruth's story and examine other, less-known incidents, and shine a light on more obscure and arcane sources.

Montville's conversational style -- he writes of Babe enjoying the "24-hour buffet line of life" -- is perfect for the topic. He is adept at taking numerous accounts of an event and distilling and reporting its essence in a breezy, often humorous, way. The latter third of the book drags a bit, but Montville paints a vivid picture of the Yankees' rejection of Ruth after the 1934 season.

***

So how great a hitter was Ruth? Many of his records have been broken, but I maintain that he remains the best player to have ever played the game.

Ruth's Best Seasons Ranked by OPS+ (and their all-time ranking)
Year   AVG   OBP   SLG  OPS+  All-Time
1920 .376 .533 .849 256 4th
1921 .378 .512 .846 239 6th
1923 .393 .545 .764 239 6th
1926 .372 .516 .737 227 12th
1927 .356 .486 .772 226 13th
1924 .378 .513 .739 220 18th
1919 .322 .456 .657 219 19th
1931 .373 .495 .700 219 19th
1930 .359 .493 .732 211 26th
1928 .323 .463 .709 208 32nd
1932 .341 .489 .661 201 49th
TOTAL .342  .474  .690   207     1st
OPS+ is Adjusted OPS, which is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, normalized to the league. So even though the counting stats of a player from 1930 may be wildly different from those of a player in 1968, their OPS+ may be similar.

Eight of Ruth's seasons are in the all-time Top 20 (check out those batting averages!). There are only two other players with more than one season in the Top 20: Barry Bonds with four (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th) and Ted Williams with two (8th and 9th). Bonds holds the top three spots, but after that his best seasons drop off to 10th, 36th, 40th and 90th.

Only ten players in baseball history have had even one season with an OPS+ of at least 207. That is Ruth's career average.

Ruth also pitched in 163 games (148 starts), with a record of 94-46 and a career ERA of 2.28 (122 ERA+). To even consider another player as the game's best is laughable.

August 15, 2007

Ortiz Walkoff Contest - Final Call

Updated: All spots are filled. Now it's up to the Big Man.

The David Ortiz Walkoff Contest is now open to those who entered earlier in the season (or newcomers).

I have posted the remaining home games as the first comment. Anyone not on the list of remaining games can copy the most recent list of entries, chose an empty date and post.

G120: Devil Rays 6, Red Sox 5

Devil Rays - 104 001 000 - 6  9  0
Red Sox - 000 000 311 - 5 8 0
The Red Sox had the tying run on second with no one out in the bottom of the ninth (Crisp singled and Lugo doubled on a 11-pitch AB), but could not get him home. Pedroia struck out, Youkilis struck out and, after Ortiz walked, Manny struck out.

The top five hitters in the Boston lineup -- Pedroia, Yook, Tiz, Manny and Drew -- went 1-for-20 (3 walks). Matsuzaka was not sharp from the start and had a rough third inning, facing eight batters, allowing four hits, a walk and four runs.

In New York, Rivera blew it in the 10th:
Orioles - 001 200 000 3 - 6 12 0
Yankees - 000 000 003 0 - 3 10 2
Still 5 GA with a day off tomorrow before the Angels come to town for two on Friday. (MFY host Detroit on Thursday.)

***

Andy Sonnanstine (6.35, 72 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (3.59, 126 ERA+)

Offerman Does Best Juan Marichal Impression

Globe:
Former Red Sox infielder Jose Offerman was arrested Tuesday night after charging the mound and hitting the pitcher and catcher with his bat during an independent minor league game.

Bridgeport police said Offerman was arrested, but did not detail the charge. A source told the Connecticut Post he was charged with second-degree assault and faced a $10,000 bond. Police said he posted bond.
(Marichal)

August 14, 2007

G119: Red Sox 2, Devil Rays 1

Devil Rays - 000 100 000 -  1  4  0
Red Sox - 000 000 002 - 2 7 0
and
Orioles -    014 114 100 - 12 13  1
Yankees - 000 000 000 - 0 2 1
It's a shame -- all those fans who leapt off the Tobin the other day missed a great game.

Lester opened with three balls and a walk, but settled down quickly. Four strikeouts in the first two innings. Excellent curveball and changeup. He allowed only two hits, both in the fourth, when a sac fly brought in a run for the Rays. Lester's line: 7-2-1-1-4, 97.

Kazmir (6-4-0-3-8, 94) kept the Sox off the board for six innings. The team had no real rally until the bottom of the ninth.

Al Reyes got a gift strikeout of Manny (the pitch was both low and inside). Lowell crushed a high 2-0 fastball to deep left to tie the game 1-1. Youkilis was caught looking (on an actual strike three) before Varitek lined a ground-rule double (7-pitch AB) into the right field corner. Crisp (another 7-pitch AB) lined a single to right field. Young's throw from right was weak and up the first base line and Tek slid in safely with the game-winner.

5 GA. Magic #: 39.

***

Scott Kazmir (3.58, 128 ERA+) / Jon Lester (6.43, 70 ERA+)

Jon Lester will make his first start at Fenway Park in almost a year (August 18, 2006 against the Yankees).

After a strong performance against Cleveland on June 23, Lester has slumped: four runs in 6.2 innings (Tampa), four runs in five innings (Seattle) and five runs in 3.1 innings (Angels). "For some reason, the last couple of starts, I've been getting away from fastball command on strike one and it's really hurt me."

Julio Lugo is 10-for-20 in his last five games, with three doubles and six RBIs. In his last 11 games, he's hitting .378 (17-for-45).

Kazmir has allowed only one run in his last 19 innings. ... Tampa Bay is 2-17 at Fenway since July 19, 2005. ... Boston has 44 games to play -- 11 of them are against the Devil Rays.

Oregano ... Now There's A Spice!

Yankees shortstop and long-time announcer Phil Rizzuto died today at age 89.

Scooter: "I like radio better than television because if you make a mistake on radio, they don't know. You can make up anything on the radio."

Tito Talks

Francona, on panic:
You can't just go changing your lineup because you lost a couple of games in the eighth inning. All that happened is, we didn't win a couple of games. ... Perspective is a tough thing to have when you lose, but when you lose your perspective, as a manager, you can make some really big mistakes. I don't want to do that.
On Gagne:
[T]he best thing I can do is not run from him ... We're going to continue to use him just like we see his role and hope he doesn't give up runs.
Coco Crisp:
It's hard to explain, but my legs are so sore that it's hard to stretch without it hurting. It's not an injury. I'm just sick. If I wasn't sick, I wouldn't need any time off. I can play. ... I'm not going to go out there and die. ... Could I play at 100 percent? Probably not. There's a big difference, especially when everybody who's at this level is extremely good.
In his last 48 games, Crisp is hitting .337 (60-for-178), though just .213 (13-for-61) in his last 17.

Gordon Edes reports that on Sunday, Orioles broadcaster Joe Angel referred to Fenway Park as "basically a toilet". Was Angel lashing out after having to hear so many Red Sox fans at Camden Yards last weekend? Honestly, I'm surprised any fans could be heard over the deafening music and commercials the Orioles insist on blasting all game long.

Meanwhile, Gary Matthews Jr. of the Angels assured himself of a warm welcome on Friday when he described Red Sox fans are loud, drunk and racist. Plus: "Yankee fans ... have a little more class than Boston fans. At least in New York they appreciate guys who play the game hard ... In Boston, they just smack you for three straight days."

Stealing Signs Is Not Cheating

I missed this on Saturday but Josh Beckett confronted Melvin Mora about Mora possibly stealing signs from Jason Varitek while at second base and relaying them to Ramon Hernandez.

Mora says Beckett apologized the next inning. Mora: "I've been playing 17 years of professional baseball and I don't play that game. I don't like that, because I think that's cheating -- and I know the pitcher's got to eat, too."

Jason Varitek didn't think Mora was stealing signs, though he said it's common. "I've been talking about Toronto for quite a few years. You've got to worry about New York, Texas. It's not just hitters, either, it's stealing bases. They figure out the signs, and go on a breaking ball because they have a better chance."

Baltimore first base coach Juan Samuel agreed: "That's nothing unusual to me. You can try to do whatever to get an edge."

Stealing signs is not cheating. It's part of the strategy of the game. If you can crack the other team's codes, whether you are on first base, second base, or sitting in the dugout, you pass on the information. Don't players know this? Maybe Mora does, but he thinks admitting anything will make fans think he's cheating.

It's like finding a pattern in a third base coach's movements or seeing some minor twitch that means a pitcher is throwing to the plate and not to first. As long as you are not using anything other than your eyes and brain, it's not only completely legal, it's practically expected.

Papelbon Usage

Jonathan Papelbon is being used much less frequently this season. Through games of August 13:
      APP  IP   H  BB  SO   ERA  PIT-STR
2006 52 60 33 12 62 0.90 880-608
2007 42 42 23 14 61 1.93 688-475
At this time last year, Papelbon had thrown almost 200 more pitches than he has this season. (His percentage of strikes for both periods of time is 69%.)

By August 14, 2006, Papelbon pitched in back-to-back games 14 times and on one day's rest 14 times. So far in 2007, he has pitched on back-to-back days only 5 times and only 9 times on one day's rest.

After last night's game, in which Papelbon became the first Red Sox reliever to collect at least 28 saves in back-to-back seasons, Francona said: "I thought Pap looked as fresh as we've seen him. It's the middle of August, and that's probably as hard as he's thrown."

Snuffer agreed: "Tito's done a perfect job with me this year. I feel as good as I ever have."

Buchholz on Friday?

The Red Sox are leaning towards calling up Clay Buchholz to start one of the two games against the Angels on Friday.

Terry Francona said that Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett will not both pitch on Friday, which is Buchholz's next day to start. Buchhols, who turns 23 today, has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last four starts for Pawtucket.

One roster scenario: DFA Wily Mo Pena (who cleared waivers last week), bring up Buchholz for the day, then call up outfielder Bobby Kielty.

August 13, 2007

G118: Red Sox 3, Devil Rays 0

Wakefield (8-2-0-2-6, 100) started this gem off with six no-hit innings. Snuffer pitched the ninth, walking one and striking out two.

Lugo came through in the leadoff spot, going 3-for-4. He singled in the first and scored on Ortiz's double to dead center. That was the game's only run until the seventh when Lugo singled after Mirabelli and Hinske had walked with two outs. Lowell drove in Manny in the eighth.

Of Wakefield's 100 pitches, 72 were strikes. He went to three balls on only two Rays -- the two guys he walked (Iwamura in the 4th, Navarro in the 6th). Wakefield threw a first-pitch strike to 21 of his 27 batters.

It's Boston's 10th shutout of the year, tying them with Seattle for the most in the American League.

***

James Shields (4.32, 106 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.81, 94 ERA+)

The Sock Recognizes Lucen from SoSH

From a P&G thread:
This team played .692 ball the first two months of the season. They've played .600 since the All Star break. They are not collapsing, the Yankees are simply insanely hot. All this "we're cooked" and "we might not even make the playoffs, never mind win the division" bullshit is sickening. Grows some fucking balls for Christ sake. The only two teams in the AL with better records than us since June 1st are Seattle and the Yankees. And Seattle hasn't been much better than us.

If you want to curl up into the fetal position and cry about the fact that this team isn't perfect or about how the Yankees are such an unstoppable team, be my guest. Just don't be surprised for being called out as the sackless pieces of shit that you are.

Fuck.
Amen, brother.

You either got faith or you got unbelief, and there ain't no neutral ground.

The bus is leaving. We'll be making 45 stops between now and September 30. Are you on or off?

August 12, 2007

41 Up, 41 Down

White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks has retired the last 41 batters he has faced, covering 14 games dating back to July 17. This afternoon, he tied Jim Barr's major league record.

Here's a list of the first 38 batters (which tied David Wells for the AL record). Jenks is not speaking to the media while the streak is alive.
                                      Consecutive
Year Batters Retired

Jim Barr, Giants 1972 41
Bobby Jenks, White Sox 2007 41
Tom Browning, Reds 1988 40
Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks 2004 39
Harvey Haddix, Pirates 1959 38
David Wells, Yankees 1998 38
Barr set his record in two games, retiring the last 21 Pittsburgh batters he faced on August 23 and retiring the first 20 Cardinals he faced on August 29 (Future Sock Bernie Carbo ended the streak with a double).

Jenks has pitched 14 innings in his streak. In one outing, he came in with a runner on base and got a double play, so he has faced 41 batters in 14 innings, not 42.

Chicago plays in Oakland on Tuesday night.

Something I Learned Today

Words of wisdom from a now-banned commenter:
"There is such thing as an over-reliance on facts."

G117: Orioles 6, Red Sox 3 (10)

Boycott KFC!

Cleveland loses 5-3, so the lead is down to four games -- still the largest advantage in any division.

***

Curt Schilling (4.31, 105 ERA+) / Steve Trachsel (4.88, 91 ERA+)