March 31, 2009

Curt Schilling, Jack Morris, and the Hall of Fame

Jeff Blair, sports columnist for the Globe & Mail, March 30:
Recently retired pitcher Curt Schilling won't make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. No Cy Young Awards is one reason, and as for that reputation as a "big-game" pitcher? Ask Jack Morris how much that's worth.
Blair is correct in using the phrase "recently retired", but after that, his words make no sense and do not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

1. Cy Young Awards. Why should the subjective votes of certain members of the media mean anything -- even one grain of sand in the Sahara's worth -- in determining how good a pitcher Curt Schilling was? Giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to Schilling based on something he has no control over is as ignorant as saying "Ernie Banks was not a very good player, because he never played in a World Series".

2. How good was Jack Morris in the post-season? Fine, but nothing spectacular.

In post-season play, his 10-inning, 1-0 shutout (10-7-0-2-8, 126) in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series for the Twins against Atlanta rightly deserves its place as one of the top World Series pitching performances of all time.

Can Schilling's performance in ALCS 6 in 2004 (7-4-1-0-4, 99) match that? I'm biased, but considering the circumstances -- the 86-year championship drought, battling the Yankees (in Yankee Stadium) in the long shadow of the 2003 ALCS, the unprecedented comeback from 0-3, the pre-game medical procedure and the bloody sock -- I think it stands on par (or close to it, if you want to insist that the WS always trumps the ALCS).

Plus, Schilling was Co-MVP of the 2001 World Series with a 21.1-12-4-2-26, 1.69 line in three starts: Games 1, 4 and 7 -- a series often cited as the most thrilling World Series since 1991.

How did Morris do in the following post-season for the Blue Jays, in 1992 against the Athletics?
ALCS 1: 9.0-6-4-4-4, 119,  L, Tor lost 4-3
ALCS 4: 3.1-5-5-5-2, 71, ND, Tor lost 7-6
In Game 4, the Blue Jays had a chance to go up 3-1, but Morris could not get out of the fourth inning, and Oakland tied the series at 2-2. Toronto did win the pennant, but Morris's 6.57 ERA did not help.

In the World Series, he faced Atlanta again:
WS 1: 6.0-4-3-5-7, 98, L, Tor lost 3-1
WS 5: 4.2-9-7-1-5, 82, L, Tor lost 7-2
Morris could have led the Jays to the franchise's first championship in Game 5, but he failed. He and his 8.44 ERA celebrated when Toronto won the title two nights later in Game 6.

Career Post-Season Stats
    GS     IP    H   ER   BB    K    W   L  ERA
JM 13 92.1 83 39 32 64 7 4 3.80
CS 19 133.1 104 33 25 120 11 2 2.23
In 41 more innings, Schilling allowed only 14 more baserunners (H + BB) than Morris. It would be hard to convince anyone that Morris was a better post-season (or "big game") pitcher than Schilling.

3. Over his regular season career, Curt Schilling was a far better pitcher than Jack Morris.

Morris retired with a career ERA+ of 105; Schilling's ERA+ was 127. This means that while Morris was 5% better than the average starting pitcher during his time period, Schilling was 27% better than the average starter during his era.

Morris had only one season with a ERA+ higher than Schilling's career average: 133 in 1979. Schilling had ten seasons with an ERA+ above Morris's personal best and four seasons as a starter with an ERA+ over 150.

Schilling's career 127 ERA+ is currently tied for 43rd place all-time. Some of the people tied with Schilling: Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, John Smoltz and this guy. The guys at 105 include Javier Vasquez, Zane Smith, Ken Holtzman, and Al Downing.

From B-Ref:

Black Ink: Pitching (Average HOFer: ≈ 40)
    Morris    20   -   Schilling    42
Gray Ink: Pitching (Average HOFer ≈ 185)
    Morris   193   -   Schilling   205
HOF Standards: Pitching (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
    Morris  39.0   -   Schilling  46.0
HOF Monitor: Pitching (Likely HOFer > 100)
    Morris 122.5   -   Schilling 171.0
Morris's supporters like to note that he won more games -- 162 -- than any other pitcher in the 1980s (that's 1980-1989, by the way, though Morris also won more games during in the correct '80s decade of 1981-1990).

That's a lot of wins, certainly, but as more enlightened fans know, pitchers (and especially AL pitchers) have no control over their run support and thus little control over if how they have done on any given day will be worthy of a "win". (Also, Morris also tops the list because of the quirk of having his best years fall within a group of years that all began with the same three numbers ("198x")and thus can be grouped as a decade.) By the way, Morris has the worst ERA+ of any of the top nine pitchers on that list.

Also: Since the mound was moved back to its present distance, Schilling has the best K/BB ratio of all time among pitchers with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitches and 100 decisions. His career WHIP of 1.173 is 45th all-time, just behind someone named Lady Baldwin. Morris is 437th all-time.

No one can seriously argue that Jack Morris was a better pitcher than -- or even the equal of -- Curt Schilling. And since the name of the place is the Hall of Fame, that's another reason Schilling will absolutely be elected. Possibly first ballot, certainly within three years.

Bumpy Ride For Buchholz

Clay Buchholz had a rough afternoon against Tampa Bay. In 5.1 innings, he faced 25 batters, allowed six runs and nine hits. He walked one batter and struck out four. If he wasn't exactly pleased with his performance, he was at least accepting of it.
I don't think there was anything in particular that was that bad. I left a couple pitches up, and they hit a couple home runs. Other than that, just little things. They hit a couple balls just out of reach. If those happened to be caught, it's two outs and it's a different scenario. I kept throwing the ball. I kept pounding the zone. I threw a good number of strikes to fastball hitters with the fastball. A couple hard-hit balls got out, and they got a couple runs off them. You're going to have a game like that every now and then. So I'll take this one.
In his first game out of the bullpen this spring, Justin Masterson struck out three in 2.2 innings. He allowed one hit -- a home run.

Boston won the game 8-7. Jason Varitek had two hits, including a dong, and three more RBI, giving him 15 this spring. Nick Green smacked a two-run triple and scored twice.

The Red Sox have two more games to play in Florida: Pirates tomorrow and Twins on Thursday. Then the team heads north to New York for two games (Friday night and Saturday afternoon) against the Mets at Citi Field.

Sunday is a day of rest -- and then Opening Day!

Lineup & Roster News

L - Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
R - Dustin Pedroia, 2B
L - David Ortiz, DH
R - Kevin Youkilis, 1B
L - J.D. Drew, RF
R - Mike Lowell, 3B
R - Jason Bay, LF
Terry Francona spoke about his preferred lineup to start the season:
I think having the left-handed hitter [fifth] is somewhat useful. For me, right now, J.D. is healthy, we have Mikey Lowell and Bay who we can hit sixth and seventh. In my opinion, neither one is a typical [No. 7] hitter, but somebody is going to have to. We'll figure it out. We have a chance for a pretty balanced, good lineup.
What is a typical #7 hitter? ... I guess the only question now is whether Jason Varitek will hit 8th or 9th? Speaking of which, Varitek leads the team with 12 RBIs!

Sean McAdam, Herald:
Nick Green and Chris Carter have been told that they have made the Red Sox Opening Day roster, with the understanding that things could change if the Sox make a last minute deal or waiver claim.
Is this a joke? Tito, on Lowell's recovery:
The only thing for me right now that he's lacking is some speed. ... There's only so much you can simulate in Spring Training. When the season starts and all of a sudden you're trying to go first to third and score ... we'll keep an eye on him.
Monday pitching: Daisuke Matuszaka threw 75 pitches over five innings against Atlanta yesterday, allowing two hits and two runs (one earned). He walked three and struck out two. ... Tim Wakefield pitched in a minor league: 5 IP, 5 H (3 HR), 5 R, 94 pitches.

Clay Buchholz makes his final Grapefruit League start today against our hated divisional rivals -- the Rays (1 PM).

March 30, 2009

Matsuzaka Pitches For Sox Today

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 98 pitches in his last start -- in only 4.2 innings, sigh -- against the US in the WBC semi-finals.

Today at 1 PM, in his first outing for the Red Sox this spring, he'll be on a 70-75-pitch leash as Boston plays Atlanta in Kissimmee.

Dice's only other spring start will be against the Mets in New York this Saturday.

March 29, 2009

Wilkerson Leaves Team; It's Carter vs Bailey

Terry Francona told the media this morning that Brad Wilkerson has left the team to "assess his options" (as Tony Massarotti of the Globe put it) for the upcoming season.

The team did not make an official announcement, but it would appear that Wilkerson -- who hit [sic] .119 this spring, with 18 strikeouts in 42 AB -- is not being considered for a spot on the bench and the Red Sox decided to give him a few extra days notice to perhaps sign with another club.

Jeff Bailey and Chris Carter are the remaining as candidates for that spot. For both men, it would be a dream come true.

Tito:
We have Bails and Carter, who are kind of fighting for the same spot -- they're already in the organization. We'll make a move from there.
Bails??? Come on, Terry. It's Gumball or nothin'.

This is really the dark ages of nicknames, isn't it?

Sunday: Lester Faces Phillies

Red Sox win 3-1.

March 28, 2009

Penny Starts Against Twins

Brad Penny gets the ball at 1 PM against the Twins.
Rocco Baldelli, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Mike Lowell, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jed Lowrie, SS
George Kottaras, C
Nick Green, RF
As Expected: Terry Francona announced the rotation to begin the season: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. And Justin Masterson will work out of the bullpen this season.

March 27, 2009

Masterson Throws 81 Pitches

Justin Masterson threw 81 pitches over 4.2 innings against some Reds minor leaguers today. He allowed four hits and no runs, walked two and struck out six.
We're standing here talking about whether or not I'm going to be starting or relieving and never has there been a mention of, "Oh, am I going to be in the big leagues or Triple-A?" That's really cool that there's a spot, and it gives me some confidence ...

There is an oddness to, "I'm going back out again, going back out again, going back out again", but I think it's nice. Body-wise, I felt pretty good, even when I came to the end of the pitch count, so I'm excited to see what will still happen as we continue to evaluate.
John Farrell said that Masterson will throw a bullpen session in two days and depending on
how Brad [Penny] gets through his start on Saturday against Minnesota, provided there's no health issues there, I think once we gather that additional information we'll have a better read on what we do with Justin in the final week of spring training.
Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 54 pitches in a bullpen session today. ... Julio Lugo is back in camp and could be playing roughly two weeks into the start of the season.

Yoshida Makes Debut In Japan

Remember Eri Yoshida? In November, the then-16-year-old knuckleball pitcher was drafted by (and later signed with) the Kobe 9 Cruise, one of four teams in Japan's newly formed Kansai Independent League.

Today, at 17, she became Japan's first female professional pitcher. In front of a Opening Day crowd of 11,592 at the Osaka Dome, Yoshida faced two batters in the ninth inning. She walked the first batter on four pitches and gave up a stolen base, but struck out the next hitter swinging.

Kobe 9 Cruise beat the Osaka Gold Villicanes 5-0.

According to wire service reports, no woman had ever played against men in Japan until today.

***

Yoshida threw out the first pitch at an Orix-Yokohama game two weeks ago:

Two Podcasts

Sox Prospects will be posting monthly podcasts on various minor league topics. The first episode includes various spring training stories and the top minor league stories for this season. The broadcast is a little more than an hour long.

Dan at Red Sox Monster has a 30-minute podcast with Chad Finn, whose blog Touching All The Bases is now part of the Globe's website.

Also -- Plenty of prizes are waiting to be won at Go Sox's contests.

Haha.

March 26, 2009

My Quick Red Sox Preview

The Orioles blog Birds Watcher asked me to contribute a team preview on the Red Sox. Nothing too exciting, but you'll find it here.

Buchholz Shines Against Reds

Six innings. Three hits. One unearned run. No walks. Three strikeouts.

Clay Buchholz's outing against the Reds yesterday lowered his spring ERA to 0.46 (one earned run in 19.2 innings).

Buchholz:
It's the best spring that I've had. I came into spring training ready to make this club, but they went out and got a couple of guys and they're going to depend on those guys. ... If Pawtucket's where I'm going, I'm still pitching and I'm a phone call away. I know I can get big league hitters out now and I have more confidence going into this year.
John Smoltz, on his bullpen session:
As I'm taking these steps forward, I have to tame the beast because, as much as in my mind, I know what I'm going to be able to get to, I want to get there faster than I'm probably capable of getting there. I have to consciously remember to take my time, even though that's what I've been saying every day down here - "Take your time, take your time."
The Red Sox are off today, but Justin Masterson will start a minor league game against the Reds' AAA team.

The Rays have decided to have David Price begin the season in AAA Durham.

March 25, 2009

Smoltz: 40 Fastballs

John Smoltz threw 40 pitches -- all fastballs -- off a mound in Fort Myers this morning. Beforehand, Terry Francona said:
He's excited, because now it's real. It's scheduled, it's there. He'll start trying to follow the glove a little bit. He was all fired up today. He said, "It's time to reintroduce myself to the strike zone."
The DH-less Red Sox play the Reds at 1 PM:
Jason Bay, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
J.D. Drew, RF
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Mike Lowell, 3B
Jason Varitek, C
Chip Ambres, CF
Argenis Diaz, SS
Clay Buchholz, P
Tim Wakefield had a great outing (5.2-4-1-1-5) against the Yankees last night -- though New York ran away with the game 7-1 in the eighth inning. George Kottaras was solid behind the plate:
Just trying not to have the anxiety of letting it go by you. Just taking as it is, like with nobody on, basically. Still trying to catch them all and keep them in front. You can only work on it so much. Once you're in the game, it's a different feel, because you don't know what the ball is going to do.
Wake was pleased:
He showed a little more assertiveness, calling some slow ones and mixing in different speeds - on his call, not mine. He just did a fabulous job.
Jon Lester threw 91 pitches in a minor league game yesterday, allowing 10 hits and four runs over six innings. He struck out three. ... Francona says Mark Kotsay is "progressing real well" with his back surgery rehab and might be swinging a bat next week.

March 24, 2009

Penny Strong In First Game; Smoltz Will Throw Bullpen Session Tomorrow

The Red Sox are not pinning any of their pennant hopes on the right arms of Brad Penny or John Smoltz, but the team could realize huge benefits from either or both of these low-risk signings.

Penny pitched three strong innings against the Tigers on Monday, his first appearance this spring against major league hitters. He threw only 33 pitches, did not allow a hit, walked one (Gary Sheffield, his 3rd batter of the day) and struck out three. A scout stated that Penny's fastball hit 94 and was consistently around 91-92.
I felt good. It has been a while since I've gone out there and felt good. ... I felt 100 percent. I didn't get to throw many breaking balls, because they were so aggressive swinging early in the count. I would have liked to have worked on my offspeed [pitches] a little more. ...

I think I threw some pitches up 0-and-2. When I'm really throwing well, that's how I pitch. I'll get two strikes and try to elevate the fastball, and today I had that. I felt like (the fastball) had life, like I was throwing pretty hard today.
Smoltz will throw his first bullpen session -- roughly 30-35 pitches -- tomorrow at 9 AM. The Globe, quoting John Farrell: "'I think he could be doing more than he is right now, but by design' the pitcher has been held back to be ready for the second half of the season and for October."

Daisuke Matsuzaka is expected in Fort Myers Wednesday evening. The plan is for him to throw an inning in a minor league game on Friday, then pitch against Atlanta next Tuesday.

***

The Globe has the lineups for tonight's game (Tim Wakefield / A.J. Burnett) against the Yankees in Tampa:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF        Johnny Damon, LF
Jed Lowrie, SS Derek Jeter, SS
David Ortiz, DH Mark Teixeira, 1B
Chris Carter, LF Hideki Matsui, DH
Rocco Baldelli, RF Jorge Posada, C
George Kottaras, C Robinson Cano, 2B
Brad Wilkerson, 1B Xavier Nady, RF
Nick Green, 2B Cody Ransom, 3B
Angel Chavez, 3B Brett Gardner, CF

WBC MVP: Matsuzaka (Again)

Japan defended its World Baseball Classic title and Daisuke Matsuzaka was again named as the tournament's Most Valuable Player. He was MVP of the 2006 WBC after pitching Japan to victory in the final game.

Dice won all three of his starts and had a 2.45 ERA. In 14.2 innings, he allowed four runs on 14 hits along with five walks and 13 strikeouts. He believed teammate Hisashi Iwakuma should have won:
I'm really thankful about the MVP. I didn't think that it was going to be me at all. I felt that I was lucky, and I felt that it couldn't be compared to Mr. Iwakuma, who pitched today. So I felt that Iwakuma would get the MVP myself.
Dice is probably right. Iwakuma pitched 7.2 strong innings in last night's game -- which Japan won 5-3, in 10 innings -- and ended the WBC with a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings over four games.

It is not inconceivable that Selig et al. would much prefer a MLB player to win the award, rather than a starter for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Matsuzaka had a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings in 2006. His combined WBC stats: 6-0, 1.95 in 27.2 innings.

March 23, 2009

Curt Schilling Announces Retirement

Schilling:
This party has officially ended. After being blessed to experience 23 years of playing professional baseball in front of the world's best fans in so many different places, it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official.
***

Kevin Youkilis returns to the Red Sox lineup today.

March 22, 2009

WBC Semi-Final: Dice Faces USA

United States - 101 000 020 - 4  9  3
Japan - 010 500 03x - 9 10 1
As you can tell from his line -- 4.2-5-2-2-3-4, 98 -- Dice was Dice. But Japan pummeled Oswalt in the fourth and a throwing error by Derek Jeter opened the door to three insurance runs in the eighth.

Japan and Korea --who have already played each other four times in this WBC -- will meet in the title game tomorrow night.

***

Japan's (and Boston's) Daisuke Matsuzaka will face the United States at 8 PM tonight in the penultimate game of the 2009 WBC.

The winner will play Korea, who whipped Venezuela 10-2 last night, in Monday's championship game.

Tonight's pitching match-up is Dice / Roy Oswalt. There is a pitch count limit of 100 in the semifinals and finals.

Between 2006 and 2009, Matsuzaka is 5-0, 1.57 in five WBC games. Oswalt has not pitched since last Sunday's game against the Netherlands. Jake Peavy (2 GS, 14.40) would pitch on Monday, if necessary.

The US is missing the left side of its infield: Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. David Wright, who cracked the nail on his big toe with a foul ball, should be at third, but Evan Longoria is on the bench as a reserve. Ryan Braun, who missed two games in Round 2 with a strained right oblique muscle, will be back. Adam Dunn will return to right field, with Mark DeRosa at first base.

Japan will be without 3B Shuichi Murata (.320/.379/.560) because of a torn right hamstring.

US manager Davey Johnson played for the Yomiuri Giants in 1975-76.

Sod Off

Wanna buy some officially licensed grass?

The Times reports that you can now outfit your lawn with "Yankees Sod" -- the same "secret blend of bluegrass" used at the ballpark.
Yankees Sod will be available at New York City-area Home Depot stores near the end of the month. A patch a little bigger than five square feet — 16 inches by 4 feet — will cost $7.50 ... the sod comes with a certificate of authenticity from Major League Baseball, complete with the counterfeit-proof hologram, declaring it to be the official grass of the New York Yankees.
Yankees Grass Seed will also be available and the sod company also hopes to sell Cubs Sod and Red Sox Sod.

Masterson's Role Still Undecided

Justin Masterson's role to begin the season remains (publicly, at least) undecided. In a minor league game on Saturday, he pitched four innings (65 pitches), allowing two runs on one hit and one walk, while striking out five.
They said that this would be my last for-sure start . It doesn't mean it couldn't be my last one.
Terry Francona:
We'll probably make some decisions in the next couple days on which way to go with some of the pitching. Masterson could be one of them too.
Or could not, I suppose. If the recent reports on Brad Penny are accurate, it sounds like he'll be ready when the team needs a fifth starter in mid-April. If not, then Masterson might fill in for a start or two.

Francona, on Junichi Tazawa (12 IP, 5 hits):
I know it's spring training, but it's still fun to watch. He's 1.1 to the plate. You can't run on him. He throws strikes, you can't run, he gave up two hits, how do you score?
Josh Bard signed a minor league deal with the Nationals. No word whether he accepted the deal at 4 AM.

1 PM: Josh Beckett faces the Phillies.

March 21, 2009

Saturday: Red Sox vs Marlins

Old-timey baseball writers invariably mentioned "Jupiter Pluvius" when there was rain. The phrase has fallen out of fashion, though this guy might bring it back. Today, the Red Sox are in Jupiter, Florida, hoping to play the Marlins -- and it is raining.
Jeff Bailey, RF
Jason Bay, LF
Brad Wilkerson, CF
Chris Carter, 1B
George Kottaras, C
Nick Green, 2B
Angel Chavez, 3B
Gil Velazquez, SS

Michael Bowden, SP
Adam Kilgore, Globe:
Kevin Youkilis took batting practice wearing sneakers, sans plastic boot on his left foot, while J.D. Drew did not participate with the Red Sox during their morning workout. Youkilis is hopeful he'll play in a game Monday, while Drew was unsure of how long it would take him to return from the contusion on his right hand ...

Drew did not think the pain and weakness in his hand would keep him out too long. He seemed to think it would be a matter of days, and that missing Opening Day is in no way a possibility because of this injury. ...

Youkilis was examined this morning by Dr. Peter Asnis, and the diagnosis was positive enough that he could remove the boot he's worn for three days. Youkilis said he had "good strength in the tendons. It'll be fine."

March 20, 2009

Dustin Being Dustin

Ian Browne, mlb.com:
Though Pedroia will be glad to again suit up for the Red Sox for Sunday's game, he is still disappointed that he won't be able to take the field that night for Team USA in a semifinal match against teammate Daisuke Matsuzaka and Japan.

"I wish I was there and could be a part of it with those guys," Pedroia said. "It was an unbelievable experience getting a chance to play with all those guys. I'll definitely be rooting hard for them. I'll shoot them a text message, a little motivational speech for 'em. I'll get 'em going."

Would he offer his Team USA friends any advice for how to hit against Matsuzaka?

"Daisuke is lucky I'm not there," quipped Pedroia. "I'd hit a line drive right off his back, and you guys can put that in your paper. I would hit him right in his back. He better hope the Red Sox don't trade him."

Pedroia Returns To Lineup Today

Dustin Pedroia will be back in the Red Sox lineup this afternoon and get two plate appearances against the Pirates.
I feel fine. I haven't felt it one time since I got back. I think the three days I had off calmed everything down, and everything's been fine.
Clay Buchholz will start and Jonathan Papelbon, Takashi Saito, Hideki Okajima and Javier Lopez are expected to follow.

Jon Lester (4-3-1-1-6, 67) was sharp against the Reds yesterday. He retired 10 of the last 11 hitters he faced, including six by strikeout. Jed Lowrie went 3-for-4, with a single, double and home run. he's hitting .462 (18-for-39) and 10 of his 18 hits have gone for extra bases.

George Kottaras caught Tim Wakefield for five shutout innings (and also had three hits). Wake expressed his confidence in his new personal catcher:
Georgie did a tremendous job today. I have the utmost confidence in him that he'll be able to last all season long with me. I like throwing to him as well as I like throwing to Josh. I look forward to working with him some more.
Kevin Youkilis, on the issues with his left foot -- a mild ankle sprain, mild Achilles tendinitis:
It's something that started, I think, ever since Day 1 of Spring Training. I've had tightness, and this foot is the same foot I've had plantar fasciitis in [during the 2006 season]. I've had tightness in it a lot.
Yook refused to blame the WBC:
I've been hearing that this is the WBC's fault, this is a stupid idea. It's not. It's a great thing. ... I'd recommend it for all the guys to totally do it.

March 19, 2009

Book Review: Becoming Manny: Inside The Life Of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger

Becoming Manny: Inside The Life Of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger By Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg (Simon Schuster)

It's no secret that I have been -- and continue to be -- a huge Manny Ramirez fan. So much of the blather spoken and written about Manny during his 7+ seasons in Boston means next to nothing to me. What? Manny made mistakes on the field and he wasn't a perfect teammate? That makes exactly like every other player in history. But more importantly, I simply do not care.

During the time I spent reading this breezy but informative biography, Manny popped up in Red Sox news stories twice. The more recent incident was Jonathan Papelbon's "cancer" comments and the first was when Ramirez signed a new deal with the Dodgers:
I'm in a happy place where I wanted to be. ... sometimes it's better off to have a two-year deal in a place that you're going to be happy than have an eight-year deal in a place where you're going to suffer.
I do not believe Manny's comments were a calculated dig at Red Sox fans -- though the choice of the word "suffer" likely will give certain columnists, radio hosts and bloggers fodder for at least another two or three years.

Still, it's obvious that Manny was not comfortable with the intensity of many baseball fans in Boston. Reading this book, it appears he discovered that very quickly after coming from Cleveland in 2001. Considering how well he played, and how many times he did say he enjoyed life with the Red Sox, I'd say he tried like hell to adjust, he wanted to make it work, but simply couldn't do it. We can't force ourselves to be happy when we are not.

Since this book has Manny's blessing, authors Jean Rhodes (a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts) and Shawn Boburg (a reporter for The Record in Bergen County, NJ) were able to extensively interview members of Manny's family, especially his mother and three sisters, his former high school and minor league teammates, as well as various friends, coaches and mentors.

That unprecedented access makes the chapters on Manny's upbringing and his journey to the major leagues easily the strongest part of the book -- and because Manny is a very private individual, there's a wealth of background and information here that is simply unavailable anywhere else. For anyone with an interest in Manny Ramirez, where he came from and what makes him tick, Becoming Manny is your first stop.

Many of the later chapters do little more than walk us through each season, noting Ramirez's hot and cold streaks, his team's performance, and any newsworthy items or incidents along the way. It's not bad, but there also isn't much that serious followers of Ramirez don't already know.

In an interview with the Globe, Rhodes was asked to "diagnose" Manny:
He has an incredible ability to focus and get into a flow state, which transcends the known world. He's fundamentally a very shy person and experiences a high level of social anxiety. It's like the whole world is conspiring to take him out of his flow state. Also, there's a degree of narcissism ... [but] He's not as self-absorbed as people think. He's a great father who always wants to be with his sons.
Throughout the book, it is the issue of trust that is the defining feature of Manny's life and the most important quality in his relationships. He was already shy and had a basic mistrust of others, and his early riches only deepened that suspicion. Early in the book, Manny talks about his mentor, Carlos "Macaco" Ferreira:
You can tell when people are real and want to be there for you. You come across a thousand people who say "Put your money here" or "Put your money there", but it's not common you find a person you can really trust. There are three people in my life who I can really trust: [my wife] Juliana, my mom and Macaco. ... He won't say one thing to you and say something else to somebody else. There are a lot of people like that. It hurts me that the world is like that, but it is, so you have to have someone you can trust. Someone who calms you and helps you move forward.
The authors explain the sports world's fascination with Manny:
His talent with a bat is supernatural. And yet his very mortal weaknesses and his idiosyncrasies outside the batter's box, along with his apparent indifference to them, make him one of the most interesting personalities in professional sports. ... Manny has never bothered much with self-image, declining to protest when his flaws are revealed or his actions are misinterpreted. ... Manny is a throwback to a time when baseball players had less fear of being themselves, for better or worse, a time when they did not have to worry about their marketability ...
Many times, I thought of a young Babe Ruth when reading about Manny. There are certainly similarities: the love of practical jokes, the prodigious hitting talents, the inattention to the details of the game -- Ruth once made friends with a puppy that ran on the field during a game -- and what Rhodes calls "acquired situational narcissism":
... an unnatural alignment of youth and power [that leads a person] to develop into someone who is slightly more oblivious to the people and events around him and less schooled in manners, obligations, and constraints than most of us.
A former minor league coach, Dave Keller, described Manny as "one of the simplest, most complex men I've ever known."

Despite Lack Of Hits, Varitek Pleased With Stance

Jason Varitek is hitting only .160 (4-for-25) this spring -- and two of those four hits came on Tuesday -- but he's pleased with how his work on his left-hand hitting stance with hitting coach Dave Magadan has gone.
Can't let the results change the process right now. ... You have triggers and timing mechanisms and those things; well, we've changed my timing mechanism. We're still trying to figure this out, what's what and how it's all going to work together ... My plate coverage is much better in BP and [I have] the ability to drive the ball to different parts of the field and use some of my strength ... Foundationally, my legs are underneath me a lot more now than they have [been]. I have a tendency to run in and out of the box, to be literal. ... I've done certain things for a long time. Hopefully, the changes that we're making, if I can get there, will allow me to be more consistent. We're not there yet.
Brad Penny threw his fastball consistently at 93 yesterday, even touching 95 a few times, though he was more concerned with his command. Facing a group of Twins' A hitters, Penny threw 30 of his 41 pitches for strikes and allowed one hit over three innings. He may start against the Tigers -- three innings, 45-50 pitches -- on Monday. (Good quotes from John Farrell here.)

Sean McAdam, on Kevin Youkilis's injury:
While the club issued a statement saying he was also suffering from a mild ankle sprain, a source close to Youkilis said the issue was solely [tendinitis of the left] Achilles. There was no structural damage to the ankle or surrounding area, and Youkilis will wear a protective boot through the end of the week as a precautionary measure ... and he is expected to miss 5-7 days with the Sox.
There is some thought at SoSH that Yook may have hurt himself during the on-field celebration after the US's walk-off win against Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Likely back-up catcher George Kottaras will catch Tim Wakefield this afternoon in a game at the minor-league complex. Theo Epstein, on Kottaras:
He's got a strong throwing arm. He's got really good hands. He's got some life in his bat, good knowledge of the strike zone. He's not going to hit for a high average. But, between his walks and his power, he still manages to bring something to the table offensively. ... Once he showed he could handle Wake, we decided that was the direction we were probably going to go in.
Kottaras got plenty of experience catching knuckleballer Charlie Zink at Pawtucket last season.

Jon Lester will start tonight against the Reds, with Manny Delcarmen and Daniel Bard coming out of the pen.

March 18, 2009

Youkilis Injures Ankle In WBC; MRI Negative

After leaving the USA WBC team because of a sore left ankle, Kevin Youkilis has been examined by the Red Sox medical staff and underwent an MRI.

WEEI:
His ankle, according to the source, had been bothering him for about a week or so, with the irritation getting progressively worse. There is some inflammation in the ankle tendons and around the Achilles tendon. He has been examined by the Red Sox medical staff, and though the injury was not believed to be serious, all parties decided to err on the side of caution.
ESPN:
Teammate Brad Ziegler said Youkilis was in such pain that after the game he could barely walk through the training room.
How and why did it get to that point?

SoSHer reporting, 9:17:
WBC announcers reporting MRIs negative-- diagnosis is mild ankle sprain, mild ankle tendonitis... Doesn't sound too bad, as long as the tendonitis doesn't become a persistent problem.

Theo: Backup Job "Is George Kottaras's To Lose"

That's what it says here:
General Manager Theo Epstein says that the backup job "is George Kottaras's to lose."
Mike McDermott, ProJo:
Kottaras said yesterday that he hoped that session [catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball last week] gave the team the confidence to trust him as the backup.

"I was proud of the way that I caught it," Kottaras said. "I got my opportunity, and hopefully they can go based on that.

Kottaras is hitting .286 with one home run and two RBI in 14 spring at-bats.

A-Rod: Never A Dull Moment

Newsday:
A-Rod is the cover story in Details Magazine this month, although the accompanying pictures and timing of the interview are grabbing more attention than anything he said. In one eye-catching photo, he is nearly lip to lip with himself in a full-length mirror. ...

When shown the picture before Team USA's game in the World Baseball Classic, Derek Jeter appeared a bit taken aback but had no comment. He shook his head and said: "All sorts of articles coming out." ...
Rodriguez called the reporter back the day following the interview and asked "that the name of his favorite Madonna song not be published".

***

Top prospect Lars Anderson (.182 in 22 AB this spring) was one of six prospects who were reassigned to the team's minor league complex yesterday. ... Dustin Pedroia could be back in a game by Sunday. ... Brad Penny will throw two innings in a minor league game today. ... The Brewers claimed RHP Wes Littleton off waivers from the Red Sox.

Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane says Roger Clemens's defamation suit against Brian McNamee is done diddely done for: "It's a one-in-a-million chance. There is virtually no chance this will be successful."

The World According to Sexy Lips

***

Wallace Matthews, Newsday:
How many American men would have the guts to admit they have a favorite Madonna song in the first place?
redsock:
Ray of Light.

Red Sox Release Josh Bard

Chad Finn, Globe:
The Red Sox announced this morning that they have placed the 30-year old catcher on unconditional release waivers, indicating that George Kottaras -- a 25-year-old switch-hitter with power who is out of minor league options -- will make the Opening Day roster, though there remains the possibility the Sox could bring in another backstop via trade.
Michael Silverman, Herald:
Bard had been on an unguaranteed contract worth $1.6 million. By cutting him before 2 p.m. today, the Red Sox are responsible for only 30 days of Bard’s contract. That is approximately 1/6 of his salary or $260,000. Bard is now an unrestricted free agent.
Kottaras's minor league splits:
         AB    AVG   OBP   SLG
v LH 425 .264 .353 .409
v RH 1081 .261 .359 .449
The higher slugging against RHP is nice to see. Bard's career slugging against RH: .376. Varitek slugged .323 against RHP last season. Kottaras makes more sense as a platoon for Varitek. It could be that Bard was nothing more than Tek insurance.

With Kottaras out of options, the choice this spring was lose either Kottaras or Bard. Kottaras can hit from both sides, he's five years younger, he has caught a knuckler, and he's cheaper (though Bard's price tag was small).

March 17, 2009

fundable: war resisters legal defense

[I stopped sharing political stuff at JoS several years ago, but sometimes a post or two manages to sneak through. ... Like now!]

Last October, readers of JoS (and wmtc) donated $3,000 to buy a much-needed automobile for Tim and Cathy Baskin. I was never more happy to have this blog than when I read Tim's thank-you note.

Laura started another Fundable campaign -- here -- to cover some of the mounting legal fees incurred by US soldiers who have refused to violate international law and participate in the Iraq invasion and brutal, ongoing occupation. They left their old lives behind (in many cases, severing ties with relatives and friends) and came with their families to Canada looking to live in peace.
The majority of Canadian people believe these former soldiers should be allowed to stay in Canada. In June 2008, the Canadian Parliament passed a motion calling on the Government to allow the war resisters to stay. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minority government ignored the motion.

Shamefully, Stephen Harper continues to ignore the will of the people and of Parliament. The Harper government is deporting war resisters, forcing them to return to the US. There, they will be court martialled, imprisoned and likely receive dishonourable discharges, the equivalent of a felony conviction, which will hinder their future opportunities -- forever.

Three US war resisters have already been deported. ... The War Resisters Support Campaign is fighting to keep US war resisters safe in Canada. Until a law is passed allowing them all to stay, we must fight each deportation in court. Even at the most discounted fees from lawyers sympathetic to our cause, we face thousands of dollars in mounting legal costs.

We are asking for your help. This is an all-volunteer campaign (in fact, volunteers often fund the campaign out of their own pockets). ...
Amazingly, the $2,500 amount (which was chosen as a significant, but likely reachable, goal) was reached in only two weeks! The fund is now over $4,000!

Still, the campaign needs as much money as possible to continue to fight Harper's refusal to follow the democratic process. I know money is tight for most of you, but please consider donating as little as $10. Every cent of it will go directly to these court costs.

Donations will be accepted until March 25. Of course, the WRSC will accept donations after that date, too!

Thank you very much.

Beckett Faces Twins Today

Josh Beckett makes his fifth start of the spring for the Red Sox at 1 PM against Minnesota. In 11 Grapefruit innings, he had yet to allow a run.

Also scheduled to pitch: Jonathon Papelbon, Takashi Saito, Hideko Okajima, Jinuchi Tazawa and Wes Littleton.

Dustin Pedroia is doing some soft toss and is expected to take batting practice on Thursday.

John Smoltz says the recovery from shoulder surgery has been "a slow crawl", but his first bullpen session is scheduled for March 25.

After a two-inning side session tomorrow, Brad Penny may face the Tigers on Monday.

John Farrell, on Daisuke Matsuzaka's six-inning, 86-pitch effort in the WBC:
The reports were he used his secondary stuff very effectively. He threw quite a number of changeups, didn't seemingly overthrow his fastball. He looked like he had a very good rhythm for the six innings that he pitched, and really was a model of efficiency ...
Amalie Benjamin has a feature on fireballer Daniel Bard. In seven spring innings, Bard has allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out 10.

***

Julian Tavarez compares signing with the Nationals to wearing "beer goggles":
Why did I sign with the Nationals? When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you're just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J-Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It's 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me.
Thanks to SG!

Everyone Loves A Contest #6

It's time for the Red Sox W-L Contest!

Correctly guess the team's 2009 regular season record and win exciting prizes*:

Prize: 6 classic Pedro performances on DVD. I'm unsure of the exact list (I may get more games over the summer), but these two will certainly be included:
Sep 10, 1999: 9-1-0-0-17 at Yankees

Aug 29, 2000: 9-1-0-0-13 at Tampa Bay
Note: Entries must be emailed to me -- though you can post your entry in comments if you feel like it.

Tiebreakers (if there is a tie with (1) we'll go to (2):
(1) How many bases will Jacoby Ellsbury steal?

(2) Jason Varitek's on-base percentage?
Tiebreakers will follow The Price Is Right rules: closest without going over.

Deadline: Sunday, April 5 at 9 PM.

*And I'm repeating the grand [sic] prize! The winner is invited to watch a 2010 Red Sox game+ at Chez L-Sock. Game night will include dinner in our backyard, alcoholic beverages, copious canine attention, and overnight accommodations. Transportation to the Toronto area not included. [+: Monday-Thursday only]

March 16, 2009

Stuff

With three weeks until Opening Day, the annual W/L contest should be posted in the next few days. Any suggestions for possible tiebreakers?

The results of the 2009 Bloggies -- which I pestered you about in late January -- will (finally) be announced tonight.

***

Jeff at Sox and Pinstripes is petitioning to have Jeff Bailey on the Opening Day roster instead of Brad Wilkerson. One of Theo Epstein's finest attributes as a GM is his complete disregard for fan sentiment, but if you're a Gumball fan, click here.

March 15, 2009

Pedroia: Muscle Strain "Won't Be An Issue"

Adam Kilgore, Globe:
Pedroia will miss only a few days with a strain in his left abdominal muscle ... It is a far less serious injury than the initially feared oblique strain, which could have sidelined Pedroia for 6-8 weeks.
Pedroia:
When you have a physique like this, when you're shredded and everything, something might happen.
***

Two of the funnier photoshops of FY:


Dice Leads Japan Past Cuba

Daisuke Matsazaka (6-5-0-0-8, 86) led Japan to a 6-0 win over Cuba this afternoon in San Diego.

All five hits were singles and of his 86 pitches, 61 were strikes. So in facing 22 batters, he threw only 25 balls. Nice! In three starts against Cuba, Dice has a 1.96 ERA.

The United States plays the Netherlands tonight. The loser is eliminated from the WBC.

UPDATE: USA wins 9-3.

Lugo Will Have Surgery Tuesday

Julio Lugo will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Tuesday. MLB: "There is no timetable for his return, though such surgeries usually require multiple weeks of rehabilitation."

Dustin Pedroia is not worried about his strained left abdominal muscle: "I don't think it's going to linger. I'll take care of it and get it ready and get ready for the season. It won't be an issue."

Boston's five-year contract with Jon Lester has been finalized. Working on his changeup and curveball, Lester struck out eight batters in four innings of a minor league game yesterday.

WBC: Puerto Rico beat the US 11-1 last night in a game stopped in the bottom of the seventh inning because of the mercy rule. The Netherlands could eliminate the US from the WBC tonight.

Today: Clay Buchholz will start against the Orioles at 1 PM. Jonathan Papelbon will also pitch.

March 14, 2009

Pedroia Suffers Strained Left Oblique

Dustin Pedroia left the US WBC team today after feeling a shooting pain in his left side. He has a strained left oblique and will be further examined by Red Sox doctors tomorrow.

Pedroia said he felt the injury during a workout on Friday and hoped it would sideline him for only a few days. He doesn't know if the Red Sox will allow him to continue playing in the tournament. FY:
I've never really had anything like this which is why it’s frustrating. Obviously I train real hard in the off season to get ready and try to prevent something like this from happening. Maybe I tried a little too hard too fast to get this going.
And that's why so many fans are against the WBC.

Granted, there's no good time to play these games and players can get hurt doing just about anything (sneezing, turning off an alarm clock, driving a car), but Pedroia would be far less likely to play all out in a spring training game against the Pirates than he would representing the United States on the world stage.

Lugo Has MRI On Right Knee, Says He's "Worried"

Lugo Update below!

Julio Lugo left last night's game against the Yankees in the first inning complaining of soreness in his right knee. He had an MRI done -- the results will be known today.

Terry Francona said Lugo (9-for-20, .450 this spring) had mentioned the soreness to one of the team's trainers a couple of days ago:
He said it's been bothering him for 10 days to two weeks, but the last couple of days it started grabbing at him.
Lugo:
I'm worried. ... I'm the type, when something bothers me, when I say something, I'm in pain. Otherwise I'm not going to complain ...
Francona fears Lugo may have a meniscus tear in his right knee.

Mike Lowell went 2-for-2 with a solo homer and a single in the Red Sox's 8-4 win. (Wang was pounded.) Lowell felt satisfied with his play at third base.

Tim Wakefield (2.1-5-4-3-3, 64):
I had a lot of movement, almost too much movement. I couldn't throw strikes today.
David Ortiz hit a two-run dong in Boston's seven-run second inning.

March 13, 2009

Penny Aggressive In Intra-Squad Game

Potential 5th starter Brad Penny threw 33 pitches over two innings in a simulated game at the minor league complex this morning.

He gave up a home run on a 2-2 fastball to his first batter (David Mailman), but settled down after that. John Farrell said Penny felt strong, was aggressive, and experienced no pain. Over at the Sox Prospects discussion board, Cem21 charted pitches for Penny's first inning and posted:
Penny looked to be throwing pretty effortlessly and had good command of his fastball. His curveball had pretty good action and he dropped it in for a couple of strikes. More of an aggressive side session, but looked pretty successful in achieving the goal. Next step getting him into a game.
Penny is expected to throw about 45 pitches in his next appearance on Wednesday. The Red Sox will need a fifth starter on April 12, four weeks from this Sunday.

Ortiz, Bay, Lowell Expected vs Yankees

David Ortiz and Jason Bay should be in the lineup tonight when the Red Sox play the Yankees (7 PM). Mike Lowell is expected to play several innings at third base.

In four games this spring, Josh Beckett has allowed five hits and no runs in 11 innings. On Thursday, he turned in this line against the Cardinals: 4-2-0-1-2, 50. He threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of his 15 batters.

John Farrell says Beckett is:
throwing the ball with power, with command. The nagging injuries that plagued him a year ago have not been evident at any one point and time. I think we're seeing him not only build arm strength but build endurance.
With two scoreless innings in relief, Justin Masterson has also not been scored upon this spring, in nine innings. ... Ortiz and Bay talk about their WBC experiences. ... Gumball Bailey, last year's International League MVP, currently hitting .524, tied for the team lead in spring hits and fighting for the final roster spot, talks with the Globe's Adam Kilgore.

Jonathan Papelbon stands by the comments he made to Esquire last December. Over in the Dodgers' camp, Manny said: "I moved on. I don't know why they don't."

March 12, 2009

Red Sox WBC Stats (Round 1)

If you'd like to know how Boston's players did in Round 1 of the World Baseball Classic:
Batters
G AB R H RBI - ETC
Canada
Jason Bay, CF 2 4 1 2 2 - 2B, 5 BB, 1K

Dominican Republic
David Ortiz, 1B 3 8 0 2 1 - 3 BB, 1K

United States
Dustin Pedroia, 2B 3 16 1 2 2 - 2 2B, 1 K
Kevin Youkilis, 3B 3 12 7 3 3 - 2 HR, 3 BB, 3K

Panama
Angel Chavez, SS 2 8 0 2 0 - 3 K

Chinese Taipei
Chih-Hsien Chiang, SS 2 7 0 2 0 - 1 K
Che-Hsuan Lin, CF 2 7 1 3 0 - 2 BB, 2K, 1 CS

Australia
Mitch Dening, RF 2 1 1 0 0


Pitchers
G IP H ER BB K
Canada

Steve Green 1 0.2 2 2 1 0

Japan
Daisuke Matsuzaka 1 4.0 4 2 2 1

Puerto Rico
Fernando Cabrera 2 1.2 0 0 0 3
Javier Lopez 1 1.0 1 0 0 1

South Africa
Justin Erasmus 1 3.0 5 3 1 1

Venezuela
Enrique Gonzalez 1 4.0 2 0 0 3 (1 HBP)

Netherlands
Dennis Neuman 3 2.2 0 2 3 2

Round 2:


Saturday, March 14, at Miami:
Netherlands vs Venezuela, 1 PM
United States vs Puerto Rico, 8 PM
Sunday, March 15, at San Diego:
Japan vs Cuba, 4 PM
Mexico vs Korea, 11 PM

March 11, 2009

Buchholz Learning From Smoltz

Clay Buchholz pitched three perfect innings yesterday and later said that John Smoltz has been helping him with the mental aspect of the game.
He sat down [before my start] and said, "Hey, anything that you need to know?" He said he feels like he's been in the same position as me early in his career as far as people telling you, "Hey, you've got really good stuff. You need to learn how to use it." It's been good so far having him. ...

It was the best outing I've had in a long time. ... I do believe that anybody that goes out there and is getting outs whenever they're throwing the right pitch, it's easy to pitch that way. It's when adversity strikes, like in between those [good] innings, when you know what kind of pitcher you are.
As impressive as his pitching has been this spring, it's hearing Buchholz talk about his mental state (having confidence amid adversity, not letting problems snowball) that is perhaps most encouraging. (Justin Masterson says he has also benefited from Smoltz's influence this spring.)

Mike Lowell (1-for-3) was happy with his first game of the spring:
Things felt fast -- like your plate discipline is a little bit behind. I swung at an 0-2 pitch that probably wasn't the best pitch to swing at. ... [Playing third for three or four innings on Friday] will be more of a test. I'm not anticipating any problems, but yeah, that little bounce you do right before every pitch, there's going to be a lot of them. ... I think this was step one and playing the field is step two, and then we'll get to the endurance part of just being able to go the whole game and not think about the hip.
Brad Penny will pitch in a game on Friday, but it will be an intrasquad contest at the minor league complex. Penny threw 20 pitches of BP yesterday and is hoping to get into an actual game next week.

Jason Bay is back in camp. While in Toronto for the WBC, he watched Shawn Horcoff score two goals to lead Edmonton over the the Maple Leafs. Horcoff's mother shared the same hospital room with Bay's mother when the women gave birth three days apart in 1978.

David Ortiz will be returning as well, as the Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic for a second time, single-handedly pushing them out of the WBC. The DR broke a scoreless tie with a run in the top of the 11th inning, but the Dutch scored two in the bottom half to win -- and advance to Round 2.

The Red Sox are off today. Josh Beckett, Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden will pitch against the Cardinals on Thursday.

"Another Significant Step Towards Jail For Clemens"

New York Times:
Federal authorities investigating Roger Clemens on perjury charges have found performance-enhancing substances on the drug paraphernalia that his former trainer said he used to inject Clemens, according to people briefed on the case.
Richard Emery, Brian McNamee's lawyer:
I assumed, and I am not surprised, that the tests were positive for both DNA and for performance-enhancing drugs, because that's what Brian said all along, and there's not much doubt that Brian's been telling the truth. The confirmation of that fact, once again, just seems to me to be another significant step towards jail for Clemens.
Rusty Hardin, Clemens's lead lawyer:
Do you really think McNamee was going to fabricate this stuff and not make sure there were substances on there? The fact is Roger never used steroids or H.G.H.
Jennifer L. Mnookin, a professor of law at U.C.L.A.:
All that these tests can do is show the presence of biological materials. They can't tell you how, why or when.
McNamee:
The needles I gave the government were used to inject Clemens with steroids in either July or August of 2001. The place was his apartment, which is located around 90th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan. It was when Clemens was pitching for the Yankees. That day, he laid out the drugs, dropped his trousers and I did as he asked, that was, inject him with steroids. ... Yes, sometimes it was in his apartment. Sometimes it was in the Jacuzzi at Yankee Stadium.
Clemens continues to insist the sun rises in the west.

March 9, 2009

It's Do-or-Die For Canada

And it's "die".
Italy  - 111 100 200 - 6 10  0
Canada - 000 200 000 - 2 7 1
Justin Morneau (4-for-5) and Jason Bay (2-for-2, 2 BB) had six of Canada's seven hits. But that, along with Votto's double -- one of three straight "Baltimore dongs" that gave the home team its runs -- was the offense from the northern bats. The final 17 Canadian hitters managed one hit.

Poor starting pitching from Perkins (2-3-3-4-2) -- who also made a fielding error on an easy comebacker on his second pitch of the game -- set the tone for the evening.

I liked the PA announcements being made in two languages; it reminded me of seeing games in Montreal. Hearing Valentino Pascucci's name six or so times from the Italian announcer was a delight!

***

WBC: Italy vs Canada, 6 PM


Both teams are 0-1, so in this double-elimination tournament, the loser of this game is out of the WBC. It's crunch time for Canada.

Tonight's winner will meet Venezuela tomorrow night -- and the winner of that game will play the US on Wednesday, with a guaranteed spot in Round 2.

Manager Ernie Whitt will send 6-5 right-hander Vince Perkins (an 18th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2000) to the hill. He has no big league experience.

Globe and Mail:
"We have all the confidence in the world in Vince, that he can give us at least three strong innings or go through the lineup twice," Whitt said.

The 27-year-old right-hander played independent ball last season with the Camden Riversharks and Joliet Jackhammers and then signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago Cubs.

Perkins said his arm is finally rounding into shape after Tommy John elbow ligament-replacement surgery in 2006 and he is excited about the upcoming challenge.

"My arm has never felt better," he said. ...
Hmmmm. For a guy in whom he says he has "all the confidence in the world", Whitt is setting the bar a bit low, no? Three good innings? (Then again, the guy has not pitched higher than AA.)

Scott Diamond, a 22-year-old lefty who pitched for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Class A, Atlanta) last year, will likely follow. Then, as Whitt says, "it's whatever it takes to win a ball game."

We need Jason Bay & Co. to lead us to victory; no more walks, Bay, we need a doung or two! (Steve Green, a 31-year-old AAA vet now with Pawtucket, is also on Canada's roster. Old friend Lenny DiNardo is in Italy's pen.)

MLB lists Dan Serafini, a 35-year-old lefty with no current major league affiliation, as Italy's probable starter. (He was born in San Francisco.) He has pitched in the majors -- for six teams over seven seasons between 1996 and 2007. (His best BR comp? Vaughn Eshelman!)

***

Jon Lester starts against Pittsburgh this afternoon with this lineup behind him:

Nick Green, 2B
Jed Lowrie, SS
Josh Bard, DH
Jeff Bailey, RF
Brad Wilkerson, CF
Chris Carter, LF
Paul McAnulty, 1B
George Kottaras, C
Gil Velazquez, 3B
Mike Lowell is excited to play tomorrow.

March 8, 2009

Red Sox, Lester Agree On 5/30 Extension

Yahoo is reporting that "a source close to the team" says the Red Sox have agreed with Jon Lester on a five-year, $30 million contract extension.

The deal also includes a $13 million team option for 2014 and is contingent on Lester passing a physical Tuesday.

So this winter, Boston has locked up Lester for five years, Kevin Youkilis for four years, and Dustin Pedroia for six years for a total of $111 million -- or roughly 2/3 of what the Yankees will pay 300-pound pitcher CC Sabathia for eight years. Toss in the low-risk, high-reward signings of John Smoltz and Brad Penny and this has been a magnificent winter for Theo Epstein.

Red Sox Battle Rays Again

Rays    - 000 001 010 - 2  7  1
Red Sox - 124 000 10x - 8 11 0
Masterson pitched well (3-1-0-0-3) and Papelbon and Daniel Bard both struck out the side in their respective innings of work. Bot allowed two hits. Tazawa pitched two innings and struck out four; he also allowed two hits and a run. The Sox pitchers struck out 15 batters in the game.

Someone wearing Julio Lugo's uniform went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBI, and a walk.

***

The Red Sox committed six errors and allowed nine unearned runs Saturday afternoon in a 15-7 loss to the Rays. (Boston actually out-hit Tampa Bay in the game, 11-7.)

The AL East rivals play again today at 1 PM. Justin Masterson will start; Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and Junichi Tazawa will also pitch.

Tim Wakefield threw 49 pitches over three innings and is already getting bored with the exhibition schedule:
I feel like I'm game-ready now. I don't think my pitch count would be Opening Day-ready. But it's not like I labored today. I felt like I could have gone at least one more [inning], maybe two. Once I get my pitch count up to about 95, I think from that point, we'll back it down to 70 right before the season starts and then we'll be ready. ...

My timing [with the knuckleball] seems to be better. I got a lot of swing-and-misses and three strikeouts, which is good. ... I'm happy with the way I felt.
Mike Lowell is scheduled to play (or DH, rather) on Tuesday, with an eye towards playing third on Friday the 13th against the Yankees. ... Alex Rodriguez has decided to undergo surgery on his torn right hip labrum Monday.

Today's WBC games:
Korea 14, China 0
South Africa / Cuba, 2 PM
Panama / Dominican Republic, 4:30 PM
United States / Venezuela, 8 PM
Australia / Mexico, 9 PM
Korea / Japan, 5:30 AM (Monday)
The United States/Venezuela winner will advance to the second round. The loser of Monday's Canada/Italy game will be eliminated.

Julio Lugo's Muscles

In this morning's Herald, Sean McAdam writes that Julio Lugo:
might be ready to supply more extra-base power this season. The shortstop added about 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, which could aid him in driving the ball more consistently.
Note to Lugo: Concentrate first on getting some "base power" before trying to do anything "extra".

Ten pounds still seems like a lot for a relatively small guy like Lugo (he's listed at 175, the same weight given in the 2008 Red Sox media guide). I was reminded that the Globe's Nick Cafardo has been all over the map (all over the scale?) this year in reporting on Lugo's new bulk:

Cafardo, January 18, 2009:
Julio Lugo, SS, Red Sox: He's serious about competing for the shortstop job. He opted out of winter ball to devote his time to conditioning and has gained 20 pounds of muscle. Jed Lowrie will be challenged.
Cafardo, January 25, 2009:
I meant Julio Lugo had gained 10 pounds of muscle, not the 20 I incorrectly typed last week ...
Cafardo, February 16, 2009:
Lugo is about 10 pounds heavier after an offseason during which he not only healed his injured quad but decided to gain muscle, something he said he's been wanting to do for many years.
Cafardo and Amalie Benjamin, February 17, 2009:
Julio Lugo, who came in about 5 pounds heavier (seemingly all muscle) than he did last season, said he would have played in the World Series last fall had the Sox gotten that far.
Lugo slugged [sic] .330 last season, down from .349 in 2007. (In 73 games with Tampa Bay in 2006, he slugged .498.)

In four spring games this year, Lugo is 5-for-12, all singles.

March 7, 2009

WBC: USA 6, Canada 5

Canada        -  101 001 101 - 5  7  1
United States - 010 302 00x - 6 9 0
1st: With one out, Martin walked, Votto singled him to third and he scored on Morneau's grounder to first. Bay walked and Stairs got plunked, but there was no further damage. ... CI hit a one-out double for the States, but Johnson got Jones and Wright on strikes.

2nd: Yook and Dunn walked, a FC put Yook on third and McCann's sacrifice fly to CF tied the game.

3rd: Votto crushed a one-out doung to right-centre. Morneau wealked, but Peavy fanned Bay and Stairs. ... Johnson needed only seven pitches to retire CI, Chipper and Wright.

4th: Hawkins relieved Peavy. He kept the ball in the infield and allowed only a one-out walk. ... Yook bopped a solo dong to right to start the bottom half, then Dunn walked on four pitches. After a mound visit, Johnson fanned Braun, but surrendered a two-run bomb to right to McCann. At 63 pitches, he is likely done.

5th: Facing Matt Thornton, Martin, Votto and Morneau went quietly in order. ... Jeter singled and Rollins came into run. Two outs later, he was caught stealing.

6th: Bay walked, took third on a one-out double by Teahen, and scored on a wild pitch. US 4-3. ... Yook walked to start things off and Dunn homered to left-centre. US 6-3.

7th: Facing Shields, Martin hit a one-out doung to left. Votto singled and after Morneau struck out, Bay walked (for the third time). But Stairs fanned. ... Pedroia doubled, Rollins singled, and after a wild pitch, Jones walked. Based loaded against Phillippe Aumont, but he escaped: Wright lined softly to short and Yook and Granderson went down swinging.

8th: Weglarz worked a one-out walk, but Orr GIDP. ... The US loaded the bases on a walk, single and an error, but Jones fanned to end the inning.

9th: Putz pitching. Pinch-hitter Adam Stern nearly beat out an infield grounder into the shortstop hole, but Rollins made the play. Very close at first, but it was the right call. Then Martin and Votto (4-for-5) hit back-to-back doubles to cut the lead to 6-5. Votto went to third on Morneau's groundout and Brett Lawrie came in as a pinch-runner. Bay looked at two strikes, then took three balls, then fouled off two more pitches -- before flying easily out to right. Damn.

***

Lineups below!

***

Adam Stern led Canada to an 8-6 victory over the United States in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The two countries meet again today at 2 PM in Toronto before an expected Skydome crowd of 40,000. The game will be broadcast by ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and MLB.TV.

If Canada wins again, it will likely be because they pounded the hell out of the ball. Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard and Rich Harden are absent because of injuries and Ryan Dempster declined to participate, so Canada's pitching staff is weak.

RHP Mike Johnson -- a 17th-round draft choice of the Blue Jays in 1993 who pitched in 81 games with the Orioles and Expos from 1997-2001 -- starts against the US. Johnson, 33, pitched in Taiwan last year (after two seasons in independent leagues) and says the WBC will be the final games of his professional career. ... Jake Peavy gets the ball for the US. ... There is a pitch limit of 65 pitches per game in Round One.

On Thursday, in its last exhibition tuneup before the tournament, Canada whitewashed the Yankees 6-0, scoring all of their runs in the top of the first inning. MFY starter Joba Chamberlain was unable to record an out. In fact, he could barely throw a strike. Joba walked four of the five batters he faced (two with the bases loaded); he also allowed a single and threw a wild pitch.

Lineups:
Canada United States
Barnwell, SS Pedroia, 2B
Martin, C Jeter, SS
Votto, DH CJones, DH
Morneau, 1B Wright, 3B
Bay, CF Youkilis, 1B
Stairs, RF Dunn, RF
Teahen, 3B Braun, LF
Weglarz, LF McCann, C
Orr, 2B Victorino, CF

Johnson, P Peavy, P
Jeter starts today, but Jimmy Rollins will be at shortstop for the US's second game, either Sunday or Monday.


The other two teams in Pool C -- Venezuela and Italy -- play at 8 PM.

Pool D also plays today:
Netherlands (Sidney Ponson) vs. Dominican Republic (Edison Volquez), 11 AM
Panama (Bruce Chen) vs. Puerto Rico (Javier Vazquez), 5 PM
In Pool A, Japan routed Korea 14-2 this morning and advanced to the second round. Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-4-2-2-1, 65) started for Japan and allowed a two-run dong in the first. The game was called after seven innings because of the mercy rule.

Pool B begins play on Sunday: South Africa vs Cuba and Australia vs Mexico.

The WBC schedule is here and news articles here.

March 6, 2009

Drew DHing For Sox

Marlins - 000 020 100 - 3 10  2 
Red Sox - 020 030 00x - 5 10 0
Drew went 1-for-2 with a walk. Beckett pitched three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out two. Takashi Saito fanned two Marlins in his inning of work.

***

Josh Beckett faces the Marlins this afternoon (box). J.D. Drew is expected to get three at-bats.
Josh Reddick, RF
Julio Lugo, SS
Jason Varitek, C
J.D. Drew, DH
Jeff Bailey, 1B
Jed Lowrie, 3B
Zach Daeges, LF
Chip Ambres, CF
Ivan Ochoa, 2B
Benjamin, Globe:
Brad Penny will get his shoulder checked out by Dr. Tom Gill, who just arrived in Florida. Manager Terry Francona seemed to indicate that it was more precautionary than anything, and that he is not overly worried about Penny.
Out of the Red Sox pen today: Takashi Saito, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Adam Mills.

March 5, 2009

A-Rod: No Surgery (For Now)

Alex Rodriguez's cyst was caused by a torn labrum in his right hip. The cyst was drained this afternoon and the Yankees hope "rest and rehab" will be enough to get him through the season.

Pete Abraham:
[Brian] Cashman just said A-Rod will need the surgery at some point. The tear won't just heal.

They're hoping he can get through the season then have it. So this could be an issue all year.
Cashman:
There are two courses of action. Treat it conservative with rest and rehab, or surgery. We're treating it conservatively. ... We are hoping he can play with it. That's the gray area, that's what we are all trying to figure out. He's such an asset that we want to try this way first.
Looking at the 2009 season -- to say nothing of the next nine years of Rodriguez's contract -- why not get this taken care of right now and have Slappy back after the All-Star break? A "wait and see" approach seems like a big gamble. But, again, the MFY have not made a final final decision. They could still decide on surgery next week.

***

ESPN's Stephania Bell, on the reported recovery times of 6-8 or 10 weeks:
If Alex Rodriguez is set to undergo surgery on his injured hip, as reported today, he faces a lengthy recovery that could keep him out of action longer than the reported 10 weeks. The reported recovery period suggests an underlying injury, perhaps to the labrum. Labral tears of the hip are usually the result of repetitive trauma, and in the case of a power hitter the rapid torsion that the hips are repeatedly subjected to during the bat-swinging process is the likely culprit. ...

[I]f he does have a labral tear, it's a more complex situation. [Chase] Utley, for one, had labral surgery in late November and is optimistic that he'll be ready for Opening Day. "Optimistic" is not "certain," though, and the time lapse between Utley's surgery and Opening Day will be 19 weeks, not 10.
It will also be about 19 weeks for Mike Lowell, as well.

A-Rod To Have Hip Surgery, Out 10 Weeks



Now playing third base for the Yankees: Cody Ransom?