March 31, 2010

Tito's Oatmeal

Terry Francona announced his lineup to start the season:
Jacoby Ellsbury, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Victor Martinez, C
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Mike Cameron, CF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Tito says it's not perfect -- with lefties Ortiz and Drew back-to-back and three righties at the bottom -- but "it's probably the best way to start the year".

Boof Bonser (right groin strain) and Jed Lowrie (mononucleosis) were placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to last Friday. Both players could be activated on April 10. Daisuke Matsuzaka will also go on the disabled list before Opening Night.

And speaking of G1, NESN will broadcast the game in the Boston area, though it will be on ESPN2 elsewhere. ... So will NESN be available on MLBTV?

Tazawa Might Need Elbow Surgery

Junichi Tazawa was examined by Dr. James Andrews earlier this week and has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Surgery is a possibility.

There are reports that the team has offered Josh Beckett a four-year contract extension. Beckett made his final start of the spring on Monday night against Tampa Bay (6-6-3-1-8, 94). He finished camp with 17 strikeouts in his last 11 innings.

Jon Lester makes his final start of the spring this afternoon.

March 30, 2010

Exile On Main Street - The Outtakes & The Price

Part ISo what are these previously unreleased outtakes? Mick Jagger says he defined the "Exile-era" as from when the first song that ended up on Exile was recorded -- Loving Cup, in 1969 -- to the final recording and mixing sessions in Los Angeles in March 1972.

Here is the latest (and presumably final) list of the bonus tracks and some notes:

01 Loving Cup [alternate take] (5:25)
Three early versions circulate; aka Gimme A Drink or Gimme A Little Drink. The earliest version is from the Let It Bleed sessions (April-July 1969) and it has a much different piano intro. The Stones debuted the song at the Brian Jones memorial concert in Hyde Park, on July 5, 1969. Another version and the Exile version were recorded in December 1971 during the Exile overdubbing sessions, with a different vocal and longer playing time. The Exile version is 4:25. Maybe we are getting the December 1971 outtake.

02 Pass The Wine (4:54)
"Sophia Loren" was the working title when it was recorded at Villa Nellcôte. Nico Zentgraf describes it as a "long, slow rocker with piano and brass". New guitar has been added. It has been reported that Mick Taylor, who left the Stones 36 years ago, met with Jagger and adding "new guitar licks" to one of the songs. (Note: This is probably not the 1968 outtake Blood Red Wine, though that is also a slow song.)

03 I'm Not Signifying (4:54)
aka I'm Not Lyin'. An outtake circulates (4:00). Most likely recorded in Los Angeles, but there is a possibility it was recorded in France. All this talk of LA puts the lie to the wonderful myth of Exile being banged out in a drugged haze down in Keith's grungy, humid-as-a-swamp French basement. The evidence is scant, but it seems like parts of as few as 5-8 of Exile's 18 songs (and probably next to none of Jagger's vocals) were laid down in France. Exile is Exile no matter where it was recorded, but I really want to believe more of it was created in that basement.

04 Dancing In The Light (4:21)
Instrumental; first recorded during an early Sticky Fingers session (March-May 1970). A circulating version can be heard here, but that is only 2:48 and cuts off abruptly.

05 So Divine [aka Aladdin Story] (4:31)
aka Aladdin Stomp. Instrumental recorded at sessions for both Let It Bleed (February-March 1969) and Sticky Fingers (June-July 1970 and October 1970). The October 1970 version has saxophone. A circulating version clocking in at 5:30 is here. New guitar parts were added for this release.

06 Soul Survivor [alternate take] (3:58)
New to collectors! Early take with Keith singing different lyrics (guide vocal), most likely from Nellcôte. Exile version is 3:49.

07 Following the River (4:52)
New to collectors! Nothing with this title is on any recording sessions info. Originally an instrumental, Jagger wrote and sang new lyrics to it for this release. Why is this bad? There is a time gap of nearly 40 years, plus Jagger gave a reason back in 1995: "I never would write that song [Brown Sugar] now. I would probably censor myself. I'd think, Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop. I can't just write raw like that."
08 Plundered My Soul (3:59)
New to collectors! Nothing with this title is on any recording sessions info. Described as "soul/gospel-ish". It will be released on April 17 as an actual 7" single, with the remastered version of All Down The Line on the B-side (jeez, they couldn't even bother to throw on an ADTL outtake, of which there are several).

09 Good Time Women [alternate take] (3:21)
Very early version of Tumbling Dice, with completely different lyrics. It was recorded at two Sticky Fingers sessions (March-May 1970 and October 1970). This take is probably from the latter.

10 Title 5 (1:47)
No idea what this might be. Some early guesses were that it was "Exile On Main Street Blues", which Jagger recorded on piano at the very end of the Exile overdubbing sessions. He sang lyrics that referred to the songs on the upcoming album, and it was used as a radio promo. The full-length promo, with snips from the actual album, can be heard here.

It looks like five of the ten tracks could be brand new. Maybe more, if there are alternate takes of songs that have already been bootlegged before. The total running time of these 10 tracks? 48:02. ... CDs can hold 80 minutes of music. Why isn't there another 30 minutes of toons on this thing? [There is a similar problem with the DVD. More on this below.]

Alternate takes exist of Shake Your Hips, Sweet Virginia, and Stop Breaking Down. There is an early version of Shine A light and an instrumental version of Sweet Black Angel. Why not release those in superior sound quality? Or include several takes of one particular song, like All Down The Line, so we can listen to its development?

There are also other possible outtakes, such as Potted Shrimp (3:59), You're Goin' Down (2:53, and no Keith!), Hillside Blues (10:27; aka I Don't Know The Reason Why), and Travellin' Man (one of my faves, joined in progress and still a lengthy 5:59; video is not of the song but from May 1972 tour rehearsals). I also like Highway Child (5:00), but it's from 1968.
According to recent interviews with Jagger and Richards, and producer Don Was, there are hundreds of hours of stuff in the vaults that no one knows about. Was said he was mindful of fans who have oodles of bootlegs and wanted to make sure they got some surprises, too. But the four or five above seems like the bare minimum. What else could have been included?

Maybe the very first recording of Happy? Keith says it came out of an afternoon jam at Nellcôte: "I put down some guitar and vocal, Bobby [Keys] was on baritone sax and [producer] Jimmy [Miller] was on drums. We listened to it, and I said, I can put another guitar there and a bass. By the time the [rest of the] Stones arrived, we'd cut it."

Or maybe the full "Just Wanna See His Face"? As Keith told Roy Carr: "We just chopped the most interesting part out of it (2:52 on Exile) and threw away the rest." (I'm assuming Richards doesn't mean they literally destroyed the rest of the recording.)

Two other songs may have been attempted at Nellcôte: Fast Talking Slow Walking (which was also recorded for Goats Head Soup) and Fragile.

One problem with outtakes that are jams or rough works-in-progress is that most listeners will not go back to them again and again, so I understand the idea of focusing on nearly-completed songs for the extra disc. But if the Stones had bothered to use all of the time available on the bonus CD, or even compiled two discs, they could have satisfied (reasonably so, anyway) every subset of fans.
Example
The other problem with this package is its exorbitant price. Even for an obsessed fan, it's too much. Especially since this obsessed fan already has much of this material. Prices at online retailers vary, as do amounts in the US, UK, and Canada, but I'll use the amounts at Amazon in the US:
CD:                               $ 12.99
CD with outtakes: $ 23.69
Vinyl: $ 28.49
2 CDs, Vinyl, DVD, 50-page book): $119.99
I have two Exile CDs, one of which is the 1994 Virgin remaster. I don't care about the 2010 version, partly because it will likely be excessively compressed (see the Loudness War). I could download the outtakes, but I want to actually own them, so I'm in for the 2-CD set at the every least.

I have five vinyl copies of Exile, as well as some dandy first pressing vinyl rips (such as this Canadian pressing and an original UK LP). I don't need another vinyl version. Some descriptions of the box mention four postcards being included. The original LP came with 12 postcards.

Here's where it gets annoying: The DVD is only 50 minutes long: 30 minutes of a new hour-long documentary called Stones In Exile, plus 10 minutes snipped from each from Ladies & Gentlemen and Cocksucker Blues. (This says the entire DVD is only 30 minutes!)

I have several complete copies of both L&G and CB; they are not hard to find for free online. There is word that L&G will be officially released in November (now that is exciting news!). The full hour-long BBC special will be commercially available shortly after its airing (as well as, no doubt, on various torrent sites). The DVD is little more than a commercial for future items to spend your money on. It should have been considered a freebie in this package.

The only thing new for me in the Super Deluxe box is what sounds like a very beautiful hard-cover book of somewhere between 50-92 pages. Am I willing to pay an additional $96.30 to get the book -- and the pretty package everything comes in? I'd really like to own that book, but ...

Wait. I don't live in the US. According to current prices at Amazon Canada, I'd have to pay $152 for the book. ($196.99 vs $34.99). ... Can I get a hearty "Fuck You" from the congregation?

If it was this book, I'd do it. That baby is 248 pages, with 280 photos by Dominique Tarlé, who spent the summer of 1971 at Villa Nellcôte, and 90,000 words by various contributors, including Keith. Only 2,000 copies were printed; one sold for about $1,600 on eBay last month.
Example
The Stones finally dip into their vaults and they decided to do it for a special edition of my favourite rock album. It's beyond-fantastic news, but they are doing such a half-ass job. And what's worse, I cannot figure out why they are doing a half-assed job. The Stones have plenty of material to choose from and there are numerous examples of how creative a band can be with these types of releases. And it's a simple fact that in 2010, bands have to do a little extra to get fans to shell out for reissued albums and not grab what they want from the net. The Stones have not done that with this Exile set.

I want to buy the whole shebang, but they have released what amounts to a so-so collection (to me, at least) at too high a price. And that doesn't even take into account the news that set me off in the first place: tinkering with historical 40-year-old recordings by adding modern overdubs. Maybe the price of the box will drop as the release date gets closer. Maybe I'll buy it in Buffalo (or in New Jersey in November). Right now, I'm thinking I'll download the outtakes and simply wait and perhaps grab a cheap sealed copy off eBay sometime in the future.

March 28, 2010

Red Sox Clinch Mayor's Cup

Nice afternoon at the yard for the Sox, 11-5 over the Twins.

Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis each had four hits; Martinez also scored four times and drove in three. Dustin Pedroia had three hits and scored three times. David Ortiz hit a three-run home run, then was pinch-hit for by Tug Hulett, who clubbed a three-run dong himself. Tug leads the team with 13 RBI.

Clay Buchholz (4.2-5-4-0-7) started for the Sox. He allowed all four runs -- and threw 51 of his 87 pitches - in the first and second innings, before settling down. HH said he was "thinking about results before they even happened. If you're thinking negatively and throwing a pitch, it's hard to think about all that stuff and executing a pitch right." But he was able to get back on track.
Example
Pitching assignments, taking us to the Yankees at Fenway next Sunday night:

Monday — Josh Beckett vs Rays; Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boof Bonser, and Manny Delcarmen (minors).

Tuesday — Casey Kelly vs Rays; Tim Wakefield (minors).

Wednesday — Jon Lester vs Baltimore; Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima (minors).

Thursday — John Lackey vs Minnesota.

Friday — Buchholz vs Washington; Red Sox leave Florida.

Saturday — Wakefield and Matsuzaka at Washington, 4 PM.

Then home to Boston!

Sox: Four Years Tops For Beckett Extension

With Josh Beckett in his free-agent year, media reports of a possible contract extension mention John Lackey's 5/82.5 deal as a comparison point (Lackey is by far Beckett's #1 similarity comp at B-Ref). However, Gordon Edes says the Red Sox are apparently not willing to go more than four additional years with Beckett.

Edes writes that although Beckett is a year younger than Lackey, the team has concerns about Beckett's right shoulder.
Early in his minor league career, Beckett had evidence of some fraying in his rotator cuff, which led his former team, the Florida Marlins, to limit how much he threw, according to a major league source. And when the Red Sox acquired Beckett from the Marlins in 2005, Sox officials who inspected his medical records were concerned about his shoulder, but not enough to walk away from the deal, according to a baseball source with direct knowledge of those trade negotiations.
A four-year deal would keep Beckett in Boston through 2014 -- he would turn 35 the following season.

March 27, 2010

How About Insane And Widespread?

ESPN's Jayson Stark calls it an "insanely widespread theory":
To hear the way people have been talking about them this spring, you'd think the Red Sox had gone out this winter and burned all their bats in a giant bonfire. ...

Is anybody actually paying attention out there? ...

Baseball Prospectus' fabled PECOTA system projects that the Red Sox will score 846 runs this season. Is that fewer runs than they scored last year? OK, so it is. Precisely 26 fewer. A run a week.
Even 846 runs would have been 3rd best in MLB last year. And Boston was 3rd best, with 872 runs, only 12 runs away from 2nd best.

One scout told Stark this spring:
They're still going to score runs. I just don't see where they're going to have enough thump to break a game open with back-to-back homers.
Once again, we hear about a loss of thump or thunder. Yet that scout concedes: "What they've got is a bunch of guys who can keep an inning going, rather than the old kaboom."

What's wrong with a long inning? If the runs get scored just as often, is it really important how it gets done? (Yes, Boston, you outscored the Twins 7-5, but your long seven-run inning was less thumpy than Minnesota's back-to-back home runs in the fourth, so they get credit for the win.)
PECOTA Projection
STAT 2009 2010 CHANGE
Runs 872 846 - 26
BA .270 .277 + 7
OBP .352 .357 + 5
SLG .454 .449 - 5
HR 212 179 - 33
The 2010 Sox are projected to have the exact same OPS as the 2009 team (which was 2nd best in MLB). And Stark notes that according to the calculations of John Dewan/The Fielding Bible, the Red Sox project to allow as many as 87 fewer runs this year. Combining those two projections is at best totally crude, maybe just plain wrong, plus a projection is not a prediction, but what the hell:
         RS    RA   Pythag    Actual
2009 872 736 93-69 95-67
-26 -87
2010 846 649 102-60 ?
David Ortiz: "I don't pay attention to any of that crap people have been talking about."

Which presumably means the good stuff, too -- since the team has to actually go out on the field nearly every day for the next six months and stay healthy and score those runs and not allow those other runs and win a lot of games.

The people predicting a slight dip in offense, but a better run differential, have various statistical data to buttress their expectations. The gloom-and-doomers have offered .... what, exactly? ... a superficial glance at the roster and snark?

March 26, 2010

Opening Night: Josh Beckett

Starting pitchers have been announced:
S 0404 vs NYY - Josh Beckett
M 0405
T 0406 vs NYY - Jon Lester
W 0407 vs NYY - John Lackey
T 0408
F 0409 at KCR - Tim Wakefield
S 0410 at KCR - Beckett
S 0411 at KCR - Clay Buchholz
M 0412 at MIN - Lester
T 0413
W 0414 at MIN - Lackey
T 0415 at MIN - Wakefield
F 0416 vs TBR - Buchholz
S 0417 vs TBR - Beckett
S 0418 vs TBR - Lester
Boston signed lefty Scott Schoeneweis to minor-league deal and acquired infielder Kevin Frandsen from the Giants. They also released Brian Shouse.

Mike Lowell fouled a ball off his left leg in his first at-bat today and left the game. Ian Browne: "Upon contact, Lowell immediately fell to the ground and appeared to be in considerable pain."

The Sox scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth this afternoon to beat the Blue Jays 3-2. Both runs off Lester (6-6-2-2-5 ) were unearned.

Back Of The Rotation Still Unclear

Tim Wakefield went six innings yesterday against the Marlins (6-6-3-2-5, 73/51). He said he feels great, though he got tired in his final frame, allowing those three runs (ending a string of 12 scoreless innings)

Daisuke Matsuzaka followed (2-2-1-0-0, 25) -- allowing a one-out single and two-out triple in the seventh, followed by a 1-2-3 eighth -- and is expected to go three innings on Monday night.

We know that Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey will open the season against the Yankees (likely, but not officially, in that order). Terry Francona may have tipped his hand when he said that all of the players will go to Washington for a game against the Nats on April 3, the day before the opener, "even Beckett". But after that ...

Where Wakefield and Clay Buchholz, and then Matsuzaka, will fit in unclear. Peter Abraham of the Globe estimates Dice being ready (with roughly 25 spring innings under his belt) around April 23.

Wakefield:
I'm very curious, not knowing. Normally, I kind of know what's going on.
Jeremy Hermida is batting .432 (16-for-37). ... Mike Cameron is slugging .733 (6 singles, 4 doubles, and 2 home runs in 30 AB). ... Catcher Gustavo Molina is 5-for-5 in six games!

It looks like Brian Shouse (0.96 ERA in 9.1 IP) will be cut loose, perhaps making room for Alan Embree. ... Pitchers Felix Doubront and Dustin Richardson, and catcher Mark Wagner were optioned to Pawtucket.

Today: Jon Lester faces a Blue Jays split-squad at 1 PM. Sore-wristed Dustin Pedroia is not in the lineup. Just another day of rest, presumably, though FY said he was benched because "I told Tito he looked like Corrado Soprano."

March 25, 2010

Matsuzaka To Face Marlins Today

X-rays on Dustin Pedroia's left wrist are negative. He is not in today's lineup, but will play tomorrow.

FY downplayed the injury: "I'm a quick healer. I don't have that many bones, so they heal quick."

Terry Francona:
He's OK. There's no swelling. Actually, he's a little bit sore higher, which is real good. He got a clean bill of health.
The big story regarding today's 1 PM game against the Marlins is that Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw two or three innings of relief.

Josh Beckett (5-3-1-2-9, 85/56) was back to his sharp self against Pittsburgh, after a poor start last time out following a cold.
By far my best day in probably two weeks. I had finish to my pitches, and I felt like I could throw any pitch in any count. That's the feel you want to get at the end of spring training.
Mike Lowell says his right hip feels much better than it did last season. However, an NL scout watched him play yesterday and remarked:
How he looked today, I would not have any interest in him. I don't think he's moving very well at all. Right now, his swing is very upper-body dominant. ... It looked like he was swinging an iron gate.
The Marlins' interest in Lowell is described as "minimal at best".
Example
SG links to a video of Kevin Youkilis asking his teammates to vote on his Opening Day facial hair. We need an uncensored version.

March 24, 2010

Pedroia Sprains Wrist; X-Rays Today

Dustin Pedroia sprained his left wrist diving for a ground ball in yesterday's game against the Twins. He will have some precautionary X-rays today. Terry Francona: "There's limited swelling."

Clay Buchholz had a rough start: 1.1-4-6-3-2, with three wild pitches. Once guys got on base, "I knew they were going to run because just about all of them are pretty quick on the bases. I started thinking too much about them running and making a certain pitch at a certain time. I paid for it."

Manny Delcarmen's fastball is still topping out at only 92. Boof Bonser felt tightness in his right groin on Monday.

The Sox sent Michael Bowden, Ramon A. Ramirez, and Aaron Bates to Pawtucket. Peter Abraham looks at who might fill the final few roster spots.

Josh Beckett faces the Pirates today.

March 22, 2010

Rolling Stones Releasing Remastered Exile With Never-Even-Bootlegged Outtakes (!), So Why Am I Pissed Off?

On May 18, the Rolling Stones will release a remastered version of Exile on Main Street, aka The Greatest Rock And Roll Album of All Time*, with a second CD of ten previously unreleased outtakes from the "Exile era" (1969-72), and some video goodies. Several of the outtakes are completely new even to the obsessive collector, so why am I annoyed instead of being deliriously happy?

*: Don't waste your time - :>) .

Here's why:

The band has gone back and added guitars, vocals, and percussion to some of the nearly 40-year-old tracks, and Mick Jagger has written and sung brand new lyrics for an instrumental.

This is utter bullshit. (And I cannot believe that some Stones fans (judging by posts at the It's Only Rock & Roll discussion board) are cool with it, or taking a wait-and-listen attitude (which actually may not be a bad idea, but it would ruin my rant, so no go); though not everyone).

Some type of funny business was hinted at in the press release (my emphasis):
The unearthed tracks ... have undergone a unique evolution, while staying true to the essence of the 1972 album.
In the words of Lee Elia, my fuckin' ass.

Jesus!! WTF? The Stones finally decide to open its vault a wee bit -- none of the many previous re-releases (save the 40th anniversary edition of Get Yer Yas-Yas Out) have anything extra on them -- and they still found a way to fuck it up.

Jagger was roughly 26-28 years old when the band recorded the songs that eventually ended up on Exile. And the entire band was at the peak of their creativity. Assuming Mick worked on "enhancing" these old tracks last year, he was 64 or 65 years old -- with the last truly great song he wrote nothing more than a distant memory. His voice and mindset cannot possibly the same.

Almost all of the songs on 1981's Tattoo You were culled from various studio sessions dating back to 1972. The Stones either completely re-recorded the songs or worked with the old tapes. This is something different. These 10 tracks are not being presented as a brand new Stones album. They are being sold with the already-existing album in a manner that has been done a lot over the last decade or two, releasing demos or in-progress versions of songs either on the official album or considered for inclusion but dropped. It's a way of giving fans a deeper look at what the band was creating at that time (and an easy way to get them to spend money on another copy of something they already own).

It's not a perfect analogy, but ... what if Martin Scorcese released a new DVD of Taxi Driver, with some clips of a modern-day Robert De Niro acting out some scenes that were cut from the classic film. Sure, De Niro was 32 then, and is 66 now, but that shouldn't affect anyone's enjoyment of a totally-cool, behind-the-scenes experience, right?

The new Exile will be sold in three formats: (a) the remastered 18-track CD; (b) a deluxe edition, with the 10 bonus tracks; and (c) a super deluxe set that also includes a vinyl edition of the album, a documentary 30-minute* DVD with footage from Cocksucker Blues, Ladies and Gentlemen..., and Stones In Exile (a new film that includes footage from the recording sessions), as well as a 50-page collector's book with photos (for roughly $150).

*: A total 30 minutes? Wow!

(End Part I)

Mauer Signs Extension With Twins

Damn.

8/184, full no-trade, for 2011-2018. Mauer turns 27 on April 19.

March 21, 2010

Two Weeks

The regular season starts in exactly two weeks -- Yankees at Fenway!

(... with ESPN on mute!)

Pictures From Saturday

Amy was at the Red Sox's 6-0 win against an Orioles split-squad yesterday and took some pictures. Here is Jacoby Ellsbury in his new #2 jersey (probably asking FY how he can quickly send a bottle or two of wine north of the border).
More pics here.

BP Interviews With Francona, Ellsbury

David Laurilla has two interviews up at BP.

There's a co-Q&A with LBJ and Twins prospect Ben Revere about stealing bases, and Laurilla gets Tito's thoughts on a handful of aphorisms from guys like Earl Weaver and Casey Stengel.

March 20, 2010

Return Of The Hombre

Alan Embree, 40, signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox today -- and was given his old #43 again. He threw a 33-pitch session today. Embree's 2009 season with Colorado ended in July when a line drive fractured his right tibia.

Ryan Westmoreland was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and into the Neuro Rehabilitation Unit.

Tim Wakefield (5-2-0-2-3, 65/38) was sharp against a split-squad Orioles team today, and Boston snapped a five-game losing streak, winning 6-0. Jacoby Ellsbury was back in the lineup after being sick; he went 0-for-3.

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a 44-pitch bullpen session on Friday (after being in Boston on Thursday night as his wife gave birth to their third child, their second daughter) and will throw two innings at the minor league camp Sunday morning.

Mike Lowell talks about adjusting to first base.

March 18, 2010

Dice Throws BP

54 pitches!

John Farrell:
No restrictions, no hesitation, he feels good about himself. How he feels about himself is a huge component at this point, and all those are positive signs. We don't want to skip any steps along the way here. We want to be sure that he has ample time ... to build a foundation that's going to endure an entire season.
Matsuzaka felt like he had good life on his fastball and good command of his breaking stuff. There was no indication of any back or neck problems. He is expected to throw a bullpen session on Friday and work in a minor league game on Sunday. However, his delayed start in camp will probably mean he'll begin the season on the disabled list.

One candidate for the final spot in the bullpen is Scott Atchinson, who has pitched five innings this spring and allowed no runs and no walks (5-4-0-0-5). ... In addition to Jed Lowrie battling mononucleosis, Jacoby Ellsbury did not play yesterday because of a sore throat and Gil Velazquez was out after jamming his thumb into first base. Josh Beckett, who missed a start because of a cold, is expected to pitch on Friday.

No Grapefruit game today, but Clay Buchholz will pitch in a minor league game.

March 17, 2010

Lackey Set To Face Mets

If the rain allows it, this afternoon's game against the Mets will be on MLBTV. John Lackey will make his third start of the spring. His first two starts: 5-3-0-0-1.

Jonathan Papelbon (5 games, 5 innings, 0 runs), Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen, and Daniel Bard (4 innings, 7 K) are scheduled to pitch in relief. All of the non-outfielder starters are in the lineup.

Yesterday, lefty Felix Doubront pitched three innings of one-hit ball against Tampa Bay, extending his spring shutout streak to seven innings. David Ortiz got two hits for the second day in a row and John Lester threw 60 pitches against Houston. But Boston did not score in either of its games, losing 3-0 to the Astros and 7-0 to the Rays.

The source of Jed Lowrie's fatigue? He has mononucleosis. He has missed four games.

Report: Westmoreland Surgery Successful

Alex Speier, WEEI:
The Red Sox issued the following release about the surgical procedure performed on 19-year-old Ryan Westmoreland to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain:
According to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ, Red Sox minor league outfielder Ryan Westmoreland today underwent successful surgery to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain. Dr. Robert Spetzler performed the surgery. The announcement was made by General Manager Theo Epstein. Following the five-hour procedure, Westmoreland remains in the intensive care unit but has come through the surgery well. Due to the complexity of this surgery, Ryan will face a difficult period initially before beginning his recovery.
ESPN.com reported that it will be a few days before a prognosis for Westmoreland's recovery will be available. ...

"I got a text from his good friend saying that surgery couldn't have gone better," said minor league first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who considers Westmoreland a good friend, and had sent the outfielder texts in recent days. "If everything was successful – which it is – it's a long road back. ... I don't know what his process back will be, but it's a long way back."
Example
Anthony DiComo, MLB.com:
Fellow prospect Anthony Rizzo, who underwent chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease in 2008 ... said that his own medical troubles paled in comparison with those of Westmoreland.

"Before my first chemotherapy, I was more scared than I've ever been in my life," Rizzo said. "I was being strong for my family, but I couldn't imagine what he was going through with the surgery and all the things that could happen."

March 16, 2010

Review: Maple Street Press Red Sox Annual

Seeing the annual pre-season baseball magazines on the newsstand is a sure sign of spring, but for a serious Red Sox fan, the information offered in them on her favourite team is usually no more than five pages and is presented from a somewhat dull, mainstream perspective.

Maple Street Press and editor Jim Walsh have solved that problem. Now in its fifth season, the MSP Red Sox Annual is an essential part of any Red Sox fan's pre-Opening Day reading list. Written in collaboration with the Sons of Sam Horn -- though mainstream writers like Ian Browne, Adam Kilgore, and Michael Silverman also contribute -- the 2010 annual features 128 pages of Red Sox information -- with no advertising of any kind.

[Note: I purchased the annual in 2006-09, but received this year's edition for free, thanks to Cecilia Tan.]

Walsh's goal is simple -- "provide diehard fans with a variety of insightful viewpoints from people that know the team best". The contributors have a progressive view of the game and its statistics -- something is perhaps best shown in Mark Brown's use of advanced metrics to make the argument that J.D. Drew has been "Earning His Keep":
The resentment towards Drew is hard to pinpoint, but much of it stems from his failure to conform with traditional but outdated statistical expectations for power-hitting corner outfielders. ... He's also been characterized by some as insufficiently aggressive, emotionally detached, and ambivalent towards winning.

But a closer look at Drew's numbers, taken on the whole and in proper context relative to his American league peers, suggests he has not only performed at an elite level, but that he's been worth every penny of that [5/70] contract.
Gordon Edes recently spotlighted Brown's article at ESPN here.

Other highlights (full TOC can be seen here): Art Martone examines how successful Theo Epstein's philosophies have been over the last seven seasons; Chuck Korb crunches the numbers behind the team's defensive overhaul; Steve Mastroyin says the offense should remain at an elite level; Alex Clapp and Dan Brooks analyze Jonathan Papelbon's mechanics and pitch selection through Pitch-f/x data; and Alex Speier and Brandon Magee offer 12 pages on the minor league system.

There are also full-colour pages on each of the expected starters (lineup and rotation), showing spray zones, hit zones, pitch zones, and some statistical splits. Thus, we learn that, in 2009, Dustin Pedroia batted .433 on pitches up and in, Mike Cameron hit .556 off curveballs from lefties, Victor Martinez, when hitting from the left side, had the highest line-drive % of anyone in the lineup, Jon Lester almost never threw a changeup to a left-handed hitter, and Clay Buchholz went to his curveball only 1% of the time when he was behind in the count (and 23% of the time when he was ahead).

[MSP also published annuals for the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Dodgers, Mariners, and Twins. They do other sports, too, but who cares!]

If you want to order a copy, go to the main SoSH page first and then click the MSP ad (the board gets bit of coin back as a sort of referral fee). At $12.99, the Annual costs only a little more than a hot dog and beer at Fenway. But it's far more satisfying.

SoSH On Westmoreland's Surgery

Some interesting (and personal) comments related to Ryan Westmoreland's brain surgery today. Start here.

March 15, 2010

Bits Of News

David Ortiz came into today's exhibition game at 1-for-19, but Flo eased some of the panic by going 2-for-2, with a dong and a walk, though Boston lost to the Orioles 8-4, as Tim Wakefield (3.2-9-5-0-1, 57) had a rough outing.

Tiz: "On April 2, who gives a fuck what you did in spring training?"

Mike Lowell made his spring training game debut by playing first base for the first time since four games in AAA 1998. ... Bill Hall was at shortstop, a position he has not played during the regular season since 2006. ... The plan for Daisuke Matsuzaka to throw 40 pitches of BP was scratched. Maybe on Wednesday. ... Happy 31st birthday to Yook. ... Jed Lowrie has felt fatigued since Thursday and has undergone a variety of tests.

Yankees Suck, Honey

March 13, 2010

Ryan Westmoreland To Undergo Brain Surgery On Tuesday

Jon Heyman tweets that one of the Red Sox's top prospects, 19-year-old outfielder Ryan Westmoreland
was diagnosed with a cavernous malformation in his brain and is having surgery
The Herald's John Tomase adds that
According to the team, Westmoreland departed camp on March 4. He was diagnosed the next day at Massachusetts General Hospital, had consultations with three leading experts in the field, and on Tuesday will have surgery performed by Dr. Robert Spetzler of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

According to the Toronto Brain Vascular Malformation Study Group, cavernous malformations are not a cancer, so they do not spread. Cavernous malformations are a cluster of abnormally dilated blood vessels that resemble raspberries, and they are typically less than three centimeters in size.

Symptoms often include headaches and sometimes seizures, with the most serious cases resulting in a hemorrhage. It's unclear what symptoms, if any, Westmoreland was experiencing.
Theo Epstein:
The entire Red Sox organization stands in support of Ryan as he courageously deals with this issue. Ryan is a remarkable kid and a talented player, and we understand that many will be concerned about his health. He is getting the best medical attention the world has to offer, and we will have more information soon. Until then - out of respect for Ryan's privacy and at the request of the Westmoreland family - we will not have any further comment.
A bit more info on cavernous brain malformations here and here.

That's some scary shit for a teenager to deal with. Best wishes for a successful recovery.

March 12, 2010

How Offensive Will The Red Sox Be?

The mainstream media's opinion is that the Red Sox will have trouble scoring runs this year.

I'm assuming that the idea of a weak lineup originated with the departure of Jason Bay and/or the front office's clear emphasis on pitching and fielding this past winter. Two recent examples from MLB.com: "Run Production A Question Mark" and "Hitting Coach Takes Offense to Concerns".

Perhaps the most ignorant example was Ron Borges's column in the Herald on January 29, wherein he stated that
According to Theo Epstein, the Red Sox will be competitive through the use of kung fu baseball, the art of winning without scoring. ... Sox' management has discovered that despite mistaken evidence to the contrary, scoring runs is no longer essential to winning games.
Borges also proudly displays his pop culture hipness by cracking that some of the new guys "gloves are more valuable than Michael Jackson's".

Yes, Bay's bat (2009 OPS: .921) has moved to Flushing -- and it seems like that is the only data point the media is bothering to look at. One big bat in the middle of the lineup gets downgraded and, suddenly ... woe are the Red Sox.

In all of MLB, the 2009 Red Sox were 2nd in on-base average, 2nd in slugging percentage, 2nd in total bases, 4th in home runs, 2nd in doubles (4 fewer than Toronto), 3rd in walks (only 4 from the top spot). Is it realistic to assume that the absence of Bay is enough to sabotage a lineup that scored the third-most runs in MLB last year (872, 11 fewer than the Angels and 43 fewer than the Yankees)?

Just before Truck Day, the Herald's Michael Silverman admitted the 2010 Red Sox will have "a deeper lineup" than they did in 2009. But he also stated (re the numbers I posted above): "It is hard to see those totals going in any direction other than downward in 2010". Why? ... Silverman says the Red Sox are lacking in "thunder".

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And Bay is all wtf, too:
I think it's ludicrous that everybody keeps talking about their offense. It's actually kind of baffling and almost funny to me that those guys over there have to keep answering offensive questions cause I think they'll be fine.
Now, I understand that home runs are rally killers. Bad! Yet they also unclog the bases. And that's good, right? ... It gets confusing.

Anyway, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre likely will be less productive this year than the 2009 Bay/Mike Lowell duo, but Boston will also get an entire year of Victor Martinez and Marco Scutaro -- which should be a vast improvement over the bats [sic] Jason Varitek, Nick Green, and Alex Gonzalez. The other five guys in the lineup remain the same from 2009 -- and all of them should be able to (at least) match their 2009 numbers.

What I am going to do here is gather up a bunch of the different projections for 2010 for the starting nine. I'll list the player's 2009 stats, then the 2010 projections from Bill James, CHONE, Marcel (Tango Tiger), and ZIPS (Dan Szymborski). (There is more Sox CHONE at YFSF.) I'm also including commentary from Lyford (whose posts at the ProJo Your Turn board when I hung out there in the early 00s were always solid), with whom I agree pretty much across the board. P.S.: In reading this over, it now feels like this becomes a Lyford post at this point, but I'm leaving it -- he includes some fielding metrics in his assessments.
Example
Kevin Youkilis
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .305 .413 .548 .961 153
Bill James .289 .394 .492 .886 137
CHONE .284 .384 .473 .857 133
Marcel .294 .387 .511 .897 140
PECOTA (1B) .287 .384 .496 .880
ZIPS .282 .384 .491 127 OPS+
Lyford: In 2009, Red Sox first basemen hit .293/.386/.482/.868, creating the fifth most runs in the AL with the fourth-best OPS. ... The Red Sox should expect to see performance at first base this year which is as good as, if not slightly better than, the performance at first base which it got last year. The backups last year weren't butchers, so the defense is comparable.
2010 1B projection: Minor Net Improvement

Dustin Pedroia
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .296 .371 .447 .819 118
Bill James .307 .378 .465 .843 128
CHONE .308 .379 .443 .822 125
Marcel .308 .374 .465 .839 128
PECOTA .312 .379 .481 .860
ZIPS .306 .372 .451 114 OPS+
Lyford: Pedroia's entering his age 26 season. The things that we know about baseball players, how they age, when they peak, suggest that one of the next three years is likely to be his best. ...
2010 2B projection: Comparable

Marco Scutaro
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 (Tor) .282 .347 .381 .789 117
2009 BRS SS .235 .297 .358 .656
Bill James .264 .360 .367 .728 98
CHONE .268 .348 .378 .727 101
Marcel .266 .350 .379 .726 98
ZIPS (Tor) .261 .334 .364
Lyford: [In 2009,] SS was a hole without a plug, a wound that just wouldn't heal. ... [E]ven if [Scutaro] regresses, he still looks to be a significant offensive upgrade ... UZR had Scutaro at about a run better than average last year, slightly worse than Green and Gonzalez, but at about eight runs better than average in 2008. FR had him at 11 runs better than average in 2009, significantly better than either Green or Gonzalez.
2010 SS projection: Big offensive improvement, comparable defense. Big net improvement

Adrian Beltre
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 (Sea) .265 .304 .379 .683 87
2009 BRS 3B .287 .347 .496 .843
Bill James .269 .321 .439 .760 100
CHONE .270 .320 .446 .766 104
Marcel .265 .318 .430 .748 99
PECOTA .275 .328 .451 .779
ZIPS (Sea) .264 .320 .449
Lyford: [Beltre] has poor plate discipline and consequently doesn't work the count or draw walks. ... He hit .254/.307/.410/.717 in Safeco over the past five years, and .277/.326/.472/.798 on the road. An .800 OPS might be a reasonable expectation when playing half of his games in Fenway. ... Baseball Prospectus Fielding Runs has him 10 runs better than average at 3B last year. It had Mike Lowell at two runs worse than average. UZR had Beltre 14 runs better than average last year, Lowell at one run worse than average and Youkilis 1.5 runs worse than average. It seems reasonable to expect that the addition of Beltre saves them 10-12 runs next year.
2010 3B projection: Small offensive drop-off, offset by defensive improvement. Net Comparable

Jacoby Ellsbury
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .301 .355 .415 .770 114
Bill James .302 .360 .420 .780 118
CHONE .302 .360 .412 .772 117
Marcel .295 .352 .419 .772 116
PECOTA .294 .353 .429 .783
ZIPS .290 .344 .398 94 OPS+
Lyford: [Bay] was probably the second-best overall offensive player that Boston had in 2009, and they didn't replace him with a comparable offensive performer. ... [But both Cameron and Ellsbury] are much better athletes, base-runners and defensive players than Bay. Some of what they gave up in power, they'll make up in other ways. And some, they won't. ... FR had Jason Bay at 2 runs below average last year, UZR had him at 13 runs below average. UZR had Ellsbury at 9 runs above average for the 58 games in left in 2008, and FR had him well above average in left also. ... The transition from Bay to Ellsbury probably costs the Red Sox 20 runs in left field. The big question is, how many runs does it save them? You could probably extrapolate the best and worst case numbers and make a case that you save as many on defense as you lose on offense, but I don't believe it. You're probably looking at a net 10-15 runs deficit, which works out to about a game or a game and a half. It's a downgrade, but not a catastrophic one.
2010 LF projection: Big offensive downgrade, significant but smaller defensive upgrade. Net downgrade

Mike Cameron
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 (Mil) .250 .342 .452 .795 113
2009 BRS LF .267 .378 .535 .913
Bill James .237 .328 .428 .756 101
CHONE .235 .318 .393 .711 92
Marcel .241 .328 .435 .763 104
PECOTA .255 .333 .443 .777
ZIPS (Mil) .246 .333 .446
Lyford: Cameron is aging, but has, according to the various objective rankings, continued to be an excellent defensive center fielder. He hits for more power than Ellsbury but, like Adrian Beltre, does not have the on-base skills that the Red Sox would generally like to see. And that difference could be offset by the defensive difference. Last year, FR had Cameron as 15 runs better than Ellsbury (4 vs. -11). UZR had Cameron as 28! runs better (10 vs. -18). ... Instead of the 15-16 run decline that the projection systems see, we're more realistically looking at a 2-3 runs difference. Really, not much of an offensive decline at all.
2010 CF projection: Comparable offense, moderate defensive upgrade. Net upgrade

J.D. Drew
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .279 .392 .522 .914 137
Bill James .269 .385 .474 .859 132
CHONE .263 .372 .443 .815 121
Marcel .269 .377 .472 .850 126
PECOTA .257 .365 .442 .807
ZIPS .264 .381 .459 119 OPS+
Lyford: I've got Drew at 75% of the RF at-bats, with Jeremy Hermida inheriting the other 25%. ... Drew remains an excellent all-around player, albeit one who tends to disappoint those who judge players on RBI, temper tantrums and thrown helmets and bats. ... [A decline] is not surprising, as Drew is headed into his age 34 season. But there's no particular reason to expect a cliff, and there's no reason not to expect another productive season from Drew.
2010 RF projection: Age related decline. Net small downgrade

Victor Martinez
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .303 .381 .480 .861 131
Bill James .298 .377 .464 .841 128
CHONE .294 .366 .450 .816 121
Marcel .287 .361 .452 .813 117
PECOTA .278 .350 .448 .798
ZIPS .297 .369 .470 118 OPS+
Lyford: On the season, the Red Sox got a .239/.333/.417/.750 line from the catching position, fourth best OPS in the AL, vs. a league average of .253/.315/.406/.721. ... PECOTA and Marcel .. both agree that the Red Sox have improved offensively at the catcher position. As for defense, I haven't seen any reason to think that there will be much difference.
2010 Catcher Projection: Small Net Improvement

David Ortiz
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .238 .332 .462 .794 104
Bill James .264 .369 .519 .888 137
CHONE .258 .355 .479 .834 124
Marcel .264 .363 .493 .856 126
PECOTA .263 .365 .487 .853
ZIPS .260 .366 .507 126 OPS+
Lyford: The Red Sox had two different David Ortizes last year. The first one hit .185/.284/.287/.570 with 1 HR in 178 at-bats through the end of May. The second hit .264/.356/.548/.904 with 27 HR in 363 at-bats from June 1 through the end of the year. The huge question right now is, which David Ortiz do they get in 2010? ... [C]ertainly, he's a hitter who is well past his expected prime. ... It's not inconceivable that we're looking at a "last days of Jim Ed Rice" scenario, where the skills just disappear and that's the end. ... I suspect that the projections are roughly correct, that he's got another productive year or two left.
2010 DH projection: Ortiz continues to decline, but recovers somewhat from disaster. Net small upgrade

A few other ZIPS projections
Lowell    .282   .335   .453
Varitek .220 .323 .370
Lowrie .247 .318 .372
ZIPS also had some % projections:
.375 OBP
Yook 62%, Drew 59%, FY 46% ... Ellsbury 8%, Varitek 3%

.500 SLG
Tiz 52%, Yook 42%, Drew/Martinez 21%

140 OPS+
Yook 22%, Ortiz 21%, Drew 13%

45 2B
FY 29%, Martinez/Yook 3%

30 HR
Tiz 39%, Yook 23%, Martinez 6%

30 SB
Ellsbury 98%, Pedroia 1%, everyone else 0%
Lyford also looked at the starters ("big improvement") and bullpen ("comparable") and found that the projections suggest that the Red Sox will score 35-45 fewer runs than they did last year, but allow as many as 50-70 fewer runs.

Red Sox 2010 - Projected Record
         RS   RA   Pyth WP   W    L
2009 872 736 93 69 (actual: 95-67)
Marcel 841 716 .573 93 69
PECOTA 848 652 .618 100 62
Lyford 845 660 .611 99 63
Lyford: They look to me like a 97-100 win team, a team that's significantly upgraded its run prevention capabilities over the winter at the cost of a smaller offensive downgrade. Bottom Line: Boston wins 98, goes to the post-season again.

As I noted in the BBA Q&A, with far less information and deliberation, I saw the Red Sox finishing at 98-64. I looked at Lyford's conclusion last, so after saying I see things similarly, it's neat to discover that we came up with the same W-L record for 2010.

March 11, 2010

Everybody Loves A Contest #7

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

Correctly guess the team's 2010 regular season record and win an exciting prize that I cannot tell you about, because I have no idea what it will be, though I'll come up with something by October 4.

Entries must be emailed to me -- though you can also post your entry in comments if you feel like it. Tiebreakers (regular season only, obviously):
(1) How many runs will the Red Sox score?

(2) What will their run differential be? (In 2009, with 872 runs scored and 736 runs allowed, it was +136)
Tiebreakers will be the closest guess, either over or under. If there is still a tie after (1), we'll go to (2).

Deadline: Sunday, April 4 at Noon.

*And I'm repeating the grand [sic] prize! The winner is invited to watch a 2011 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 10, 2010

DFW Papers Archived In Austin

David Foster Wallace's private papers will be archived at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin.
The archive contains manuscript materials for Wallace's books, stories and essays; research materials; Wallace's college and graduate school writings; juvenilia, including poems, stories and letters; teaching materials and books.

Highlights include handwritten notes and drafts of his critically acclaimed "Infinite Jest" ... The Wallace materials are being processed and organized and will be available to researchers and the public in fall 2010.
The HRC has uploaded some pictures of the marked-up inside covers of books from Wallace's library, including two Don DeLillo novels; two pages from his dictionary (with the word witenagemot circled); a well-worn copy of Pam Cook's The Cinema Book (which seems to have been very important to the film aspects of IJ); and a bound copy of the corrections for the IJ paperback.

Wallace's agent, Bonnie Nadell, offered a few thoughts on the archive. On that page, there is a maddeningly small jpg of a hand-written IJ page. A slide show includes four additional hand-written pages. ... But wait! The first page is also uploaded at The New Yorker in amazing quality. It is the section that begins on page 157, the 1960 monologue of JOI's father.

Matt Bucher took some "crappy i-phone pics" of some of the stuff that is already exhibited. Very interesting stuff! The cover page of the IJ manuscript Wallace sent to Nadell, which has scribbling all over it, notations written in various coloured pens, features this typed instruction:
PRIVATE DOCUMENT
INTENDED ONLY FOR RETINAS OF PEOPLE TO WHOM IT'S EXPLICITLY SENT
Bucher also took a picture of a manuscript page of one of the book's best sections -- the interesting facts you can learn in Boston AA -- which has been heavily edited, words added and subtracted, even some entire lines not in the final book.Someone on wallace-l noted "the feeling of wonder is mixed for me with sadness at how a living human can so quickly become an archive".

It is odd, looking at the chicken-scratch writing on the inside of his paperbacks as though they were museum artifacts. But at the same time, I cannot begin to tell you how much I want to go to see this stuff.

One of my obsessions with Infinite Jest is the nuts and bolts of its creation: How was it constructed, both the individual sections and the overall order of the narrative? What was his timeline of writing the thing? What level of crazy work went into making the narrative sound so perfectly like the reader's own personal interior voice? In one of his letters to Michael Pietsch, his editor at Little, Brown, Wallace mentions having re-written a section "for about the 11th time" -- how did that evolve?

Wallace wrote his early drafts by hand. When, in the finished book, several pages are spent detailing the rapid thought-process in someone's mind, how in the hell can you get that down writing slowly by hand? I guess that's where the real work is, the re-writing, the building, all that stuff behind the curtain. Which leads me back to being in absolute awe that this glorious novel exists.

Nadell:
For each draft of a story or essay there are levels of edits marked in different colored ink, repeated word changes until he found the perfect word for each sentence, and notes to himself about how to sharpen a phrase until it met his exacting eye. Having represented David from the beginning of his writing career, I know there were people who felt David was too much of a "look ma no hands" kind of writer, fast and clever and undisciplined. Yet anyone reading through his notes to himself will see how scrupulous they are. ... [A]nyone looking through his drafts and even his books will see the levels of thinking that went into every sentence and every page.

Nomar: I Had A Recurring Dream Of Retiring In A Red Sox Uniform


Nomar Garciaparra:
I think last time I was in Boston when the Oakland A's came to town [last season] ... I was talking about always having a recurring dream to be able to retire in a Red Sox uniform. ... [And] today I get to retire and fulfill that dream ...
Garciaparra was actually first drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, in the 5th round of the 1991 amateur draft, but he did not sign. The Red Sox picked him in the 1st round (12th overall pick) of the 1994 amateur draft. (Jason Varitek was picked two spots later, by the Mariners.)

Nomar made his debut with the Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 31, 1996, taking over for Jeff Frye at second base in the 7th inning of an 8-0 loss to Oakland; it was the only time in his career that he played 2B.

The next day, he started at shortstop, batted 7th, and went 3-for-5, with a home run off John Wasdin. In those five trips to the plate, he saw a total of 11 pitches (the dong came on a first pitch swing)!

Garciaparra received a huge ovation before throwing out the first pitch before today's Rays-Red Sox game at City of Palms Park.

Theo Epstein, who traded Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs on July 31, 2004 -- less than three months before the team snapped its 86-year World Series drought:
I grew up a Red Sox fan and even through I was already in baseball when he became a player, I knew what he meant to Boston and to the fans. When his agent contacted us about doing this, I thought it was great. He should go out as a Red Sox because he was such a great player.
Tim Wakefield:
This is how it's supposed to happen.
In nine seasons with the Red Sox, Garciaparra batted .323, the 4th best career average in team history, with a .923 OPS and a 133 OPS+. He is fifth on the Red Sox's all-time list in slugging percentage (.553) and 11th in total bases (2,194). He won AL batting titles in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372).

Also: B-Ref looks at "Nomar Through 2003".

Nomar Announces Retirement

Nomar Garciaparra will announce his retirement this morning in Fort Myers.

Before that, however, he will sign a one-day minor-league contract with the Red Sox, so he can retire with the team that first signed him, back in 1994.

(SG has the Nomar Returns video.)

CSNNE.com and NECN.com will provide live on-line coverage, beginning at 10:30.

Book Review: The Green Monster by Andrew Kent

Andrew Kent's second novel in the Johnny Denovo mystery series combines eco-terrorism, genetic engineering, anti-government types in rural New Hampshire, and the Monster Seats at Fenway Park.

The Green Monster begins innocently enough with what seems to be a simple case of adultery, blackmail, and some petty corporate vandalism. However, renowned Boston detective Denovo soon uncovers links to something much bigger and far more dangerous.

In a post on his website, Kent writes:
The Johnny Denovo Mysteries are based on emerging theories of how we think, how we reconcile internal realities with external stimuli, how we make decisions, how we blend rational and emotional thought, and how we express ideas, both intentionally and unintentionally.
As a former neuroscientist, Denovo is always on the lookout for tell-tale patterns in speech, movement, and behaviour. Kent has no problem working these ideas into his fast-paced, intricately-plotted narrative.

For anyone that likes mysteries, I can't imagine The Green Monster not being a satisfying book. I think it could also be turned into a terrific movie.

The one thing that bothered me, however, were the times when Denovo is busy brainstorming, separating signal from noise, trying to hit on connections between seemingly disparate elements of the plot -- or what might be elements of the plot. Kent's crisp writing style is perfect for taking us through the deductive process, but the quickness with which Denovo (who is working on a clear deadline) makes these connections was off-putting.

I realize this observation may reveal my ignorance with the genre more than anything else, but is it a mistake to include many of the false leads and dead ends that a detective would normally go through in such a case?

[Kent sent me a free copy of the book to review.]

March 9, 2010

Wakefield vs Marlins

Red Sox play at Florida today. Jacoby Ellsbury (DH) is the only regular in the starting lineup.

Yesterday, Josh Beckett threw three perfect innings and Jose Iglesias hit a three-run dong. After a flurry of late-inning runs, Boston came out on top 7-6.

March 8, 2010

Talk Of Beckett Extension

Josh Beckett, who turns 30 on May 15, can become a free agent at the end of this season -- and the Red Sox have had what the Globe called "amicable" talks with his agent about a possible contract extension.

Beckett will pitch this afternoon against the Cardinals, followed by Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Dustin Richardson, Ramon Ramirez, and Manny Delcarmen. Former Red Sox knuckleballer Charlie Zink (whose only MLB appearance to date was a doozy) will be one of the St. Louis pitchers.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose schedule has been delayed because of a minor back strain, threw 65 pitches in a bullpen session yesterday. John Farrell: "Right now it's more a matter of refining the timing of his delivery and establishing release points on each individual pitch ..." Dice is penciled in to throw live batting practice on Friday or Saturday and pitch in a game on March 18.
Example
Trivia: Who is the only player (since 1901) to hit three triples in a season without any singles?

March 6, 2010

The Joy of Fox

[UPDATE: Links to pics and post.]

Laura and I went with a friend to Jungle Cat World last Thursday. After walking around by ourselves, we accompanied an employee as she dragged a sled of raw meat around the complex and fed everyone. Then we got to handle a few of the younger animals.

Laura should have links to our pics (as well as more info about the place) up in the next day or two. In the meantime, here's me with a fox.
The fox shares its home with a lynx.
We got to play with young tiger cub.

At one point during our initial walking around, two wolves (maybe 75 yards apart in separate enclosures) began to howl back and forth. Very cool!

We loved this particular wolf. Maybe this was one reason why ...

Lackey Makes Debut Today

Two split-squad games at 1 PM:
Twins at Red Sox
Cameron, CF
Hall, 3B
Drew, RF
Ortiz, DH
Hermida, LF
Exposito, C
Bates, 1B
Sanchez, SS
Velazquez, 2B
P: John Lackey (30-35 pitches), Michael Bowden, Manny Delcarmen, Brian Shouse, Joe Nelson, Junichi Tazawa

Red Sox at Rays
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Youkilis, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Reddick, RF
Anderson, DH
McDonald, LF
Lin, CF
Wagner, C
P: Felix Doubront, Adam Mills, Kyle Weiland, Fabio Castro
WEEI will broadcast the Twins game.

March 3, 2010

JoS2 (Maybe)

JoS1 was a huge success, despite the stupid outcome of the stupid game.

For several reasons, the only chance of JoS2 happening in 2010 is if it's held north of the border. Here's my idea: go to a night game at Skydome on Wednesday, August 11, and then hang out at our house the following day, watching the afternoon game on BuffyVision and grilling dinner. We could probably have everyone spend the night at Chez L-Sock, plus there is a possibility of the game tickets being half-price.

If anyone out there thinks he or she could swing this, let me know.

Play Ball!

Northeastern   - 000 000 0 -  0  2  1
Red Sox (ss) - 031 632 x - 15 15 1

Boston College - 000 010 0 - 1 3 3
Red Sox (ss) - 101 301 x - 6 7 0
Example
Red Sox doubleheader! The first game is at 1 PM against Northeastern, with another split-squad game against Boston College at 6 PM.
Day Lineup
Ellsbury, LF
Hall, 3B
Martinez, C
Ortiz, DH
Lowrie, SS
Anderson, 1B
McDonald, RF
Lin, CF
Velazquez, 2B
Casey Kelly will start, followed by Manny Delcarmen, Adam Mills, Felix Doubront, Dustin Richardson, Ramon A. Ramirez, and Robert Manuel.
Example
Evening Lineup
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Youkilis, 3B
Beltre, 1B
Varitek, C
Hermida, LF
Hulett, DH
Reddick, RF
Kalish, CF
The pitchers will be Boof Bonser, Michael Bowden, Junichi Tazawa, Kyle Weiland, Kris Johnson, Fabio Castro, and Randor Bierd.

Since both games will be seven innings, each pitcher will get one inning.

March 2, 2010

Eri Yoshida Meets Tim Wakefield

Eighteen-year-old knuckleballer Eri Yoshida, the first woman drafted by a Japanese team, was in Fort Myers today to meet the man who inspired her to pitch.

Back in November 2008, Tim Wakefield said he hoped to see her pitch one day. Today, after Yoshida watched his side session, he returned the favour:
She spun a couple, but for the most part, it was very good. She was able to take the spin out of a lot of them and they had quite a lot of movement on them. ... I had seen film of her and I was pretty impressed at the film. But to see her in person and to actually see her throw, I was very impressed with how she threw and the knowledge she had on the knuckleball, because she told me she was self-taught. This is the first time she's actually ever had coaching throwing a knuckleball. I kind of know where she's at, because I was there when I first started throwing -- nobody knew what to do.
Yoshida:
I never thought I could ever feel this happy.
Yoshida spent the winter pitching for the Yuma Scorpions of the Arizona Winter League. In her second start, on February 11, she threw five shutout innings against Team Canada.

[Earlier JoS posts about Yoshida here, here and here.]

Tracer: Ron Luciano and Tommy John

On a trivia website, former MLB umpire Ron Luciano tells this story:
I was working the plate in the seventh inning of a close game. Tommy John was pitching for the White Sox and Don Buford was the Oriole batter. As John began winding up, the ball squirted out of his hand and dribbled a few feet behind the pitcher's mound. Tommy continued his follow-through because he didn't want to risk straining his arm by stopping abruptly. Naturally I couldn't resist the opportunity. I threw up my right arm. "Strike one." The fans went crazy. Buford stepped out of the batter's box and glared at me. "What the hell are you doing?" "It caught the inside corner." I said. Ed Herrmann, the White Sox catcher, agreed with me. "It was a good pitch, Don." Weaver was on me in an instant, screaming about my making a mockery of the game. I told him it was just a joke, he said I was just a joke, and I changed the call.
Luciano recalls the same incident in the August 19, 1974 issue of Sports Illustrated:
Tommy John was pitching for the White Sox against the Orioles and accidentally dropped the ball behind him during his motion. He completed his delivery, and as a joke I called "steee-rike" on the batter. The batter, Don Buford, was aghast. He looked at me as though I was crazy. And out on the mound John was falling all over himself with laughter. I changed the call to "no pitch," of course, but John couldn't stop laughing. He walked the next three batters, gave up a double and was taken out of the game. He laughed all the way to the showers.
I thought I would try to find this game.

John pitched for the White Sox from 1965-1971, Buford played for the Orioles from 1968-1972, and Herrmann was with the White Sox in 1967 and from 1969-1974. So we are looking for a game in 1969, 1970, or 1971.

It appears from the story that a giggling John walked Buford after the joke call by Luciano. Thanks to Baseball-Reference, we can see all 19 plate appearances Buford had against John in his career. He walked only once -- with one out in the fifth inning on July 24, 1969.

However, John retired the next two batters to end the inning, Hermann did not catch, and Luciano was not part of the umpiring crew. (It is worth noting that Buford doubled off John in the 7th inning. That was followed by a bunt, single, balk, and home run -- ending John's day. The inning is right and John gets pulled mid-inning, but nothing else matches, including Luciano actually being in the ballpark.)

So maybe Buford did not walk. Luciano did not specifically say that he did. Let's look at every game John pitched against the Orioles in 1969-1971 (even though the "fans going crazy" aside makes it sound like the game was in Baltimore):

1969
June 14: John lasts only one batter into the 3rd inning -- and he did not walk anyone. Luciano did not umpire this game.

July 24: Mentioned above.

1970
April 30: John walks five men in seven innings, but does not leave mid-inning. He is pinch-hit for by Herrmann, meaning Herrmann was not John's battery-mate. And Luciano was not an umpire.

May 9: John pitches six innings and loses. Buford did not play and Luciano did not umpire.

1971
May 31: John pitches a complete-game 1-0 shutout. Also, no Buford and no Luciano.

June 13: John pitches another complete game, losing 2-1. Herrmann does not play and Luciano is not part of the crew.

August 13: John pitches only three innings, but is not relieved mid-inning. There is no Buford, no Herrmann, and no Luciano.

And that is it. Seven games -- and the one constant is that Luciano was not umpiring.

I checked John's entire seven-year career with the White Sox for games against the Orioles in which he walked at least three batters. There were eight games -- and, again, Luciano was not a member of the umpiring crew in any of them.

Buford played against John in six games in his career. There are the four above, plus July 5, 1964 and July 16, 1968. And Luciano was not part of the umpiring crew in those games either.

It's a great story -- with plenty of specific details. But it did not happen.