August 31, 2012

G133: Athletics 20, Red Sox 2

Red Sox   - 000 100 100 -  2  9  1
Athletics - 042 021 92x - 20 19  0
Three former Red Sox players combined to drive in 13 runs: George Kottaras 5, Josh Reddick 4, Brandon Moss 4.

The last time the Red Sox allowed 20 runs was on August 21, 2009 (a 20-11 loss to the Yankees).
Example
Aaron Cook / Brandon McCarthy
Podsednik, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ellsbury, CF
Ross, RF
Loney, 1B
Saltalamacchia, C
Aviles, DH
Ciriaco, 3B
Iglesias, SS
Felix Doubront and Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch the weekend games.

We Are All Wild Bill Hagy Now

Tonight, Saturday and Sunday: Orioles at Yankees
NYY  75  55  ---
BAL  72  58  3.0
The Orioles have allowed 44 more runs than they have scored (548-592). You would expect a team with those numbers to have a 60-70 record. Baltimore is 12 games better than that.

One reason is their astounding record in close games. The Orioles are 24-6 (.800) in one-run games and 22-12 (.647) in two-run games. Combined: 46-18, .719. (They are also 56-0 when leading after seven innings; Boston is 53-7.)

Only three teams in modern baseball history have won at least 70% of their games decided by one or two runs: the 1906 Chicago Cubs, 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 1954 Cleveland team.

***

August 30, 2012

G132: Angels 5, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 010 001 000 - 2  7  0
Angels  - 202 100 00x - 5  9  0
With this loss, the Red Sox fell eight games below .500 for the first time this season. They are a season-worst 14 games out of first place in the AL East and a whopping 11 games out of the Wild Card race.

Lester (8-9-5-3-2, 121) pitched a complete game, but faltered early. Albert Pujols had a two-run single in the first, and hit one of four straight singles in the third, that gave Los Angeles a 4-1 lead.

James Loney (3-for-4) scored both Boston runs. He singled and scored in the second and homered in the sixth.
Example
Jon Lester / Zach Greinke
Podsednik, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ellsbury, CF
Loney, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, DH
Lavarnway, C
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 3B
Daniel Bard will be activated for tonight's game. His numbers for Pawtucket are positively gruesome. In 32 innings, Bard allowed 31 hits and 29 walks, while striking out 32. He has a 7.03 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP. No one has even a shred of a clue how he will perform with the Red Sox.

Last night's start, Zach Stewart, was optioned down. The nine runs Stewart allowed were the most by a pitcher in his Boston debut in 109 years (Norwood Gibson allowed nine on April 29, 1903; on April 26, 1902, Pep Deininger allowed 11 runs to the Washington Senators.)

August 29, 2012

G131: Angels 10, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 010 020 000 -  3 11  1
Angels  - 414 010 00x - 10 14  1
The Angels took three innings of batting practice against Stewart (3-10-9-0-2, 72). Of the 10 hits Stewart allowed, five were doubles and two were home runs.

In the first inning, it was the top of the order that pounced: Mike Trout singled, Torii Hunter doubled (1-0), Albert Pujols singled (2-0), and Kendrys Morales homered (4-0).

It was the bottom of the order that did the damage in the third: With Morales on second with two outs, Alberto Callaspo doubled (6-1), Erick Aybar doubled (7-1), and Chris Iannetta homered (9-1).

For Boston, Mauro Gomez went 3-for-4 and scored a run. Mike Aviles and Scott Podsednik each had two hits. All of Boston's 11 hits were singles.
Example
Zach Stewart / C.J. Wilson
Ciriaco, 3B
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ross, RF
Lavarnway, C
Gomez, 1B
Aviles, DH
Iglesias, SS
Podsednik, LF
Stewart, a 25-year-old right-hander acquired from the White Sox in the Kevin Youkilis trade, makes his Red Sox debut tonight.

A spot in the rotation opened up on Tuesday as Franklin Morales was placed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation. In 11 starts with Pawtucket, Stewart had a 3.94 ERA in 59.1 innings, walking 14 and striking out 51.
I felt like I started off strong [in Pawtucket]. I had a couple of rough outings in the middle, and I've been doing well lately. It's one of those things. It's just starting. It's how it always is, just try to stay as even-keeled as possible.
Stewart made his major league debut with the Blue Jays last June.

August 28, 2012

G130: Angels 6, Red Sox 5

Red Sox - 010 301 000 - 5  9  1
Angels  - 200 002 002 - 6  7  2
Alfredo Aceves, in his first appearance after serving a three-game suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team", recorded his eighth blown save of the season. No one in major league baseball has blown more saves this year.

After pitching a clean eighth inning, Aceves hit Erick Aybar in the foot with one out, and then walked pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo on four pitches. Mike Trout singled home the tying run (on an 0-2 pitch) and Torii Hunter's sacrifice fly to center brought home the game-winner.

Boston led 5-2 at one point. Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered in the second, cutting the Angels' lead to 2-1. The first five Red Sox batters reached base in the fourth: Dustin Pedroia singled, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, Ryan Lavarnway walked, James Loney singled (2-2), and Salty singled (3-2). Another run scored on Ryan Kalish's double play grounder. In the sixth, Ellsbury singled, stole second and continued to third on a throwing error, and scored on Lavarnway's sac fly.

Buchholz (7-6-4-3-5) faltered in the first and sixth, but between those two Los Angeles rallies, he had a stretch in which he retired 16 of 17 batters. He gave up solo dongs to Trout and Albert Pujols. (Trout is now the youngest player in history to hit 25 homers and steal 40 bases in a single season.)
Example
Clay Buchholz / Jered Weaver
Podsednik, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ellsbury, CF
Lavarnway, C
Loney, 1B
Saltalamacchia, C
Kalish, RF
Iglesias, SS
Ciriaco, 3B
Mauro Gomez was named the International League's Most Valuable Player. He hit .310/.371/.589 in 426 plate appearances, with 24 dongs.

To Read: Gordon Edes: "Red Sox Need To Redefine Strategy"

Adrian Gonzalez says Fenway's left field wall hurt his hitting style, and he believes the media took undeserved shots at him because of his low-key attitude.
What took my power away was the Green Monster. I used to hit line drives that way and they would be doubles. ... [The Boston media] didn't like that I was a calm person. I won't throw my helmet, I won't scream, I won't use bad words if I strike out. That's what they want over there.
In the wake of the recent mega-deal with the Dodgers, it may be significant that the Red Sox have placed Daisuke Matsuzaka on waivers. Dice will be a free agent at the end of this season.

August 27, 2012

G129: Red Sox 5, Royals 1

Royals  - 100 000 000 - 1  7  0
Red Sox - 102 002 00x - 5  8  1
In his first start since July 2, Matsuzaka (7-5-1-2-6, 101) was superb; the one run against him was unearned.

Cody Ross singled, doubled, and drove in three runs. Jacoby Ellsbury singled, homered, and scored twice. Scott Podsednik also had two hits.

Ellsbury's two-out home run in the first inning tied the game, and Ross's two-run single off the Wall gave Boston the lead in the third.
Example
Luke Hochevar / Daisuke Matsuzaka

Dice comes off the DL to make his sixth start of the season.

It looks like David Ortiz is going back on the disabled list (Ryan Kalish was seen in the clubhouse). The best thing to do now is tell Ortiz his season is over and if he needs any procedures done on his right Achilles' tendon, to go right ahead.
Podsednik,LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ellsbury, CF
Ross, RF
Loney, 1B
Saltalamacchia, C
Gomez, DH
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 3B

August 26, 2012

What The Red Sox Want

Just so you know.
The Sox want young, enthusiastic, hungry players who run out ground balls, hustle offensively and defensively, and give you a good day's work for the money.

G128: Red Sox 8, Royals 6

Royals  - 000 400 020 - 6 11  2
Red Sox - 110 021 21x - 8 14  2
Pedro Ciriaco has at least two hits in 12 of his 34 starts for the Red Sox this year. On Sunday afternoon, he went 3-for-5, homered, scored two runs, and drove in two runs. His batting average rose to .360.

Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross, and Mike Aviles each had two hits. Pedroia doubled and homered. Mauro Gomez walked twice and scored twice.

James Loney made his Red Sox debut, playing first base, batting fifth and going 1-for-5, with an RBI. Reliever Pedro Beato, acquired in the Kelly Shoppach trade with the Mets, also made his Boston debut.
Example
Will Smith / Felix Doubront
Ciriaco, 3B
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ross, RF
Loney, 1B
Lavarnway, C
Gomez, DH
Aviles, SS
Podsednik, LF

Red Sox Suspend Aceves For Three Games

After turning in one of the worst relief appearances of all time on Thursday night against the Angels, Alfredo Aceves was furious at not getting the call for a possible save the following night against Kansas City.

Andrew Bailey pitched 1.1 innings and closed out Boston's 4-3 win on Friday night.

Mike Petraglia, WEEI:
According to three sources inside Fenway Park, Alfredo Aceves tore off his jersey while making his way from the bullpen back to the clubhouse in the moments after Boston's 4-3 win over the Royals ...

After Aceves dressed in the clubhouse, he stormed into the office of manager Bobby Valentine and slammed the door behind him.

According to one source, he requested a meeting with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and was denied at a time when Cherington was working to finalize the blockbuster trade sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers. On Saturday, Aceves was suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team" ...
The Red Sox will not miss Aceves when he's gone. According to Fangraphs:
Among 147 qualified relievers ... Aceves ranks 130th in ERA (4.60) and 118th in FIP (4.23). He's blown seven of 32 save chances, and after [Thursday's] fiasco he's now 140th out of those 147 qualified relievers in WPA (-1.23).

August 25, 2012

G127: Royals 10, Red Sox 9 (12)

Royals  - 300 000 600 001 - 10 14  1
Red Sox - 043 200 000 000 -  9 20  0
The Red Sox bullpen blew a six-run lead, as seven straight Royals reached bases against Andrew Miller, Mark Melancon, and Craig Breslow (in order of both appearance and culpability). Then, in the 12th inning, the bottom of Kansas City's order staged a two-out rally against Clayton Mortensen, Boston's eighth pitcher of the night.

Tonight was only the sixth game since 1918 - and the first since September 1981 - in which the Red Sox banged out at least 20 hits and failed to score in double digits.

The 20 hits were a season high. Mauro Gomez had four hits, Cody Ross had three and six other Boston players had two. The only player in the starting lineup not to have at least two hits was Dustin Pedroia, who had one.

The Red Sox had built up a 9-3 lead thanks to the hitting of both Mauro Gomez (4-for-6, 3 RBI, his first major league home run) and Mike Aviles (a three-run dong in the second). Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie recorded eight outs and allowed seven runs.

Aaron Cook (6-7-3-1-0, 72) allowed hits to the first four batters of the game, but settled down after that, allowing only one baserunner past first.
Example
Jeremy Guthrie / Aaron Cook
Podsednik, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ellsbury, CF
Ross, RF
Gomez, 1B
Saltalamacchia, C
Lavarnway, DH
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 3B
The Red Sox have called up shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin. They will play with a 24-man roster, as first baseman James Loney is expected to arrive in Boston tomorrow.

Red Sox Finalize "Franchise-Changing" Deal With Dodgers

UPDATE: The trade is complete.

Michael Silverman, Herald:
The rebuilding of the Red Sox begins today. ...

Through a mixture of underperformance and bad seeds in the clubhouse, the Red Sox, out of the playoffs mix since 2009, have needed a massive overhaul that most thought would begin in the offseason.
And with the ink not yet dry on the agreement between the Dodgers and red Sox, the smear campaign has begun.

Nick Cafardo, Globe, on Adrian Gonzalez:
... a good defensive player but one who was part of the chemistry problem in the Boston clubhouse ...

Gonzalez had become a whiner who seemed to be involved in starting a group to complain about Valentine. He seemed to have an opinion on everything, and rubbed his managers the wrong way. Gonzalez was never the guy we thought he was supposed to be, no leadership skills whatsoever.
Example
This is the trade that is apparently being finalized:
Dodgers get: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto

Red Sox get: 1B James Loney, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, and three minor leaguers: INF Ivan DeJesus, OF Jerry Sands, RHP Allen Webster
Over The Monster:
This is perhaps the most monumental trade made by the Red Sox since Babe Ruth made his way to New York nearly a century ago.
Michael Silverman, Herald:
The Red Sox are not just cleaning house.

They are gutting it. ...

The names the Red Sox are set to receive are not familiar to most but that is not the impetus behind the trade. The impetus is being able to clear as much as $271.5 million in committed payroll, a drastic slash-and-burn attempt by a Red Sox organization eager to return to the club to stable footing after losing its bearing the last couple of years.

A Red Sox source said last night that the Dodgers would be on the hook for "more than $260 million" of the remaining contracts of the four Red Sox players, which is nearly 96 percent.
Alex Speier of WEEI explains the team's sudden financial flexability:
While the Sox are reportedly going to send some money to LA in the blockbuster, the increase in flexibility beyond the 2012 season could be staggering. In one fell swoop, the Sox would go from $99.59 million in guaranteed deals to $38.8 million.
Alex Speier, WEEI:
The incentive for the Red Sox to steam forward in a sweeping roster overhaul ... is fairly evident. ... [This trade] makes all the sense in the world for a Red Sox team that has fallen out of contention.

It’s no secret: In a 12-month span from Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2010, the Red Sox made a series of calculated, high-risk gambles meant to secure a championship core for the long haul, only to see their bets blow up in spectacular fashion.
Peter Abraham, Globe:
The biggest thing the trade does is give the Red Sox a chance to re-set their organization after what amounts to three years of failure. They can get back to the business of player development instead of spending on free agents. ...

It's a franchise-changing deal. In one day, the Red Sox changed the look of the team, created huge financial and roster flexibility, and improved the tenor of their clubhouse.
Marc Hulet, Fangraphs:
It's a good day to be a fan of the Boston Red Sox.

The rumored trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers will save the east coast club more than $200 million but it will also infuses the organization with some young, cost-controlled, high-ceiling talent. ...

The key to the deal is de la Rosa. A hard-throwing native of the Dominican Republic, just 23 years old, he has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter. Only his lack of consistent command and control keep the No. 1 label from being adhered to de la Rosa. ...

Allen Webster, 22, would give Boston a second hard-throwing, right-handed prospect. ... He has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter, or could strip down his repertoire to become a dominating high-leverage reliever. I'd slide Webster onto the Red Sox updated Top 15 prospect list at No.3 behind infielder Xander Bogaerts and right-handed starter Matt Barnes.
The Dodgers' claim on Gonzalez expires at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

August 24, 2012

Dodgers Awarded Waiver Claims On Gonzalez, Beckett

Update: Gordon Edes, ESPN:
Blockbuster: red Sox, Dodgers working on deal that would send Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett and Punto to LA. Hurdles remain, but closing in
Is today April 1?
Example
Nearly every baseball player on every team's roster is put on revoccable waivers in August. Some players get claimed, some do not. It's not news. Most big names are put on waivers as a no-risk way for teams to gauge possible interest.

What happens in almost all of these cases is that the team simply pulls the player back. There is no real talk of a trade, and there is nothing newsworthy to report.

That's what I was sure was going on today with Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers. But then I read this, from the pen of ESPN's Gordon Edes:
[T]here is a growing possibility that Gonzalez could be headed to L.A., multiple baseball sources said Friday. ... "I think something is happening, but I'm in a state of disbelief that it is," one baseball source said Friday.
And then I think I may need to keep a quarter of an ear tuned to this one.

Gonzalez - who had no comment on the waiver story - says he's sick of the soap opera stoked by the Boston media:
In Boston ... they never talk about baseball; it's always the same. That's one of the reasons why I almost never talk to the press here. Very few times they ask me about baseball. But most of the time it's about gossip, rumors, plots, well ... a soap opera. When they talk to me about baseball, I'm available. But that does not happen often.
Before the Gonzalez story broke, the hot topic was who did not attend Johnny Pesky's funeral.

(For what it's worth, Josh Beckett was also claimed by the Dodgers.)

G126: Red Sox 4, Royals 3

Royals  - 002 100 000 - 3  7  1
Red Sox - 200 000 20x - 4 10  1
Bruce Chen / Jon Lester

The Big Man returns. ... And Adrian Gonzalez is pulled!
Ciriaco, 3B
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Gonzalez, 1B Ross, RF
Ross, RF Lavarnway, C
Lavarnway, C Gomez, 1B
Aviles, SS
Podsednik, LF
Example

August 23, 2012

G125: Angels 14, Red Sox 13 (10)

Angels  - 008 000 103 2 - 14 20  1
Red Sox - 150 012 021 1 - 13 18  2
Photobucket
Example
C.J. Wilson / Franklin Morales
Ciriaco, 3B
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, DH
Ross, RF
Lavarnway, C
Gomez, 1B
Aviles, SS
Podsednik, LF

August 22, 2012

G124: Angels 7, Red Sox 3

Angels  - 002 203 000 - 7 15  1
Red Sox - 000 200 010 - 3 10  0
It was, perhaps, Clay Buchholz's (5.1-12-7-1-3, 82) worst start of the year. He gave up 12 hits, tying a career high (6.2 innings, April 26, 2011) and allowed seven runs, tying a season high.

Buchholz faced the minimum six batters through the first two innings, but began the third by allowing three singles. The Angels hit two doubles and two singles off Buchholz in the fourth, and touched him for a home run and two singles in the sixth.

Los Angeles' 6-9 hitters went 10-for-16 in the game, scoring six runs.

Down 4-0, Boston halved that deficit in the fourth. With two outs, Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled and Ryan Lavarnway and Mike Aviles followed with run-scoring doubles off the Wall. After Pedro Ciriaco singled Aviles to third, the rally fizzled and the bats went cold. The next nine Boston hitters went down in order.

In the eighth, Dustin Pedroia singled, stole second, and scored on a throwing error following Cody Ross's double to right.

Scott Podsednik went 3-for-5 in the leadoff spot.
Example
Jered Weaver / Clay Buchholz
Podsednik, LF
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Lavarnway, DH
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 3B
Game Previews: MLB, WEEI.

Kevin Youkilis hit a grand slam last night against the Yankees.

August 21, 2012

G123: Angels 5, Red Sox 3

Angels  - 001 220 000 - 5 11  0
Red Sox - 000 002 100 - 3  8  1
Aaron Cook (5-11-5-1-4, 85) allowed five consecutive singles - a couple of liners, a grounder, and two bleeders - in the fourth inning. He also gave up a two-run home run to Mark Trumbo in the fifth.

Boston got two runs back on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's 21st dong of the season. Scott Podsednik doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch in the seventh. The Red Sox threatened in the seventh, but Mike Aviles grounded to second, stranding two baserunners.

Alex Speier, WEEI:
For the 39th time this year, a Sox starter allowed five or more runs. The team's record in such contests dropped to 7-32, with the Sox having lost each of their last 18 contests when a starter yielded a handful of runs.
Example
Ervin Santana / Aaron Cook
Ciriaco, 3B
Pedroia, 2B
Ellsbury, CF
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Nava, DH
Aviles, SS
Podsednik, LF
Daniel Nava is expected to replace Carl Crawford on the 25-man roster, as the latter will have left elbow surgery on Thursday.

August 20, 2012

Crawford Will Have TJ Surgery On Thursday; McClure Fired

Red Sox statement:
Carl Crawford has a chronic left elbow ulnar collateral ligament tear. While he has been following a conservative treatment protocol and playing with this injury, his symptoms are getting worse. After consultation with the Boston Red Sox medical staff and with Dr. James Andrews, the decision has been made to proceed with a left elbow ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (Tommy John surgery). The surgery will be performed by Dr. Andrews on Thursday, August 23.
Also, pitching coach Bob McClure was fired. Randy Niemann will fill in for the rest of the season.

My Stephen King Project

Over at sharp pencils, I've been reading, and writing about, Stephen King's books in order of publication.

Last November, I read On Writing, King's non-fiction book on the craft, and was impressed. I had been wanting to read a couple of his novels - It and The Stand - for a number of years, and so thought, in my completist, obsessive way, that I'd read all of his books, in order.

Thanks to a number of area thrift stores and eBay, I have been able to get a hard cover copy of nearly all of his books.

Top five books (so far, in chrono order): 'Salem's Lot, The Stand, The Long Walk, Firestarter, Different Seasons.

March 5: Carrie (1974)
March 23: 'Salem's Lot (1975)
April 2: The Shining (1977)
April 5: Rage (as Richard Bachman) (1977)
April 9: Night Shift (1978)
May 8: The Stand (1978)
May 20: The Long Walk (as Richard Bachman) (1979)
June 2: The Dead Zone (1979)
June 10: Firestarter (1980)
June 16: Roadwork (as Richard Bachman) (1981)
June 23: Danse Macabre (1981)
June 29: Cujo (1981)
July 3: The Running Man (as Richard Bachman) (1982)
July 28: Different Seasons (1982)
August 6: Christine (1983)
August 9: Cycle of the Werewolf (1983)
August 18: Pet Sematary (1983)

August 19, 2012

G122: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 000 100 - 1  5  0
Yankees - 101 101 00x - 4  8  0
Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter each had three hits and scored two runs, and Kuroda (8-4-1-0-4, 112) had little problem with an impotent Boston lineup.

Jeter doubled and scored on Curtis Granderson's two-bagger in the first inning and then doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the third. Beckett's (6-7-4-3-6, 98) wild pitch came immediately after Jeter and Nick Swisher pulled of an uncontested double steal. Ichiro hit solo home runs to right field in the fourth and sixth innings.

Adrian Gonzalez popped his 15th home run in the seventh inning. He was one of only two Boston runners to venture past first base. (Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled and was stranded at second in the fifth.) The three other hits: singles by Nick Punto, Ryan Lavarnway, and Carl Crawford. Not only did New York not issue any walks, but the Red Sox had only three 3-ball counts all night.
Example
Josh Beckett / Hiroki Kuroda
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Lavarnway, C
Saltalamacchia, DH
Podsednik, RF
Ciriaco, SS
Punto, 3B
On July 29, Kuroda pitched eight strong innings against the Red Sox (8-7-2-1-4, 102), a game Boston won in 10 innings. ... Kuroda and Beckett were the starting pitchers on July 6, the night both teams scored five times in the first inning.

Stuff To Read: WEEI's Alex Speier has a good article on Pedro Ciriaco. Speier also wonders if it's time to start playing the kids. ... At Over The Monster, Brendan O'Toole muses about white flags and Carl Crawford's elbow. ... John Thorn asks: Who invented the shortstop position? ... The Chicago Reader has all you need to know about eating squirrels.

NYDN: Shoppach Wrote Message To Ownership, Not Gonzalez

Andy Martino and Roger Rubin, Daily News:
Boston Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was not the author of the now-infamous text message to Boston ownership complaining about manager Bobby Valentine, although it was sent from his cell phone, major league sources told the Daily News.

Those sources also said new Mets catcher Kelly Shoppach was deeply involved in writing the message that touched off the latest Sox drama, but Shoppach would not confirm that charge.

A small group of players that has been unhappy with Valentine this season — a group that included Shoppach, according to a source familiar with the circumstances — was complaining about the manager in late July and engaged Gonzalez in the conversation. A member of the group suggested that the only way to bring about action would be to voice their problems to ownership. Gonzalez was tired of hearing the constant grumbling and agreed with them that a message from him — the team's highest-paid player — would get management's attention.

Several sources say Gonzalez had nothing to do with the message's content ... "The text message was not his idea or his opinion . . . or his words," one said. Those were from the small group of players that included Shoppach.

Asked about the authoring of the text message following Saturday's game at Yankee Stadium, Gonzalez said, "I know why you're asking, but we're not going to talk about that anymore."

On Saturday at Nationals Park, Shoppach denied any involvement in sending the text message, insisting, "I don't know what you're talking about." But on Tuesday when the Yahoo! report was published, Shoppach was asked about it and said of the Red Sox organization, "Let me be very careful. I think, and maybe this is as far as I'll go with it, too, there is a disconnect in communication between the players through the upper management."

August 18, 2012

G121: Red Sox 4, Yankees 1

Red Sox - 200 010 001 - 4 10  0
Yankees - 000 100 000 - 1  7  1
Adrian Gonzalez gave Jon Lester (7-5-1-2-4, 105) all the runs he needed to work with when he belted a two-run homer in the first inning.

Lester retired the Yankees in order in only one of his seven innings. Two Yankees reached base in the first inning, but New York managed only one baserunner in each of the other five frames against Lester. Curtis Granderson hit a solo home run in the fourth.

Carl Crawford singled in the first and stole second before Gonzalez went deep. In the fifth, Pedro Ciriaco (4-for-4 in yet another outstanding game against the Yankees) singled and scored on Nick Punto's double. Scott Podsednik singled to lead off the ninth, went to third on Ciriaco's double, and scored on a wild pitch.

In seven games against New York this season, Ciriaco is batting .517 (15-for-29).
Example
Jon Lester / David Phelps
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, DH
Lavarnway, C
Podsednik, RF
Ciriaco, SS
Punto, 3B
Felix Doubront has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, with Mauro Gomez being called up.

Boston is 6.5 GB in the wild card standings.

August 17, 2012

G120: Yankees 6, Red Sox 4

Red Sox - 004 000 000 - 4  5  1
Yankees - 120 011 10x - 6  9  1
The Yankees hit five home runs - all solo shots - and dropped the Red Sox to 58-62, 13.5 GB in the East. Franklin Morales (5.1-6-5-1-3, 92) allowed four of the dongs.

Nick Swisher homered in the first and seventh innings, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin went back-to-back in the second, and Derek Jeter went deep in the fifth.

Boston scored four unearned runs in the third. Mike Aviles singled and took third when Phil Hughes (7-4-4-1-4, 106) committed a throwing error on Scott Podsednik's grounder. Pedro Ciriaco's fielder's choice scored Aviles and, after Jacoby Ellsbury walked and Carl Crawford popped out, Dustin Pedroia celebrated his 29th birthday by hitting a three-run bomb to left.

However, the Red Sox would get only three runners on base over the next six innings: Aviles's two-out single in the fourth, Ellsbury's one-out single in the fifth, and Crawford's one-out double in the eighth. Boston failed to advance any of those three runners even one base. (After Crawford's double, Pedroia hit a shot to deep left center, but Granderson tracked it down one step from the wall.)

The Yankees snapped a 4-4 tie in the sixth. Casey McGehee and Granderson singled off Morales, ending his night. Jayson Nix's single off Clayton Mortensen scored McGehee.
Example
Franklin Morales / Phil Hughes
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, DH
Saltalamacchia, C
Aviles, SS
Podsednik, RF
Ciriaco, 3B
Example
Here's How Sox Would Tell Their Story
By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

The Boston Red Sox's ownership, manager, players and fans have all complained about the negative impact media coverage has had on the team. We at ESPN Boston are opting -- for one night, at least -- to tweak our regular coverage in advance of this weekend's series against the New York Yankees, so we used our imagination to take a positive outlook on the team's current plight. We are confident that your hometown heroes will respond to our exhortations and vanquish the Mighty Bombers. Fight hard, lads!

NEW YORK -- A weary but gallant group of Red Sox players, led by their plucky skipper Bobby Valentine, gathered in Baltimore's Penn Station late Thursday night to board the iron horse that will carry them to the Big Apple and a rematch with the Mighty Bombers of Gotham.

The Sox played their hearts out the past three nights against the Orioles, but Fate and Lady Luck dealt them a tough hand. Despite their best efforts -- which included a five-inning no-hitter (!!!) by Aaron Cook -- the Sox were able to claim just one hard-earned victory, steady Clay Buchholz spinning a beauty Thursday night in Camden Yards. Once again, the game's greatest fans were represented in large numbers, having made the arduous journey down the Jersey Turnpike to show their support for A-Gon, Pedey, Our Josh and all the Boys. ...

August 16, 2012

Buchholz's "Immaculate Inning"

Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter against the Orioles on September 1, 2007, but on Thursday night in Baltimore, he did something far rarer.

He struck out the side on nine pitches.

It was only the 47th recorded instance of what is known as an "immaculate inning" - striking out three batters on three pitches each. By contrast, on Wednesday, Seattle's Felix Hernandez threw major league baseball's 278th no-hitter.

Sixth inning:
Adam Jones    curveball  77   called - strike 1
              curveball  77   swinging - strike 2
              cutter     90   called - strike 3

Matt Weiters  fastball   91   foul - strike 1
              cutter     89   swinging - strike 2
              fastball   93   called - strike 3

Chris Davis   fastball   92   foul - strike 1
              cutter     91   foul - strike 2
              splitter   86   swinging - strike 3
The only other Red Sox pitcher known to have struck out the side on nine pitches was Pedro Martinez, who did it a little over ten years ago (May 18, 2002).

G119: Red Sox 6, Orioles 3

Red Sox - 010 023 000 - 6 13  0
Orioles - 210 000 000 - 3  8  0
Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and Cody Ross drove in runs on three consecutive pitches in the sixth inning as Boston snapped a 3-3 tie. And Clay Buchholz (8-8-3-3-7, 107) rebounded from a rough first two innings to give the Red Sox yet another quality start.

Although seven of the first 11 Oriole hitters reached base against Buchholz - including a two-run double by Adam Jones and a solo home run by Mark Reynolds - only five of the next 21 batters did. Buchholz allowed only two hits over his final six innings pitched - and he struck out the side on nine pitches in the sixth!

With one out in the fifth, Carl Crawford singled and Pedroia doubled. Crawford scored on a wild pitch and Pedroia scored on Gonzalez's game-tying sac fly. In the sixth, Scott Podsednik doubled and Jacoby Ellsbury walked. After Crawford forced Ellsbury at second, Pedroia, Gonzalez and Ross got their run-scoring hits.

Ellsbury went 0-for-4, ending his hitting streak against Baltimore.
Example
Clay Buchholz / Chris Tillman
Ellsbury, DH
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Punto, 3B
Ciriaco, SS
Podsednik, CF
Two things worth watching tonight:
Jacoby Ellsbury: Last night, he extended his hitting streak against the Orioles to 38 games (71-for-171, .415). The only longer streak since 1900, according to Elias, is Vladimir Guerrero's 44-game streak against the Rangers.

Buchholz: In his last five starts, he has a 1.15 ERA. Earned runs allowed in those starts: 1, 1, 2, 0, 1.

Gonzalez: "The Source Is Inaccurate"

UPDATE: Extensive Larry Lucchino quotes (in comments). He stated Valentine will absolutely not be fired this season. As far as the Red Sox making the playoffs, he wanted to be "realistic" about the next 44 games: "If that happens we'll be talking about a comeback for the ages."

***

WEEI's Rob Bradford talked to Adrian Gonzalez about Jeff Passan's report of the players/ownership meeting on July 26. Gonzalez says the portrayal of him as a vocal ringleader is false.
The source is inaccurate. It says that I was animated and one of the most vocal guys in the meeting, and that's false. ... Absolutely [I was surprised at the report], because, first of all, if somebody is going to try and be an unnamed source they better be right with whatever they say. This is putting our integrity and everything about us out there, and that's just unfair. ... I just know I was one of the least vocal guys there.
Gonzalez mentions a single source; Passan said he had three sources for the story. GM Ben Cherington, who is quoted in the original Yahoo! article, may have been one of them.
Just like every story around here, there are parts that are true, and parts that are false. I think it's wrong for the fans to get half of a story, half of the truth. Our focus has been to just go out and play ball and just worry about baseball. Things like this come up that we have to respond to, but at the end of the day it's about playing ball. ... Ballplayers get frustrated when things aren't 100 percent accurate, because then it's just making people perceive things that aren't true.
John Henry stated that it was he who called the meeting, not a group of players, during the Yankees series.
[N]o one in that meeting at any time took the position that Bobby should be or needed to be replaced. ... Players felt responsible for the record. They weren't blaming injuries or anyone but themselves. At the same time they openly spoke about what could improve in addition to their play.
Bobby Valentine was on The Big Show yesterday and described himself as being "four months into a very trying situation".
[T]here is a lot of emotion flying around here these days. One of the things I was discussing with one of the players was that all of this noise is one of the reasons players don't want to sign here, because they don't have to deal with this in other markets. They don't worry about the drama of the day. They can just go out and play baseball.
The whole "players don't want to play in Boston" is not supported by the facts. John Lackey and Carl Crawford both signed deals as free agents to play in Boston, and Gonzalez agreed to a long-term deal to stay with the Red Sox.

Re the recently-surfaced clip of Jon Lester throwing sunflower seeds in first base coach Alex Ochoa's face during an April game against the White Sox, Ochoa says it was nothing but a joke.

New King/O'Nan Baseball Collaboration: "A Face In The Crowd"

Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan, who collaborated on Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season, are releasing a new baseball-themed story, A Face In The Crowd, on August 21.

The story is available as an ebook and audio download.
Dean Evers, an elderly widower, sits in front of the television with nothing better to do than waste his leftover evenings watching baseball. It's Rays/Mariners, and David Price is breezing through the line-up. Suddenly, in a seat a few rows up beyond the batter, Evers sees the face of someone from decades past, someone who shouldn't be at the ballgame, shouldn't be on the planet. And so begins a parade of people from Evers's past, all of them occupying that seat behind home plate. Until one day Dean Evers sees someone even eerier...
An audiobook sample can be downloaded here.

August 15, 2012

G118: Orioles 5, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 000 020 100 - 3  7  1
Orioles - 000 005 00x - 5  6  1
I did not see tonight's game. Here is mlb.com's game story.
Example
Aaron Cook / Miguel Gonzalez
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, DH
Saltalamacchia, C
Aviles, SS
Podsednik, RF
Punto, 3B
Jacoby Ellsbury has a 37-game hitting streak against the Orioles. Since April 2009, he has hit .416 (69-for-166) against Baltimore. ESPN says it's the longest streak ever by a Boston player against any opponent.

Nuggetpalooza's Gary Marbry looks at Red Sox and squandered scoring opportunities. Marbry defines a "squander" as "an inning in which a team puts a runner in scoring position with no outs but fails to score".

Passan On Dysfunctional Red Sox: "This Is The Tip Of The Iceberg"

Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia, named as two of the "ring leaders" of a heated anti-Bobby Valentine meeting with ownership on July 26, did not deny that the substance of Jeff Passan's Yahoo! article yesterday was correct.

Gonzalez:
[The owners] had a meeting with the players, they had a meeting with the coaches and they had a meeting with Bobby, and it was to assess where we were as a team and as an organization and why we were where we were and what our thoughts were, basically.
Pedroia:
We had a meeting -- I'll be honest with everybody -- we had a meeting in New York and the coaches had a meeting, Bobby had a meeting, we all had a meeting, and when I spoke I said we all need to get better -- that includes owners, Bobby, coaches, and especially the players. ...

I'll go out there and play for [Valentine] any day of the week. I'm playing for all my teammates and it's unfortunate that all this stuff comes out. ... It's tough when all this stuff comes out that everyone's trying to get the manager fired. It's not the case, man. I don't know, I've never met the guy who wrote the story. ... I'm not going to blame anything on Bobby. I don't think anybody else is. It's on the players.
The Globe's Nick Cafardo had tweeted last night that Pedroia was angry at how he was presented in the article and denied "ripping" Valentine, but there were no Pedroia quotes to that effect in Cafardo's report. Pedroia did was express regret that the story had come out.

As far as Pedroia saying he had never met Passan, the writer spoke on ESPN radio this morning:
If that's the best thing that you can come up with, "I don't know the guy," as opposed to "What he's writing and saying is incorrect," then obviously there's some merit to the report. Trust me, I sat on this thing for a couple of weeks when I heard it from a very good, very plugged in source the first time, because I wanted to get confirmation. Obviously their ship is not as tight as they think it is because I was able to get a couple more people on top of that to talk about this.

It's a bad situation. Dustin Pedroia can characterize it however he wants. The fact is he was one of the ring leaders in that meeting. Adrian Gonzalez was front and center as well after sending that text message. ...

[T]his is a dysfunctional team. I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg to be honest, that there's a lot more that's going to come out about this as the team devolves toward September. ...
(Lots more Passan quotes here.)

Passan said he had sat on the story for a couple of weeks, hoping for further confirmation. Back on July 31 - five days after the meeting - Joel Sherman of the Post also mentioned Red Sox "players lobbying ownership for a change" of manager.
[O]fficials who have spoken to their Boston counterparts say the Red Sox believe the best help to their short- and long-term well-being is to begin remedying the faulty culture that has derailed the franchise since last September. Outside officials say the clubhouse dislike for Bobby Valentine is so intense, players lobbying ownership for a change is not an overstatement.

However, many of the clubhouse/organizational problems pre-date Valentine and the manager is not likely to be fired anytime soon. ... Beckett is available because, one NL executive said, Boston's front office feels the righty is a malcontent who has had a negative clubhouse impact ...
Since the players' meeting with ownership, the team has gone 8-10.

August 14, 2012

Gonzalez, Pedroia Lead Players' Revolt Against Valentine

Jeff Passan, Yahoo!:
Boston Red Sox players blasted manager Bobby Valentine to owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino during a heated meeting called after a text message was sent by a group of frustrated players to the team and ownership in late July, three sources familiar with the meeting told Yahoo! Sports.

The owners called the meeting for Boston's off-day in New York on July 26 after first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, texting on behalf of himself and some teammates, aired their dissatisfaction with Valentine for embarrassing starting pitcher Jon Lester by leaving him in to allow 11 runs during a July 22 start. It was the latest incident in a season's worth of bad relations bubbling between Red Sox players and Valentine.

Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia were among the most vocal in the meeting, in which some players stated flatly they no longer wanted to play for Valentine, the sources said. The tenor of the 2 p.m. meeting at The Palace hotel in New York turned ugly almost immediately, according to the sources, whom Yahoo! Sports granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about internal matters.

Not all of the Red Sox players attended the meeting, the sources said, highlighting the chasm that exists not only between some players and Valentine but among players in the clubhouse. ...

[The players' discontent is] personified best perhaps by a picture circulating around via text message, according to a fourth source.

Pedroia, notorious among teammates for his wit and humor, is in the foreground with a giddy smile, his tongue wagging and both thumbs up. Next to him is allegedly Valentine, face down on a table, apparently asleep. A caption accompanies the picture: "Our manager contemplating his lineup at 3:30 p.m."
General manager Ben Cherington confirmed that a meeting did take place.

What a godawful mess this season has become. ... And there is still seven weeks to go!

G117: Orioles 7, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 100 000 - 1 11  0
Orioles - 001 015 00x - 7  7  0
A single ball-strike call in the sixth inning cannot decide a game - there are too many variables after the fact - but a missed call on a checked swing helped the Orioles put up a five-spot on Tuesday night.

Baltimore led 2-1 and had runners at first and second with one out. Matt Weiters tried to check his swing on a 2-2 pitch from Beckett (5.1-6-6-2-2, 86). Home plate umpire Paul Schrieber said Weiters did not swing, but replays showed conclusively that he did. If Schrieber had not blown that call and Beckett had then retired Chris Davis, the score would have remained 2-1. However, after the swing was called ball 3, Weiters's infield single scored one run, Davis's single to center scored another and then Mark Melancon allowed a first-pitch, three-run homer to Mark Reynolds (his second dong of the night). 7-1, Orioles.

A correct call may not have mattered much anyway (and maybe the Orioles would have won that alternate-universe game 33-1), as the Red Sox could not hit with runners on second or third base. Boston collected 11 hits - including three doubles and a triple - but left 12 men on base, stranding runners in every inning but the ninth: 112 112 310.

It was only the fourth Red Sox game since 1993 in which Boston got as many as 11 hits and scored only one run.

Cody Ross scored the lone run when he doubled in the fourth, took third on a groundout, and scored on Carl Crawford's single. Crawford, Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia each had two hits; Pedroia doubled and tripled.

Adrian Gonzalez - who began the game with a major league-leading .420 batting average with runners at second and/or third - made the third out in four innings (1st, 3rd, 5th, 9th) and stranded four runners.
Example
Josh Beckett / Wei-Yin Chen
Ellsbury, CF
Ciriaco, DH
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Lavarnway, C
Crawford, LF
Aviles, SS
Valencia, 3B
The Red Sox plan to active Andrew Bailey tonight. The man who was supposed to have been Boston's closer suffered a thumb injury in spring training and has not worked in a major league game this year. In six rehab appearances, Bailey pitched 6.1 innings and allowed one run, six hits, and one walk, while striking out 10.

Bailey:
Everything feels normal now. It's all behind me. ... [I]t's strong, just like it was before. It feels good. ... I don't really care [what my role is]. I just want to pitch ... finish the year and get to the playoffs.
Beckett's last two starts have not been good. He allowed eight runs in five innings against the Rangers last Wednesday - it was his ninth start allowing at least eight earned runs since 2006 - and he left his July 31 start in the third inning with back spasms. Beckett's problems on the hill may be tied to his fastball velocity, which has declined in each of the last four seasons.

Will Middlebrooks will not need surgery to fix his broken right wrist. Says Bobby Valentine: "It shouldn't be any problem. But then again, who knows."

Adrian Gonzalez is batting .392 since the All-Star break (42-for-107) and .422 (19-for-45) in August. He was recently named the AL co-Player of the Week with Orioles rookie shortstop Manny Machado. ... Dustin Pedroia is hitting .378 (17-for-45) this month.

Tim Britton of the Journal says the team's post-season hopes are dimming - they are 11.5 GB in the East and 5.5 GB in the WC - but not out of the question. Cool Standings has the Red Sox's playoff chances at 12% (up from 9.3% five days ago). Ian Browne also advises fans to keep the faith.

Shoppach Traded To Mets

The Red Sox traded catcher Kelly Shoppach to the Mets for a player to be named later.

August 13, 2012

Johnny Pesky: 1919-2012

Updated with more links

Boston Globe:
Johnny Pesky, who during a six-decade-long association with the Red Sox as player, manager, broadcaster, coach, and executive became one of the most popular figures in the team's history, died Monday.
Also:

New York Times
ESPN Boston
MLB.com
Boston Herald (Steve Buckley)
Sons of Sam Horn
Statement from the Red Sox
WEEI (Alex Speier)
WEEI (Kirk Minihane)
Red Sox players (past and present)
More Red Sox players' comments
Red Sox ownership group
ESPN Photos
Joe Posnanski




The Many Problems With NESN

It has become a chore to listen to and watch NESN's amateurish Red Sox broadcasts.

Fans routinely misses pitches because NESN tries to cram an excessive number of commercials between innings, airs excessive replays, and lingers on irrelevant dugout shots. NESN gives us worthless "tours" of concrete hallways in other stadiums and asinine non-baseball segments. Worse than that, the network often fails to show the action on the field.

Announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy have become sad parodies of themselves. While Orsillo still calls a decent play-by-play, he also swamps viewers with waves of useless information between pitches and batters. Remy, ostensibly an analyst, offers no analysis whatsoever.

I have been watching NESN since 2003 (via MLB's Extra Innings package). At that time, living in Manhattan, it was a thrill to have the Red Sox on every night. But NESN was far from perfect. It routinely aired too many commercials (or promos for their own shows) during breaks in the game. Inevitably, it would miss the first one or two pitches of a half-inning several times every night. That meant that NESN missed an entire at-bat if the first pitch was put into play. Several times, NESN came back from commercial with a batter jogging back to the dugout after making an out; one night, we rejoined the game as a batter was rounding second after homering on the first pitch. Also, Remy was constantly promoting his website and its various giveaways and sale of autographed scorecards. A Red Sox game often felt like a three-hour Remdawg infomercial. At some point, though, that suddenly stopped. The problem of missed pitches also vanished, though NESN continued to cut it very close, often coming back to the game as the pitcher was going into his windup.

NESN's problems have gotten worse over the last two years. Viewers are misses pitches again - and they are missing them in the middle of innings. In what I can only assume is a ploy to get more casual fans to tune in, NESN introduced a bunch of segments this season, including Small Talk, Ask Jerry, MLB News and Notes, and the clubhouse and booth tours.

Small Talk consisted of little kids asking Red Sox players questions, fans were invited to ask Remy questions via Twitter, and the network began showing us behind-the-scenes footage of the clubhouses of stadiums and broadcasting booths around the American League. News and Notes consists of three items of interest that most baseball fans probably knew about as many as 24 hours earlier. NESN routinely misses pitches and whole at-bats during these segments (at times, viewers have heard the crack of the bat and the crowd cheering). NESN would, of course, cut back to the game and show a replay of what they had failed to show live, so, in the producers' minds, we really didn't miss anything at all.

NESN needs to be able to show a complete baseball game in a competent manner before even considering adding any bells and whistles to the broadcast. And in nearly a decade of watching Red Sox games, I have found NESN wholly unable to master the simple task of showing a baseball game.

Some problems:

Runners Scoring. Every time a run is scored, by either team, NESN shows the player crossing the plate. Why is this necessary? Orsillo has told us the run has scored. That should be enough. Also, showing the runner as he steps on the plate means that we do not see the throw come in from the outfield and often miss a close play at second or third base.

Throws to First. NESN's producers do not switch cameras fast enough for viewers to see a pitcher's throws to first (and second). Even when Clay Buchholz, who throws to first compulsively, is on the mound, NESN seems surprised at every throw to first. Fans have missed seeing runners get picked off because of this slowness.

Replays. Almost every replay of a home run begins with a tight shot on the baseball as it leaves the pitcher's hand. At that moment, we cannot see the batter or where the catcher has set up. Once the ball is in flight, NESN often zooms in so close on the ball, we can practically see the red seams rotating. It gives us no context whatsoever of where the ball is in relation to the field. It's a tease of a replay, and NESN would be better served to not show a replay at all. Does the network show these angles so as not to confuse fans with live action? No, because they also show replays with the usual center field cameras - the cameras they use during the game.

Score Bug. Several weeks ago, NESN changed the location of its score bug, the box that shows the score, count, number of outs, pitch count, speed of the pitch, etc., from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. According to one report, the network claimed that the top left position of the bug cut off batters' heads when they were at the plate. While I do not recall that ever being an issue, I do know that the bug's new position has caused problems because NESN's camera operators have not adjusted their shots to compensate for the bug's new position. For example, here we "see" Jacoby Ellsbury tracking Alex Rios's first-inning fly ball on July 18:
An obvious solution would be to run the bug as one long line across either the top or bottom of the screen. (The fantastic Flip Flop Fly Ball has a great post about score bugs.)

Don Orsillo. He has always had a problem with not knowing when to keep quiet. His years-long habit of regurgitating various factoids verbatim from the daily press notes is evidence of his fear of silence. Since he is paid to announce, he must be announcing - all the time. But periods of quiet are not the enemy. The game needs to breathe. A good announcer knows that silence can be used to create tension. It is not an evil to be banished from the booth.

Orsillo is unable to incorporate these bits of information into a normal conversation with Jerry Remy or another analyst. They are never presented organically, but simply proclaimed. While he must think they are useful to viewers, they usually have scant relevance to what is going on in the game at that moment. All they really do is give Orsillo something to say between pitches. If Orsillo cut out 95% of these press notes - e.g., X is 4th among all major leaguers in doubles since the 2008 All-Star Break - fans would lose nothing and the broadcast would be improved. Amazingly, Orsillo often has no idea what he is reading. During a game against Baltimore earlier this season, he mentioned that an Oriole (Adam Jones, I believe) had signed a contract extension. Orsillo said this contract would last through 2014 and he specifically emphasized that it had several vesting options. When Remy asked what "vesting options" were, Orsillo said: "I don't know." He also has no sense of timing when it comes to these factoids. Giving a non-descript middle reliever's minor league history during a Red Sox rally in the bottom of the ninth is inappropriate.

When one team has been at-bat for a long time, Orsillo likes to note how long that team's pitcher has been waiting in the dugout. "It's been an #-minute wait for X." I've never heard another announcer do this. Has it been shown that a long wait (however one defines "long") leads to general ineffectiveness? Is there any corrolation between time spent waiting in the dugout between innings and performance? I have no idea and neither does Orsillo. But he keeps track, and so he tells us.

Like many announcers, Orsillo uses the same phrases over and over and over again. I created a Bingo Card last year with some of his well-worn catchphrases. This season, "out of the gate" was used many times every night for several months. A team doesn't have a lead, it usually has an "advantage". And if the day's weather was nice, you are sure to hear that there is "nothing but blue skies above" as the game begins. This sameness gives the impression of an announcer mailing it in, someone going through the motions of his job. Baseball is unique, and the announcing of a game should not feel like it comes straight out of a can.

Orsillo also often speaks in circular sentences, in which he repeats the beginning of the sentence at the end of the same sentence, on the assumption, I suppose, that the listener might have forgotten what he said less than five seconds earlier. It simply adds more noise to the broadcast. A perfect example of this, from July 3: "Oakland's pitchers are doing very well for the Athletics."

Some of this may not be Orsillo's fault. I believe (based on no solid information) that Orsillo is forbidden to discuss certain things with Jerry Remy. When Remy was out undergoing treatment for cancer, Orsillo worked with more than two dozen different analysts. He did a remarkably good job, adjusting his own duties to fit the style of whoever he was sharing the booth with. He was much more conversational, asking questions, seemingly more involved in the game and more knowledgable about baseball in general. There were also nights when Orsillo worked the game (or at least several innings) by himself. This was a revelation. Orsillo was superb. He dropped the pointless press notes, and he was offering decent analysis. Everything I assumed he was incapable of doing (based on his style with Remy) he was doing - and doing quite well. But when Remy returned, Orsillo went back to his annoying habits again.

Jerry Remy. When it comes to analysis of the game, Remy offers absolutely nothing to the NESN broadcast. That has not always been true; in seasons past, his insights have added to my understanding of the game, but those days are long past.

This year, his contributions have been little more than repeating Orsillo's play-by-play in slightly different words, or simply describing what we see on the replay. He does almost nothing else. His job has evolved into being the play-by-play guy for the replays. Some examples (and, honestly, I could have picked just about any at-bat in any game. These seemed especially bad. Remember that the replay is being shown on screen as Remy is talking.):

July 30, Miguel Cabrera, 1st inning:
Orsillo: 1-0 is back to Buchholz, who looks the runner back to second and throws to first, able to make the pick on a hot shot right back at him.

Remy: Very nice play for Clay Buchholz. That ball was down low to the ground and he was able to make the play, check the runner at second base, hold him, and then go to first base to get the out. So they get the out, they do not advance the runner from second base.
August 1, Miguel Cabrera, 1st inning:
Orsillo: 3-2 is on the ground and by the lunging Middlebrooks at third base. Crawford will throw it back in. It's a two-out single for Miguel Cabrera.

Remy: Well, Cook does get the ground ball, but the ground ball gets by Middlebrooks, and the base hit for Cabrera. ... A two-hop ground ball that gets by Middlebrooks at third base.
August 2, Denard Span, 3rd inning:
Orsillo: This is a fair ball, and a base hit down the right field line. Around from second comes Dozier, he will score. The throw goes to second and it is late. An RBI double for Denard Span and the Minnesota Twins jump on top, 1-0.

Remy: Span gets a fastball inside and hooks it right down that first base line. Hitting streak now at 11 games. There's the fastball, down and in. Everything had been away previous to this pitch, and Denard Span was ready for it. Bounces off the wall to Cody Ross, the two-base hit for Span, and the two-out RBI for Span.

Orsillo: Up to an 11-game hitting streak now for Span.
August 2, Ryan Doumit, 4th inning:
Orsillo: Sounds like a broken bat grounder to short. Ciriaco to second for one, on to first - and a nice stretch, nice dig out there by Gonzalez. Double play turned by the Red Sox. Two outs now in the top of the fourth. Nicely done, Adrian again at first base.

Remy: Yeah, very quick over to shortstop, on the feed to Pedroia, and then Pedroia quick on the turn at second base, to complete the double play. Of course, Gonzalez putting the finishing touches on it, with the stretch.
August 3, Kelly Shoppach, 8th inning:
Orsillo: Shoppach lines it into left field. Crawford will touch second and head for third - no, he's going to throw the brakes on and try to get back, and he will. The throw went to third and Darin Mastroianni got to that ball quickly, and got it back in in a hurry.

Remy: He sure did. And it looked like Crawford was headed to third base but because Mastroianni covered that ground so quickly out in left field, he had to hold up at second base. See how much ground he covers going there, to his right, and the throw right on the money at third base. Kelly Shoppach picks up his second hit of the night.
August 9, Michael Brantley, 1st inning:
Orsillo: And this is sliced down the third base line into left. From first to third goes Santana. The throw will go in that direction as up to second base goes Brantley. And all of a sudden, it is second and third now, with two outs in the first inning.

Remy: Right down the third base line for the double for Brantley. He's on an eight-game hitting streak. He gets the fastball from Doubront right there, the inside-out swing, right down the third base line, and by the time Crawford gets to it, two men in scoring position with two outs.
August 9, Lou Marson, 5th inning:
Orsillo: Lined into right field, a base hit for Marson. Over to play it is Ross. Just up over the outstretched glove of Ciriaco at second base. Lou Marson's got a one-out single and it breaks up a string of nine in a row retired by Doubront.

Remy: And Doubront was on a very, very nice [roll?] there, pitches very crisp, but Lou Marson this time takes the fastball that's down and in, and the inside-out swing to the opposite field for the line drive base hit. Ciriaco jumps, he can't make the play. Cody Ross on one knee out there in right field to make sure it doesn't get by him.
August 9, Jacoby Ellsbury, 9th inning (3rd pitch):
Orsillo: Swing and a miss. High fastball at 95, and it's 1-2.

Remy: A rising fastball that time from Perez, at 95 miles an hour.
Remy also practically yells his commentary for the first three innings or so every night before calming down and talking like a normal person. He is especially loud when announcing each team's fielders.

Orsillo and Remy almost never talk about what is going on with other teams - not like two fans at the game would talk. I assume they simply do not keep up with other teams unless the Red Sox are playing them that day. They also seem adverse to discussing what is going on with the Red Sox, which I have for years found remarkable. With the baseball cable package, many people from outside the Boston area tune in to NESN and they do not always read the Boston papers online. Having the team's announcers discuss the state of the club would seem to be an essential part of their jobs.

Orsillo and Remy often sound like two people each calling his own game from his own private booth. They often repeat the same information the other one has just said, as if they were not paying attention at all. When it comes to baseball, there is no real interaction or conversation between the two.

They do have their shtick, however, which seems forced, almost scripted, at times. And because of all the other non-baseball additions to the broadcasts, their inane banter now grates on my nerves rather than offering any possible amusement. Do mittens have fingers? Are bats considered birds? Don wearing eye black in the booth. Inning-long interviews with the weatherman from a new NESN business partner. Jokes about Don's appetite. Jokes about Remy's misanthropy. Don's dance moves. Remy edging dangerously into "Circle Me, Bert" territory by sending free hot dogs (not bought with his own money, you can be sure!) to various Red Sox fans in the stands. During yesterday's game, after the Red Sox had scored eight runs in the fifth inning, what was "coming up"?
Both Orsillo and Remy seem sometimes seem blind to the play on the field. They are not as bad as Yankees announcer John Sterling, who occasionally invents incidents on the field, but both Orsillo and Remy often have trouble seeing and describing what is going on in front of them. In the past weeks, Orsillo has said a ball was caught on the warning track when it was caught 20-25 feet in front of the track, a ball that hit (at most) halfway up the Wall was described as "high off the Wall". Recently, Detroit's Prince Fielder was struck near the right ear by a pickoff attempt at second base. The ball hit his helmet, knocking it off, and Fielder's hands went to the side of his head. This was visible (and audible) as it happened. During the replay, Orsillo and Remy both wondered if the ball hit Fielder in the back or in the ribs. It wasn't until the Tigers trainer had come onto the field, and was examining Fielder's ear that they realized what most casual observers already knew.

And then there are the little annoyances. NESN is relying on fielding percentage a lot this season and Orsillo and Remy seem very serious when they mention it. Many smart baseball minds realized how worthless fielding percentage was more than 120 years ago. And there are the verbal tics "and just like that" or "very quickly". One example: "and the count is very quickly 0-2". (Note: An 0-2 count happens in the same number of pitches every time: two. It arrives neither quickly nor slowly.)

NESN executives know that hardcore Red Sox fans will tune in no matter what - even if they watch in silence as I have done many times this season. But to keep ratings as high as possible, NESN needs to attract marginal fans or curious viewers, and those executives believe that the game is not enough. Non-baseball distractions are needed. With the Red Sox doing so poorly, the annoying sideshow is likely to expand and become an even greater part of the broadcasts. And I expect Orsillo and Remy will keep coasting in their jobs. And I'll likely be watching NESN on mute.

August 12, 2012

G116: Red Sox 14, Cleveland 1

Red Sox   - 320 180 000 - 14 16  0
Cleveland - 100 000 000 -  1  5  1
Jon Lester (6-3-1-2-12, 101) struck out a season-high 12 batters and Boston sent 13 men to the plate in a fun-filled fifth inning. Every player in the starting lineup either scored or drove in a run.

Lester last struck out as many as 12 batters on September 13, 2010, when he fanned 12 Mariners. He allowed singles to the first two Cleveland batters in the first inning - one of them scored on a sac fly - but was superb after that. He struck out the side in the third and fifth innings, and punched out 10 of his last 14 batters.

For the offense, Carl Crawford doubled three times, scored twice, and drove in three runs, before being pulled after the eight-run explosion because his wrist was bothering him a little bit.

Adrian Gonzalez hit his 13th home run in the first inning, and drove in four runs. Mike Aviles reached base five times and scored three runs. Dustin Pedroia also scored three times.

Danny Valencia made his Red Sox debut, going 0-for-4 with a sacrifice fly.
Example
Jon Lester / Corey Kluber
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, DH
Aviles, SS
Valencia, 3B
Shoppach, C
David Ortiz (strained right Achilles tendon) had hoped to return to the lineup today, but that will likely not happen.
I'm only so-so. ... Still pretty sore.
Ortiz has been on the DL since July 17. He still leads the American League in OBP (.414), slugging (.609), and OPS (1.024).

August 11, 2012

Yankees Set To Sign 2004 Hero Derek Lowe

The Yankees are in the process of finalizing a deal for Derek Lowe, who was designated for assignment by Cleveland. He could be activated on Monday.

The Red Sox visit Yankee Stadium III next Friday and weekend.

Although New York placed CC Sabathia (left elbow inflammation) on the disabled list for the second time this season, Lowe is expected to work out of the bullpen.

In one of the finest outings of his 16-year career, Lowe put up a 6-1-1-1-3, 69 line on only two days rest against the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

G115: Cleveland 5, Red Sox 2

Red Sox   - 000 200 000 - 2  4  0
Cleveland - 001 011 11x - 5  6  0
Zach McAllister (8-3-2-0-4, 100) shut down the Red Sox. Over the final five innings, Boston batted with a runner on base only once.

Adrian Gonzalez's two-run double scored Jacoby Ellsbury (2-for-4, two doubles) and Carl Crawford and gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. It was short-lived.

Brent Lillibridge (3-for-4) homered in the third and stroked a game-tying RBI-single in the fifth. Franklin Morales (5.1-2-3-4-6, 108) struggled in that inning and, at 89 pitches, was sent out to pitch the sixth. He got the first out, thanks to a remarkable diving play by Dustin Pedroia, but then walked Asdrubal Cabrera, plunked Sing-Soo Choo and ended up intentionally walking Carlos Santana.

Andrew Miller allowed a sac fly that gave Cleveland a 3-2 lead. A squeeze bunt from Lou Marson scored Lillibridge (who had doubled) in the seventh. In the eighth, Santana doubled off Craig Breslow and scored on Ezequiel Carrera's single.

Boston was retired in order in the first, second, third, fifth, seventh, and eighth innings. In the sixth, Ellsbury led off with a double but was gunned down trying for a triple. Pedroia singled with two outs in the ninth.

The Red Sox dropped to 56-59; they are 12 GB the Yankees in the East and currently 6 GB in the wild card race.
Example
Franklin Morales / Zach McAllister
Ellsbury, CF
Crawford, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ross, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Lavarnway, DH
Aviles, SS
Ciriaco, 3B

Globe: Middlebrooks Has Broken Wrist

Will Middlebrooks suffered a broken wrist when he was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of last night's game. He could miss the rest of the season.

Bobby Valentine:
He got hit pretty good in a bad place. I was hoping it was going to be a little more down on the meat. It's right on the bone.
He is the 25th Boston player to go on the disabled list this year, the most in any Red Sox season in more than 40 years (1971).

Danny Valencia has been called up to take his place on the roster.

Yet Another Buddha The Service Dog Update

It's been two months since my last Buddha update, so ... I am happy to report that Buddha, the dog adopted by Iraq War resister Jeremy Brockway and his wife, Ashlea Brockway, is now an officially certified PTSD Service Dog! And the ChipIn campaign has raised slightly more than $6,000 towards its goal of $8,000. Thanks to the JoS readers who helped make this possible.

Jeremy writes:
Buddha is now a certified service dog! I will share with you some stories from Buddha's certification.

The certification test is comprised of several small tests. The first part of the test was how well I could load Buddha into and out of our car. We passed that easily, since we have practiced that one quite a few times - basically every time we go somewhere.

Next we went to a store to do some distraction tests. Buddha and I walked around and Beth, the trainer, walked some distance behind us to observe our behavior and give the tests.

We did a sudden turn, a complete 360, various sit, heel, and down commands, and walked past several people. Buddha was perfect on those.

Next, Beth introduced some distractions by rolling a ball past Buddha as we were walking, and rolling a ball directly into his paws when he was sitting. He ignored it both times, remaining calm and alert to my commands, and staying pressed against my leg at all times.

The last test at the store was two parts. First, I gave Buddha the command "stay" and walked out of his line of sight. He stayed until I gave him the command "come."

For the second part, he had to do the same thing but with a stranger holding his leash. Beth asked a kindly store clerk to help with this part. Buddha was a bit shy of the store clerk, but he sat obediently and passed.

For the last part, we went to a Tim Horton's so Beth could observe us with all the distractions of a restaurant. Buddha ignored all the noises and smells, and obediently sat under my chair exactly like he is supposed to. Beth then put a piece of cheese right next to Buddha, which he ignored. As we were getting up to leave, Beth put the cheese right in Buddha's path, and he continued to ignore it and stepped over it.

Then we were done, and fully certified! Beth gave me Buddha's service dog badge, which is like his ID card and goes on his vest, and his license is in the mail. We can go anywhere now. It is such a good feeling.

Buddha is so much more than a dog. He is a life-saver. Thank you so much to everyone who made this possible. The kindness and show of support has been nothing less than amazing.

I had no idea that anybody cared, let alone all of you. It gets me all choked up. I cannot thank you enough for this. I had almost given up, but you have changed me and made it possible for me to begin to reclaim the life that was stolen from me. I am eternally grateful for all you have done. Thank you.
I remain continually amazed at how wonderful dogs are - how much benefit and love and hope they bring to humans just by being themselves.

The Brockways need to raise another $2,000 to help them meet the usual expenses associated with adopting a dog. If you can donate anything, it would be much appreciated. If you would rather send a cheque or money order, email me for the War Resisters Support Campaign's address.