Tuesday, July 31, 2007

DAN RODRICKS OF THE BALTIMORE SUN IS A NUMBSKULL

Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun predicts the Red Sox are going to "choke" and lose the division to the Yankees. OK, fine, Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun. The team with the best record in baseball is going to blow the biggest lead in any division in baseball.

Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun further predicts the Red Sox will choke so badly that they won't even make the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus disagrees. Baseball Prospectus says the Sox have a 96% chance of winning the division and a 98.8% chance to make the playoffs. Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun disagrees with Baseball Prospectus. Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun disagrees with numbers. He doesn't understand numbers like Joe Morgan does.

I bet you thought Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun was done making asinine predictions. Boy were you wrong. Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun wasn't done. Far from it. Having ventured off to the far tip of a small branch carting his brick collection, Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun says the Baltimore Orioles are going to pass the Red Sox. The Orioles are currently 13.5 games behind Boston. Its one thing to blow a seven game lead to a $200 million all-star collection, but blowing a 13.5 game lead to Baltimore?

There are 56 games left in the season for Boston. If they go 28-28 from here on in they'll finish 92-70. For the Orioles to finish 93-69, they'll have to go 43-14 the rest of the way. Thats a .754 winning percentage. When
Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun makes a prediction, much like the Orioles, he doesn't like to win.

Baseball Prospectus estimates that the Orioles have a 0.7% chance to make the playoffs. Thats 98.1% less than the choking Red Sox. Although in fairness to Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun, he doesn't say the Orioles will make the playoffs. Thank God. I was thinking he might be going too far out on a limb.

O
ther things that Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun predicts:

1. The NBA will openly sell officials to the highest bidder before each game!
2. George W. Bush will run for re-election! And win!
3. The NFL will work with Michael Vick to start the National Dog Fighting League (NDFL)!
4. Barry Bonds will retire before breaking Hank Aaron's record out of respect!
5.
The Devil Rays will win the World Series this year!

BLAST FROM THE PAST: LEAVING RUNNERS ON, SOX LOSE

It was something we all remember from, oh, I don't know, anytime this season. That familiar sight of two maybe three guys in red batting helmets slowly walking off the field after an inning. The Sox did it again tonight leaving myriad runners on, including the tying runs in the ninth, as they fell to the Orioles at home, 5-2.

The Red Sox offense just never showed up tonight. Collectively the Sox had four hits on the night, and if you subtract David Ortiz, they were shut-out in the hits department until Coco Crisp's seeing eye single with one down in the ninth.

The Sox had two on and one out in the ninth down by two, but Julio Lugo continued his craptastic ways by grounding out, almost into a game ending double play. (Earlier Lugo had looked at a third strike with the bases loaded.) Now with two down, Dustin Pedroia swung at the first pitch and grounded it weakly back to the pitcher. Game over. Ortiz of the two homers and a single in four at-bats was left standing in the on-deck circle.

With Eric Gagne now in the fold and Curt Schilling returning to the team after his third successive successful rehab start, its become quite clear that this year's Red Sox team will be a pitching first, defense second, and hitting fourth team. Thats not to say the Sox can't hit, although they couldn't tonight, but as we've seen demonstrated over and over and over this season, this team can be shut out by good pitching. If the Sox pitcher doesn't have it that day, this is not an offense that can come from behind, or at least, not frequently. The '04 Red Sox this ain't.

Josh Beckett was adequate tonight, but nothing more. He gave up 5 runs in eight innings, walking two and striking out six. He allowed a lead off homer to O's second baseman Brian Roberts and the O's never relinquished the lead. The Sox bullpen held the O's scoreless in the ninth but the Red Sox just can't seem to come from behind this season.

AL East: New York and Toronto also won. Tampa lost. The Red Sox division lead is down to 7.0 games.

Tomorrow (Wednesday): The Red Sox play game two of three against Baltimore. The Red Sox website lists Julian Tavarez as the starter, though I'm slightly skeptical. We'll see. The Orioles are scheduled to send Steve Trachsel to the mound. Game time is 7:05pm EST.

SOX GET GAGNE, GIVE GABBARD

The Red Sox made an interesting and high profile trade at the deadline, getting Eric Gagne from the Texas Rangers. Gagne had to OK the deal as he had a clause stating he could block a trade to a certain preset list of teams, which the Red Sox were included. According to NESN and Boston.com, Gagne did approve the deal to Boston.

This effectively gives the Red Sox three pitchers who can close, in Okajima, Papelbon, and now Gagne. Sunday notwithstanding, My Man Manny Delcarmen has pitched well this year too, and despite my protestations, the Red Sox somehow are getting effective if scary innings out of Mike Timlin. This deal really sets up the Red Sox bullpen to dominate potentially even more than it already has this season.

The Rangers didn't send Gagne over for free though. It seems the Red Sox gave up three players to get him. The first is Kason Gabbard, who has pitched quite well this season while filling in for the injured Curt Schilling. The return of Jon Lester made Gabbard available and while rarely mentioned among the premium prospects on the Red Sox, his age, left-handedness, and pronounced ground ball tendencies make him a good bet to succeed in the majors for a number of years.

He likely isn't going to develop into a number one or two, but he can definitely hold down a number four or five spot in the rotation. For Texas, he'll likely be a two or three for now.

The Sox also gave up former first rounder David Murphy. Murphy was unfortunately a bust. As Theo's first draft pick as Red Sox GM, he could have done much better than Murphy who simply never developed the power to start in the outfield at the major league level. Murphy can be a good fourth outfielder, but it was clear that there was no place for him in the Red Sox.

The last player the Sox sent to Texas for Gagne is seventeen year old outfield prospect Engel Beltre. At this stage, Beltre is nothing more than potential. He has the tools to develop into an all-star outfielder, but he is years away from that.

Ultimately, both teams got what they wanted. Other than Beltre, the Red Sox were able to obtain Gagne for what amounts to spare parts. Gagne steps into Boston's already strong bullpen and makes it ridiculously strong (which is stronger than just "already strong").

However, Boston's spare parts are Texas' starters. Gabbard and Murphy will likely move right into starting roles and Beltre, if he is able to develop could become a very valuable minor leaguer in a few years.

This deal also clears up the mystery of the Red Sox starting rotation. We now know the rotation will likely look like this:

1. Beckett
2. Schilling
3. Matsuzaka
4. Wakefield
5. Lester

There is also the possibility that the Red Sox will bring Clay Bucholz up for a September try-0ut in the bullpen. If you are playing the Red Sox, you better hope that you get the lead early because that door is shutting mighty quickly.

In other news...

The Red Sox finally traded Joel Piniero to the St. Louis Cardinals. They received a "player to be named later." The Cardinals lack of anything resembling a deep minor league system combined with Pineiro's suckitude means that if Theo was able to get a doughnut for Pineiro he should be in the running for Executive of the Year.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

MATSUZAKA NOT PERFECT; SOX LOSE TO RAYS

It must be hard to pitch when you know that any mistake you make is going to effectively end the game. Matsuzaka made that mistake, but it took him until the seventh inning to do it. Dioner Navarro hit it into the left field stands to give the Rays a 1-0 lead, which they wouldn't relinquish.

The Red Sox offense was static through seven against Scott Kazmir. They'd get one or two runners on each inning, but never would a one cross the plate.

After Matsuzaka gave up his homer, he allowed a single and then
was yanked for My Man Manny Delcarmen. Delcarmen came in and got two outs, but then gave up a seeing eye single followed by a monstrous homer by B.J. Upton to give the Rays a 4-0 lead. He then gave up another homer to make it 5-0. Delcarmen worked 0.2 innings and allowed 3 runs, plus one inherited runner.

The Red Sox did mount a too-little-too-late comeback in the eighth when Manny and Youkilis hit back-to-back homers to bring the score to 5-2. If Ortiz could have gotten on base in front of Manny it would have been 5-3, but he struck out. His K was a part of what had to be one of his worst games this year, as he also grounded into two rally killing double plays.

As much as it sucks to lose to Tampa, it really sucks when your starting pitcher allows one run in 6.1 innings of work (he left with a runner on first who scored on B.J. Upton's homer). Still, winning two of three on the road isn't terrible, even if it was against Tampa.

AL East: The Yankees won, dropping the Sox lead back to 8.0 games.

Tomorrow (Monday): The Sox are off. They start a three game series with Baltimore back home in Boston on Tuesday. Josh Beckett tries to play stopper. The O's send Eric Bedard to the mound. Game time is 7:05pm EST.

SOX WIN, YANKS LOSE, OH GLORY DAY! II

Another abbreviated post here at FPE. The Sox won and the Yanks lost, which together increases the Sox lead over the Yanks to 9.0 games. Also, the Sox now lead the Devil Rays by 49,000,000 games. I'm sure you didn't know any of that.

See? This is what you get when you read a blog written by a guy who occasionally goes out on Friday and Saturday nights and shirks his blogging responsibilities.

Sox go for the sweep today at 1:40pm EST. Matsuzaka tries to build on his strong last outing. He's opposed by the Pride of Tampa's Rotation and the Scourge of Mets Fans Everywhere, Scott Kazmir.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

SOX WIN, YANKS LOSE, OH GLORY DAY!

Apologies for the late post.

The Red Sox bided their time last night, waiting till the sixth inning to score, but then score they did. Lots of times. These many scores, or "runs" allowed the Boston nine to whip their opponents from Tampa by the score of 7 runs to 1. A truly glorious day it was.

In other news, the Yankees
barely won their suspended game in Baltimore , 8-7. But all good will was lost when during their regularly scheduled match, starting pitcher Andy Pettitte had to leave the mound in the fourth inning after remembering he had a soufflé in the oven. New York ended the day 1/2 game behind where they were yesterday.

The Red Sox lead New York and everyone else in the AL East by a clean 8 games. No more, "but only such and such in the loss column." We're done with that crap.

Tonight the Red Sox get it on again with Tampa. Jon Lester takes the mound for start number two. If he's as good as he was last time out a win is a strong possibility. Tampa sends James Shields to the mound. Game starts at 7:10pm EST.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

SOX CRUSH INDIANS, TAKE 3 OF 4 IN CLEVELAND

The Red Sox opened up a can of whoop-ass on the Indians tonight. The Indians hung around courtesy of the Red Sox pitching staff, but in the end the Sox out-scored their gifts. To give you an idea, the Red Sox scored 14 runs on 17 hits, while the Indians scored 9 on only 6 hits. No disrespect to the Indians, but its hard to score nine runs on six hits. You need to hit some balls hard, but you have to have some help from the opposing pitching staff too. The Red Sox helped the Indians out, but in the end it didn't matter.

The Red Sox were out ahead most of the game, at one point taking a 9-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth, but Kason Gabbard couldn't get three outs to qualify him for the win. He gave up four runs and was lifted with the bases loaded and two outs. Bring on His Craziness! Julian Tavarez came on and stopped the bleeding.

The Sox came right back and three in the seventh to open up a 12-5 lead, but Tavarez couldn't hold that either. He gave up four runs in the bottom of the seventh to drop the lead to three runs. To lead off the eighth, Big Papi walked and then Manny hit his second homer of the night over the wall in straight away center field. The announcers remarked later that Manny's homers together traveled about 900 feet.

That was it for the Indians as Hideki Okajima came on in the eighth to get the Indians 1-2-3 and Javier Lopez did the same in the ninth.

After yesterday's galling loss, today's beat-down was particularly enjoyable as it shut the stupid Indian's announcers up. One particularly enjoyable moment occurred when Wily Mo Pena was walking to the plate in the sixth inning with runners on second and third. Cameras caught Pena holding his bat to his face. It either looked like he was sniffing it or talking to it. The Indian's announcers started to make fun of Pena, calling him weird. One said in a derisive way that he'd never seen anything like that before. Pena then hit the first pitch over the left field wall for a three run homer. In your face, dumb announcer people!

Other Notes...

*Curt Schilling made his second rehab start for AAA Pawtucket today. By all accounts it was a huge success. Schilling, who was hitting low 80s on the gun when he went on the disabled list a month ago, was consistently in the mid and low 90s with his fastball today. Even better than his speed were his results. Schilling struck out eight in five innings and only gave up two hits. Schilling is scheduled to make one more rehab start for Pawtucket on July 31st against Columbus.

*The Yankees will add two games to their record tomorrow, but will only play 10.1 innings to do it. Due to weather, the Yankees/Orioles game from June 28th was suspended with two outs in the top of the eighth inning and Derek Jeter on first. At the time the Yankees were leading 8-6. They'll need six more outs to secure that first win and then they'll start their regularly scheduled game.

*As you would expect when a team gets seventeen hits, there were a few Red Sox who had big games. Manny Ramirez went three for four with a walk. His three hits were a double and two homers for ten total bases and four runs scored. Wily Mo Pena almost matched him in total bases with nine. Pena had two doubles and a homer while going four for five.

AL East: The Yankees lost to Kansas City, and Baltimore beat Tampa. Toronto had the night off. The Red Sox lead New York by 7.5 games, Toronto by 10.5, Baltimore by 14.0, and Tampa by 23.5 (23 in the loss column).

Tomorrow (Friday): The Red Sox travel to Tampa for a three game series with the Devil Rays. Tim Wakefield pitches against Jason Hammel. Game time is 7:10pm EST.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND: SOX LOSE, 1-0

It came down to one pitch. To be honest I'm not even sure if it was a bad one or not. The pitch in question was a Josh Beckett fastball that Franklin Gutierrez hit over the left field wall to lead off the third inning. That pitch turned out to be the difference in the game, as the Indians Fausto Carmona was masterful through eight shutout innings. Joe Borowski lucked into a successful ninth for the save (I hate Joe Borowski).

Despite excellence on the mound, the Red Sox had opportunities to score but fouled them up. In spectacularly painful fashion, three Red Sox runners were thrown out on the bases, and all in the midst of important scoring opportunities.

The first was Coco Crisp, who was thrown out at home (AARG!!) trying to score from second on a David Ortiz single with two outs in the sixth. Had Crisp held off, Manny Ramirez would have batted with runners on first and third and two down. Manny would later get screwed out of another attempt to tie the game. More on that in a moment. I'm sure you can't wait.

After singling to lead off the eighth, Jason Varitek became the second to be thrown out. With Alex Cora up and one out, Varitek ran on the pitch. Either he incorrectly thought the hit and run was on or it was but Cora missed the sign. In any case, the end result was Varitek was thrown out by a large margin. Jason Varitek has many skills. Running fast isn't one of them.

The final indignity came when Julio Lugo was thrown out trying to steal second base in the eighth inning. Some of you may note that the eight is the same inning Varitek was thrown out in. Others of you may have seen it and are too busy trying to stick your hair back into your scalp. May I suggest staples?

Getting thrown out meant that, well, the inning was over. But, as Coco was in the midst of his at-bat when Lugo was thrown out, Coco had to hit again leading off the ninth. This meant that Manny was no longer guaranteed to hit in the ninth. Predictably, the Sox went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, stranding Manny in the on-deck circle.

When not helping the Indians out on the basepaths,
the Red Sox offense was held in fetal-like check by Carmona. The game remained close only because Josh Beckett was magnificent. Besides the homer to Gutierrez, Beckett allowed only one other hit hard ball all night, and Travis Hafner's line drive was caught by J.D. Drew in the seventh.

One could make a fair case that Beckett actually out-pitched Carmona, although the scoreboard would dispute that notion. Beckett struck out seven in eight innings, giving up only four hits and walking none. In fact, the Indians didn't get a runner past first base all night with the exception of the Gutierrez homer.
Carmona gave up four hits as well, but walked two, hit a batter, and had several balls hit quite hard off him, but none of them fell in for hits.

Hopefully the Sox can take tomorrow's game. Three out of four in Cleveland against a very good Indians team would be an accomplishment, but more than that, it would prevent the Red Sox lead from shrinking again. Its all fun and games until the lead shrinks below 7, and then someone gets hurt. Like, for example, my couch pillows.

Some notes on today's game...

*It takes a close game to remind me how much I miss Orsillo and Remy. Or, conversely, how much I hate the Indians announcers. These clowns spent half the night claiming pitches that are shown to be out of the strike zone by their own K Zone thingy are strikes, or calling mediocre defensive plays made by Cleveland fielders, "Great! Just great!"

Just your garden variety homerism, but still exceptionally irritating. There was a whole lot of agreement in the booth. Cries of "You are right! Ha ha! You are SO right!" filled my living room until I couldn't take it anymore and shut off the volume. Is it not possible to support the team that employs you without kissing their ass and talking down to the other team?

*The Sox just can't do anything in the ninth inning this season. Its certainly just an unlucky statistical oddity, but its a fact just the same. Here are the OPS the Sox have generated by inning:

1: .950
2: .698
3: .868
4: .806
5: .751
6: .872
7: .723
8: .832
9: .593 (!)

Now sing that little song we all learned in kindergarten, "Which of these things doesn't belong?" For the season the Red Sox team OPS is .798, meaning the Sox are giving up about .200 points of OPS in the ninth, the exact time when you need to turn it up to win.

Imagine if, instead of following their normal lineup, the Red Sox just sent Wily Mo Pena
up to hit in perpetuity every time the ninth inning rolled around. "Ghost runner on fir... oh wait. Never mind. He struck out again." Scary, huh? Based on production, thats effectively what the Sox have done this year. I'd expect and hope this would creep back towards normal soon, though obviously tonight wasn't particularly helpful on this front.

*The trade deadline is fast approaching. It should be interesting to see what Theo does. Many people seem to think the Red Sox bullpen should be bolstered, but I don't see anything wrong with the pen. Especially if Clay Bucholz comes up September first to pitch out of the pen Papelbon style.

If it were me, I'd work on upgrading the bench. To illustrate the point, here is each bench player's OPS:

Alex Cora: .743
Eric Hinske: .741
Wily Mo Pena: .610
Doug Mirabelli: .565

Mirabelli has been hideous, but theres no other option to catch Wakefield right now, so he'll likely stay. Cora and Hinske are incredibly versatile, even though neither of them are getting on base much. Not ideal, but probably not going to get appreciably better without giving up more than the Sox want to in trade.

That leaves Pena and his anemic OPS. Thats the one hole on the team that the Sox need to fill. I like the guy, but Pena, as talented as he is, has to go. He'll have to blossom somewhere else. The Sox need someone who can get on base competently now and Pena isn't that guy.

AL East: New York, Baltimore, and Toronto won. Tampa lost. The Red Sox lead shrinks to 6.5 games over New York, 9.5 over Toronto, 13.5 over Baltimore. Tampa remains 22.5 games back.

Tomorrow (Wednesday): The Red Sox close out their four game series with Cleveland. To win the series the Sox will have to win tomorrow. Kason Gabbard goes for Boston. He'll be opposed by Cliff Lee. Game time 7:05pm EST.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

SOX WIN; TEIXEIRA TO BOSTON?

The Red Sox beat Cleveland last night 1-0 behind the just-good-enough pitching of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka pitched well, but it seemed like he was just a half step ahead of getting creamed. Maybe it was just me...

The Indians did hit a bunch of balls hard that happened to go directly to the Sox fielders. When they didn't hit them at fielders, the fielders made excellent plays on the ball (I'm thinking of you, Pedroia). Sometimes the fates are with you. The old saying about how its better to be lucky than good applies here. A few weeks ago, those balls were dropping on the Sox. Its nice to see them drop into Red Sox gloves instead.

C.C. Sabathia was every bit as good as Matsuzaka. The Sox offense was only able to muster one run in his seven innings, and that only by a fraction of an inch. With two outs and runners on first and third in the fourth inning, Mike Lowell hit a fly ball to short left field. The Indian's left fielder came in on the ball and dove to make the catch, but juuuuust missed it. He ended up trapping it against the grass. This allowed Kevin Youkilis to score with what turned out to be the game's only run.

After Matsuzaka's seven innings, Okajima and Papelbon contributed scoreless 8th and 9th innings, respectively. Ho hum.

Great job the the Sox to steal a game in Cleveland against a very good Indians team. If the Sox manage to win one of the remaining two games of the series, you'd have to classify it as incredibly successful. The Sox seem to have the edge in starting pitching for both of the last two games, so hopefully they can get at least one of them.

In other Sox news, Jim Molony of MLB.com thinks that the Red Sox are close to landing Mark Teixeira from the Texas Rangers. He mentions "young pitchers" as what the Sox might be willing to give up, though you'd have to think that Mike Lowell would also be on his way out somewhere if Teixeira is coming in. It would be hard to imagine that the Sox would keep Teixeira, Youkilis, and Lowell on the same team, and more difficult to imagine that they'd trade Youkilis.

While Teixeira would be an upgrade offensively, with the club on a five game winning streak and seven up on New York,
I find it hard to believe that Theo would risk disrupting the team to make a trade like this. File this away under 'intriguing but probably not.'

AL East: The Yankees, Toronto, and Baltimore all won. Tampa didn't. The Red Sox lead New York by 7.5 games, Toronto by 11.0 games, Baltimore by 15.0 games, and Tampa by an astounding 22.5 games.

Tomorrow (Wednesday): Josh Beckett faces Fausto Carmona at 7:05pm EST. Carmona has been very effective this season, but his stats don't stack up to his results, meaning he's been a bit lucky so far. It will be interesting to see how he does against the Red Sox. Hopefully Big Papi will be healthy enough to do some crushing of something other than his own shoulder.

Monday, July 23, 2007

LESTER, SOX WIN; GARY THORNE STILL AN IDIOT

Jon Lester did it. In order, he beat cancer, he made it back to the majors, and he beat Cleveland, 6-2. Lester went six strong innings and gave up two runs to notch his first win since being diagnosed with lymphoma last season. He wasn't perfect, as Grady Sizemore hit a two run homer off him, but thats all he gave up. He was more than a suitable replacement for His Craziness, Julian Tavarez, who took his old seat in the bullpen.

Lester ran into trouble a few times, but when he was commanding his pitches the Indians couldn't touch him. The most dangerous inning was the fourth. Lester loaded the bases on a double and two walks, but escaped. He got Josh Barfield to ground into a force play at home and then he struck out Sizemore on a high fastball to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.

Lester threw 55 of his 96 pitches for strikes. He struck out six to offset three walks.

The Sox bullpen again held their opponent scoreless after the starter left. My Man Manny Delcarmen threw an inning and a third to get the save. He was preceded by Mike Timlin and Javier Lopez who threw a combined inning and two thirds of scoreless ball.

The Sox offense was led by Coco Crisp who went 4 for 5 and is now hitting .284 on the year. Dustin Pedroia had three hits, and Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez had two hits apiece. David Ortiz sat out again. He is expected to return Wednesday at the earliest.

A couple quick notes...

*You may remember Gary Thorne. He is a part-time broadcaster for ESPN when he isn't broadcasting Orioles games. A while back, Thorn said some relatively offensive things about Curt Schilling. Thorne claimed that the blood on the sock during the '04 playoffs actually was not blood at all.

Thorne was at it again today, though nothing close to the whole bloody sock is fake-gate. Whether claiming Manny Ramirez has cost the Red Sox a run when he hasn't, or simply identifying an 84 mph pitch by Manny Delcarmen as a fastball (very clearly a change-up), Thorne was frequently talking out of his ass. Thorne seems to enjoy being in the booth, but the trouble is he just isn't very good at it. As Jere would say, Terrible Job.

*Another terrible performance was turned in by home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, who's strike zone was moving around like a fly trying to escape a swatter. Bucknor called out Dustin Pedroia on a pitch at the letters, Youkilis on a pitch a foot outside, and Mike Lowell on a check swing where Lowell barely took the bat off his shoulder. There were numerous examples of bad calls going against the Indians as well.

AL East: As expected, the Yankees crushed Kansas City. Toronto beat Minnesota, while Tampa and Baltimore had the night off. The Red Sox lead New York by 7.5 games, Toronto by 11.0 games, Baltimore by 15.0 games, and Tampa by 21.5 games.

Tomorrow (Tuesday): The Sox play game two of four in Cleveland. Daisuke Matsuzaka faces C.C. Sabathia. Game time is 7:05pm EST.

JEROME PREISLER: YANKEE SHILL

By his account, Jerome Preisler is a successful writer who is of Jewish decent. As someone who is a member of a minority, you would think Preisler would be empathetic towards other minorities. Apparently not.

As you may remember, a month ago or thereabouts Gary Sheffield was quoted for a piece on HBO's "Real Sports" show as saying
that (I'm paraphrasing here) Joe Torre was unfair to him because he (Sheffield) is black. Sheffield went on to say that the rest of the Yankees organization was also not a good place to be if you are a black person (again, paraphrasing). As part of the piece, Sheffield's comments were relayed to Kenny Lofton, a former teammate with the Yankees and also a black man, who corroborated Sheffield's story.

Then, Joe Morgan, lead color commentator on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, said during a broadcast that Joe Torre should answer Sheffield's comments (I didn't hear Morgan make this request, I'm taking it from Preisler's article).

This is going to seem out of place (much like in Preisler's article), but I should also mention that Preisler spent the first 972 words of the 2093 word article telling a story about the time that he and his wife were insulted at a dinner party in Maine by some racially insensitive friends. The gist was that during the dinner party, Preisler's friend's 30 year old daughter asked him in front of a whole table of people why Jews only care about money. When Preisler demurred, his friend said something along the lines of, 'Yes, Jerome. Why is that?' Thats when his wife took him by the hand and they stomped out. Preisler relates this unfortunate incident to Joe Morgan's comments about Sheffield's comments about Torre.

...deep breath...

Preisler says (and I quote), "It is impossible to take either Sheffield or Lofton seriously." As a write, Preisler should know to be more careful with words. Using the word "impossible" paints Preisler into a corner. Further the use of such language in this context can be seen as supporting racism. I'm not saying it is, but it could be seen that way. There is no question that this is a delicate topic, and painting it with a broad brush is simply a bad idea at best, or worse and more likely in this case, blatantly insensitive and dense.

He goes on to say that both these players didn't play particularly well with the Yankees, especially Lofton, and that both were bitter about their departures from the team. Preisler doesn't mention that players depart teams all the time, and I'm sure many are unhappy about it, but this is the first allegation of racially-based disrespect that I can remember.

As for Morgan's comments, Preisler proclaims that Torre does not have to explain himself at all. Indeed, according to Preisler, it is Joe Morgan who must explain his comments, and even beyond that, apologize to Joe Torre for his informed opinion.

I should point out now how incredibly strange it seems to write that Joe Morgan has an informed opinion on anything. Lest people misunderstand my position, Joe Morgan is a terrible announcer and baseball writer. He clearly does little if any research, and as such his opinions are often based on nothing at all. Add to that that he frequently contradicts himself and you get that I am not a fan of Joe Morgan as a baseball pundit.

But, what Joe Morgan undoubtedly does know about, is racism. As a black man who grew up in the fifties and sixties and was in the public spotlight in the seventies, there is little doubt that Morgan is unfortunately well schooled in this area. Morgan played at a time that Hank Aaron was receiving death threats for daring to come near Babe Ruth's home run record. On this topic, Morgan knows of what he speaks.

Preisler dismisses all of that even though he sites no knowledge of the situation beyond watching Joe Morgan on TV. He hasn't talked to Sheffield, Lofton, Morgan or Torre, yet he's prepared to dismiss everything because Sheffield and Lofton didn't play well when they were with the Yankees. Which, I might add isn't true. Lofton was the best center fielder on the team that year, and Sheffield was excellent with the Yankees up to the time he got hurt in his third and final season with the team.

Furthering the weirdness, Preisler decides that a story about being unfairly treated because of your race is a good allegory to explain away Gary Sheffield's statements about being unfairly treated because of your race. Huh? Somehow, Preisler reaches the conclusion that it is Sheffield who can't be trusted and is clearly in the wrong here. And Lofton too. Oh, and Joe Morgan. Again: Huh?

So, why would someone who has experienced racial misunderstanding (and presumably more than that) write an article dismissing someone's claims of racial misunderstanding? To explain that, we just have to look at the byline. Preisler is writing for the YES Network which stands for Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (I believe; its pretty much just called "YES" everywhere on their website).

The fact that the Yankees sign his paycheck and he's defending the Yankees and Joe Torre shouldn't be surprising. Do you think they'd have printed his article and asked for another if he had said, "I'm Jewish, and as the victim of racism in the past, I can personally say that things like this do happen. Here is an example... I will be the first one to stand up and say that this should be looked into more deeply." Yeah, I don't either.

Writing a piece designed to disparage Sheffield's (and Lofton's) claims on the basis of zero knowledge of the situation other than, you know, Sheffield sucks at first base, is odd to say the least. But more importantly, running what is essentially a hit-piece isn't an acceptable way for a professional baseball team to deal with allegations like these.

The fact that some may think Sheffield
a bad person, a bad fielder, or a loud mouth does not mean that what he is saying now isn't true. The same goes for Lofton. Anyone who dismisses such charges out of hand does not deserve to have his articles published on a major media site, whether he kisses their asses or not.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SOX WIN; PINEIRO GOES, LESTER RETURNS

Big news in Soxland while I was away in D.C. for the weekend. First, the action on the field. After pitifully dropping the first of four to the lowly Chicago White Sox, the Red Sox won the next three straight, including today's 8-5 victory.

The better Sox got good pitching from Tim Wakefield through six, which had to be downgraded to simply competent after Wake gave up four in the seventh inning. No matter, the Red Sox strong relief pitching, consisting of My Man Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon, bailed them out.

On offense, Manny and Lowell both hit three run homers, as Manny continues his second half long (we hope) homer barrage. In the three wins against Chicago, the Sox offense has scored 29 runs.

In other news, the Red Sox made a series of moves which I shall summarize before commenting:

Move number...
1. From the minors to the rotation: Jon Lester
2. From the rotation to the bullpen: His Craziness, Julian Tavarez
3. From the bullpen to the street: Joel Pineiro

First, the departed. Maybe foolishly, I had high hopes for Pineiro, but he was never as effective as he needed to be to become an important part of the bullpen. Even when his results were good (i.e. he got batters out) his peripherals weren't (he wasn't striking people out and he was walking guys or giving up strongly hit balls that just happened to be caught). He was an enthusiastic member of the team and for that I always rooted for him, but his performance never improved. That and the emergence of My Man Manny Delcarmen made this move inevitable.

As sad as I am to see Pineiro go (and I am a little sad), this improves the team both in the bullpen and the rotation, and it didn't cost the Sox anything in trade. Thats one way you know it was a good move. Good luck where ever you land, Joel.

T
aking over the role of the long man/mop up guy from Pineiro, His Craziness, Julian Tavarez returns to the bullpen where he will be better utilized. Tavarez will further be useful if Francona ever needs a ground ball out of the pen.

Jon Lester comes back to the Red Sox from Pawtucket to take Tavarez's slot in the rotation. As ecstatic as I am that Lester is back in the majors and as much as I admire his willpower, positive outlook and gumption, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm a bit worried about his potential performance.

Lester had a successful run in the bigs last year, but even though he rang up the wins, he didn't pitch that well in the process. He walked a lot of guys, didn't strike out that many and threw a ton of pitches.

His performance in AAA this year has been better, but he's still had a number of games where he's fallen back into old habits. You can check out his stats here. The essentials are that he's pitched 71.2 innings, struck out 51 (6.4 K/9), walked 33 (4.14 BB/9), giving him a 3/2 K/BB ratio. Its the last two figures that worry me. The walks are very high, and as the strikeouts aren't there is a very high likelihood that they will hurt Lester.

Still, Lester is a talented guy, of that there is no question. I'm sure he knows what he has to do to be successful in the majors, and the Sox likely wouldn't have called him up if they didn't think he was ready. Also, even if he does walk to many guys, his performance has a good chance of bettering what the Sox were getting from Tavarez.

Personally, I can't wait to see Lester throw, and I hope like hell he'll be successful. But I don't wish him luck. Guys like Jon Lester don't need it.

In still more news, Curt Schilling threw a very successful three inning six strikeout rehab stint in AAA Pawtucket yesterday. The Sox think he should have two more starts down there before rejoining the big club.

In even more still more news, David Ortiz had an MRI on his shoulder that he hurt sliding into second on Friday. The test showed no damage to the shoulder, but Ortiz sat out both weekend games anyway, probably as a precautionary measure. Ortiz is expected to return to the lineup either Monday or Tuesday in Cleveland.

AL East: The Yankees swept a doubleheader from Tampa yesterday, winning both games by a lot. You would think the Rays would be pissed off and come out and take it to the Yankees, right? Uh, no. New York won 21-4. Theres a reason the Rays haven't won anything in... well, ever. Toronto and Baltimore also kept pace by winning. The Red Sox lead New York by 7.5 games, Toronto by 11.0 games, and Baltimore and Tampa by enough to choke a small horse and a large horse, respectively.

Tomorrow (Monday): The Red Sox open up a four game series in Cleveland. Jon Lester starts for Boston. Jake Westbrooke starts for Cleveland. Game time 7:05pm EST.

Friday, July 20, 2007

FINALLY! SOX BEAT CHICAGO, GRANPA SEES SASQUATCH

In the first inning J.D. Drew came up with two on and two down. This is exactly the type of situation that the Red Sox have not been hitting in during their Streak of Suckitude. J. D. Drew to the rescue! Drew hits a line drive that juuuuust clears the top of the Green Monster in left. Hooray! 3-0, Boston!

Except, no!

Home plate umpire, Stinky McNugget* called it in play (i.e. not a homer) and, as Manny Ramirez was tagged out on the way home, declared the inning over. Terry Francona came out to argue the call, hoping that one of the umpires had actually seen the play and the tell-tale carom correctly.

The umps convened to discuss it. Either none of them had seen it or McNugget was so sure of his (incorrect) call that he over-ruled the other umps, because they didn't reverse the ruling (i.e. its not a homer). This meant the inning was over and instead of the three runs that the Red Sox had earned, the Sox had only one.

It would have been easy to fold at this point. Things weren't going the Sox way, and this was just another data point to add to the huge stack pointing in that direction. But, despite this calamitous development, the Red Sox and especially Josh Beckett managed to keep it together.

Beckett did give up a three run homer on a fastball Jim Thome crushed to straight away center field, but that was the extent of the damage. Beckett kept the score down by striking out ten in six innings of work. Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin, and Joel Pineiro closed out the game.

Pineiro's appearance was possible thanks to Julio Lugo's grand slam homer, which took the score from 6-3 to 10-3. Yes. You read that right. Julio Lugo hit a grand slam homer. Hard to believe, huh? Seriously, he did. I swear. Still don't believe it?

Julio Lugo hit a grand slam homer.


How about now...? Yeah... me neither.

In any case, it happened. I saw it with my own eyes. Its right up there with having high tea with a sasquatch, coming face to face with a grizzly bear, slapping it in the face and having it run home whimpering, or enjoying a speech by George W. Bush. Its the type of massively improbable event that you'll tell your grandkids one day...

Grandpa: Jimmy, did I ever tell you about the time I saw Julio Lugo hit a grand slam homer?
Ralph: My name is Ralph, and yes, you did. Almost as many times as you told me about that one speech by President Bush.
Grandpa: Yeah, I don't know what it was that day, Jimmy...
Ralph: ...Ralph.
Grandpa: ...Ralph, but Dubya was actually making sense. Must have been all that cough medicine I'd drunk. Come to think of it, as I recall, he was wearing a purple hat and no pants...
Ralph: Mom! Grandpa's drooling again!

[exunt!]

The Red Sox actually held a team meeting for ten minutes before the ballgame. Its good to hear that the team is concerned about their recent results, but in all likelihood the missed home run call will have a much larger baring on their season.

AL East: The Yankees got smizzity-smoked by Tampa, 14-4. Toronto got beat by Seattle. Baltimore's game is not finished as of this writing (they are currently leading 6-1 in the 6th). The Red Sox increase their lead back to 8.0 games over New York, 11.0 over Toronto, a lot over Baltimore (or a lot and a half if Baltimore loses), and even more over Tampa.

Tomorrow (Saturday): The Red Sox try to drag their win streak kicking and screaming to two games by winning game three of the four game series versus the Chicago White Sox. Kason Gabbard reprises his role as Cy Young while Jon Danks plays the part of the villainous Rekeesha the She-Sausage. Since the game is on national TV, game time will be 3:55pm EST.

*
Editor's Note: Actually Tim McClellan

UPDATE: While trying unsuccessfully to stretch a single into a double,
David Ortiz hurt his shoulder sliding into second base. Terry Francona says he may miss the game tomorrow. Check out the Globe for coverage. For now, the little bit of information they have is here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

CAN I GET SOME OFFENSE UP IN THIS PIECE? HELLO?!?

The Red Sox lost (again) after out hitting an opponent (again), lost ground in the standings (again, though this time to Toronto), and just generally sucked (again) last night. In the last five years a two run lead hasn't seemed so daunting, but this year it may as well be climbing the frigg'n Matterhorn. It doesn't seem to matter how many hits the Red Sox had (10) or how many walks they got (2) because it just doesn't translate to runs scored.

Of course, it helps when all ten hits are singles. When attempting to avoid scoring, its further helpful if you don't start off innings with base runners. When a runner gets on to start the inning there is a better than 50/50 shot to score in that inning. How many times did the Red Sox lead off an inning with a hit? Answer: two out of nine (both of their runs came in one of those).

It seemed the Red Sox had runners on all the time, but couldn't ever get the big hit. How many times have I written that damn sentence in the past few weeks, eh? Upon checking the numbers, it didn't just seem so, it actually was that way. How many times did the Sox get two runners on and still fail to score? If you're curious, for this game it was three.

The Red Sox seem to have mastered getting as little as possible from their potential, and thus causing me to repeatedly punch the pillows of my couch. For no reason other than I was/am pissed off, I cataloged some of these instances. Enjoy:

1) Ortiz hit one right on the screws that was caught by a lumbering Dye in right field. A couple feet in either direction and Ortiz has a double.
2)
Ortiz hit one right on the screws that was caught by a lumbering Dye in right field. A couple feet in either direction and Ortiz has a double. (No thats not a mistake, he actually did it twice.)
3) Dye took a homer or double (hard to tell which on replay) away from Jason Varitek in the bottom of the sixth down by the Pesky Pole.
4) Dye had to take only two steps in to catch Julio Lugo's screaming liner with a runner on to end the sixth.
5) Manny Ramirez absolutely crushed one into the triangle that Jerry Owens, the Chicago center fielder, caught against the edge of the bullpen fence over 400 feet away. This happened with two on in the seventh.

The Sox offensive woes were further exacerbated by the second mediocre (meaning "bad") start in a row for Daisuke Matsuzaka. He gave up only two hits and struck out six but walked six, including three in a row in the sixth inning. At one point Matsuzaka threw eight straight balls to walk two consecutive batters and load the bases. In doing so he effectively handed the lead to the White Sox, completely undid all the great work he did in innings two through five, and lost the game.

The bewildering thing about Matsuzaka is that when he is on he is incredible, but without warning and at a moments notice, his control disappears into the ether and he becomes incapable of throwing any pitch for a strike. Only in a Matsuzaka start could the Sox out-hit their opponent 8-3 and still be losing 3-2 when Matsuzaka left the game.

About the only bright spot was Manny Delcarmen, who continued his stellar relief work by cleaning up Matsuzaka's mess in the sixth. Entering with runners on first and second and no outs, My Man Manny K'd Jermaine Dye, got Josh Fields to ground out to Lowell (who threw home to force Konerko) and then got Juan Uribe to pop out to Julio Lugo to end the inning. He left having allowed no runs or inherited runners to score. Thats some quality relief work. If only the guy could hit, huh?

It was all for nothing as the Sox lost anyway. In the final indignity, my MLB.tv went out with two down in the ninth and I had to switch over to gamecast
to find out that Dustin Pedroia popped out to third to complete the Going Out Like Wussies 1-2-3 Ninth (Again) [GOLW123N(A), copyright 2007 Boston Red Sox].

I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty f'n tired of this.

AL East: Toronto ended the Yankees five game win streak, 3-2 and Tampa lost to Anaheim, 3-0. Baltimore was off. The Red Sox lead the Yankees by 7.0 games, the Blue Jays by 10.0 games, and Baltimore and Tampa by way too much and a staggering amount, respectively.

Tomorrow (Friday): Boston plays game two of four against the White Sox. In a match-up that overwhelmingly favors Boston
(and that can't be good), Jose Conteras pitches against Josh Beckett at 7:05pm EST.

***

This could be the immense frustration talking, but I'm starting to think that a trade for the sake of change might be a good idea. Off the top of my head I have no idea who should go or for what, all I know is the status quo clearly isn't working. Maybe things will seem better in the morning, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE RED SOX? (YES, THEY F'N LOST TO KC. AGAIN.)

The Red Sox went into the bottom of the fourth inning trailing Kansas City 2-0. They had lost the last three games going into the All Star break. Then coming out of the All-Star break, they lost three out of five, all at home to teams with losing records.

If they didn't do something soon they'd lose the series at home to Kansas City. So, they scored four runs and were on the verge of a fifth when a bad call at first base denied Dustin Pedroia a base hit and RBI. No matter, they had doubled K.C.'s score.

So what happens? His Craziness, Julian Tavarez comes out and gives the four runs right back. The Sox never recover, and do lose the game and the series (at home) to Kansas City.

Now that he Red Sox have lost 7 of their last 10 and their lead over New York is now down to seven games (6 in the loss column), its time to ask, what is wrong with the Red Sox?

As I see it, the difference between the Red Sox in the first two months of the season and the Red Sox now is two things. The first and admittedly much smaller part is down luck. An example: Down one in the bottom of the eighth, Coco Crisp crushes a ball off the wall in right field. He misses a game tying homer by one foot. He settles for a triple instead and is left at third when Julio Lugo flies out to center. A little wind and that ball is over the wall and the game is tied. Similar scenarios have played themselves out ad nauseam over the past month.

Another example: in the series against Kansas City, the Royals were 10 for 26 (.385) with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox were 3 for 19 (.158). This type of thing is bound to go the other way at some point.

The second and far more important aspect is pitching. The Red Sox winning early in the season was accomplished in large part with excellent pitching, not by a bludgeoning offense. Now they aren't getting the consistently great pitching that they were, and, just as before, their offense isn't good enough to make up for it.

The problem isn't the bullpen. There have been a few minor blow ups, but all bullpens will have that from time to time. For the most part just about everyone in the pen has been excellent. A minor miracle if ever there was one.

If the pen isn't the problem then it must be in the rotation. Josh Beckett has been almost as good as he was when the season started. Daisuke Matsuzaka has been better. That leaves Schilling, Wakefield, and Tavarez.

Up until he got injured, Schilling was an above average starting pitcher. However, with the injury its difficult to discern how to categorize Ol' Schil going forward. He's due to start a game for AAA Pawtucket this Saturday and we'll be able to better assess where he is at that point, but for now its difficult to count on him.

Wakefield got off to a great start, but he's slowed down considerably recently. As a matter of fact, if you look at Wakefield's ERA by month you get this:

April 2.59
May 4.09
June 6.00
July 6.75

This is a terrible trend and a pretty good explanation in miniature for the Sox recent performance.

Julian Tavarez hasn't been much better. Since pitching against Atlanta a month ago, Tavarez has given up 26 runs in 23.1 innings and the team has lost his last six starts. In the industry, thats called "bad pitching." With the lead down to the lowest its been in months, the Sox can't afford to punt every fifth game anymore. With Curt Schilling coming back soon, Tavarez needs to be the first one to go.

In a way the Sox are lucky that Schilling got hurt when he did. The trading deadline is coming up in under two weeks (July 31) and the Red Sox should have a good idea of what they can expect from Ol' Schil before that time. If Schilling isn't going to be an above average pitcher during the stretch run, the Sox need to go find someone who can.

The Yankees early season sucking allowed the Red Sox to putz about for the first four months of the season. Because of their huge lead, they could take some liberties that teams usually aren't allowed during those months. That time (and that lead) are rapidly expiring, and will be entirely extinguished soon.

The Sox need to patch the holes in their rotation and improve their offensive efficiency (somehow). Otherwise they'll be just another piece of hot-start roadkill on the highway to the playoffs.

AL East: In another example of lousy luck for the Red Sox, Toronto managed ten hits and five walks and only scored one lousy run off of the Yankees, losing 6-1. The Yankees have now won five in a row, and picked up three games on the Red Sox in the process. Tampa won as well. Baltimore is in Seattle (losing 2-1 in the third inning). The Sox lead is now 7.0 games over New York, 11.0 over Toronto, and whogivesashit over Baltimore and Tampa.

Tomorrow (Thursday): Matsuzaka pitches for Boston in the first game of a four-gamer versus the almost-as-awful-as-Kansas-City Chicago White Sox. The White Sox counter with the soon-to-be-traded Javier Vazquez. Game time 7:05pm EST.

Come on, Red Sox. Its time to wake up.

HORSESH*T: SOX LOSE TO KC?

Apologies for the lack of a post last night. To be honest, after watching that game (editor's note: he's referring to the Red Sox inexcusable 9-3 loss to Kansas City) I just wanted to stop thinking about baseball. Last night's game was sickening. That about sums it up.

If you want the gruesome details, Tim Wakefield gave up a five spot in the fifth, the Red Sox couldn't "solve" Leo Nunez, who has little-to-no business pitching in the majors, let alone winning a game... aww, who cares... I think Red Sock of The Joy Of Sox said it best, when he wrote, ..."there's another game Wednesday night. Focus on that one."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SUPER GABBARD!

Big Papi homered tonight. And so did Manny. Oh, and so did Pedroia. That accounted for four runs. Not much else to report offensively. The Sox only had seven hits, four singles and three homers.

It didn't matter because the Royals couldn't do anything with Kason Gabbard, who's cut fastballs, slurves and change ups kept them off balance for nine innings. Thats right, nine innings. The bullpen got a well deserved night off as Gabbard threw only the second complete game by a Red Sox pitcher this season. Gabbard struck out eight and only walked one. He also hit two batters.

In other Sox-related news, Clay Bucholz started his first game for AAA Pawtucket. He was alternately very effective, not so effective, and very effective again. Buchholz ended up pitching three innings and giving up five hits, three runs (two earned), and striking out four. He allowed a long home run in the second inning when all the scoring took place. I didn't get to watch the game, but reading the Globe's account sounded as if Bucholz had a mild case of the yips. He's scheduled to throw 75 pitches next Saturday, his next start, which is a step up from the fifty he threw today.

Curt Schilling threw a simulated game, or at least part of one, today as well. He was apparently very effective, as evidenced by the effusive quotes from Schilling himself and Terry Francona describing how wonderfully the ball came out of his hand. Schilling's next step is to throw a side-session in preparation for a rehab start in Pawtucket. Should that happen without setbacks, Schilling will make a start in Pawtucket this coming Saturday. The Globe points out, and you may have noticed, that Clay Bucholz is also scheduled to start for Pawtucket on that same Saturday night. Not sure how they'll work that one out...

AL East: Toronto lost to the Yankees, Baltimore lost to Seattle, and Tampa didn't play. The Sox lead of 9.0 games over New York holds. They pick up a game on Baltimore and Toronto, and lead them by 11.0 and 15.0 games, respectively. Tampa drops to 20.5 behind Boston.

Tomorrow: The Sox play game number two of the three game series versus Kansas City. Tim Wakefield goes against AAA call-up Leo Nunez, who pitched ineffectively for the Royals in 2005 and 2006. Bludgeoning starts at 7:05pm EST

Sunday, July 15, 2007

UNLUCKY OR NOT, SOX LOSE

Crappy loss by the Red Sox today. Many sabermetricians use the term "unlucky" to describe a situation where the outcome was not as good as the peripherals would lead you to expect. Although I dislike that term, it describes exactly the Red Sox loss to the Blue Jays today.

Eleven hits, including three doubles, and who knows how many balls hit right on the screws that went directly to fielders, and still Boston could only muster one measly run scored. It is genuinely difficult to have twelve base-runners over the course of a nine inning game and only end up with one run, but the Red Sox managed it.

You hate to split a four game series at home, especially with an inferior opponent, yet thats just what the Sox did. Whats more, they had the pitching match up set in their favor, and were unable to take advantage of if. It cost them a game in the standings and the difference between a good start to the second half and a lousy one. If the Sox are going to keep playing .500 ball the rest of the way, it doesn't matter if the Yankees catch them or not because they aren't going to win crap in the playoffs.

In the ninth inning, there was a bit more bad news, as neither Jason Varitek nor J.D. Drew pinch hit for Doug Mirabelli. Either, 1) both are hurt and physically couldn't hit, in which case the Red Sox are in some trouble, especially if Varitek is injured, or 2) Terry Francona was in the can and didn't come out in time to make the switch.

Francona is a very smart guy and has managed the Red Sox just about perfectly this season, so I suspect there is more going on here than meets the eye. But just in case there isn't, there is no way (other than injury) that Mirabelli should have had a bat in his hand in the ninth inning down by one run with two outs left in the game. I know he was 2-2 against Accardo and had hit a double earlier that day. Doesn't matter. I imagine we'll find out more about this later.

In the lone bit of good news, Beckett pitched a gem, striking out eight in eight innings. He held the Jays scoreless except for one little hiccup in the second inning. After getting the first two hitters out, Beckett allowed back to back doubles and then a single. That was all the scoring the "lucky" Blue Jays would need.

AL East: The Yankees came back and narrowly beat Tampa 7-6. Baltimore beat Chicago. The Red Sox are now 9.0 games ahead of New York, 10.0 ahead of Toronto, 14.0 ahead of Baltimore, and still 20.0 ahead of surging Tampa. Oooh! Look out.

Tomorrow (Monday): The Kansas City Royals visit Fenway and the Red Sox better not take them lightly. Since June the Royals are 20-16, which is a better record than the Red Sox have during that time.

Kason Gabbard starts for Boston. He's opposed by Brian Bannister, who has done a decent impression of a #4 or #5 starter for K.C. this season. Of course, he's done it as their #2 starter. Game time 7:05.

SOX LOSE, PHILS WIN, SOX WIN, PHILS WIN

Short post for tonight. I was at the Phillies game on Friday night (they won, the bastards), so I missed the Sox loss to Toronto. Fortunately the Yankees lost as well to Scott Kazmir and the Rays.

Tonight, the Sox won. I won't bother recounting it all now.
I'll get into it later. For a good recap, check out Joy of Sox. Suffice it to say that Big Papi went deep, Julio Lugo had three hits (!), and My Man Manny Delcarmen pitched two scoreless innings striking out four.

AL East: Baltimore and New York won, while Tampa lost. The Sox lead the Yankees by 10.0 games, Toronto by 11.0, Baltimore by 15.0, and Tampa by 20.0.

Tomorrow (Sunday): The Sox close out their four-gamer against Toronto. Josh Beckett goes for Boston. Someone named Jesse Litsch goes for the Blue Jays. Game time 2:05pm EST.

**The Phillies also won today, yet again avoiding their 10,000th loss.

Friday, July 13, 2007

COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE

I noticed the following item from the Red Sox notebook in today's Globe that was stuck at the bottom amidst a series of periods:
Here’s one reason the Sox are not dismissive about Daisuke Matsuzaka’s concern for privacy. General manager Theo Epstein’s car has been vandalized and obscenities were spray-painted on his condo, along with an admonition not to trade RamĂ­rez .
There has been much talk recently about how the City of Boston has been historically an unfriendly place for African-Americans, and whether or not that is still the case. As a white person living in Philadelphia, I have no idea. I certainly hope this behavior has gone the way of the dodo.

But on par with racism is this terrorism that the Red Sox General Manager has been subjected to. Yes, I said "terrorism" because thats what this is. This is completely unacceptable behavior on numerous levels, first and foremost being that you don't do this to another human being, followed closely by its against the law.

Somewhere farther down the list are the repercussions that actions like this can have on the team. The team on the field is put together by incredibly smart and dedicated individuals. This is why the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, its why they won the Wild Card in 2003, 2004, and 2005, and its why the have the best record in baseball in 2007. This type of success does not come about for no reason, but it can end and end quickly. If I were Theo Epstein I wouldn't put up with this. I wouldn't subject my wife and family to behavior anywhere close to this. This, friends, is grounds for the best GM in the history of the Red Sox to walk right out the door. If it were me, I'd certainly consider it.

I hope they find the idiot who did that to Theo's home, and I hope they prosecute whomever it is to the fullest extent of the law. There is no room in fandom for actions like this. None.

MY LIST: The Five Players I'd Never Want To See Playing For The Boston Red Sox

On survivinggrady.com (a most fabulous Sox-centric website, I must say), they were discussing the A-Rod situation, and the potential for A-Rod to come to Boston next season. It is at least a possibility. The two positions that A-Rod plays both will be positions of need for Boston after this season, assuming that, 1) Julio Lugo doesn't snap out of what is now a full season long funk and, 2) the Sox don't throw a bunch of money at Mike Lowell. It is probably more likely that the first happens than the second, meaning third base will likely be open in Boston after this season.

Predictably, most of the posters on Surviving Grady weren't super keen ("super keen?!") on seeing A-Rod in a Red Sox uniform. One poster mentioned that A-Rod was on his list of players he never wants to play on the Red Sox. I though, "That must be an interesting list... Hey! I have a blog, I'll post my own list, and then people can write their lists in the comments section and/or call me an idiot!" Great idea, me.

What follows is my list of the five players I'd never want to see playing for the Boston Red Sox:
  1. Barry Bonds - I have enough problem with the fact that he cheated, but add to it that he is by all accounts a total ass, and that he's said negative things about Boston before (though he somewhat recanted when the Giants came to Boston last month), and he's at the top of my list.
  2. David Eckstein - He sucks, but everyone kisses his ass. It drives me crazy.
  3. Johnny Damon - Playing careers are short and guys should try to get the most money out of management that they can in that time. However, there comes a time when enough is enough. Plus, you don't leave the Red Sox for the Yankees and then come back to play in Boston. Nope nope nope.
  4. Roger Clemens - I would have loved to have Clemens back on the team this season. He was a childhood idol of mine and the only thing that would please me more than having him back on the team and winning a World Series is beating his ass and keeping him out of the playoffs and then winning a World Series without him. (You gotta be realistic, right?)
  5. Derek Jeter - Some of my Red Sox fan friends think Jeter is great and would love to have him on the Sox. I think Jeter is a terrific hitter, a terrible captain, and an even worse shortstop. Even worse than 'even worse', he epitomizes the Yankees to me, and under no circumstances do I want that/him wearing a Red Sox cap. I'd sooner have Jorge Posada or Mariano Rivera on the Red Sox, though I don't want them either.
It doesn't have to be the Red Sox. Who are the guys you'd never want to play for your favorite team?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

SOX START SECOND HALF RIGHT, BEAT BLUE JAYS

I caught the first three innings of the game, but then I had to go. There was a movie playing on the banks of the Schuylkill here in Philadelphia, so my bride and I went to see Napoleon Dynamite projected on a forty foot inflatable screen by the river.

It was a perfect night out, west coast weather. Only downfall was I didn't get to watch the Red Sox win their first game after the all-star break. Fortunately, it turns out that the Red Sox don't need me to win, as they beat Toronto 7-4.

The Sox weren't looking at a favorable matchup with Toronto ace Roy Halladay on the mound for the Blue Jays. Either Halladay didn't have it tonight, or as Jerry Remy surmised, the Sox just put together some good at-bats against him, but in either case, the Sox scored early and often on Halladay. Ol' Roy threw over 40 pitches in the first inning securing the fact that he wouldn't be in the game for the long haul. He also gave up four runs in said inning, securing the fact that his teammates might not want him in there anyway.

Big Papi had three hits, though his third hit, a double by the door in center field, was aided slightly by the fact that Vernon Wells isn't Coco Crisp (Coco = D!). Manny and Julio Lugo had two hits a piece.

Despite the Sox early lead, the game got close. Right about when Napoleon got hit in the head with a flying ham the Jays scored two in the top of the sixth making it 5-4. But the Sox came right back with two of their own in the bottom of the inning thanks to Big Papi's double.

The Sox bullpen (Delcarmen, Okajima, and Papelbon) then threw three shutout innings and that was the ball game.

It was good to start the second half with good pitching and some production from the middle of the lineup. It was especially good to see Manny and Papi carry the load offensively. Combined, the two went 5 for 9 with 5 RBIs and 3 runs scored.

Delcarmen was so efficient that he wasn't even featured on MLB.tv's condensed game. As a reliever, you know you did your job when you throw a whole inning and don't even get mentioned in the condensed game. His emergence has bolstered the bullpen without giving up any talent to do so.

It will be interesting to see what the Sox do when Donnelly and Piniero come back off the DL. Someone's going to have to go. While I admire his effort and his sense of team, I think Piniero should be the one. He's the worst reliever in the pen. The question with that is will the Sox eat his $4M salary assuming they can't trade him (if they can, what are they waiting for?). There are easier moves to make, like sending Lopez or Delcarmen back down to Pawtucket, but both of them are pitching well and contributing.

AL East: The Yankees beat Tampa while Baltimore lost to Chicago. The Red Sox lead the division by 10.0 games over New York, 11.0 over Toronto, 16.0 Baltimore, and a nice clean 20.0 games over Tampa.

Tomorrow (Friday): The Sox continue their four game series with Toronto. His Craziness, Julian Tavarez tries to redeem himself after last outing's craptastic crapisode. He is opposed by Shaun Marcum, who got shelled in his previous start by Cleveland. Game time 7:05

***

Of note: The local nine, also called the Phillies, are on the verge of a historic precipice. As the professional sports franchise with the most loses in the history of all recorded professional sports, the Phillies set the standard for futility. Tomorrow, against the Cardinals here in Philadelphia, they have a chance to reach a benchmark: the ten thousandth loss as a franchise. If I can get tickets, some friends and I intend to go and watch history. May I never say this again, but... Go Cardinals!

NEWSFLASH II: NY MEDIA FULL OF CRAP!

Despite headlines such as, "Yankees, A-Rod to discuss contract extension", and "Yanks, A-Rod may talk new contract", and "Reports: Yankees eye pact for A-Rod", MLB.com posted the following article: A-Rod may not be ready to negotiate: Agent says Yankees slugger's stance hasn't changed.

The MLB.com article includes the following quote from A-Rod's agent: "We are not going to be negotiating during the season." To paraphrase, nothing to see here. Please disperse.

I know that the baseball media doesn't have much to write about now (besides the fact that Tony LaRussa is a moron). To fill column inches, they just rewrite old stories and print them as new again. This is a perfect example. There is no news here.

All the commotion seems to have been generated by ESPN and SI.com both reporting that the Yankees might be willing to negotiate with A-Rod and his agent, Super Satan (a.k.a. Scott Boras). Well whoop-de-doo! The Yankees are willing to negotiate... thats fine, and totally newsworthy until you realize that it wasn't the Yankees who were the stumbling block to a new contract in the first place! It was always A-Rod (and Super Satan) who said they won't discuss his contract until after the season at which time, hey guess what?! he can opt out! (See how this works?) Thats why all these articles are moronic. The Yankees have just about zero say in the matter, so whether or not they want to re-sign A-Rod right now makes no difference.

We further know that A-Rod isn't going to negotiate with the Yankees now because Super Satan is already in full prepare-for-opt-out-by-planting-ridiculous-salary-demands -in-media-to-make-them-sound-less-ridiculous mode. In case you haven't noticed, Boras is very busy putting it out in the media that A-Rod expects $30M per year in his next contract. Examples of this can be found here and here and here. Well, you say, Boras isn't quoted in those pieces. How do you know that he put that number out there? Let me answer your made up question with another question: Do you really think all those columnists came up with this $30M idea separately and on their own?

Despite all this, A-Rod still may not opt out of his contract. But if he doesn't, it'll be because the Yankees decided to re-work his current deal so that he'll be making a buttload more than he is due now. There is literally zero chance that A-Rod and Boras decide, 'New York is pretty neat, and all the Yankees are so nice... You know what? Lets just play out the rest of the contract here.' Its this thought process that it seems the NY media is laying in wait for.

Covering A-Rod's contract situation and whether or not he'll opt out is like covering me eating pizza and whether or not I'll end up with tomato sauce on my shirt. Well, duh. The pizza had tomato sauce, I was eating it, therefore I now have tomato sauce on my shirt. I can see the NY Post headline right now...

MattyMatty Spills Tomato Sauce On Shirt!
Also, A-Rod opts out of deal

So, will A-Rod get $30M a year? I don't know, but its possible. Will he stay in New York? I don't know, but its possible. Will he decide not to opt out or re-work his deal? I do know and its impossible.


***

In other Red Sox-related news, Tim Wakefield starts for the Sox tonight in the Fens. He is opposed by Roy Halladay and his Blue Jay teammates. Game time 7:05pm.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NEWSFLASH: A-ROD AND I AGREE!

Alex Rodriguez was talking to reporters yesterday in San Francisco for the All-Star game. The topic of Barry Bonds and his impending free agency came up. From the New York Times:
[A-Rod] ...said Bonds would fit snugly with the Yankees. "Barry has the type of personality that he doesn’t really care about you guys,” Rodriguez said. “And I think that’s good. New York would love Barry Bonds because he’s a gifted player and he plays every day. Out of all places, I think he would be most appreciated in New York.”

I bet New York would love him. Yes, A-Rod and I agree. Send Barry and his big head to New York.

Monday, July 09, 2007

WATCH OUT: YANKEES MIGHT NOT BE DONE

I was watching PTI, the only show on ESPN that I still watch, when Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle mentioned that the Yankees schedule after the All-Star break is ridiculously easy. So, I looked it up, and the man is right (for once).

After the break, the Yankees are going to play 29 straight games against teams with below .500 records. If they are going to make a run of it, this would be the time. During this stretch, they play:
  1. Tampa (8 games)
  2. KC (7 games)
  3. Toronto (7 games)
  4. Chicago WS (3 games)
  5. Baltimore (4 games, including completing a suspended game from 6/28)
I'm not sure you could design an easier schedule if you tried. Maybe you'd throw in the Rangers, but still, the point remains. Ugh.

I'm not sure the Yankees can take advantage of this schedule. Its not like they have been particularly hot recently, or not any more than they have been all year. Still, pretending they don't have talent is silly. This is not a great team, and I won't claim it is, but it is a talented team capable of getting hot, and facing a bunch of lousy teams in a row could help. Wang and Clemens are both pitching very well and the offense is still scoring runs. Fortunately, the majority of these games (15) are on the road so that could slow them down a bit.

At the same time, our Red Sox start the post-All-Star break schedule with eleven games against Chicago, Toronto, and Kansas City, all at home. This is probably the easiest part of the schedule all year. Then they get seven on the road vs. Cleveland (4) and Tampa (3).

It only gets worse from there. August will be positively brutal, with only nine of the 28 games at Fenway Park (??). (Who made up this schedule? George Steinbrenner?) Further, its not as if the Sox will play a ton of games against Kansas City and Tampa. Nope. In fact, the Sox get to face Seattle, New York, and the Angels all on the road. They also face LA at home.

If the Red Sox can maintain their double digit lead going through July, the Gloom 'N Doom factor (copyright, 2007, FPE) will be reduced going into a potentially painful August. If you are looking for a reason that Theo should seek to bolster the team, whether from inside or out, one look at the August schedule should do it.

***

I don't particularly care about the All-Star game, so I won't be posting anything about it here. I'll try to post something else between now and when the Sox start up the second half against Toronto this Thursday night.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

SOX SWEPT INTO BREAK

The good news is that the first half is over and the Red Sox are way ahead of everyone else in their division.

The bad news is that they haven't looked the part for the past month and a half.

The Sox continued the 'bad news' by getting swept in Detroit, losing today 6-5. The Sox, as is their wont, had numerous opportunities to cash in their baserunners and tie (or God forbid, take the lead in) the game, but declined to do it.

When your offense is led by Julio Lugo thats when theres a problem. I suppose that is a little disingenuous, as Lugo singled (!), doubled (!!), and homered (!!!). He also threw in a walk for good measure.

The Sox had to rally from a 6-2 deficit as Matsuzaka had his first bad outing in over a month giving up six runs and ten hits including three homers in only five innings. Still the Red Sox pen somehow held the Tigers scoreless the rest of the way, allowing the Sox to close the gap.

The Sox only managed seven hits on the day (three by Lugo), but augmented it with six walks. The Tigers did their part to keep the game close by committing five errors. Wily Mo Pena had a solo homer taken away by Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson.

AL East: Toronto and New York both won today. The Sox lead them both by 10.0 games. Despite getting swept, the Red Sox still maintain the best record in baseball (53-34), mere percentage points ahead of Detroit.

Tomorrow (Monday): Let the All-Star break commence! No Red Sox games until Thursday, when the Sox start a three game series with Toronto in the Fens. Tim Wakefield vs. Roy Halladay.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

F! F! F! F! F! SOX LOSE IN 13TH

It was only a matter of time, but after a time it became a matter of a long time. Finally, the Red Sox bullpen blew it. Surprisingly, it was Jon Papelbon, reliever number five in number but number one in quality, who surrendered the winning run. After hitting Gary Sheffield with the first pitch in the bottom of the 13th inning, Papelbon got to two outs before giving up a double, easily scoring Sheffield.

At some point around the 11th or 12th inning, NESN put up a graphic saying that the Red Sox and Tigers were a combined 2 for 23 with runners in scoring position on the day. That about sums it up. The pitching was good, but when it wasn't the hitting was lousy enough to make up for it. Both teams left the bases loaded in extra innings, the Tigers pulling the ignominious feat twice, the Sox only once (I'm not sure which is worse).

The Red Sox scored two runs on a first inning homer by David Ortiz, and then were shut out for the next 12.2 innings. Kason Gabbard started and allowed two runs in 6.1 innings. Then came Manny Delcarmen (1.1 innings), Hideki Okajima (2.1 innings), Mike Timlin (1.1 innings, somehow), Javy Lopez (0.2 innings), and finally Papelbon.

David Ortiz was on base six times, homering, doubling, and walking four times, three times intentionally. Julio Lugo pinch ran for Dustin Pedroia and ended up batting twice and predictably going hitless in both at-bats. This dropped his batting average to a hideous .189. Mike Lowell went 0-6, Eric Hinske went 0-4 and his replacement, Jeff Bailey went 0-2. Curtis Granderson of Detroit went 0-6.

AL East: Weirdly enough, the Yankees also lost in 13 innings today, to the Angels. Every team in the division lost except Baltimore. The Red Sox remain 11 games up on Toronto and New York.

Tomorrow (Sunday): Matsuzaka tries to salvage a game from this series. Nate Robertson goes for the Tigers. Game time 1:05pm EST.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

TAVAREZ POOPS ON MOUND, SOX FORFEIT GAME

That may as well have happened, as His Craziness pitched three good innings before completely crapping the bed in the fourth. The bed crapping culminated in a grand slam homer with two outs and a 1-2 count on the batter, the aptly named Curtis Granderson. That put the score at 8-1, and for all intents and purposes ended the competitive portion of the game. I have nothing more to say about this poofest.

***
In previously non-blogged-about news, the Sox finished off a sweep of Tampa by a final of 15-4. Josh Beckett won his 12th game, giving up 3 runs in six innings of work.

AL East: New York, Toronto, and Tampa won Friday. Baltimore lost. The Red Sox lead the Blue Jays and Yankees by 11.0 games, the Orioles by 16.0 games, and Tampa by 19.0.

Today (Saturday): Kason Gabbard tries to redeem the Red Sox in Detroit. He'll get his ass kicked by Jeremy Bonderman at 7:05pm EST.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

HAPPY FOURTH, AMERICA!

The Red Sox are slated to start versus Tampa in about two and a half hours. Unfortunately, I'll likely be sitting on I-95 at that time. The Red Sox will likely be finished four hours later and, unfortunately, I'll likely still be sitting on I-95 at that time. This is to say, I'll be in our Nation's Capital for the festivities and won't be able to post here at FPE until I return on Thursday. Look for another illuminating/hilarious post at that time.

Happy fourth!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

DON'T VOTE FOR OKAJIMA (SOX WIN!)

Strange how it hasn't been commented on much (at least at the forums I frequent), but Matsuzaka is quietly becoming the ace of the Red Sox staff. His ERA over the past month plus is under 1.50. Thats sick. Thats National League sick. Josh Beckett may have taken over the title of "Ace" of the starting staff, but Matsuzaka may be the best starting pitcher the Red Sox have to offer. Tonight, he took another step in that direction, throwing eight shutout innings and striking out nine while only walking one. This effort was enough (surprisingly?) to earn him a 4-1 win.

In a more relieving development, kinda like finally finding a rest stop on the freeway after you've been holding it for two hours, Julio Lugo hit two singles. By doing so, he snapped an 0-33, a streak of futility that is truly difficult to fathom. Francona had Lugo batting ninth in the order, which is where he should be if he's going to play at all.

Baseball Prospectus sends out a daily newsletter which features a 'stat of the day.' Today's stat was the worst hitting shorstops in the American League. You can probably guess who the worst was, but I'll reprint it here anyway. They are as follows:

Player, Team, EqA, VORP

Julio Lugo, BOS, .200, -11.4
Ben Zobrist, TBA, .117, -7.5
Alex Cintron, CHA, .173, -6
.8
Neifi Perez, DET, .164, -5.1
Juan Uribe, CHA, .217, -4.5

Lugo's EqA (thats Equivalent Average) is the second highest (not quite a badge of distinction, but...), however he has the highest VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) because the Red Sox keep insisting on playing him, despite his tremendous suckitude. Its impressive that the team is where it is despite Lugo pulling them down.

Other than Lugo, the Red Sox offense didn't exactly light up the scoreboard (Lugo's hit was the only one that scored any runs, the other two runs were scored on sacrifices). Papi continued his slump (I think we can officially label it as such). Wily Mo Pena, playing for J.D. Drew due to what I assume was both a platoon split and a chance to get Wily Mo some playing time, struck out four times in four at-bats leaving five runners on base in the process. This is longhand for saying we're not out of the woods yet, folks.

***
DON'T VOTE FOR OKAJIMA

Okajima has been terrific this season. This is why you should NOT vote for him for the All-Star game. In fact, you should vote against him.

The season is a long one, and Okajima could use the rest. We all know Francona won't be the one to give him any, so this is a chance for him to take three days off in the middle of the longest season he has ever played in and recharge his batteries a bit. If he makes the All-Star team he won't get the chance to do that. This could be crucial down the stretch of the season.

Further, by adding a player from another team, you can simultaneously rest Okajima at the expense of an important player from a competing team. So, if you must, vote for Jeremy Bonderman, who's lack of rest could actually benefit the Red Sox down the line.

AL East: In other AL East action, the Yankees won while Baltimore lost. The Blue Jays are currently losing to Oakland 2-1 in the sixth inning. Pending the outcome of that game, the Red Sox lead the division by 11.0 games over both New York and Toronto. Baltimore is 15.0 games back, and Tampa brings up the rear, 18.0 games behind.

Tomorrow (Wednesday): Tim Wakefield tries to pull his record (currently 8-8) over .500. He is opposed by former Dodgers prospect and current blowout patch Edwin Jackson. Gametime 1:05pm EST.

SOX FIND OFFENSE, ACTUALLY WIN GAME!!

Manny Ramirez apparently reads this blog and decided that I'm right, he needs to start hitting with more power, as he doubled off the top of the center field wall. He missed a homer by a foot or less. The other culprits of offensive production were Dustin Pedroia and Eric Hinske who doubled home two runs and tripled home three runs, respectively. Slow down guys! With all these runners circling the bases you're going to give the fans vertigo!

The other two runs were gifts from the umpires who apparently saw the last three games against Texas and felt bad for the home team.

On the pitching side, other than one lousy pitch to Brad Wilkerson, Kason Gabbard threw six plus good innings for the Red Sox. The other innings were picked up by the bullpen, which managed their typical excellent performance, to hold the Rangers offense in place.

At the half way point of the season the Red Sox are exactly where they were last season: 50-31 and in first place.

AL East: The Yankees won last night, as did the Blue Jays and Orioles. Only tonights opponent, Tampa, lost. The Red Sox lead the division by 10.5 games, and the Yankees by 11.0 games.

Today (Tuesday): The Devil Rays come to town MATSUZAKA! pitches for the Red Sox. He is opposed by the best Tampa has to offer in Scott Kazmir. Gametime 7:05pm EST.

Monday, July 02, 2007

PETER ROMETTI & A MONKEY

I had the good fortune to attend the Red Sox/Rangers game in Boston on Saturday night. This game was notable for several reasons, neither of which have one iota to do with the action on the field.

First, there was a monkey that threw out the first pitch. I took a picture, as best I could. Here it is:


As you can see (I hope) this went off without a hitch. The monkey stood on the stool and threw the ball to the ballgirl. Excellent job, monkey. This next picture is a bit grainy, but I think you can see the monkey more clearly. This is actually a picture of the videoboard.



The second didn't go so well. This featured a guy named Peter Rometti. I'm not sure why, but he was allowed to sing the national anthem. And when I say "sing" I mean butcher the first half and then laugh his way through the second part. It was so bad and took so long, that the crowd just took over half way through and literally sang over Rometti. It was as if everyone at Fenway simultaneously decided that they needed cover for the guy because otherwise we'd never get through it.

I can't imagine what kind of screening process the kid went through, but whatever kind it was, it needs to be revamped at minimum. The kid was awful even before he started laughing. Once he started laughing, everyone started laughing, but the kid kept laughing and then singing and then laughing and then singing and then laughsinging and then everyone kind went "fuck it" and started singing too.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Rometti was, uh, mentally challenged, in case that wasn't obvious, so I'm assuming he got to sing to promote a foundation or something. I didn't catch the reason, but theres no way he was there for his singing ability.

Unfortunately, I can find no video evidence of this, but I'm sure someone somewhere must have it. If anyone can find any video of this, please kindly post the link in the comments section.

CONCERN?

At Almost-The-All-Star-Break, the Red Sox are a mile up on their division making the quest for the playoffs almost an after-thought for us residents of Red Sox Nation. Still, all is not perfect. The Sox just finished off a losing June, going 13-14, and started off July on a losing note as well. In a way, the Red Sox are fortunate as the other teams in the division are essentially handing the crown to Boston on a silver platter. Not that I have a problem with that, but the Sox recent play won't fly in the playoffs. The culprit has been the Red Sox offense, who haven't been able to hit with runners on base recently.

The Sox recent offensive anemia is discouraging. To see how bad its been, I looked up the numbers. The surprise is that, while the Sox didn't hit as well in June (duh!) as they had in May and April, the overall numbers with runners in scoring position, with men on base, and with two outs (and all permutations thereof) are right in line with what the Sox have hit as a team so far (.272/.355/.434). There doesn't seem to be any fall off in performance, and the Sox recent slide has only brought them back in line with their seasonal numbers.

If there is one part that concerns me, it is the heart of the Red Sox order. Manny and Papi have both hit well with high averages and excellent on-base presence. The problem has been their remarkably reduced power. At this time last season, Ortiz had 23 homers. He has 13 now. Manny had 20 at this time last season, and has 11 now. This is a substantial decrease. I'm not expecting Ortiz to hit 50 each year, but at this pace he won't even reach thirty, and Manny will end up with his fewest homers since he hit 17 for Cleveland in 1994, his first full season in the majors.

These things can turn around quickly, but I think part of the reason the Red Sox haven't scored as much recently can be attributed to this lack of power from the middle of the order. For the Red Sox to really turn on the wins and finish the Yankees and Jays off, these two have to start to produce. I have no doubt they will. Its just a matter of time.