Pitchers & Catchers Report to Ft. Myers

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lowell to the DL

The Red Sox placed Mike Lowell on the disabled list today, retroactive to June 28 with his ongoing hip problems. That means he will be out until the All-Star Break, and could be reactivated on July 17th, when the Red Sox open the second half in Toronto.

Jeff Bailey was brought up from Pawtucket, and will be in the lineup tonight, at first base and batting ninth. Kevin Youkilis will probably be playing third base most of the time while Lowell is on the sidelines.

132

Jon Lester was superb again last night in Baltimore, befuddling the Orioles for seven innings and allowed no runs on five hits as the Red Sox won easily, 4-0. He struck out eight, didn't walk a batter, and was in complete command all night.

J.D. Drew was the hitting star with a triple, single and home run to pace the attack. He hit a triple on the second pitch of the game off Jason Berken and Dustin Pedroia singled him in.

The next couple of innings the Red Sox left five men on base and didn't score, and looked like another one of those nights where they'd regret all the men they couldn't drive in. But in the fourth, they scored three, and it was capped by Drew's two-run blast to right.

The bullpen took over in the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon came in with two out and two on, as Ramon Ramirez couldn't get the last out. Pap got Matt Wieters to fly to left, where Jason Bay, who was hitless all night, made a sensational sliding catch to preserve the shutout. The pitching continues to be sensational, as the Red Sox now have a 0.69 team ERA in their last four games.

It was an historic night for Papelbon, as his 19th save of the year was also his 132nd save of his career, tying Bob Stanley's team record. Stanley was also a starting pitcher, and many of his saves were also of the two and three inning variety back in the 1980s.

Lester is now 8-0 in his career against Baltimore, and 7-6 on the season. The Red Sox are now 5-0 versus the O's in 2009, and 5-2 on the current road trip. Their lead in the AL East is now up to 3 1/2 games. John Smoltz makes his second start of the year tonight against Rich Hill.

Monday, June 29, 2009

An Obvious Choice For Special Category This Week

Well, it's not the biggest shock in the world what the Special category for Trivia Night will be this week. I even had some requests for it, so never let it be said I don't listen to my audience.

"Michael Jackson Trivia" will be the category (and ironically, one of last week's IQ Trivia questions was on the same late entertainer). It will be seven questions on the life of the icon who just died last Thursday. (For those of you looking for Michael Jackson trivia, the Q&A will be published on this site on Wednesday morning, so check back.)

The Q Train lightning round will be "True or False Trivia."

This week's Sneak Peek question is:
Leon Trotsky was banished from the USSR in 1929 for opposing what leader?

We should get going around 9 PM. The Red Sox have a game in Baltimore tomorrow night, but that won't interfere with the festivities. See you then.

Another Road Series Won

Interleague came to thankful end on Sunday with the Red Sox dropping a 2-1 decision to the Braves in Atlanta yesterday.

The Sox ended the 18-game monstrosity with an 11-7 record, and won another road series. They ran into a hot rookie pitcher named Tommy Hanson, who pitched six solid innings in getting the win.

Brad Penny pitched his usual six innings and allowed just two runs, both solo homers, to Chipper Jones and Garret Anderson.

The Red Sox just couldn't get anything going against Hanson, who had flu-like symptoms but went out there and was terrific in getting his fourth win.

The Sox got a run with two outs in the ninth, as Jason Varitek singled in Kevin Youkilis, who cleverly broke up a double play that should have ended the game by retreating to first. But Jacoby Ellsbury struck out to end the game.

The Yankees humbling of the Mets again last night means that the Red Sox lead in the AL East is now at 3 games.

The Red Sox are now 4-2 on the road trip, and now move on to Baltimore for three starting tonight. Mike Lowell, who missed the series, returned to Boston to get an injection in his balky hip. It is still not known if he'll be placed on the DL because of it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

So Close, But No Cigar For U.S.

The U.S. jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the FIFA Confederations Cup Final in South Africa today, and it looked like an upset of historic proportions might be in the cards.

It wasn't to be.

Brazil, down by two at halftime, came storming back in the second half on goals by Luis Fabiano, who scored twice, and Lucio, the go-ahead goal inside the last seven minutes. It was a terrific match, and the Americans did themselves proud.

Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan scored the early goals for the Americans. Here's the full story from ESPN Soccernet.

Nice job, guys. No shame in losing to a team with the history of Brazil, who won their third Confederations Cup. They threw a mighty scare into the Brazilians, and earned a lot of respect in this tournament for sure.

Now, it's on to qualifying for a return to South Africa and the World Cup next June.

Tim Wakefield: All-Star


Did you ever think you'd see a blog post of mine with that title, in the Year of Our Lord 2009?

Tim Wakefield continues to make a strong case for being on the 2009 All-Star team, as he pitched six more magnificent innings over the Braves yesterday, and got his 10th victory of the season as the Sox won a 1-0 nailbiter in Atlanta yesterday.

Wake also tied Roger Clemens for the most starts ever by a Red Sox pitcher with 382. He is now 18 wins behind the Texas Con Man and Cy Young for the all-time team record for wins, as his victory yesterday was number 174.

He also joined Roy Halladay and Kevin Slowey as the only 10-game winners in MLB.

Simply amazing. Wake continues to be The Man.

The knuckler was dancing in Atlanta yesterday afternoon in the 95 degree heat, as Wake gave the Braves just three hits. Ex-Brave Mark Kotsay's RBI single in the sixth was the only run of the game, driving in Kevin Youkilis. The bullpen was its usual stellar self, as Manny Delcarmen, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon shut the Braves down the rest of the way.

The Red Sox remained four up in the AL East, as the Mets didn't bother showing up at Citi Field, getting only one hit and the Yankees won easily, 5-0.

Brad Penny takes the hill today, as the Red Sox go for the sweep and interleague comes to a merciful conclusion.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Troubled Life

The news continues to be dominated by the death of Michael Jackson. You knew that when someone of his stature dies, there will be tributes for days and days, and not just in the print media but also on TV and radio.

His death reminds me a lot of the passing of Elvis Presley. Like Elvis, Jackson's death was sudden and unexpected. He also died a young man, and the reports coming out in the wake of his passing suggests that Jackson was as strung out on as much prescription medicine as Elvis was.

It's a shame that a man who had as much talent as he did, and was loved by millions of fans (like Elvis) dies like this.

Michael Jackson was also a troubled individual. Everyone knows about his strange behavior: dozens of operations, the pet monkey, the hyperbaric sleep chamber, etc.

We may never know the real truth as to exactly what happened with him. You know there will be books written by family, friends, famous authors and hangers-on. It will be a cottage industry, the way Elvis Presley turned into one after his passing.

What will be speculated on from now until eternity about him will be the sexual abuse allegations that were thrown his way in 1993.

A 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler and his father accused Jackson of that in 1993, accusing him of oral sex and masturbation with the boy. The boy famously gave a description to police of Jackson's genitals as the case was taking off. But by the beginning of 1994, the case was suddenly settled and the LAPD closed it, as Jackson paid the boy's family a settlement that neither could reveal (anywhere from $10 million to $25 million, depending upon who you believe).

Jackson said he just wanted the case to disappear, but why would anyone in their right mind, if they are totally innocent of these type of hideous charges, pay off someone to the tune of an eight figure settlement? To me, it was obvious that Jackson had something to hide, and it would all come out in open court if the case reached that far. Paying off the Chandler family was Jackson's only route, and it wound up costing him big time. (If I were a celebrity and someone hit me was false charges, I would fight it with every last dime I had to get my reputation back.)

He beat more sexual abuse charges in 2005, but the damage had been done a long time before that. There will always be those who will defend Michael Jackson vociferously as an innocent victim, and those who will always feel he was a pedophile who bought his way out of trouble. The truth maybe somewhere in the middle.

Whenever a controversial figure dies (like Richard Nixon for example), the focus is generally on what the positive accomplishments they did in life. When Nixon died, I remember the emphasis was on the positive things Nixon did as president, like opening the door to China and ending the Vietnam War. The Watergate scandal wasn't ignored, but it wasn't emphasized, either.

And with Michael Jackson, the emphasis will be on the joy he brought to millions of people around the world with his music: the Moonwalk, the Thriller album, etc. As it should be.

He maybe gone, but we haven't heard the last of Michael Jackson. Not by a long shot. His music will live on forever. And he'll be joining the pantheon of legends like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and John F. Kennedy: those who died young but haven't left the American consciousness.

Rest in peace, Michael.

Beckett Continues His Ownership of the Braves

Josh Beckett continued his dominance of the Atlanta Braves last night, pitching seven shutout innings in leading the Red Sox to a 4-1 win in Atlanta last night. For 2009, he has pitched 16 innings against the Braves and allowed no earned runs.

I didn't see any of the game last night, which is an extreme rarity for me. I was with a dear friend for dinner and a movie last night. But as I was in the theater I was thinking that Beckett rolled them over last Saturday in a dominant pitching performance, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was doing it again.

Lo and behold, I was correct.

Beckett is now 6-0 in his last seven starts against the Braves, which goes back to 2005. (He was 2-5 against them from 2001-04.) Beckett was never in trouble last night, as Atlanta only got a man to third once against him.

He left the game after seven innings, for what was later said to be some "stomach turmoil." If anyone had some "stomach turmoil" I would have guess it would have been Beckett giving that to the Braves lineup.

David Ortiz continued his return to glory last night, hitting a bomb to right to break a scoreless tie in the fifth. The Sox also scored runs in the sixth and eighth, and the shutout was lost when Jonathan Papelbon gave up a home run to David Ross to start the ninth.

Beckett now is 9-3, and you'd bet he's making a strong case for the AL All-Star team right now. The Red Sox are now still four games up, as the Mets played like Mutts last night in handing the Yankees a 9-1 win at Citi Field.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"A Space Within"

Yesterday, I attended the opening of the new exhibit called "A Space Within," at the Center for Architecture on LaGuardia Place in Manhattan.

It is a complete look ahead of what will soon be appearing at the World Trade Center site, with animation, and also a look back at the rebuilding process at the site.

It's been a long and torturous process there for the last seven years, but progress is moving quickly, and I was impressed with what I saw.

Courtesy of the Huffington Post, here is a quick thirty-second look at what will be coming at the WTC site in the future:



The exhibition will be at the Center for Architecture (536 LaGuardia Place) until September 14 and is definitely worth checking out. I can only hope something truly magnificent and stunning will rise from ashes for all the 9/11 victims and their loved ones.

They certainly deserve it.

The Smoltz Era in Boston Begins With a Thud

I was hoping that John Smoltz could give the Red Sox five innings last night. Well, he did just that.

It was the five runs he gave up that I was hoping he could avoid.

A rough first inning put a damper on the debut of the future Hall of Famer. The Nationals broke out with four runs off him, after he got the first out. He clearly had trouble keeping the ball down, and the Nats were ready for it. The Nats, despite the woeful record, have a pretty decent offensive team and they showed it last night. Smoltz gave up five runs total, but did settle down after the lousy first inning.

Washington salvaged the last game of the series, 9-3. The Red Sox took two of three in the nation's capital, and I will certainly take that.

He walked one, struck out five on the night. It certainly wasn't the opening the Red Sox or the fans were hoping for, but it was just Smoltz' first start in nearly 13 months. Not an overwhelming success, but not a dismal failure either.

Smoltz' next start will be Tuesday night in Baltimore. The Red Sox lead in the East is now at four games, as New York won in Atlanta last night.

Josh Beckett will open the weekend series with the Braves in Atlanta tonight.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Holy Mackerel

Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. And now Michael Jackson.

Wow.

Another icon of my youth is gone. At the age of 50.

Stunning.

Papi Continues His Renaissance

The Nats gave the Red Sox another good game at Nationals Park last night. Washington took an early 1-0 lead in the second off Jon Lester, which included a fluke single by Elijah Dukes, in which the bat and ball arrived at Nick Green at short at the same time. Fortunately, he was able to avoid the bat. It landed in the outfield with the broken part of it in the grass and the bat standing straight up. Very weird.

Craig Stammen retired the first nine hitters before Dustin Pedroia doubled down the left field line. I was watching the game on the Nats feed last night and they speculated that the second time around the lineup for Stammen would be the true test. And the Red Sox responded. With two on and two out, Stammen hung a changeup to David Ortiz on 3 and 2 and the old Papi responded by crushing the pitch to dead center to put the Red Sox out front to stay. It sounded like Fenway Park as the ball sailed over the wall, as I'd bet more than half the fans last night were from Red Sox Nation. It was Ortiz' 7th homer of the year, and he's now hitting .342 since he turned it around, during the Yankees series over two weeks ago.

Jason Varitek added a two-run bomb later to make it 6-1. Jon Lester wasn't overly sharp, but pitched six effective innings and left with the score 6-3. Justin Masterson allowed a run in the seventh, as the pesky Nats wouldn't go away. They had two on and two out in the eighth when Hideki Okajima struck out Ronnie Belliard.

Jonathan Papelbon gave us a stress-free 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save, and a 6-4 win. The Sox remained five up, as both the Yankees and Blue Jays won their respective games last night.

Tonight the Red Sox will debut a future Hall of Famer, as John Smoltz takes the hill for the Red Sox for the first time. He hasn't pitched in 387 days, since last June with the Braves. I would bet that Terry Francona is hoping for five innings from Smoltz, and then turn it over to his bullpen. It should be an interesting night no matter what.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

U.S. Upsets Spain, 2-0

In one of the biggest upsets in professional sports history, the United States defeated the number one ranked soccer team in the world, Spain, 2-0, at the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa today.

The Confederations Cup is a warmup tournament, held one year before the World Cup, which will be held next summer in South Africa.

Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey scored for the US, who now move into the final on Sunday against the winner of the Brazil-South Africa semifinal, which will be played tomorrow.

How large is this win for the United States? Spain had won 15 straight international matches (a new record) dating back to November 2006, and was undefeated in their last 35 internationals (an amazing 32-0-3).

It's one of the biggest wins in the history of U.S. soccer and it will largely go unnoticed here, as most Americans find the sport too boring and would rather hear about Alex Rodriguez' nightlife.

And that is a shame. Here's more about today's stunning win.

I have to admit something. I watched most of the match, and every time I hear the announcers say the first name of Xabi Alonso of Spain (who also plays for my favorite team in England, Liverpool), it sounds like they are saying "Shabby." It makes me think of this guy featured in the following YouTube clip:



I would bet that Mr. Alonso doesn't raise polecats.

Anyway, Go USA! Good luck on Sunday and bring home the cup!

Did You Notice That Papi Has a Better BA Than Slappy?

It was a tight game in D.C., as the last-place Washington Nationals gave the Red Sox a fight last night, but the boys from Boston came out on top, 11-3.

I said to a friend of mine before the game that teams like the Nationals, with MLB's worst record, scare the hell out of me. These are the games the Red Sox could have a letdown, that they might take for granted that it's an easy win.

That didn't happen last night.

John Lannan of the Nats pitched well, allowing just three runs in six innings, before a record crowd of 41,517 at Nationals Park. The game was 3-3 going into the seventh. But once it got down to a battle of the bullpens, it was simply no contest. The Red Sox pummeled the Nats pen for eight runs in the last three innings, highlighted by Jason Bay's two-RBI single and Jacoby Ellsbury's two-RBI triple. It was a big night for both, as Bay also hit a homer in the second and had four total hits. Ellsbury also had four hits and two triples. He also swiped his 30th base, and became just the fourth Sox player ever to steal at least 30 bases in two straight seasons.

Kevin Youkilis had two hits and two RBI, while Dustin Pedroia added three hits and scored two runs.

Brad Penny pitched well after a shaky start, when Washington scored the first run of the game in the opening inning. He gave the Sox his usual type of start: 5 2/3 innings, 3 earned runs, six strikeouts. Manny Delcarmen relieved him in the sixth when the Nats tied the game and wound up the winning pitcher.

The Red Sox pulled to a five-game lead in the AL East, as the slumping Yankees were shutout in Atlanta by the Braves, 4-0. BTW, did you notice that David Ortiz (who had last night off), now has a higher batting average (.213) than Alex Rodriguez (.207), who is currently in a 1-for-23 hole? (Granted Slappy missed the first five weeks of the year.) Right now Papi is on the upswing this month while Rodriguez, who is 9-for-63 in June, is in a huge valley.

Funny that I haven't heard any of the usual pundits talk about how Slappy, who is four months older than Papi, could be "washed up." Well, at least not yet.

Trivia Q&A: June 23

On a special night of Trivia, we had 23 teams in to help me celebrate my third anniversary of hosting Trivia Night. It was great seeing so many regulars in, as well as some new folks. There was a huge crowd in, many to see the Red Sox-Nats game, but many more in to take part in Trivia Night.

The night was pretty well received by all, with all 36 questions previously asked on Trivia Night. The scores on the Potpourri round were skewed rather low, but they picked up considerably with True or False Trivia. It was close throughout the night, with ten teams within four points of the lead going into IQ Trivia.

The scores were rather good for IQ Trivia, as many teams got at least two of the six questions right. But the team of The Stiff Necks, who were in third place heading into IQ Trivia, ran the table in that final round and wound up taking the crown by six points. Nice job, guys.

We return to our regular night of Trivia, with five categories, next Tuesday, June 30th, at 9 PM.

Potpourri (The Best of the Special Categories)
1. What Asian country was granted their independence on July 4, 1946?
2. In which month is Thanksgiving celebrated in Canada?
3. On which continent will you find the country of Moldova?
4. Madonna won the MTV Best Female Video in 1987 for which song?
5. Which two actors refused Best Actor Oscars in the early 1970s?
6. In which field of endeavor is the Fields Medal awarded?
7. From which city did the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL move from in 1996?
8. What was the name of the inflatible autopilot in the movie "Airplane?"
9. What TV actor had to reject the offer to follow Roger Moore in the 1980s to play James Bond because of his TV series commitment?
10. What is the second largest city in England by population after London?

Answers: 1. The Philippines; 2. October; 3. Europe; 4. "Papa Don't Preach;" 5. George C. Scott and Marlon Brando; 6. mathematics; 7. Cleveland; 8. Otto; 9. Pierce Brosnan; 10. Birmingham.

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. Richard Nixon was the last US president born in California.
2. C-SPAN was the first cable channel to operate in the US.
3. The Mediterranean Sea borders three continents.
4. Emerald is the birthstone for the month of May.
5. The US Open golf tourney awards a green jacket to its winner every year.
6. The guillotine was actually named in honor of a French doctor.
7. Farsi is the official language of Iraq.
8. The Pedronas Towers, the world's tallest buildings, are located in Indonesia.
9. Type O is the most common blood type in humans.
10. Karl Marx, the father of communism, is buried in London.

Answers: 1. true; 2. false, HBO; 3. true; 4. true; 5. false, The Masters; 6. true; 7. false, Iran; 8. false, Malaysia; 9. true; 10. true.

General Knowledge
1. In which European city is the famed 17th century "Bridge of Sighs?"
2. "Tin Lizzie" was the nickname for what classic car?
3. In a speech before Congress, which legendary American said, "Old soldiers don't die; they just fade away"?
4. In the 2000 census, what US city ranked fourth in population, after NYC, LA and Chicago?
5. Between 1964 and 1975, UCLA won how many NCAA basketball titles?
6. Which rock legend appeared on the first cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1967?
7. How many square inches are there in one square foot?
8. Name 2 of the 3 US states that do not observe daylight savings time.
9. What star sign would you be if you were born on January 4th?
10. According to the Girl Scouts, what is their best-selling cookie?

Answers: 1. Venice; 2. Ford Model T; 3. Douglas MacArthur; 4. Houston; 5. ten; 6. John Lennon; 7. 144; 8. Arizona, Hawaii and Indiana; 9. Capricorn; 10. Thin Mints.

IQ Trivia
1. The first woman to serve as a US cabinet member served under what president? ( 3 points)
2. In 1963, which world leader was made an honorary citizen of the US by an act of Congress? ( 4 points)
3. By definition, a person studying campanology is interested in what? ( 4 points)
4. What political position was Albert Einstein once offered, but turned down? ( 5 points)
5. Which Hollywood film director directed Michael Jackson's 1988 video, "Bad?" ( 4 points)
6. Harry Longabaugh was the real name of what Wild West outlaw? ( 5 points)

Answers: 1. Franklin D. Roosevelt (Frances Perkins); 2. Winston Churchill; 3. bells; 4. President of Israel; 5. Martin Scorsese; 6. The Sundance Kid.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ed McMahon: 1923-2009

Well, it's now official. Ed McMahon won't be coming to my house to tell me I'm a winner.

Ed passed away today at age 86. In his memory, I present this funny clip my friend Chris sent me from YouTube of Ed half in the bag during a Tonight Show from the late 1970s.

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. McMahon.

Thanks a Lot, Don

Yesterday, MLB Players Association chief Don Fehr announced he was stepping down from the position he's held since 1985.

I want to take this opportunity to thank him for everything he's done.

Thanks for driving players' salaries into another stratosphere.

Thanks for making the average family have to take out a second mortgage to go see a game live in person.

Thanks for stonewalling drug testing in baseball, for hiding the dirty players for years, for making the home run records a joke. Thanks for not getting rid of the 2003 drug testing survey when you should have. (I'm sure Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and 102 other players won't be sending you Christmas cards this year.)

Thanks for cancelling the 1994 World Series, for absolutely no reason. Thanks for leading a so-called "strike" that had fans comparing the two sides to the Iran-Iraq War of the early 1980s. ("I hope they kill each other.")

Thanks for making every clean player a laughingstock, and for every time a player challenges a record the words "I wonder if he's on the juice" is said. Thanks for endangering the health of every MLB player on your watch.

Thanks for operating a union without ethics or any moral compass.

So long, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Best of Trivia Night on Tuesday

Tuesday night will be a special night of Trivia, as we will be having "The Best of Trivia Night." In honor of my third anniversary of hosting the festivities at Professor Thom's, we will have four categories of Trivia, with the usual 36 questions. But they will all have one thing in common: they have all been asked on previous Trivia Night sessions.

Three categories will have ten questions: General Knowledge, The Q Train (True or False Trivia) and a category I am calling "Potpourri." It will be the best of all the Special Categories we have had over the years.

IQ Trivia will have six questions instead of the usual five, and we will have an additional five point question, so it will be worth 25 points this week instead of 20.

Current Events will be taking the week off, and it will be back next week.

The Sneak Peek question for tomorrow night:
How many square inches are there in one square foot?

We had a great turnout last Tuesday night, and I hope many of you can come out this Tuesday night at 9 PM. See you then.

Goin' Green

Nick Green ended a windy and rainy afternoon at Fenway yesterday with a what on a normal day would be a bloop double to right, but the wind gods were behind the Sox and it landed in the right field seats around the Pesky Pole for a 6-5 win over the Braves and a series win.

Tim Wakefield gave up two runs in the first on Brian McCann's double, but they answered with three in the bottom of the inning, topped off by David Ortiz' sixth homer of the season, a two-run blast to left made even more special by the fact he hit it through a swirling wind.

It was 4-2 in the seventh when the Braves tied it, and Wakefield officially got a no-decision. Ramon Ramirez, who has been less than stellar recently, allowed the tying run to score after coming in with two on, and Kevin Youkilis saved his bacon when he corraled a line shot down the third base line for the final out.

The Red Sox grabbed the lead in the bottom of the inning on a hits by George Kottaras and J.D. Drew. The Braves went ape when Drew drove in the run, as he appeared to be struck out on a previous pitch. Home plate ump Bill Hohn tossed Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones and Eric O'Flaherty from the game.

Atlanta tied it in the eighth off Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon left the base loaded in the ninth, but the fans once again through his high-wire act. This set up Nick Green's heroics, as he took Jeff Bennett's first pitch to the right field seats for the win.

The Yankees dropped the series in Florida to the Marlins yesterday, so the Red Sox are now 4 games up in the AL East. The Red Sox are off today and start a series with the Washington Nationals Tuesday night in D.C., with Brad Penny opening the first game.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Did Tom Ever Catch That Gas Passer?

I saw "Valkyrie" on video tonight, after the Red Sox win over the Braves. It's the film that stars Tom Cruise as a German colonel who leads a group of officers who try to kill Adolf Hitler in July 1944.

It was very interesting and well-acted, and I heard it was faithful to the actual story. It was definitely better than some of the reviews it got when it was first released.

But as the movie was on, I couldn't help but have a recurring thought.

Did Tom Cruise and the filmmakers ever catch the guy who farted during a moment of silence for many of those who opposed Hitler during a break in filming?

Dice-K On The DL

In a move that surprises almost no one, the Red Sox placed Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list today, and Terry Francona said that he might be out much longer than 15 days, perhaps months, according to Extra Bases.

And he pointed to the World Baseball Classic as part of Dice-K's problems:

"I know the MLB wants to have players play it if they're able, but, right now, we're down a pitcher," said Francona. "The fact is, we had a guy who won 36 games in two years and now we don't have him. That's hard."

I said it before and I'll say it again. Play the WBC in November, not March. And now it's cost the Sox a valuable pitcher.

The Red Sox recalled catcher Dusty Brown to take his spot, and he'll be with the team until John Smoltz makes his debut on Thursday.

Happy Dad's Day


I hope all of you dads out there have a wonderful Father's Day. Here in New York they are talking more rain throughout the day so it will probably spoil many a celebration. But I hope you all honor your dads today, especially the ones who are no longer here.

I'll be with my father today, along with a few of my sisters and my nieces and nephews. My father was a 36-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department before retiring in 1995. He worked many side jobs in raising me and my five sisters, and instilled a love of baseball that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

And like the last scene from "Field of Dreams," we had many a catch together. I was blessed to have a great father, and still do. I never, ever take that for granted.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

You Stay Classy, Boston

It was absolutely no surprise that Derek Lowe was warmly received by the sold-out crowd at Fenway on Saturday night. It was his first return to the place he called home for seven years, the first since the 2004 Red Sox World Series championship flag was raised and rings were given out on April 11, 2005 (pictured below).

As he was walking across the field from the bullpen after finishing his warmups, D-Lowe got his first standing ovation and acknowledged the cheers. It was another "One of the 25" from 2004 returning to Fenway and the fans gave D-Lowe the ovation he richly deserved. (Although Don Orsillo mentioned during the game that he didn't know how the crowd would react. Was he kidding?)

The night was a pitcher's duel between Lowe and Josh Beckett. For Beckett, I'm sure he was chomping at the bit to get back out there after last Sunday's mess in Philly. And Beckett pitched his finest game of the season (and that's saying something), striking out seven and allowing just five hits and no walks to the Braves in going the distance for his first regular season shutout in a Sox uniform, 3-0.

Interesting that one of the hitting stars tonight was D-Lowe's old batterymate, Jason Varitek. He had two doubles and scored a run, and Nick Green drove in two runs with two hits. Lowe was very good on what was surely a very emotional night for him. Bobby Cox removed him in the bottom of the seventh, and he received a bigger standing O this time, and D-Lowe acknowledged the crowd with the tip of his cap. (With thanks to Sully Baseball for the photo above.)

The Yankees dropped one in Florida, 2-1, so the Red Sox returned to a three-game lead in the AL East.

Josh Beckett was simply sensational, and put that last rough outing in Philly in the rear view mirror. But once again, a conquering hero returned to Fenway Park, and to almost no one's surprise, the best fans in baseball let Derek Lowe know that his 2004 postseason exploits will never, ever be forgotten in the city of Boston, or by anyone who calls themselves a Red Sox fan.

The Sox also took Daisuke Matsuzaka out of the rotation, and he was examined with an MRI on Saturday to see if he has any damage to his pitching shoulder or arm. I'd bet a DL stint is on the horizon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Santo B4 Steroids"

Here's an interesting video one of my readers left in one of the comments sections the other day. It's about a man named Tom Wilson and his crusade to get Cubs legend Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame before any of those players tied into the steroid scandals, and it's called "Santo B4 Steroids." You don't have to be a Cubs fan to appreciate it.

Papelbon Was Just Being Honest

Jonathan Papelbon gave an interview to Jody McDonald on Sirius XM Radio the other day and was asked about the possibility of leaving the Red Sox as a free agent after the 2011 season. Pap was pretty straightforward, and didn't dismiss that from happening, or even going to the Bronx.

So naturally, many people naturally assumed that Papelbon was really saying he wanted to leave the Red Sox and play for the Yankees. And yesterday he backtracked and said he didn't want to play for the Evil Empire.

Papelbon had no cause to back track. I understood exactly what he meant. If he and the Sox can't reach a deal by the end of 2011, he will explore all options, from anywhere (including That Place). And to me, that's fine. It was Papelbon being honest, and I take my hat off to him for that. He's not a BS artist like Johnny Damon, who came out in May 2005 (his final year with the Red Sox) and said he would never sign with the Yankees, "no matter how hard they come after me."

The Red Sox have been quite successful this decade by sticking to their guns and going forward and not relying on sentimentality. If they and Pap can't reach a common ground, both parties will part company. So be it. (But I would bet they will reach a deal somewhere down the road.)

There's no controversy here. Today's NY Post, who never gets anything wrong, has a picture in their paper today of Papelbon's face on Joba Chamberlain's body with an article about how "Sox Closer Would Consider Yanks." However, they are only a day late on this story, with no mention of Pap's backtrack from Friday. (And for some reason, they have a picture of just Chamberlain in the online photo, without Pap's face.)

A totally manufactured controversy. No wonder why the media is held in such contempt today.

Who Goes? The Choice is Obvious Now

So, remember when the consensus was that the Red Sox needed to "manufacture" an injury for David Ortiz to get him put on the DL for a while?

I think they really need to that for Daisuke Matsuzaka right now.

The only good part about last night was that I didn't witness the early-inning carnage.

As I was watching the Brooklyn Cyclones opening night win over the Staten Island Yankees at KeySpan Park, I was checking my cell phone for updates and they were awful from the start. Matsuzaka gave up a home run on the first pitch to Nate McLouth, then the next four batters all reached, with the next run scoring on a bases loaded walk. (Remember last season when he was totally untouchable with the bases loaded? These days I'm having trouble remembering that, too.)

He settled down the next three innings, but in the fifth he allowed back-to-back doubles and Terry Francona pulled the plug. There was a smattering of boos as Dice-K departed. Four innings, six earned runs, and the Atlanta Braves went on to an easy 8-2 win. (Would have been nice had the Red Sox offense had shown up. Just two hits last night, including a Jason Bay HR. They now have just 3 hits in the last 14 innings.) Matsuzaka has yet to pitch six complete innings this season, and his ERA now stands at 8.23. He is getting pummeled at the plate. His BA against is something like .375, as opposed to .210 last season. What the hell is wrong with this guy? He seems to have no clue.

In the words of Dice-K (and his interpreter): "If I keep going like this, I have no right to be part of this rotation."

Damn straight.

With John Smoltz waiting in the wings and Clay Buchholz right behind him, it seems obvious that Matsuzaka is pitching himself out of the rotation. The Red Sox wisely will wait until the off-day on Monday to discuss his situation. (I honestly don't think this six-man rotation idea will fly, as starters need consistent work.)

How about the 15-day DL with a hangnail, or an injured ego?

Tonight is the matchup of 2004 Postseason Hero vs. 2007 Postseason Hero. The return of Derek Lowe, who will be back at Fenway Park for the first time since the April 11, 2005 championship flag raising/rings ceremony, and he takes on Josh Beckett. D-Lowe will get the ovation he deserves when he takes the mound tonight, and then I hope the night goes downhill for him from there.

Friday, June 19, 2009

In Life, A Little Rain (Or a Lot) Must Fall

It was really a night not fit for man nor beast, but the Red Sox and Marlins tried to get the final game of their series in last night, and after five innings, the Marlins won, 2-1, after the umps held up play as the sixth inning began.

The umps really had no choice, as it really started to pour down, and once the game was stopped, there would be no way they could get going again, as the rain continued without let up. And after nearly 2 1/2 hours, it was done.

Jon Lester wasn't sharp, allowed home runs to Dan Uggla and Ronny Paulino after Kevin Youkilis went deep in the first. Lester struck out four, and threw 112 pitches in just over 5 innings.

Ricky Nolasco, he of the 7.62 ERA, allowed just the Youk homer in getting the win. The Sox were really disappointed after the game, as the Florida bullpen would have had to finish the game had it continued against the Red Sox pen. And you know who would have had the advantage.

The Yankees' embarrassing home loss to the Nationals last night kept the Red Sox' AL East lead at 3 games.

The Atlanta Braves come to Fenway this weekend, and in a battle of Japanese hurlers tonight, Daisuke Matsuzaka takes on Kenshin Kawakami.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nationals Pride

The Washington Nationals, the worst team in MLB and in the middle of what could be an historically bad season at 18-46, came into Yankee Stadium tonight and shut out the alleged Bronx Bombers, 3-0, and took two out of three in the series, after a 5 1/2 hour rain delay. (And they came very close to a sweep, but the Yankees came from behind in Game 1 and won, 5-3.)

The words of Michael Kay on YES in the moments after the final out was made:

"The Yankees, inexplicably and inexcusably, lose two of three to the Washington Nationals on their own home field."

Yankee fans, hang your head in shame.

The Red Sox play the Nationals in Washington beginning next Tuesday. I hope they were paying attention tonight and don't take them too lightly.

500/100


It was an historic night at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, as the Red Sox had their 500th consecutive sellout, which continues to be a MLB record. And they also celebrated in style with their fans, as they clipped the Florida Marlins, 6-1.

The Red Sox, who have the fourth longest streak in sports history, still have a ways to go to break the all-time record for North American sports, which is held by the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. They sold out 744 straight games from 1977-1995. The Red Sox could reach that by the end of the 2012 season. (The Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls are the only other teams to have reached the 500 mark.)

It was also a memorable night for Brad Penny, as he won his 100th career game. It was a struggle at times for him, as he threw 100 pitches in five innings. The Marlins had him on the ropes the entire game, but could never get that clutch hit. But Penny got through it, such lots of grit and determination. The Sox bullpen was their usual splendid selves, pitching four scoreless innings in getting him his win.

Jacoby Ellsbury opened the first inning with his first error of his career, after 232 straight games and it led the the only Florida run. But Ellsbury drew two walks (his walk total has been going up lately), and hit home run later in the game. Dustin Pedroia busted out out of the funk he was in with three hits and three RBI and two stolen bases. They were the offense last night, as Kevin Youkilis struck out three times against Andrew Miller and Jason Bay took the collar.

The number 500 were etched into the outfield and the Red Sox gave away gifts to the fans in-between innings to thank the fans for their support. It was a festive evening for the Nation, and made more fun by the fact that the Washington Nationals, a 17-46 team, beat the Yankees in the Bronx last night behind New Yorker John Lannan's terrific pitching. The Red Sox are now 3 games up in the AL East.

The weather may play a role in tonight's game, as it is raining throughout the Northeast today. Jon Lester is scheduled to get the start tonight if Mother Nature cooperates.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NYC Actually Threw This Guy a Parade in 1998

I was walking up Broadway yesterday in Lower Manhattan and I was at that part of the street that has the listings of everyone who has ever been honored with a ticker-tape parade up Broadway, which is called "The Canyon of Heroes." Naturally I came across those that honored the MFY (fortunately it's only happened once in this decade and not once in this century).

The first one occurred in 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, and there have been only two in 2000s (The MFY in 2000 and the Giants on their Super Bowl win in 2008. Here's the complete list of those honored.) But I've always been curious as to why Sammy Sosa got one in 1998 (and a key to the city of New York as well). He's not from New York, and never played for a New York team, and I wondered about that again yesterday.

But Wikipedia said he was honored by NY's Dominican community for his 66 home run season that year and because of his relief efforts from a hurricane that hit the Dominican Republic that year as well. Oh, OK.

I must admit that I always respected Sosa during his home run chase with Mark McGwire in 1998. He handled with a lot of grace, and seemed like a pretty good guy. (I remember someone on TV saying about how it was a good thing Sosa and McGwire were chasing the record, and "that it wasn't someone thoroughly hated like Barry Bonds." I honestly can't remember who said it.)

Just hours after I was in Lower Manhattan, I went to Professor Thom's and heard that Sosa was outed by The New York Times as one of those 104 players who failed a steroid test back in 2003. Was it a shock? Actually, no. I think that since the 2005 Congressional hearings about the juice that Sammy dragged an interpreter to because his English skills were failing turned many against him.

And now Sosa still believes he's heading to Cooperstown one day (courtesy of Surviving Grady):
"I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Don't I have the numbers to be inducted?"

I wouldn't be writing the acceptance speech just yet, Sam. It might be a rather long wait. If ever.

My Advice to You Is To Start Drinking Heavily

These are the words I would say to one Joe Buck.

I caught the replay of "Joe Buck Live" on HBO today. It debuted on Monday night to some scathing reviews. And for good reason.

It was painful to watch.

It has gained a slew of attention because they had Artie Lange, the "jokester" from The Howard Stern Show on in one of the last segments. (And BTW, is Howard Stern still on the radio? He could have fallen off the face of the earth since he departed for the wilderness of satellite radio for all I know.) Lange, who for whatever reason, was on with Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis of SNL, came on the show and did nothing but curse, make "homo" jokes about Tony Romo, that sort of thing. (I watched the show on a repeat earlier in the day, and HBO bleeped all the curse words, which were plentiful.)

HBO paid the price for having a comedian like Lange on. They want him on to be "edgy," but having a jackass like him on, you know he's going to go off a cliff. And Buck looked like he wanted to kill Lange (and especially on the "overtime" segment, after the HBO show ended and could be seen on the Internet). He did his best to destroy the show, although it wasn't the best of efforts from Buck anyway. Lange just wasn't funny, and the point of having him on the show totally escaped me. HBO has now barred him from ever appearing again.

There were two segments I thought were good. Buck with David Wright at lunch was interesting (especially seeing Wright laugh off a Phillies fan who knocked on the window and pointed to his hand where a ring would be), and Buck's final take on Michael Vick and the steroids scandals was also good.

But Buck is clearly no Bob Costas (who made a worthless cameo in the beginning), who he is replacing on HBO. He looked stiff at times, and most of his jokes fell flat. The interview with Brett Favre wasn't much, as Buck's direct question to Favre about a return to the Vikings was answered with "maybe." (As you all know I hope it doesn't happen and Favre stays retired, but after this interview I bet Favre's with the Vikes next month.) The interview with Michael Irvin and Chad Johnson (who insists on calling himself "Ochocinco") was rather boring (and how can you take a segment seriously with someone who calls himself that).

This show will be remembered just for Artie Lange making a complete idiot of himself in a thoroughly unfunny segment at the end. Buck returns with his second of four shows in September, but he'll have a hard time living this down.

This Bud's for you, Joe.

Wake Continues to Make His All-Star Case

Tim Wakefield made another strong bid to be included on the American League All-Star team as he went six innings in defeating the Florida Marlins at Fenway last night.

Wake is now an astounding 9-3 on the season, and threw 93 pitches in getting the win. He's now 8-0 in his last 9 starts at Fenway Park. Only Roy Halladay has more wins in MLB, with 10. The Red Sox are now an MLB-best 22-8 on their home grounds.

Since Wakefield was available out of the pen over the weekend, he only went six innings. Manny Delcarmen, Takashi Saito and Daniel Bard pitched three scoreless innings in completing the 8-2 win.

David Ortiz may have finally turned a corner last night (fingers crossed, as we've been at this point before), as he hit a bomb to right for his fifth homer of the year, and in the same six-run fourth inning, hit a two-run single. On his first at-bat in the second he hit what appeared to be a ball heading for the bullpen, but was caught right at the warning track. Papi continues to swing the bat well and with authority.

The Red Sox announced that John Smoltz will make his final rehab start tonight at Pawtucket, and will make his first Red Sox start next Thursday night against the Nationals in Washington. The Red Sox will be going with a six-man rotation for the time being. It's not a long term solution, as the starters need work and it would create too much down time for them. Plus going with another starter would deplete the bullpen by one. It will be interesting to see how all this pans out.

Trivia Q&A: June 16

We had another huge crowd on hand for Trivia on Tuesday, 22 teams came in. We had some good scores for June 16th Trivia and General Knowledge, which led into what I was calling "the mystery category" and that turned out to be something I was calling "Deja Q."

Basically, I told everyone that they had three and a half minutes to write down every correct answer to the previous three categories and they would get a point for each one they remembered. it went well, and four teams got a perfect score of 21. (I picked 3 1/2 minutes as a compromise between 3 and 4 minutes, as I couldn't decide which one.) Two teams handed me sheets with nearly a minute left.

After the night was over I asked many of the regulars for some feedback about it, and it was mostly positive. I don't know when "Deja Q" will be returning, as I don't want to tip anyone off to it, as teams will be writing down all their previous answers with the idea it will make a surprise appearance.

We also had an unusual number of teams depart before the night was concluded. Of the 22 teams who took part, only 13 made it to IQ Trivia. (I did notice many left right around the time of Deja Q. Coincidence?) We normally have just 1-3 teams leave before Trivia Night ends. I guess the clock going on 11 PM was too late for some.

The team of Just As Awkward As Watching Spring Awakening With My Mom wound up the winner and by six points. They were either in first or tied for the lead throughout the night. Nice job by them tonight.

Current Events
1. This California structure was given its own zip code, 90090, by the USPS in a ceremony last week.
2. This amusement park company filed for bankruptcy protection last week, saying they need to reorganize and shed $1.8 billion of debt.
3. This rock star was arrested after he allegedly shot himself up with heroin in an airplane bathroom on a trip to a show in Geneva last week.
4. Bernard Barker passed away last week at the age of 92. What did he do in 1972 that was his claim to fame?
5. This country said it will "weaponize" its plutonium stocks amid threats to take military action over UN sanctions.
6. A Swedish carmaker and some Norwegian investors are set to buy the Swedish automaker Saab, which is owned by this American car company.
7. Stephen Strasburg, a pitcher for San Diego State University, was the first player taken in the MLB Amateur draft by this team.

Answers: 1. Dodger Stadium; 2. Six Flags; 3. Pete Doherty; 4. One of the Watergate burglars; 5. North Korea; 6. General Motors; 7. Washington Nationals.

June 16th Trivia
1. On this date in 1967, Jimi Hendrix played in a famous music festival in this California city and was first exposed to a US audience and became a superstar.
2. In 1961, ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West from the Soviet Union at an airport in this European capital city.
3. This famous American Indian leader, who led the Apache against Mexico and the US as they expanded into their tribal lands, was born on this date in 1829.
4. This rap star, who was born on this day in 1971, had many hit albums and was also an actor and producer and was also killed by five shots in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996.
5. James Honeyman-Scott, who was a founding member and guitarist for this successful '80s rock group, died of a drug overdose on this day in 1982.
6. This man, who was a legendary announcer for the New York Yankees for over four decades and hosted the TV program "This Week in Baseball" for nearly 20 years until his death, died on this day in 1996.
7. The US signed a treaty with this republic, annexing it on this day in 1897, and it would later join the Union as a state.

Answers: 1. Monterey; 2. Paris; 3. Geronimo; 4. Tupac Shakur; 5. The Pretenders; 6. Mel Allen; 7. Hawaii.

General Knowledge
1. What is the name of the standard calendar currently in use in the United States?
2. Gemini, Zap, and Lace were all cast members on what TV series?
3. In the human body, serum is a liquid obtained from what?
4. An apse and a transept are architectural features most commonly found in what type of structure?
5. What dietary supplement is known for its ability to combat harmful atoms called "free radicals?"
6. What Shakespearean play contains the famous line, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"?
7. What magazine was founded by William F. Buckley Jr.?

Answers: 1. Gregorian; 2. "American Gladiators;" 3. blood; 4. church; 5. antioxidant; 6. "Richard III;" 7. The National Review.

IQ Trivia
1. The Faroe Islands are an autonomous province of what country? ( 4 points)
2. What unusual former occupation is shared by the current mayors of Sacramento and Detroit? ( 3 points)
3. What is the only European country that is not a part of the United Nations? ( 5 points)
4. Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "All modern American literature comes from" what immortal work? ( 4 points)
5. The city of Cuzco was once the capital of what ancient empire? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. Denmark; 2. NBA players (Kevin Johnson and Dave Bing); 3. Vatican City; 4. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;" 5. Incan.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Smoltz Don't Need No Stinkin' Rug!

John Smoltz was on the radio with Dan Patrick today, and mentioned he thought his first start in a Red Sox uniform might be next week against the Washington Nationals in D.C. He also said he'd make one last rehab start before joining the big club.

Then Patrick made a parallel between him and Brett Favre (side note: I wish the Vikings would just drop this idea of thinking Favre has anything left entirely!). And this humorous exchange took place (with thanks to Extra Bases):

Patrick:
"You're sort of the guy who won't go away. You've got a Hall of Fame career, you've got money, you've got everything but hair. And you could walk away right now. Do you understand what Favre's going through by wanting to play again?"

Smoltz: "Do understand what he's going through? No. But I certainly understand what I'm going through. And that was a year-long operation to get back on the mound. And I'm almost there."

Patrick: "Yeah, but he had arm surgery and wanted to come back and play. He's had a Hall of Fame career. You don't see any parallels between you two?"

Smoltz: "No, because I didn't come out and say I retired."

Patrick: "But people said that you should probably."

Smoltz: "Well, people said I should get a toupee, too . . . I didn't listen to that, either."

"Fenway! The Ultimate Fan's Guide"

I recently completed reading "Fenway! The Ultimate Fan's Guide" by Tim Shea, and I would say it's a book I highly recommend any Red Sox fan who enjoys going to America's Most Beloved Ballpark pick up, especially if you're going there for the first time.

In this edition updated for the 2009 season, Tim takes his readers through the park, and breaks down what seems like every nook and cranny in the place. He explains all the renovations that have taken place since Theo and The Trio took over in 2001.

He also has all the information you need to buy tickets to Fenway, especially what to do if you don't have tickets on the day of a game. Tim also gives you the skinny on where to stay if you are visiting Boston for a game, with his recommendations on the best and most affordable places, as well as nearby restaurants.

Tim also had a Red Sox quiz, which me being the Red Sox Trivia Maven, was interested in taking. He actually got me on a couple, ones involving Trot Nixon and Keith Foulke. Nice job, Tim!

But the meat and potatoes of the book is the seating in Fenway Park, and Tim does a superb job breaking down each and every section of the place. He tells you exactly what seats have pole obstructions, and also tells you exactly how far each seat is from the field.

"Fenway! The Ultimate Fan's Guide" is a terrific book for the average Red Sox fan, especially for those who are planning a trip to Fenway. It's an affordable book and well worth having, especially for future reference. It's also available as a downloadable e-Book (at $6.95).

If you'd like more information about the book, please check out these links: http://fenwayguide.blogspot.com/2009/04/fenway-guide-book-now-avialable-as.html

Tim also has a blog for the book as well: http://www.fenwayfanguide.com.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mystery Surrounds Tomorrow Night

Tomorrow night's Trivia Night will include something special in one of the categories. We will be having what I am calling a "mystery category," and it will be the fourth category of the night. I am not at liberty to say what the category is, as it will give away the point of it. I won't say anything about it until we actually reach the category during the night. But hopefully it will go well.

The Q Train is getting the week off, but we will be having the other four regular categories. The special category this week will be "June 16th Trivia." It will be events that occurred on that date in history.

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
What is the name of the standard calendar currently in use in the United States?

We should get going around the usual time of 9 PM. Remember that next week we will be having a special night of Trivia, "The Best of Trivia Night," in honor of the third anniversary of me hosting Professor Thom's Trivia Night. I'll have more on that tomorrow night. Hope to see many of you then.

Beckett Slams, and Gets Slammed

It was a mixed bag for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia for the finale of the series against the defending World Series champions. But it was ultimately a dissatisfying result in the end.

Rocco Baldelli and Nick Green belted back-to-back homers off J.A. Happ in the second inning, and the Sox scored four times to give Josh Beckett a 4-1 lead. The way Beckett's been pitching of late, it looked lights out and a sweep was coming.

But the Phillies got to Beckett in the fifth, scoring four times, concluded by a Ryan Howard two-RBI double.

Beckett returned to the dugout rather miffed he surrendered those runs, and took matters into his own hands, blasting a home run midway into the left field bleachers on the first pitch to tie the game again. It was his third MLB home run, and second at Citizens Bank Park. (I had the pleasure of witnessing the other live in person, in 2007.)

But by the seventh, the wheels came off. Beckett allowed a leadoff home run to Jimmy Rollins and after a single, Beckett was done, and allowed six earned runs on the day. His run of five terrific starts came to an end. Daniel Bard came in and couldn't get any kind of command, and allowed four runs. Takashi Saito came in and hit Rollins with the first pitch to force in a run. He also walked in a run. Philly scored six runs and put the game away, 11-6.

It was a rotten ending to a very good weekend. The Red Sox went into Philadelphia and took 2 of 3 from the current World Series champions, and I'll take that any day. Unfortunately, Johan Santana got whacked by the MFY, 15-0, so the Red Sox lead in the AL East is back to two games. (Who would have guessed that an unknown pitcher would have beaten them on Saturday, and one of baseball's best would have allowed 9 runs the next?)

The Red Sox are off today, and the Sox return to Fenway tomorrow to play the Florida Marlins. And before the game, my buddy and New York's Governor of Red Sox Nation, Chris Wertz, will be honored in ceremony along with many other of the Nation's governors. Yours Truly will be watching over the state while Chris is at Fenway.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2007 Champs Beat 2008 Champs, Again

On a night filled with rain in Philadelphia, there were also lots of home run balls flying out of Citizens Bank Park as the Red Sox marched to their fifth straight win, 11-6, and their sixth consecutive win away from Fenway Park.

Jason Bay blasted one to dead center in a five-run first, which included three Philly errors (strange as they lead MLB in fielding percentage). Then the next inning, the rain came and held the game up for nearly 90 minutes.

After the game resumed, Daisuke Matsuzaka seemed to determined to get the Phillies back in the game, as he gave up home runs to Raul Ibanez and Pedro Feliz. It was 5-4 after 4 innings and Terry Francona made the wise move to pull Dice-K, who continues to be the weak link in the Red Sox' rotation. The Sox added to their lead in the fifith to make it, 8-4.

Manny Delcarmen had a shaky fifth, allowing a run and stranding the bases loaded to end the inning. But from there, the rest of the bullpen allowed just a harmless home run to Jayson Werth in the seventh (by Hideki Okajima).

Jacoby Ellsbury homered in the ninth to cap the scoring. Julio Lugo, back in the lineup, had four hits. Ellsbury was on five times, and Mike Lowell had three hits to pace the attack.

Granted, the rain delay hurt Matsuzaka, but he is now averaging less than five innings per start since his return from the DL. With John Smoltz set and ready to join the Red Sox shortly, the club has a decision to make. I seriously doubt Dice-K would end up in the pen, though.

The Red Sox are now three up in AL East, as the Mets bounced back nicely from that Friday night disaster, as little-known Fernando Nieve shut down the Yankees in The House The Taxpayers Built, 6-2. Josh Beckett goes for the sweep this afternoon in Philly.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lester, Bard Confound Phillies

That travesty in the Bronx put a bit of a damper on what was a tough, grind it out, 13-inning win by the Red Sox in Philadelphia last night. It was the battle of the last two World Series champions, and it was a terrific game. But it really should never have gone to extra innings.

Jon Lester was simply superb last night. Seven innings, 11 strikeouts and allowed just one run on two hits. Of the last 19 hitters he faced, he retired 18 of them, 10 on strikeout. Lester seems to have put all his early season struggles behind him, and has kicked it into high gear now.

But he didn't get the win. Terry Francona elected not to use Jonathan Papelbon a third straight game, so he turned the ninth inning over to Ramon Ramirez. But with one out, he tossed a meatball down the middle of the plate to Ryan Howard and he simply killed it, tying the game. It's the third HR ball Ramirez has allowed in the past two innings.

Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew both went deep for the first two runs (and I'm sure the Philly fans enjoyed seeing Drew go deep). In the thirteenth, the Red Sox blew it open with three runs (after being retired in order the previous three innings), which included RBIs by Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Lowell and a sac fly by Nick Green.

Daniel Bard came on for the save, and while allowing two base runners to bring up the tying run, he struck out Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and finally, Shane Victorino to end it. It was an impressive performance by the rookie.

The Red Sox have now won four straight, and 9 of 11, and are still two games up in the AL East. Daisuke Matsuzaka gets the start at Citizens Bank Park tonight.

A Once Proud Franchise Now Heading For Ruin

By now, the whole baseball world has seen the way the Mets-Yankees game ended on Friday night. No need to recap.

It was appalling. Simply stunning and appalling.

It shows in a nutshell what's wrong with the New York Mets. They lack mental toughness. They fold in the clutch, as they have the last two Septembers. They have almost no gamers, or grinders, guys who spit in the face of adversity and go out and get the job done. (Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox easily pop to mind.)

The Mets are a complete and utter mess, and I lay the blame fully at the feet of their GM, Omar Minaya. He put the 2007 and 2008 collapses together on his drawing board, and he's clearly going for the hat-trick in 2009. (I am still confounded as to why last year's collapse didn't cost him his job.) They are going nowhere this season. They won't catch the Phillies, who are clearly tougher and are better battle-tested than they are. And simply the worst move Minaya's made as Mets GM was on center stage tonight for the whole world to see: Luis Castillo.

He signed that bum to a four-year, $32 million contract after 2007, and it stinks worse than rotten fish now. This past winter, Orlando Hudson was practically begging the Mets to sign him as a free agent, but they couldn't dump that contract of Castillo off on anyone, so Hudson went to the Dodgers (on a one-year deal and for far less than Castillo currently makes) and is having an All-Star caliber season in Los Angeles. (Minaya's all-time worst move was when he traded away future stars Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips in the Bartolo Colon trade when he was in Montreal, as he was running that team into the ground.)

The Mets will not win with Minaya as GM. Ever. And to make matters even worse for Mets fans, their clueless management actually signed this moron to an extension last winter, which is just as appalling as to what happened in the bottom of the ninth on Friday night. The Mets need a new GM, new manager, and new front office that has the first idea about running a competitive team. The Mets need people who know how to win, on and off the field.

The Mets are where the Red Sox were in 2001. A mediocre team with lots of deadwood. The Sox were sold, and new management made a bold statement by firing the manager and GM who were both under contract and brought in people with a plan. The Red Sox have won two championships and their future is as bright as any team in baseball. The Mets are an old team with players who don't know how to win. They need to be redrawn on the blackboard. They need to bring in a GM with a record of some success (like they did with Frank Cashen in 1980) and who has an idea of how to build a winner.

My deepest sympathies to all Mets fans out there. You deserve better. Certainly not the shit that calls itself the general manager, or the front office management.

The Mets are a disaster, and they will be the second team in New York for as long as they have the same clowns running this once-proud franchise. And that is a terrible shame indeed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

These Say It All

From Bill Gallo in today's Daily News:

I also like this, also from the News, from yesterday:

Girardi Channels His Inner Grady Little


Once again, my broom got a workout after the latest Yankee series.

I was watching tonight's game at Professor Thom's with a throng of Red Sox supporters (and a lot who weren't, more on that later), and with two on in the bottom of the eighth and no outs, Joe Girardi came strolling out to the mound, and it looked for all the world he was going to pull his ace, C.C. Sabathia, who had pitched a very good game but was clearly tiring. He was approaching 120 pitches.

My buddy Chris cued up some music for the pitching change, or so we thought. Next thing we knew, Girardi was heading back to the dugout, leaving the Cash Cow to face J.D. Drew. We yelled over to Chris to take off the music because there was no pitching change.

I looked over at my friend Rob, who said exactly what I was thinking at that moment. "I think I've seen this before." It was clearly in reference to a game played in New York in October 2003. You know the one. I need not explain. And I couldn't get that thought out of my head.

Next thing we knew, Drew singled, and Sabathia was finally gone. Jason Bay singled off Alfredo Aceves. Tie game. Mike Lowell hit a ball to center, Drew scored. 4-3 game. Girardi couldn't bring in Mariano Rivera for a six out save, and crossed his fingers and stayed with Sabathia. One batter too long.

Thom's went wild. I did especially, because shortly before The Comeback, some jackass Yankee fans were not far from us, and one tried to get a chant of "Boston Sucks" going in the bar. I've seen some stupid, moronic Yankee fans in my life, but this was really beyond the pale. And I made sure they knew how I felt about the current 4-3 score. (Words I will not print here, as they are slightly on the colorful side. My buddy Matt later told me that those jerks had no idea they were in a Red Sox fan hangout. Talk about assholes.)

Jonathan Papelbon came on to get his 16th save, a nice, clean 1-2-3 inning. And it was especially nice to see Mark Teixeira, who had no interest whatsoever of playing in Boston, making the final out of the three-game sweep.

Brad Penny was sensational, holding New York to no runs in six innings and 117 pitches. Big Papi went deep in the second for the first run, and it held up until the seventh. (As my friend Eric said, it will be so nice to look back on this series and say it was the one where Papi finally turned the corner. Two bombs against NY to double his home run output for 2009.) And Johnny Damon will be on most of the highlight reels on Friday for dropping an easy fly to left in the sixth. (But it didn't cost them any runs.)

Manny Delcarmen gave up the lead in the seventh, allowing three runs, in a rare bad outing. Rocco Baldelli made a sensational catch in center to save a run in the eighth and keep it 3-1. Sabathia was good for seven, but his pitch count mounted, and if the Yankees keep him in there like this all year, his shoulder will be mush by September. (And New York just doesn't have the arms in the pen to run with the Sox. The call to put the Drunken Headhunter back in the bullpen will probably grow even louder.)

This was the win of the year for the Sox, and the loss of the year for New York. The Sox are now 8-0 against them this year, and if you don't think the Red Sox are in their heads, think again.

Consider that the lesser of all the Red Sox bullpen guys (and he's not that bad overall) got the win: Takashi Saito. And New York's prize free agent signing, the guy they ponied up a boatload of money for, Sabathia, was the loser.

And New York led for just 1 1/2 innings in this entire series.

See you in August, guys.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seven Straight

It was another edition of "Jonathan Papelbon Heart Attack Theater" last night, as Pap came on with a 6-5 lead last night, and after getting Mark Teixeira to ground out, he walked Slappy. Then pinch-runner Ramiro Pena stole second, but was left there when Pap struck out Robinson Cano and got Jorge Posada to fly harmlessly to left to end it.

Nothing comes easy with Papelbon these days.

It was another night of the Red Sox dominating the Yankees. They put in Chien-Ming Wang, and he had nothing, and gave up 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings. (That was two straight Yankee starts of 2 2/3 innings.) His ERA in his first five starts of the season is now over 21.00, which is an MLB record for highest ERA after the first five starts of a season.

Mike Lowell went deep, and Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run shot (pictured) that was eventually the difference in the game. Tim Wakefield won his eighth game of the season, going six innings, allowing three runs. Ramon Ramirez had his first lousy outing of the year, giving up two home runs that made it 6-5. But Hideki Okajima, who continues to show his 2007 fine form again, was lights out in the eighth before handing it off to Papelbon.

The Sox have now won the first seven games from New York this year, and the last eight overall. Tuesday night was a nice easy game, but last night was a roller coaster ride. We'll see what happens tonight, as New York sends C.C. Sabathia on the mound against Brad Penny, as the Red Sox, now one game up in the AL East, go for the sweep.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

7-0 Makes It 6-0

Josh Beckett continued his terrific pitching last night and gave New York nothing, as the Red Sox coasted to an easy 7-0 win at a rainy Fenway Park.

I was having a discussion with some of my buddies at Professor Thom's last night about what to do with David Ortiz during the second inning when the Man Himself stepped into the batters box and clocked an A.J. Burnett pitch into the deepest part of Fenway Park to put the Red Sox on the board, and they never looked back. The joint was rocking, and it stayed that way the rest of the night. It was Papi's third home run of the year, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Against the Yankees.

Beckett continued his renaissance, and looked like the pitcher who mowed down the opposition in 2007 postseason. He went six innings, as I'm sure Terry Francona pulled him because of the rainy and chilly conditions. Beckett struck out eight, walked two and allowed New York just one hit.

Burnett was simply awful, allowed five runs, and was gone by third. His was his second meltdown at Fenway this season. The Yankees got this guy because of his so-called mastery of the Red Sox, but he blew a 6-0 lead back in April, and couldn't get the ball over the plate last night, walking five. His ERA against the Red Sox this year is now a tidy 12.91.

Nick Green completed the scoring with a home run off Jose Veras late in the game, and the Sox bullpen shut down New York the rest of the way, allowing just one hit the final three innings.

The Red Sox have now taken the first six games from New York this season, the first time they have done that since 1912.

Tim Wakefield takes the ball for the Red Sox tonight, and Chien-Ming Wang, he of the extraordinarily high ERA, will provide the opposition.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Welcome Wagon Will Be Ready

Yep, the circus has just come to town. And don't forget to bring these to Fenway tonight:

Always Fun Goofing On Slappy

My friend Adam sent me this YouTube clip, a takeoff on the movie "American Psycho" called "American League Psycho." It features our old buddy Alex Rodriguez (or an actor playing him) in the role of Patrick Bateman.

And the actor who plays Mark Teixeira is named Jon Quinn. Interesting.

Trivia Q&A: June 8

We had 12 teams, just about as I predicted, in for Trivia Night on a special Monday night edition. It was nice to see many of the regulars come in on a different night, and I thank those of you who adjusted your schedules to come in.

We had some lower scores for True or False Trivia, as I did make it a little tougher this week. The scores for Name the Century Trivia was also on the lighter side a bit.

The scores were better for General Knowledge, but I had to throw out the July 4th question, as it turned out that Denmark did in fact not celebrate their independence on July 4, but June 5. The team of Table One had a member who originally hailed from the country and confirmed it to me. No one answered Denmark, so I simply tossed it out. (I'll have to let my source know that their question was indeed wrong. Sorry gang.)

Table One led for most of the night, but wound up tied with Mogwai-Mogwai-Mogwai after IQ Trivia had finished. We had our first tie in many months, so I pulled out a question I'd be saving for many months: "The Cleveland Indians have the second longest drought in terms of winning World Series after the Chicago Cubs. How many years has it been?" The team that was closest would win, and Table One said 65 and were the closer of the two and won.

Congratulations to Tara and her friends. It is their second straight Trivia Night win that they won on a tie-breaker.

Current Events
1. This rap star, who had two big hits in the 1980s, suffered a seizure on stage recently, but was released from the hospital the next day, after he was diagnosed with heat exhaustion.
2. A woman was arrested last week in Chile as she was about to fly to Spain because authorities discovered her luggage was made partially of this substance.
3. President Obama referred to this man as a "loose cannon" and a "bald face liar" in a new book to be released about the 2008 presidential campaign.
4. This actress was recently ranked number one on the annual Forbes Celebrity 100 poll as the most powerful and money-making of all celebrities for 2009.
5. This country's suspension from the Organiaztion of American States was lifted last week, and it had been a founding member of the organization in 1948.
6. This Broadway play was the big winner at the Tony Awards last night, winning ten including Best Musical.
7. This TV show is filming four episodes in Baghdad this week, the first time in USO history that a non-news show has been filmed and broadcast from a combat zone.

Answers: 1. Tone Loc; 2. cocaine; 3. Bill Clinton; 4. Angelina Jolie; 5. Cuba; 6. "Billy Elliot;" 7. "The Colbert Report."

Name the Century Trivia
1. Martin Luther nails his "95 Theses" to a door at a church in Wittenberg, Germany, starting the Protestant Reformation.
2. Fletcher Christian and his crew mates stage the famous "Mutiny on the Bounty," taking their ship from Captain Bligh and eventually flee to Pitcairn Island.
3. William McKinley is the third US president to be assassinated, and Teddy Roosevelt succeeds him.
4. The Great Fire of London destroys over 13,000 buildings and raged for over 4 days, but the loss of life was minimal.
5. Johannes Gutenberg is credited with inventing the printing press, revolutionizing the printed word.
6. King John of England is forced to sign the Magna Carta, giving certain rights to the nobles and barons.
7. The New York Yankees win their 26th and so far, last World Series championship.

Answers: 1. 16 (1517); 2. 18 (1789); 3. 20 (1901); 4. 17 (1666); 5. 15 (1454); 6. 13 (1215); 7. 20 (2000).

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. A Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon is credited with inventing champagne.
2. Yale University is named after a man named Yale.
3. The famous spy Mata Hari was actually French.
4. King Henry VIII married three women named Catherine.
5. Horses are physically unable to vomit.
6. "Funeral March of the Marionette" was the theme to the TV series "The Outer Limits."
7. Herring communicate with each other by passing gas.
8. Winston Churchill's mother was an American from New York.
9. Napoleon Bonaparte was born on the island of Sardinia.
10. Bagpipes were actually invented in Scotland.

Answers: 1. true; 2. true; 3. false, Dutch; 4. true; 5. true; 6. false, it was from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents;" 7. true; 8. true; 9. false, he was from Corsica; 10. false, Persia.

General Knowledge
1. In the USA, what name was given to a seller of illegal alcohol?
2. In mythology, what was Minerva the goddess of?
3. What was Apollo 11's landing module called?
4. During which was was the Battle of the Marne fought in?
5. Which canal took ten years to build and opened in 1869?
6. What 14th century poet wrote The Canterbury Tales?
7. Which European country, along with the US, celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th?

Answers: 1. bootlegger; 2. wisdom; 3. Eagle; 4. World War I; 5. Suez Canal; 6. Geoffrey Chaucer; 7. Denmark. (This question was thrown out when it was determined that it was June 5, and not July 4. There was a lady from Denmark on the winning team who confirmed it.)

IQ Trivia
1. Who discovered the rabies vaccination in 1885? ( 4 points)
2. What country was the first to legalize abortion in 1920? ( 5 points)
3. What was first crossed by tightrope by Charles Blondin in 1859? ( 3 points)
4. What American politician was often portrayed in the comic strip "Doonesbury" as a floating feather? ( 4 points)
5. In 1996, what overtook Coca-Cola as being the most well-known brand name in the world? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. Louis Pasteur; 2. Russia; 3. Niagara Falls; 4. Dan Quayle; 5. McDonald's.

Monday, June 08, 2009

As Summer Approaches, Help Out The Kids


My friends at The Fresh Air Fund are doing something really special during the month of June. For every dollar you donate to them, it will be matched by a group of generous donors.

This is only happening until June 30th, so if you want to feel good and help out some inner city kids have a special summer, please do send them a donation.

You can do that by going here.

The Fresh Air Fund is also looking for sponsor families, and if you can help out in that regard, please also click the above link. They do some great work for the kids of this country, and have my full support.

Good Thing Beckett & Lester Have Picked It Up

Daisuke Matsuzaka turned in another mediocre-to-lousy performance on Sunday, and the Texas Rangers took advantage, winning 6-3 and taking the series at Fenway from the Red Sox.

Matsuzaka gave Texas four runs in the first three innings, including a home run to the red-hot Michael Young. He walked none but allowed ten hits, and the league is hitting an astounding .349 against him in his last four starts. He seems the exact opposite pitcher than from 2008. The Red Sox had only one really big opportunity to get back in the game, in the third. Ian Kinsler's error brought in two runs, and the Sox had the bases loaded with one out. But Jason Bay struck out and Mike Lowell grounded out to end the inning.

Vicente Padilla only allowed a Mark Kotsay home run, and that was it for the day. Dice-K gave up five runs in total, and Hideki Okajima gave up a homer to Nelson Cruz to finish the scoring.

Jacoby Ellsbury made a sensational catch in the Triangle (pictured), and slid on his shoulder, and wound up leaving the game shortly after. He had slightly injured the shoulder sliding into second the previous inning. Ellsbury is questionable for tomorrow night's game. J.D. Drew had a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder but says he's ready to go tomorrow night.