Pitchers & Catchers Report to Ft. Myers

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It Wasn't a Dream. It Really Happened.


It has now been exactly one month since the Red Sox won their third World Series in ten years. And 30 days on, I'm still trying to wrap myself around the fact they they actually did it.

On the night of September 28, 2011, a darkness fell over Red Sox fans everywhere. An excruciating one month collapse that saw the Sox miss the playoffs by one game, from a team that everyone and his brother-in-law said would go all the way. Heads rolled, and management made some godawful decisions that turned the 2012 season into a complete and total nightmare.

Generally when teams have a September collapse, it lingers far longer than just the season after. For example, the Philadelphia Phillies authored the worst collapse in baseball history in 1964, blowing a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 to play. And it took them 12 years to recover, not getting to the postseason until 1976, when they won the NL East. And they were not a contender in any of those intervening years.

The Mets had one of the worst collapses ever in 2007, losing a seven-game lead with 17 games to play. They still haven't recovered from it, and have had 5 straight losing seasons and counting.

The point is: late-season collapses generally means the team is on the road downward.

When Bobby Valentine's Reign of Terror ended after the 2012 season, I really didn't think the Red Sox fit into the above mold. Too many things went wrong that year (not all Valentine's making, of course), but there was too much talent in Boston for the Red Sox to consider "the nuclear option" (in this case, blowing up the team and starting over from scratch). The day they made that historic trade with the Dodgers and got rid of the clubhouse lawyers, I thought right there and then the Sox were on the road back. (I couldn't help but wonder what Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez were thinking the night of October 30.)

Magic Johnson deserves a 2013 World Series ring. I'll never say a bad word about him ever again.

I had a good feeling watching the press conference that introduced John Farrell as the new Red Sox manager in October 2012. He was exactly what the team needed: a respected man who knew many of the players and organization, a guy who lets the players play, stays out of the way and brings NO drama to the scene.

GM Ben Cherington made a conscious attempt to bring in "good character" guys and many a writer questioned a few of the moves he made. Signing Jonny Gomes brought a collective yawn from most Red Sox fans. A few thought Shane Victorino was past his prime and giving him a three-year deal was foolish. Stephen Drew was a late signing, and bringing in Mike Napoli seemed to take forever, with his hip problems. And absolutely no one noticed when Koji Uehara was signed from Texas.

Few of the so-called experts picked the Red Sox to finish higher than third. Many picked a second straight last-place finish. I actually picked them second (behind Toronto, oops), winning 90 and getting a Wild Card berth. And I thought I was being wildly optimistic.

97 wins. An AL East division title. And an eighth World Series title.

I still shake my head over it. I simply could never have imagined seeing the Red Sox hoist up the 2013 World Series trophy before the year began. From the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in April, it all unfolded into one of the best baseball stories in a long time.

The Red Sox buried 2011 for good.  The future looks very bright with Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Allen Webster and host of other young players on the horizon. They have a host of tough decisions to make this winter.

But when people I haven't seen in a long time come up to me and ask me how I'm doing, I usually reply, "Still basking in the afterglow of another Red Sox World Series championship."

And just 125 days until another World Series championship flag flies again at The Fens.

Thank you, Red Sox.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Always Thankful

I want to wish all of you out there wherever you are a very Happy Thanksgiving.

For me it will be a day of turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, "Alice's Restaurant", NFL football, "The Honeymooners" marathon, "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and being with family.

I am so thankful for my good health, and having a wonderful family and friends. And living in a country I can enjoy all these things. I'll be thinking and praying for all our brave men and women in uniform today who are thousands of miles away from they really want to be. Thanks always to them for their service.

And a special thank you to everyone associated with the Boston Red Sox who made the year 2013 a special one none of us who are fans will ever forget. This was more emotional for me than even 2004.

Enjoy the day everyone, and since I am such a lifelong "Peanuts" fan, I will conclude with Linus' Thanksgiving prayer from the TV special. May all of you have lots of turkey and cranberry sauce!


Monday, November 25, 2013

It Really Is Like Kissing Your Sister

I had little hope the Vikings could pull off an upset win in Green Bay on Sunday, but they came damn near close to pulling it off.

The Packers took an early lead in the first quarter after an amazing run by QB Scott Tolzien. But the Vikings came alive, scoring 23 unanswered points going into the fourth quarter.

I watched parts of the game on NFL RedZone, but knowing what kind of season this has been for the Vikings, I expected the other shoe to drop. And it did, courtesy of a Green Bay QB change.

Tolzien was totally ineffective after his TD, and the Packers put in Matt Flynn, the QB recently acquired after Seneca Wallace went down. And Flynn caught fire, leading GB to two fourth quarter touchdowns. (The Pack tried a two-point conversion after the first, and missed. Had they kicked the extra point, they probably win in regulation. Still can't fault the choice, as they were down by 16 points, and two TDs and two-point conversions would have tied it up.)

The Packers tied it up in the final seconds with a field goal, and off to OT the game went. Green Bay took the kickoff and went down the field, and the Vikings defense held them from getting a TD that would have instantly ended the game, and they settled for a FG. The game was still going, as it would only end if the team who got the ball first in ovetime scored a touchdown. And they also went down the field, and narrowly missed winning it, as a pass from Christian Ponder was tipped in the end zone and went off Cordarrelle Patterson's hands. So they also kicked a FG that made it 26-26.

And it stayed that way. Both teams did nothing after that, and wound up punting it back and forth.

The tie was just the fourth in the NFL since 2000, and the Vikings and Packers last played to a tie in 1978.

It was a big day for Adrian Peterson, who showed no signs of his groin injury affecting him, as he rushed for 146 yards and a TD. The team as a group rushed for 232 yards. Christian Ponder had a pretty decent day as well, and went 21-for-30 and 233 yards and 1 TD. He figures to keep his starting job for now.

But both the Vikings offense and defense disappeared in the fourth quarter. The Vikings couldn't add to their 16-point lead, and the let the Packers back in it once Flynn entered. It was a good performance for three quarters by the D, but we've seen that before in 2013.

The tie puts the Vikings at 2-8-1, and it is officially a losing season. Just Jacksonville, Houston and Atlanta are below them in the NFL at 2-9. This season, which looked promising to me in early September, can't end soon enough.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Some Dates To Look Forward To

Thanksgiving now approaches, the temperatures are now below freezing, and winter is just around the corner. You know what that means.

Pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Myers in 83 days (February 15th).

Truck Day is one week earlier, on February 8th.

The Red Sox earlier this week released their Spring Training schedule, and it will begin with the traditional twin bill with the college boys from Northeastern and Boston College, on February 27th.

They open against MLB teams with the Minnesota Twins the next day at Ft. Myers.

The 2014 season will open for the Red Sox in Baltimore on March 31st, and the championship flag with be raised four days later when the Red Sox come home to Fenway on April 4th against Milwaukee.

Here is the Spring Training schedule and more info about tickets.

Stay warm everyone.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Good To Have You Back Where You Belong


This never gets old. Ever.

Last night, I was with my good friends from The BLOHARDS, the New York-based fan group of Red Sox fans, and we gathered together as the 2013 World Series Trophy was brought in and we all took pictures with the hardware. It was at the upscale Union League Club, so everyone had to dress appropriately. (Yours Truly was in the monkey suit.) I had previously posed with the Sox Trophies in 2004 and 2007.

Dr. Charles Steinberg of the Red Sox front office was on hand and chatted for a few minutes about the team and took questions from the crowd, which numbered about 150. Red Sox PA announcer Dick Flavin was on hand to do some Red Sox-themed poems, and was really amazing. My pal Chris Wertz gave a speech about the state of the New York Union (and it is good). And I did Red Sox World Series Trivia, and my good friend John Pizzarelli gave out prizes to the winners.

Here are the five questions I did, and the answers will be at the end of this post:

1. When Jim Lonborg pitched a one-hitter in Game 2 of the 1967 World Series, what Cardinal batter got the only hit?
2. Dave Henderson and Dwight Evans hit 4 of the 5 home runs for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Who hit the other one?
3. Who was the leading hitter in average for the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series?
4. What former Red Sox player is the only active player, besides David Ortiz and Derek Jeter, with three World Series rings?
5. When Bernie Carbo hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, who was he batting for?


This is a picture of me (second from left) with a number of the BLOHARDS, including Joe Cosgriff (far left), my pals Chris (next to me), Matt and Adam, and Dr. Charles Steinberg (on the far right). It includes bunting from Busch Stadium and the 2004 World Series. A great time was had by all.

Trivia answers: 1. Julian Javier; 2. Rich Gedman; 3. Bill Mueller (.429); 4. Javier Lopez; 5. Roger Moret.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cano Will Be In Pinstripes Next Year. Count On It.

I don't usually comment on the goings on with the New York Yankees, but this Robinson Cano free agent saga got my attention, and I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

When I first heard that Cano and his flunkies were seeking a 10-year, $30 million deal to stay in New York last month, I honestly thought that was a joke. It turns out they were dead serious, and that Cano wanted a similar deal to what Alex Rodriguez got from them in 2007.

Nobody, not even the Yankees, will offer that kind of deal to anyone. The era of handing out decade-long deals may finally have ended with the one the LA Angels gave to Albert Pujols two years ago (and I bet they are already regretting it). Teams saw the way the Red Sox put together a World Series winner in 2013, and without having to sign anyone to a long term deal, and it will be copied.

And earlier this week, Cano and his crew actually were comparing him to Michael Jordan. This further shows what a rank amateur Jay-Z (Cano's new superstar agent) comes off as. Cano isn't even the best all-around player at his own position (Dustin Pedroia is), let alone a player who transcends the sport.

Cano should be comparing himself to Pedroia, not to Jordan or Rodriguez. The Red Sox smartly extended Pedroia last summer, making him the highest-paid second baseman in the game, with eight more years at $110 million.

The rumor has it that the Yankees have offered Cano a seven-year deal at about $150 million. That easily eclipses what Pedey would make over the rest of the decade. So now if you're the Yankee brass, you simply tell Cano to go out and find a team willing to make a better offer than that. And right now, that doesn't appear to be happening.

You can scratch off the usual suspects like the Dodgers or Angels, who have enormous payrolls, and are already over the $189 million luxury tax threshold (especially the Angels, who have been burned in the free agent market the past few years). And most other teams either don't have the wherewithal to sign him, or don't want to get into a bidding war with the Yankees, who will surely outbid them.

And you may have heard that the Mets brass met with Cano and his people earlier this week. It was requested by his agents and not the Mets, who basically told them that the Mets busted open the bank for David Wright last year and won't be doing the same for Cano. It was really just a pathetic attempt to try to get the Mets into a bidding war with the Yankees, so the price Cano ultimately signs with the Yankees would get inflated past what the Yankees standing offer is. Nice try, Jay-Z.

So, to my friends who are Yankee fans, I wouldn't sweat this. I'm betting that Cano won't sign on the dotted line until January at the earliest, and he will be back in pinstripes in 2014. Even if the negotiations with them becomes really rancorous, Cano is all about getting the most money, and I can't imagine him signing with any other team for less. The Yankee offer will be the highest one he's offered, and it won't be half of that ridiculous 10-year, $30 million deal he wants. Ultimately, he will have to settle for it. The Yankees hold all the cards right now, and Cano and Jay-Z know that.

Scott Boras (Cano's former agent) must be laughing himself silly right now.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Great Pretenders

At the end of the calendar year of 2012, it looked to me like my two favorite teams were going in different directions.

The Red Sox had just gone through one of their worst seasons in two generations, winning only 69 games with a season loaded with injuries and a terrible manager. Things were beginning to look a bit better, with John Farrell returning to the team as manager, and a few new players had just joined the team. But it still looked like it was going to be a long road back.

The Vikings had just come off a spectacular month of December. They entered it at 6-6, and ran the table in that final month of the season with 4 wins and a playoff berth. Adrian Peterson had just missed the rushing title by just 9 yards. I was very optimistic about the Vikings' future (and they had a good draft in April, which fueled it even more). They had a terrible year in 2011, going just 3-13, tying their worst record in team history (with the 1984 club).

I thought 2013 would be a year that the Vikings would take the next step in becoming a Super Bowl contender, and the Red Sox would just try to right the ship and possibly be on the cusp of being a playoff contender again.

The results for the Red Sox were spectacular. Far beyond what I could have hoped for. And it ended with a duckboat parade through the streets of Boston.

The results for the Vikings were beyond bad. They'll be no parades in Minneapolis in the foreseeable future.

And it was on display yesterday in Seattle. The Seahawks, now at 10-1, showed why they are one of the NFL's best teams, as they made short work of the Vikings, 41-20.

They are a complete mess. Christian Ponder threw two more interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. He was benched in favor of Matt Cassel in the 4th quarter, and he was also picked off (and they all happened in three straight possessions). Adrian Peterson tried to tough it out with a groin injury, rushing for just 65 yards. (Granted that by the Vikings had to throw the ball more often when they fell behind by 18 in the third quarter, so AP wouldn't running much after that.)

How bad has it gotten? The Vikings have now allowed the most the points in the NFL, with 320, two more than the worst team in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville is now the only team worse then the Vikings, at 1-9. At 2-8, the Vikings are tied with Houston, Atlanta and Tampa Bay with that record.

And the schedule is not promising the rest of the way for the Vikings. They still have Green Bay, Baltimore and Cincinnati left on the road, and Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit at home. 2-14 is not out of the realm of possibility.

Well, it certainly has been an interesting year. Sad watching the Vikings go down the tubes once again. There will certainly be some heads rolling if their situation doesn't drastically improve the rest of the way.

Who would have guessed that they might be vying for the number one draft pick for 2014, while the Red Sox sit on top of the MLB mountain as champions?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The World Series Trophy's Coming To New York

As they did in 2004 and 2007, the Red Sox are bringing their World Series trophy, newly won last month, to their loyal fans in New York City, and it will be happening next Thursday, November 21st, from 5-8 PM.

It is coming down to a function run by my good friends at The BLOHARDS, and it will be a big event.

It will be on display at The Union League Club, which is at 38 West 37th Street, just off Park Avenue. Tickets are available through The BLOHARDS, and will be $50 in advance for BLOHARDS members, and $60 for non-members or Sox fans paying at the door.

The Union League Club is a pretty high brow place, so jackets and ties are required for men, and formal wear for women. There will be ties available at the door for those of you not properly attired.

If you'd like more information, please click this link. You can order tickets online here.

I will be there doing Red Sox World Series trivia and giving out cool prizes. John Pizzarelli will be in as well, along with Dr. Charles Steinberg from the Red Sox, Ed Randall from WFAN, and my buddy, Governor Chris Wertz.

Everyone will be able to take individual photos with the trophy, like me above in 2007.

I promise you a great time will be had by all. See you there next Thursday!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy FU Day Everyone!

I want to wish all of you out there a very Happy Felix Unger Day today.

As you all know, November 13th is the day "Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife."

Thus "The Odd Couple", one of TV's greatest sitcoms, was born.

So, to celebrate the day, here's the opening montage from Season Two.

Thanks to both Tony Randall and Jack Klugman for creating sitcom magic.


One Writer Thought Neither Tito Nor Farrell Merited a Vote


There were a lot of Red Sox fans angry yesterday when John Farrell was NOT named AL Manager of the Year for 2013.

I wasn't one of them.

Terry Francona did indeed cop the award, with Farrell finishing in second. Bob Melvin finished third.

You can make a strong case for either Farrell or Francona winning. Both turned around franchises that won less than 70 games in 2012 (Red Sox won 69, Indians won 68). The Sox won 28 games more than last year, while the Indians won 24 more than 2012, a franchise turn around record.

Neither team was picked by the "experts" to be within shouting distance of the playoffs. You can make more of a case for Francona, as he was working with less talent than Farrell was, and got them to the AL Wild Card playoff game.

And we all know what Farrell did with the Red Sox this year. I'm sure he's happy with what he and his club won on October 30th. I thought Farrell would be a slam dunk back in September. But the more I thought of the job Tito did in Cleveland, the more I thought he could win it, and ultimately did. Congratulations to him, and it's the first time he's won the award. (Nope, despite the two World Series wins in Boston, he didn't win it there.)

But in looking at the vote, I noticed something really strange.

Francona received 16 first place votes, 10 for second and 2 for third.

Farrell received 12 first place votes, 10 for second, and 6 for third.

Since there were 30 writers casting ballots, that means that both Farrell and Francona were left off TWO ballots each. (Writers voted for top three.)

What baseball season were these guys watching in 2013? You can make a strong case for either Farrell or Francona winning (Farrell was my choice), but you can't make one for leaving either manager off the ballot. As it turns out, one writer left them both off.

This sure doesn't improve my opinion of sportswriters. But then again, probably nothing ever will.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Thank You, Mad Hatter

It is with regret that I have to announce that Tuesday Night Trivia at The Mad Hatter is officially over.

Unfortunately, we were unable to gain a consistent crowd at the bar, and it was mutually decided tonight that after 9 months, Trivia Night would end with this past Tuesday night's edition.

I want to thank Michael and his terrific staff at The Mad Hatter for all their hospitality and giving us a chance to do our Trivia there. I was treated with nothing but respect, and he runs a fine establishment.

As of now, we have no place to do Trivia at the present time. I will be looking into a new home for Trivia, and I hope to have a new location soon. There is a possibility that we may wait until after the holidays are over to settle into a new location. If anyone has any suggestions on places looking for a Trivia Night, please feel free to email me at: jbq1462@hotmail.com.

My thanks to all of you who have been so loyal to me over the years, and I hope to have some good news soon.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Trivia Q&A: November 5

Congratulations to the team of Kidnapping In Kyrgystan, who won Tuesday Night Trivia tonight and will represent The Mad Hatter at the 2013 NYC Trivia Championship next Monday night at Jack Doyle's against 15 other teams. They ended the night with 46 points and a four-point win. All the best to Alex and all his friends, who are some of my loyalest Trivia players, and hoping the win the whole schbang next week!

Second place went to Cheers, Mayor deBlasio with 46 points, and third place went to Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Sanjaya! with 34 points.

Current Events
1. Tina Fey and Amy Pohler will be hosting what awards show they previously hosted, in both 2014 and 2015?
2. What American sports team billionaire owner was cleared of charges of insider trading recently?
3. What world leader was recently selected as the most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine?
4. Tony Abbott, the prime minister of what country, declared last week that his country's involvement in the war in Afghanistan to be officially over?
5. What Middle Eastern country was elected to the UN Security Council recently, but declined their seat?
6. What eastern state became the 14th to allow same-sex marriage in the US last month?
7. What R&B star was recently arrested on a felony assault charge after he was involved in a fight outside a Washington DC hotel?

Election Trivia
1. Besides FDR, who is the only other man who has been on four winning presidential tickets?
2. What 19th century president was the last sitting vice-president elected to the Oval Office until George H. W. Bush was elected in 1988?
3. Who was the only man elected president who lost both the electoral vote and the popular vote?
4. What state did Richard Nixon unsuccessfully run for governor in 1962, and memorably said, "you won't have Nixon to kick around any more?"
5. Who did Ed Koch defeat in a runoff primary election for New York's mayor in 1977, and later in the general election when he ran on the Liberal party line?
6. What is the earliest possible day that Election Day can be held in November?
7. How many states did Barack Obama win when he was re-elected president in 2012?

1-25 Trivia ("The Q Trivia")
1. This number is needed to win a game of badminton or table tennis.
2. A total of this many men walked on the moon.
3. Abraham Lincoln was this number US president.
4. This is the number of frames per second at which motion picture film is usually produced.
5. Jim Carrey starred in a 2007 film about an obsession with this number.
6. Aquarius is this number sign of the Zodiac.
7. This is the number of points on a Star of David.
8. This is the number of holes in a stipulated round of golf.
9. At the Last Supper, there were this many people around the table.
10. This number has been retired for MLB Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Reggie Jackson.

General Knowledge
1. What Zodiac sign is most of the month of March associated with? ( 1 pt)
2. Madagascar is off the coast of what continent? ( 1 pt)
3. Who played Willy Wonka in the 2005 version of the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? ( 1 pt).
4. In what century did the Earth's population reach one billion? ( 2 pt)
5. "Lido Shuffle" was hit song in 1976 for what male pop singer? ( 2 pt)
6. What country worked on building the Panama Canal before the US and failed in the 19th century? ( 2 pt)
7. What was the last film to win Oscars in the "Big Five" Academy Award categories? ( 3 pt)

IQ Trivia
1. What is the only Central American country without a coastline on the Caribbean Sea? ( 4 points)
2. What eastern US state has led the nation the last seven straight years where motorists are most likely to strike a deer? ( 5 points)
3. Besides France, what other country claims credit for inventing French Fries? ( 4 points)
4. The Siege of Tobruk was an eight month confrontation that took place during what war? ( 4 points)
5. What is the only US state flag that features the union flag of the United Kingdom on it? ( 3 points)

Answers
Current Events
1. Golden Globes; 2. Mark Cuban; 3.Vladimir Putin; 4. Australia; 5. Saudi Arabia; 6. New Jersey; 7. Chris Brown.

Election Trivia
1. Richard Nixon; 2. Martin Van Buren; 3. John Quincy Adams; 4. California; 5. Mario Cuomo; 6. November 2; 7. twenty-six.

1-25 Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. 21; 2. 12; 3. 16; 4. 24; 5. 23; 6. 11; 7. 6; 8. 18; 9. 13; 10. 9.

General Knowledge
1. Pisces; 2. Africa; 3.Johnny Depp; 4. 19th century; 5. Boz Scaggs; 6. France; 7. "The Silence of the Lambs."

IQ Trivia
1. El Salvador; 2. West Virginia; 3. Belgium; 4. World War II; 5. Hawaii.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Tuesday's Winner Goes To The Tournament


We're having a special night of Trivia at The Mad Hatter tomorrow night, November 5th at 8 PM. The team that gets the win will be competing in the 2013 NYC Trivia Championship, which will be held a week from tonight, November 11th at 7 PM at Jack Doyle's, a pub that is located at 240 West 35th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue).

Tomorrow night's Special Category will be "Election Trivia", seven questions about American elections of all kinds in honor of tomorrow being Election Day. (And don't forget to vote for the candidates of your choice.)

The Q Train lightning round is "1-25 Trivia." I will ask you ten questions, and every answer will be a number from 1 to 25. And every answer will be a different number.

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
"Madagascar is located off the coast of what continent?"

We get going at 8 PM on Tuesday night. Tuesday's winner will compete the following Monday for a $200 gift certificate, a trophy, t-shirts and full bragging rights. Click this link for more info about the tournament. They will be representing The Mad Hatter in the 16-team tournament. So come on out and give it a whirl! Hope to see many of you tomorrow night.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

There Are No Words

From today's World Series victory parade:


God bless the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and their families.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Celebrate Good Times

As we are about to have a parade on Saturday to celebrate another Red Sox glorious World Series triumph, here's a YouTube clip my friend Dan sent to me today, with a number of places celebrating the final out of the Red Sox Game 6 win this past Wednesday night.

It is everywhere from various shots inside Fenway Park to bars in Boston and around the country, everywhere from California to a couple in New York City: The Riviera and some other place that escapes me right now...

Savor these: