Friday, January 31, 2014

A Reminder From The Distant Past On 42nd & 5th

I was crossing 42nd Street on 5th Avenue in Manhattan yesterday, on what was a cold day in the big city. Right the middle of the street I looked over at the corner, and I couldn't believe my eyes as to who was about to cross the street in the opposite direction.

None other than legendary Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

No, I didn't yell any obscenities or throw anything at him. Or pull out my iPhone and snap a picture of him.  I really didn't have time to do any of these things. I was literally in the middle of the street with the light changing. Oh the missed opportunity...

He was busy chatting away with another person, and didn't notice the Red Sox hat or scarf I was wearing. If he looked right at me he couldn't have missed them.

I have to admit I smiled as he walked past me. I couldn't help but think how far the Red Sox had come since his Reign of Terror ended in October of 2012.

That season seems like it was 20 years ago, doesn't it? How would I react if I actually met Bobby Valentine in a social setting? I'd probably be gracious, and then slip into the conversation that I am a Red Sox fan. I bet his reaction would be priceless.

And in much better news, I got the word this morning that I will be going up to Fenway Park to see the championship flag raising and ring ceremony on Opening Day on April 4th with the BLOHARDS on their annual trip up to Boston.

Absolutely, positively, can't wait.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Every Last WS Out Since 1989 (And a Few Last Hits, Too)

So what do current MLB players Shane Victorino, Miguel Cabrera, David Murphy and Matt Carpenter all have in common?

They've all had the dubious distinction of making the final out in a World Series.

So here's a cool video I saw on NESN's website today, and a few of the clips should warm your heart, on what is a brutally cold day here in the Northeast.

It is of the last out made in every World Series since 1989. There was no last out made in the World Series played in 1993, 1997, and 2001, as they all ended with hits in the final game to end the Series. (And they are included here, too.)

And of course, there was no World Series played in 1994 at all. (The Series played in 1995 and 2005 are not included, as the author could not include them due to some complications in getting the video.)

Edgar Renteria has the unique distinction of being featured twice in this video, on both ends of the spectrum. He got the World Series-winning hit to end the 1997 World Series, but made the final out of the 2004 World Series (which we all have memorized).


Jerry Remy Returns For 2014

I honestly thought Jerry Remy would retire from announcing Red Sox games on NESN, due to all the health and personal problems he's gone through over the last few years.

But he announced on Monday that he will return to the booth for the 2014 season.

Remy left last August after his son Jared was charged with murdering his girl friend Jennifer Martel, who is the mother of his daughter. It was the right move for him at the time, as his attention should be focused on the tragedy he and his family are going through.

I am certainly fine with his coming back. It is his and NESN's decision to do so, and I'm sure most fans will be supportive of it, too.

Remy is being very supportive and sensitive to the Martel family, but I was surprised to hear that if his return upset the family that he would walk away from his broadcasting career. He has every right to return, and it's clear by what he said yesterday that needs to come back to the Red Sox to keep his mind occupied and away from the tragedy that has engulfed his family.

Here is a clip from WCVB, who spoke to Remy yesterday.

It will be interesting to see how Remy has changed since last August when he returns. I would bet some of the "frivolity" may be gone. But baseball is his life. Broadcasting is his life. I hope a return can be therapeutic for him.

I'm actually glad to hear Jerry Remy will be back in the NESN booth. I hope he and his family, along with the Martel family, can find some peace eventually through this trying time in their lives.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

45 Years Ago, From My Neck of the Woods

As we wait for the interminable two weeks before the Super Bowl happens, here is a cool YouTube clip I posted on Facebook recently.

I've lived in Brooklyn my entire life, and most of it in the section of Midwood. NBC used to have a studio right on the corner up the block from my house (it is now used for movies), and would film many TV shows there, the most famous being the first three seasons of "The Cosby Show." (It eventually moved to another studio in Queens.)

In 1968, there was a program called "The Kraft Music Hall", and they filmed a segment with legendary comedian Don Rickles walking on Avenue M, beginning with a stroll through the subway station. He encounters kids playing stickball, gets his watched lifted by a "passerby", grabs a hot dog and talks about the glory that is being in Brooklyn.

I nearly flipped when I encountered this clip. The avenue has changed just a bit, but for those of you who know this neighborhood, it is a walk down memory lane.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sizemore On The Comeback Trail

The Red Sox signed former Cleveland Indian outfielder Grady Sizemore to a one-year deal yesterday.

Sizemore has missed all of the last two seasons with various injuries, and that's been the story of his career. He's a three-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves. He was one of the AL's premier outfielders of the late 2000s before the injuries set in during the 2009 season.

For the Red Sox, it is a low risk, high reward type of move. He agreed to an MLB contract worth $750,000, with incentives that could reach $6 million. Jackie Bradley Jr. is the heir apparent for CF for the Red Sox, but Sizemore says that he is ready for Spring Training and will surely push Bradley for the job.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Great Unknown

Masahiro Tanaka made his decision on Wednesday, and will play in the Bronx. And for the next seven seasons as well.

The Yankees and Tanaka reached agreement on a 7-year, $155 million deal, with an opt-out clause after four years.

My first reaction: this contract is totally insane.

And I'm glad the Red Sox aren't the ones giving it to him.

Tanaka was 24-0 last season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013. Impressive? Sure. But it was done in Japan, which is really like AAAA baseball (in-between AAA and MLB in America). I just don't see giving a seven-year deal, worth on average over $22 million per year (including the $20 million they have to pay the Japanese club) to a guy who has yet to throw a pitch in MLB.

Obviously the Yankees are doing this to bring Japanese fans into the ballpark and increase TV ratings, which will both happen for sure in 2014. The state of New York's pitching rotation meant that hey had to make some kind of big splash, and there wasn't a pitcher on the market this winter who was going to do that for them. They had to overpay, as they have an almost barren farm system, and were not going to make the playoffs without making a signing like this.

I'm glad the Red Sox did not get into a bidding war with New York over Tanaka. This is precisely the type of contract that got the Sox in trouble three years ago. But at least those onerous deals (Crawford, Beckett and Gonzalez) were for established MLB stars. Right now you have no idea what Masahiro Tanaka will turn out to be. Japanese players have had mixed success in the US. Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui had great success here, Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish and Koji Uehara have been very good, but does anyone remember the hype when the Yankees signed Hideki Irabu? Or Kei Igawa? Their track record with Japanese pitchers leaves something to be desired.

Time will tell on Tanaka.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Roger Who?

The game show Jeopardy! had a baseball question the other day, and in my years of watching the show, their baseball questions generally aren't very hard.

This one stumped all three contestants.

It was about which ex-Red Sox pitcher, who won 354 games lifetime, didn't make the Hall of Fame in 2013. All three contestants were women, and obviously aren't big baseball fans.

Either that or The Texas Con Man is starting to fade from public consciousness.

My thanks to Fenway Refugees for originally posting this YouTube clip:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sunday Night Sleazefest

I think I needed a shower after watching that "60 Minutes" report on Alex Rodriguez' one-year suspension.

Everybody connected to it: Slappy, Tony Bosch, Bud Selig and MLB, all came off really sleazy. No "good guys" in this whole thing.

Now Slappy is suing both MLB and the MLB Players Association to block his suspension. It is highly improbable that a Federal judge will actually order an injunction to allow A-Rod to play in 2014.

Did you know that Slappy's 2014 baseball card was leaked to the press? Here it is (courtesy of Mad Magazine):

I would go back to collecting baseball cards just to get this one. BTW, do they still come with that pink gum inside?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Slappy Sits For One Year

As the whole baseball world knows, Alex Rodriguez will now sit out the entire 2014 season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. The suspension was lowered by 49 games by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, from the original 211 games.

A lot of Red Sox fans were jumping for joy that A-Rod will sit out this entire upcoming season. Not me.

No, I haven't become an A-Rod fan. But I was hoping that he would be suspended for 50 or 100 games, as that would hurt the Yankees far more than a full year suspension would. Slappy's over the hill, and I would much rather see him clogging up a roster spot than sit all of 2014.

New York will save about $25 million now that Slappy will miss 2014. A shorter suspension would have put them on the hook for his 2014 salary, and further hamstrung their ability to add other players. They are still on the hook for the last three years of his deal, worth about $61 million. And you know A-Rod won't walk away from that money and retire. He will try to make it back in 2015, but honestly, how much could he have left after missing most of the previous two years, with two bad hips and being nearly 40 years old?

A-Rod and his handlers are threatening a Federal injunction to block this suspension, but don't bet on that happening. US courts rarely ever overturn these kind of suspensions that have been reached through collective bargaining. And besides, he would have testify in open court about his steroid past. If he gets caught committing perjury, he could face jail time.

BTW, A-Rod is still still eligible to participate at Spring Training beginning next month, and then will have to sit out the entire year. Can you imagine what kind of a circus that will be? Unless both parties come to some kind of an agreement beforehand, the Yankees can't legally bar him from coming, so be prepared for much more A-Rod nonsense when their players report to Tampa in February.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Cooperstown Calls Three First Timers

It was no surprise that three deserving MLB players were elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

All three were first-time candidates, and each made it easily. Maddux received the most votes, 97.2% of all votes, or 555. 16 writers did not vote for him. Lord knows why.

Craig Biggio missed election by just two votes, as he got 74.8%. That bodes well for him, as he should make it in next year. Mike Piazza finished fifth with 62.2%, and that was increase over his 2013 tally. I'm betting he's elected in the next couple of years.

Jack Morris failed in his 15th and final try at election, and his numbers actually dropped from last year. He was the most "hot button" candidate in this year's election, and will now have to wait until 2016 to be considered by the Veterans Committee.

Here is the complete list of the vote, courtesy of Baseball Reference

And as I thought would happen, both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw their numbers drop over the first-year tallies. No big surprise with the crowded field of quality candidates. The two combined did not add up to the 75% needed for election. It's clear that neither of them will be elected any time soon.

As far as the other "Steroid All-Stars" on the ballot, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's numbers continue to plummet, with McGwire down to 11% and Sosa at 7.2%. They will never, ever be enshrined.

And it officially ended for Rafael Palmeiro, as he got under the 5% cutoff with 4.4%. Palmeiro disappeared after he failed the drug test in 2005, and continues to be even further off the radar now.

The numbers went down considerably for Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, and Tim Raines. There will be a very strong first time class in 2015, which includes Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield. It's going to be a long road for guys like Schilling, Martinez and Raines, who I believe all deserve to be enshrined one day.

With the field being as crowded as it is for the next few years, I really thinking the Hall of Fame ballot should be expanded from voting for 10, to at least 12 or 15. Some want to make it unlimited, but I don't think they have to go that far.

Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, and they will be officially enshrined at Cooperstown on July 27th with managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A Remarkable, Unexpected Gift of a Season

It's a brutally cold 10 degrees here in New York City. The dead of winter.

Pitchers and catchers report in just under six weeks from now. It can't come any quicker.

Here's something to warm all of you Red Sox fans out there: the 2013 season in a six-minute video played to the Dropkick Murphys version of the song "Tessie."

Stay warm everyone and enjoy:

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Dougie Post Does It Again

I noticed in the last few months of 2013 that the traffic to the blog here had dipped rather low, as I hadn't been writing that much.

But on the website, there was a thread about the Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey earlier this week, and a fan brought up Doug Mirabelli, Tim Wakefield's old personal catcher with the Red Sox. And of course, he linked the "A Day In The Life Of Doug Mirabelli," which originally put up here in 2006.

And the traffic here just exploded. (BTW, I don't use SiteMeter any more, as they now give you almost no information that they used to. Anyone know what happened to them? I now use Clicky.) I had nearly 1,400 hits here on Friday, which is by far and away the most ever in the nearly eight year history of this blog.

It's Dougie to the rescue once again! (Remember when the Red Sox brought him back in 2006, and got him to Fenway in the police car?) Every time someone discovers my post on the Internet and puts it on a site, my numbers skyrocket, and I appreciate that. The Dougie post is by far the most popular thing I have ever posted on my site.

Thanks, Doug.

For those of you who have haven't read it, or just want a good laugh, just go here.

Friday, January 03, 2014

"The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams"

On New Year's Eve, I completed reading one of the bigger books I have ever read, the new biography of Ted Williams called "The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams."

It was written by Ben Bradlee Jr., who spent ten years researching the life of the great Hall of Famer, and absolutely left no stone unturned in this exhaustive biography, and it runs nearly 800 pages.

The book opens with the death of Ted, and his body shipped off to be frozen at Alcor in Arizona, which is ghoulish to say the least.

Every phase of the Splendid Splinter's life is examined, beginning with his birth in San Diego and his difficult upbringing by an uncaring father and a mother who was more concerned about saving souls with the Salvation Army. The book also examines in depth his Mexican roots, and Ted's fears about it being uncovered during his playing days.

He was definitely a lonely kid, and you seem to get idea he was most happy when he was alone. Baseball became his life as a youngster, and it was all-consuming passion. He was brash, and not afraid to let everyone know how great he was going to be. Cocky and arrogant, and it served him well in many respects of his life, but not in others.

His relationship with women was always volatile. He went through three marriages, and had numerous affairs in and after his playing days. He had three children, and had a difficult relationship with all of them, especially his son John-Henry.

Ted's five years in the military is especially fascinating. I never knew how upset he was about going back into the service again during the Korean War, and how behind the scenes he tried to get out of it, while publicly saying he was fine going back in.

The book gives the highlights and lowlights of Ted's career. The highs being 1941 when he hit .406, his home run in the All-Star Game that year, and one of his most proudest accomplishments: hitting .388 and winning the AL batting title in 1957 (which in many ways was a bigger thing than what he did in 1941, as Williams was 39 and at the end of the line). The lows being the loss to the Cardinals in 1946 World Series when he hit just .200, the playoff loss to the Indians in 1948 and the two losses to New York in 1949 that cost the Red Sox the AL pennant.

The book is chockful of tidbits I never knew about Ted's baseball career (like Ted being offered the Red Sox managerial job in 1954, the Tigers job in 1961, and the Yankees wanting to sign him as a pinch-hitter in 1961).

Ted's post-MLB career is looked at in incredible depth, from his becoming a Hall of Fame fisherman, to his return as Washington Senators manager, to his ultimately being looked after by his son John-Henry in his later years. John-Henry doesn't come off well in this book, and is made out to be a son who was looking to make every last buck out of his father's name. That may ultimately have led him to cryonics, where  a person can be frozen after death in the hope of one day being "revived." I found all of that to be rather unsettling, and brought back bad memories of when Ted and his name became a joke on late night television.

I definitely recommend the book, as it is the last word on one of MLB's greatest heroes. Ted Williams was complicated individual, and Ben Bradlee Jr. brings him back to life. The book is enthralling, and worth the time to read, even if you aren't a Red Sox fan.