Friday, February 28, 2014

March Begins Like a Lion As Sox Begin The Spring

February is coming to an end, and this brutal winter just goes on. It will be 20 degrees today, and it looks like yet more snow is coming early next week. Ugh.

At least baseball is back.

On a positive note, the Red Sox began their title defense with the usual Spring Training opening doubleheader against the college kids, defeating both Northeastern and Boston College in two seven-inning games by the identical score of 5-2. I don't think the Sox have ever lost to a college team in Florida, but I could be wrong about that.

It appears that the Red Sox weren't the first to come up with a "B Strong" logo, as a non-profit organization in Texas has a "B Strong" logo in honor of a young man who died in a skiing accident in 2007, and a foundation was started in his memory. Here's more about it.

There's going to be plenty of Red Sox baseball on TV and radio over the month of March, to wipe away those winter blues. Here is the complete schedule of where you can see or hear the Sox this month (with thanks to the Boston Red Sox Fan Page Facebook group for supplying the data):

March 2: Orioles
March 8: at Orioles
March 9: at Pirates
March 10: Rays
March 15: Phillies
March 16: at Rays
March 19 Pirates
March 20: Yankees
March 22: at Braves
March 23: Rays
March 25: at Rays
March 28: at Twins

March 17: Cardinals
March 18: at Yankees
March 20: Yankees

MLB Network
March 1: at Twins (8 p.m. tape delay)
March 13: at Twins
March 21 at Phillies
March 24 at Orioles (11 p.m. tape delay)

WEEI (93.7 FM unless noted)
March 1 at Twins
March 2: Orioles
March 8: Orioles
March 9: At Pirates
March 15: Phillies
March 16 at Rays
March 17: Cardinals (850-AM)
March 18: At Yankees (850-AM)
March 19: Pirates
March 20: Yankees
March 22: at Braves
March 23: Rays
March 27: Twins
March 29: Twins

Monday, February 24, 2014

"The Most Wonderful Week of the Year"

I recently finished reading an interesting book called "The Most Wonderful Week of the Year," by Roy Berger, about the life of a fantasy baseball camp player who played in three different fantasy camps over a four-year stretch.

I've never been to a fantasy baseball camp, as the price has always been a little too steep for me. And I guess the idea of playing with a bunch of overweight guys who never played in MLB taking on some retired veteran players never had much allure for me.

Roy Berger is a air-medical transport membership company based in Alabama, but grew up a Pittsburgh Pirates fan on Long Island. His great memory is of course, Bill Mazeroski's ninth inning home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series over a heavily favored Yankees team.

In 2010, Berger decided to give the fantasy baseball week a go, attending the Pirates fantasy camp in Bradenton, Florida. He had not played baseball at any level since the 1960s, and is a lefty first baseman. It was clearly a dream come true for Berger to be there, as his passion for the Pirates of the early 1960s comes through, as he meets such legendary Pittsburgh stars as Mazeroski, Vern Law, Bill Virdon and Steve Blass.

Berger breaks down his experiences at the camp day-by-day, game-by-game, and injury-by-injury.

The following year, Berger went to the Detroit Tigers camp at Lakeland. He had no connection to the club, but it was not nearly as great a week as was his experience at Bradenton. The rain made the week a tougher slog to get through, but Berger still comes across as having a great week living out his dream of playing ball with the veterans.

In 2012, Berger went to Yankees camp in Tampa. He explains in the book that he became a Yankees fan in the mid-1970s through his friendships he made with Yankee stars like Thurman Munson. Mickey Rivers and Ron Guidry in a racetrack he ran in suburban Boston. And I knew what was coming next: yep, plenty of anti-Red Sox stuff.

(I must correct you on a few points, Mr. Berger.The sweep the Yankees pulled off over the Red Sox in September 1978 was NOT "the catalyst to one of the greatest collapses in baseball history." As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the YANKEES were the ones who gave away a 3 1/2 game lead with 12 games to go, and a 1 game lead with 1 game to go to conclude the regular season. Yes, it was a great comeback by the Yankees from where they were in mid-July, but it was an equally great comeback by the Sox in the final two weeks. Sorry, I couldn't let that go and had to get that off my chest. And also, the Yankee third baseman in 1978 was "Graig" Nettles, not "Craig" Nettles. Now back to our book review.)

Lots of glorification to being a Yankee fan in this book, and it took a lot for me to get through it. But I don't doubt Berger's love of the team and how much he enjoyed being there. He would also return to Bradenton for another tour of Pirates fantasy camp in 2013. At every one of his stops, he details the games he's played in, some of the regular guys he's played with, as well as the veterans he played with. It's clear that everyone there has had a great time, playing the game they love and sharing stories of their lives, wherever they hail from.

It is overall an enjoyable read, especially if you have ever wondered what it is like to play again guys who donned the MLB uniform for real.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Red Sox Bloggers Take On The 2014 Club

I am really pleased to be part of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and also to have taken part in "Playing Pepper: Boston Red Sox 2014."

Daniel Shoptaw, who runs the fine Cardinals blog C70 At The Bat, asked a number of Red Sox bloggers their take on the upcoming Red Sox team for the 2014 season, and I was thrilled to have given my thoughts on the Red Sox' defense of their 2013 crown and many other issues around the club. He's been doing it since 2009, and does the other 29 clubs as well, but today it is the Sox bloggers who take their turn.

Seven other bloggers took part, such as Christine from Boston Red Thoughts, Allan from The Joy of Sox and Ruben from Red Sox Nation-Alberta. It's a long post, but definitely worth checking out to get our two cents. Go here to check it out.

My thanks to Daniel and his fine site for allowing us to give our opinion on the 2014 Red Sox, for whatever it's worth.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Logjam Solved: Dempster Won't Pitch in 2014

Ryan Dempster announced today he will not pitch for the Red Sox or in MLB in 2014, and more than likely has pitched his last game.

Dempster, 36, said he wanted to spend more time with his family and he's also got some physical reasons to step away. He's also walking away from $13.25 million, which comes off the Red Sox books.

It also solves the logjam of what to do with the six starters in the Red Sox rotation coming into Spring Training. There were all kinds of rumors about trading Dempster or John Lackey or Jake Peavy. Good thing the Sox waited patiently.

Dempster goes out with a World Series ring in 2013, and he pitched his last game in Game 1 of the World Series, pitching the ninth inning in Jon Lester's win.

But he will be forever remembered for one at-bat at Fenway last August 19th:

Good luck, Ryan, and thank you for 2013.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Title Defense Begins

Pitchers and catchers officially report to Ft. Myers today. Many players, including position players, are already in camp as I write this. The scene in Florida includes this:

Bring on the 2014 season. I'm sick of this winter. It can't come quick enough for me.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Do You Regret Making "The Deal" Brian? Check.

This Sunday night at 8 PM, ESPN 30 For 30 Films will debut a short film called "The Deal", a 22-minute film about the greatest trade in Red Sox history that thankfully never happened: the Alex Rodriguez saga of December 2003.

It was directed by Nick and Colin Barnicle, and it chronicles the drama of Slappy not coming to Boston, and interviews many of the principals involved, such as Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Brian Cashman, John Hart (then the Texas GM), Gordon Edes, and many others.

Noticeably absent from the film are any current interviews with Rodriguez himself.

Couldn't help but laugh at all the "Curse of the Bambino" nonsense that's dragged up in this film.

If you can't see it on Sunday, why not watch it now? My friend Ian at has the video of the film there. Definitely go and check it out with this link.

And by the way, after "The Deal" airs on ESPN at 8 PM on Sunday, they will be showing "Four Days In October" again, just to keep you in a good mood for the upcoming season ahead.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Just As I Predicted, Jeter Calls It a Career. The Tour Now Starts.

I called it.

Last year I told anyone who would listen that Derek Jeter was going to do EXACTLY what Mariano Rivera did last season: announce his retirement just prior to Spring Training in 2014 and then go on a year-long retirement tour. And sure enough, with pitchers and catchers set to report to most teams this weekend, Capt. Tange announced that 2014 will be his final season.

I don't begrudge Jeter doing exactly what Rivera did. He saw the way all MLB teams honored his teammate, so why shouldn't he do the same?

But if you thought Rivera's Retirement Tour was a bit insufferable towards the end, you ain't seen nothin' yet with this coming retirement circus.

And Jeter will conclude his career on September 28th at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, the Yankees final game of the season. Unless it means something (and I'm betting it won't), Jeter will likely play his last games in the Bronx among the home crowd before then, like Rivera did last year, and Ted Williams did in 1960.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

A Happy & Blessed Truck Day To You All

Spring is on the way. Today is Truck Day!

The Truck left Fenway Park today with tons of equipment on its journey down south to Fort Myers, signalling that the 2014 season is just around the corner. It can't come soon enough.

My buddy Ennis took in all the festivities from Fenway, and posted this pic of the Truck. I'm sure he won't mind if I share it with you.

Like all of you, I am bloody tired of this winter. I can't wait to hear "Defending World Series Champion Red Sox" said over and over again in 2014.

And you probably heard that the "Man Without a Country" Alex Rodriguez dropped his foolish lawsuit against MLB and the players union yesterday. It's too late for this guy anyway. He was all talk and no action. I still believe he has played his last MLB game. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post has an excellent take on Slappy and his silly nonsense.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Going, Going, It Is Gone, Goodbye Ralph

I was deeply saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of a true New York icon, Ralph Kiner, at the age of 91.

Ralph was one of those people I can trace back to my earliest memories of my youth, watching Mets games on TV. He, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy were simply the best in the business and made watching Mets game fun, no matter where the team was in the standings.

He was best known as a Hall of Fame slugger during his career with the Pirates, Cubs and Indians. But here in New York, he was known as a voice to generations of Mets fans. And, of course, his endless malaprops, like calling Gary Carter "Gary Cooper." I think my favorite of all-time was the time he opened "Kiner's Korner" with "Hi, I'm Ralph Korner..." But we still loved Ralph.

He was font of baseball knowledge, and I loved when he and Lindsey Nelson would kill time during rain delays with his old baseball war stories. I'll never forget when he once talked about Branch Rickey, who ran the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates: "He had all the players, and all the money, and never let the two get together."

Ralph's passing is even sadder that he was an original Met, doing the games since the team's inception in 1962. And now, there are few connections to that time left.

SNY dedicated almost all their air time yesterday to his passing, and it was wonderful listening to people like Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Gary Cohen and Vin Scully reminisce about Ralph and his towering legacy.

All Mets fans lost a legend yesterday, as well as a friend.

Godspeed, Ralph. And thank you for the memories.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Clemens to Enter the Hall of Fame (No, Not the One In NY)

The Red Sox announced their Class of 2014 for the team's Hall of Fame: Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Joe Castiglione, and the one sure to cause plenty of controversy: Roger Clemens.

The four were chosen by an 16-person committee of media, club executives, and baseball historians.

We don't have to rehash anything about Clemens, as it is well-documented. Clemens has been seen at Fenway a number of times over the recent years, and appears to be building bridges with the team since his acrimonious exit by free agency in 1996.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets from the fans during the ceremony, of which a date has not yet been announced by the team.

In far more unsettling news, Curt Schilling announced Wednesday that he is suffering from cancer. He would not elaborate as to what the cancer is or how far along he is.

I wish all the best, and hope he wins this fight against this insidious disease.

Monday, February 03, 2014

At Least One Dubious Record Fell Yesterday

A big stinker of a Super Bowl on Sunday night: Seattle 43, Denver 8.

It was a bit depressing for me seeing Percy Harvin run back the opening kickoff of the second half for a TD.

And then seeing Tarvaris Jackson come in as QB and take the final snaps of the game to run out the clock as Seattle won the Super Bowl.

Heath Farwell leading Seattle's special teamers. Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator. (Sidney Rice at WR, but out injured.)

Seeing Pete Carroll win a Super Bowl as a head coach.

They are all ex-Vikings. (Carroll was an assistant coach in Minnesota from 1985-89 coaching the defensive backs before getting his first head coaching gig with the Jets. Bevell was OC with the Vikings a few years back.)

It's now been 37 years since the Vikings even appeared in a Super Bowl, and still no Vince Lombardi trophies still on the mantelpiece.

But, one dubious distinction was taken away from the Vikings yesterday (as well as the Buffalo Bills). They no longer hold the record for the most Super Bowls lost by any team. The Denver Broncos now hold that infamous title, with their 5th Super Bowl loss.

And even more depressing, Vikings fans: the first Las Vegas odds have the Vikings at 75-1 to win next season's Super Bowl. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars odds are longer at 100-1.

Bring on the baseball season.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

13 Days Until Pitchers & Catchers

As the whole world knows by now, it is Super Bowl Sunday.

Yeah, whatever.

The NFL Hype Machine is in overdrive, with two interminable weeks of nonsense leading up to tonight's Denver-Seattle clash. I will be alone at home, doing laundry with the TV tuned to the game.

And I put the game on at 6:30 PM, and not a second earlier. I spend the afternoon watching movies or TV shows I have DVR'd. As I write this (11:30 AM), Fox has already begun their pregame show, with rolling out as much nonsense they will try to connect to this.

Me, I watch the game, and that's it. No pregame, no halftime (I will watch an "Odd Couple" episode I DVR'd during the New Year's marathon WLNY had), and absolutely NO commercials. That crap gets WAY too much publicity, so I will channel surf during commercial breaks, going to a movie I will select before the game.

I'm badass old school when it comes to this day. All I care about is the game.

I do miss one thing about "Super Bowl Sunday." DJ Jonathan Schwartz, a devoted Red Sox fan, would dedicate one hour during his show on this day on WNEW-AM to nothing but old baseball highlights: great moments from the game's history, baseball-themed songs and a typical Red Sox broadcast from a game in the 1950s, 60s or 70s. It was something I always looked forward to, but Jonathan ended it a number of years back. I wish he would reconsider bringing that back some year.

13 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Enjoy the game everyone.

UPDATE (6:15 PM): My friend Leah informed me on Facebook that Jonathan Schwartz did indeed do his "Salute To Baseball" earlier today on his afternoon radio show on WNYC today. Maybe next time I should really check to see if it were happening. A few years back, Jonathan didn't do it and he made it sound like he was retiring it. I have to admit I assumed he had retired it. You know what happens when you assume...

YET ANOTHER UPDATE (11:30 AM, 2/3): The "Salute To Baseball" show will be repeated online at on Tuesday, February 4th between 12 noon and 4 PM. Don't know when it is exactly, but I'll be tuning in.