Saturday, May 31, 2014

We're Goin' To The Mattresses

You knew this was coming.

David Ortiz got plunked by David Price on the first pitch he threw to him in the first inning last night. It was an obvious retaliation for what happened last Sunday in St. Pete (and probably for the home run he hit off him in last year's ALDS that pissed him off). How obvious was it? Price's teammates were high-fiving him in the dugout after the inning.

John Farrell was shown the door after warnings were issued. Torey Lovullo took over the club, and when Mike Carp was plunked by Price in the fifth inning and was Price was NOT thrown out, he argued and was thrown.

Brian Butterfield took charge, and in the top of the sixth, Brandon Workman threw a pitch behind Evan Longoria. (It was Workman's last inning, so I wasn't surprised by this.) So Butterfield and Workman were sent to the showers.

Here's a wrapup for those of you scoring at home: Price, who has walked only eight batters this season and hit two coming into the game, hits two batters, one after a warning, and is not ejected. Workman hits no one, and the Sox lose their manager and two interim managers. Sure makes sense to me.

This is yet another case of incompetent umpiring MLB is saddled with. Jeff Kellogg and his crew let this game get out of hand despite the early warnings. MLB has a serious problem with the umpires and just ignores it. Thankfully no players were injured in the two times the benches emptied.

But justice was served in the 10th, when Jonny Gomes became the third Sox player hit (it was clearly unintentional, as there was no one on and one out), and scored on A.J. Pierzynski's RBI triple to win it and give the Sox their fifth straight win, 3-2.

Since the two dustup games of last Sunday and last night, the Red Sox have not lost and Tampa Bay has not won.

David Ortiz was not happy after the game let his feelings known about Price in no uncertain terms.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Fourth Straight W

The Braves gift-wrapped a win to the Red Sox last night, a game the Sox did not lead in until the last play of the game.

It sealed a sweep in the home-and-home, four-game series for the Red Sox.

Both Upton brothers made errors in the outfield in the 8th, as the Sox tied the score at 3. And their ace closer Craig Kimbrel couldn't find home plate in the 9th, walking two before the red-hot Xander Bogaerts lined a shot to third. Chris Johnson fired to second to get Brock Holt, but the ball skipped away and Jackie Bradley scooted home from third for the winning run and a 4-3 victory.

Solid outing by Jake Peavy, giving up three runs in eight innings. And I continue to love the play of Holt, as he had three hits and a walk.

Lots of hopeful signs out there. Bullpen continues to be rock solid, and the Red Sox are hitting much better when it counts. Still a long way back, as they are now 24-29, 7 games back in fourth place.

Last place Tampa Bay comes to Fenway tonight, with Brandon Workman getting his second start since his recall from Pawtucket.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

'14 Sox Keep Winning As the '04 Champs Are Honored

Anyone else notice that the Red Sox haven't lost, and the Rays haven't won, since the little dustup the two teams last Sunday?

The Sox made it three straight against the Braves last night, as John Lackey continued his fine pitching, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing no runs and striking out nine. The bullpen was its usual stellar self, as Chris Capuano, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow kept the shut out in tact, and the final was 4-0.

Last night reminded me so much of the many wins the Sox copped in 2013. Clutch hitting, fine pitching, good defense. It marked the first time the Sox had won three straight. I'm not prepared to say the Sox have turned a corner, but they go for the sweep against the Braves tonight in the four-game series with Jake Peavy taking the mound.

Before last night's game, the Red Sox honored the 2004 World Series championship team, and most of the players on that team were there. It was a memorable night, as both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon made their returns to Fenway, to the overwhelming approval of the faithful. Kevin Youkilis, currently playing in Japan but is currently out injured, was on hand, as well as every star and every marginal player who was on the 2004 squad.

Of my favorite moments was Gabe Kapler coming out to the "Welcome Back Kotter" theme.

And the most poignant moment was Curt Schilling appearing with his son, Gehrig. Curt has been battling cancer and looked pretty good.

And how can you top the first pitch? Manny throwing it out with the entire team around him. As he fires to Jason Varitek, Damon comes racing over and cuts the throw off. Priceless.

Congrats to Dr. Charles Steinberg and his staff for putting on another classy and memorable evening at Fenway.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trivia Q&A: May 27

We officially opened Trivia Night at the Caledonia Scottish Pub on Tuesday night, and I was so happy to see many of my devoted regulars from the other places I have hosted Trivia before come out. It really means the world to me. Thank you so much.

We had a problem with the sound system, as it was not in working order, and an attempt to do the announcing by iPhone proved fruitless with too much feedback. So I had to do it the old fashioned way: read all the questions without an microphone or sound system.

And it worked.

The night went by fine (but my voice will pay the price tomorrow), and the team of Timorous Beasties wound up winning the night with 48 points. Congratulations to Alex and his friends on the victory. It was a convincing win, with we're Happy You're Back, John! took second with 24 points and Two Bars & I Still Can't Think of a Team Name finished third with 19 points.

My thanks to my old friend, bar manager and softball captain Keith who made the night a successful one. (And I loved the banana bread!)

Looking forward to seeing more of you next Tuesday. Good to be back in the saddle again!

Current Events
1. What rock superstar became a great-grandfather for the first time last week at the age of 70?
2. What western US state's ban on gay marriage was overturned by a judge last Monday?
3. What legendary rock star canceled an entire tour of Japan after coming down with a virus last week?
4. Which Asian capital city recently won an Internet poll conducted by Trip Advisor, over New York and Barcelona as the world city with the best overall experience for travelers?
5. In a recent survey by Forbes, which actor/comedian was ranked number one as the "World's Richest Actor" with a worth over $820 million?
6. What football player was hit with a $25 million sexual harassment lawsuit in Florida last week, one that appears to be a complete hoax?
7. General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced a coup d'etat following months of political crisis in what Asian country last week?

Scotland Trivia
1. What is Scotland's largest city in population?
2. Scotsman Kenny Dalglish made his name in what sport?
3. Scottish actor Sean Connery won an Academy Award for what film?
4. What language joined English to become an official language of Scotland in 2005?
5. James VI of Scotland ascended to the English throne in 1607 following what monarch's death?
6. Which 18th century American navy hero, who was nicknamed "Father of the American Navy," was born in Scotland in 1747?
7. Which saint, one of Jesus' original apostles, is the patron saint of Scotland?

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. Fingernails and toenails grow at the same speed.
2. The elephant is the only animal with four knees.
3. The word "Sunday" does not appear in the Bible.
4. The minimum height for an American astronaut is 5' 9 1/2".
5. 99 of 100 tornadoes in the Northern Hemisphere rotate clockwise.
6. Identical twins have different fingerprints.
7. John D. Rockefeller was the first American worth a billion dollars.
8. New York City has over 500 miles of coastline.
9. There are no squirrels native to Australia.
10. Olympic gold medals are made of more than 90% gold.

General Knowledge
1. What American city is most associated with grunge music? ( 1 pt)
2. "The Magnificent Mile" is located in what major US city? ( 1 pt)
3. Conrad Hilton was what famous movie star's first husband? ( 1 pt)
4. What is the most populous country in Europe, not including Russia? ( 2 pt)
5. What is the most common plastic surgery in America? ( 2 pt)
6. What actor played James Bond in the 1969 film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service?" ( 2 pt)
7. What 20th century US president took the United States off the gold standard? ( 3 pt)

IQ Trivia
1. Chris Haney and Scott Abbott invented what popular board game in Montreal in 1979? ( 3 points)
2. What 1981 action film was the first movie to be shot on Libert Island beneath the Statue of Liberty? ( 4 points)
3. What Asian country was ranked number one in 2013 as "The Worst Place in the World to Be a Christian" by the watchdog group Open Doors USA? ( 5 points)
4. What 19th century woman is the subject of the most American statues? ( 4 points)
5. Which classic 1969 Beatles album started off with the working title "Everest?" ( 4 points)

Current Events
1. Mick Jagger; 2. Oregon; 3. Paul McCartney; 4. Tokyo; 5. Jerry Seinfeld; 6. Johnny Manziel; 7. Thailand.

Scotland Trivia
1. Glasgow; 2. soccer; 3. "The Untouchables:" 4. Gaelic; 5. Queen Elizabeth I; 6. John Paul Jones; 7. St. Andrew.

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. False, fingernails grow faster; 2. true; 3. true; 4. false, 4' 10 1/2; 5. false, counterclockwise; 6. true; 7. false, Henry Ford; 8. true; 9. true; 10. false, 90% silver.

General Knowledge
1. Seattle; 2. Chicago; 3. Elizabeth Taylor; 4. Germany; 5. liposuction; 6. George Lazenby; 7. Richard Nixon.

IQ Trivia
1. Trivial Pursuit; 2. "Escape From New York;" 3. North Korea; 4. Sacagawea; 5. Abbey Road.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ten and Done

Our long national nightmare is over.

That hideous 10-game losing streak came to an end in Atlanta yesterday, as the Red Sox came from 6-1 down after four innings to beat the Braves, 8-6.

Clay Buchholz was simply awful yet again, walking 8 in just over 3 innings. He continues to claim he's not hurt. But I just can't see how the Sox can continue to march him out there. The offense came alive and bailed his butt out (thanks in large part to David Ortiz' four RBI and three-run slam). He's allowed a mind-boogling 45 base runners in the last 18 innings. He needs to sit for a while. I wouldn't be surprised to see a DL stint on the horizon, whether he's really hurt or not. His ERA is now 7.02, the highest of any starting pitcher in MLB right now.

The offense has shown signs of life the past three games, scoring 18 runs. And the Red Sox scored all five runs with two outs to tie the game in the fifth, and scored two more in the seventh to break the tie.

And every time the Red Sox put runs on the board, the crowd at Turner Field got louder and louder, as it was predominantly Red Sox fans. The Braves continue to have some of the most apathetic fans in all of MLB. (And they're not a bad team, as they are 28-22 on the season.)

The bullpen continues to be the Red Sox' greatest strength. After Buchholz left in the fourth, they did not allow a run, just four scattered hits and a walk for six innings. And last Saturday, they pitched nine shuout innings in the 15-inning loss at Tampa Bay. I'd hate to think where they would be now without a strong pen. But this also shows the need for the starters to go deeper, as the pen has been taxed as of late, and it will begin to show if the starters continue to struggle.

Jon Lester goes tonight to try to extend the winning streak to two.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Back In The Saddle Tomorrow

We kick off a brand new Trivia Night tomorrow at The Caledonia Scottish Pub, which is located on 2nd Avenue between E. 83rd and E. 84th Sts. at 8 PM, and we will begin it with "Scotland Trivia," seven questions connected to the country the bar is based on, as the Special Category. It will be about Scotland in history, pop culture and sports.

I am not planning any major changes to the Trivia Nights I did in my other locations. It will still be five categories, with Current Events, General Knowledge and IQ Trivia being the staple categories, and a Special Category and Q Train lightning round revolving every week.

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

The Sneak Peek question for this opening week is:
"Conrad Hilton was what famous movie star's first husband?"

We'll get rolling at 8 PM. The Caledonia Scottish Pub's address is 1609 Second Avenue, and the bar's phone number is: 212-879-0402. It is a bit smaller than the other venues I have done it in.

First place will be $50 gift certificate to the pub, second will be $20 gift certificate, and third place will be a round of shots. Best Team Name will also get a round of shots.

Hope to see many of you tomorrow night as my new Trivia Night gets off the ground!

Friday, May 23, 2014

September 2011 Redux

Now it's seven straight.

Seven straight brutally ugly losses in a row for the Red Sox. It was 7-1 after an inning and a half yesterday.

It's the third time they have been swept at home in a three-game series this year.

These losses have been horrific to watch. The starting pitching has gone down the crapper. The offense can't muster anything, especially after the starters put them in a large hole. It is bringing back horrific memories of September 2011. Absolutely atrocious starting pitching sank that season, and now it's causing big time leaks in the boat right now. All five starters were awful in consecutive starts this past week. (The bullpen has been the only part of this team that has performed well in recent games. But they have been taxed of late.)

Not exactly a recipe for success.

These last six home losses is the first time the Red Sox have gone 0-6 on a homestand in 20 years, and just the second time in club history. And that is saying something, considering all the bad teams they had in the 1920s and '30s. They didn't even do that while Bobby Valentine was in charge.

More horrific stats. In the six home losses, which added up to 54 innings, they had the lead for just one inning, when they grabbed a quick 1-0 lead on Sunday night in the second inning against Detroit. And that disappeared quickly. Go back to the last loss in Minnesota and you can make that the last 63 innings. Ugh.

And the offense is no bargain either. They have continued their stretch of playing bad baseball in the clutch, going 1-for-7 with RISP yesterday. In the last six games, they didn't score more than 4 runs in any game, and the last time the Red Sox did that in a six game homestand was in 1968.

I simply see no easy answers here. They made their beds, now they have to lie in it. Forget any kind of trades now, as the price for anyone of quality is just sky high. (And please DO NOT mention the name Giancarlo Stanton any time soon. The Marlins are not trading an MVP candidate they control until 2017.)

The Red Sox have to fight their way out of this. 20-26, five games back.

Yeah I know, this season is far from gone. But I need a respite from this stretch of lousy baseball from this lifeless bunch, and get these memories of three years ago out of my brain.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Drew To Return; The Losing Goes On

The Red Sox announced before last night's game that Stephen Drew had agreed to the $14.1 million deal he rejected last December. (It will be worth $10.2 million, prorated to the time he's missed this season.)

He will take a physical today. Not yet known when he will be in uniform.

Bringing in Drew to play shortstop will move Xander Bogaerts back to third, and there was a lot speculation about that last night. (Bogaerts made two errors in last night's game.)

I think it is more damning indictment of the terrible play of Will Middlebrooks more than anything else. He is now on the DL for the second time this season, while hitting a paltry .197. His stock is dropping considerably, and I would bet he will be in another uniform before too long. He might end up back at AAA when he is eligible to come off the DL. The Sox want to keep third-baseman-of-the-future Garin Cecchini at Pawtucket for a full season, as his defense at third needs more seasoning (so Brock Holt, who has done a respectable job at third, was called up when Middlebrooks broke his finger).

Bogaerts is without question the Red Sox number one young talent, and still their shortstop of the future. Bringing in Drew tells me the Red Sox brass want to stabilize the left side of the diamond, which continues to be a headache. Bogaerts met with John Farrell after the game, and I'm sure all of that was conveyed to him.

How much can the Red Sox get out of Drew, considering he has missed the first 44 games of the season and has had no formal spring training? We'll find out.

Last night was another lost cause, as Felix Doubront allowed two home runs and left in the fifth inning after experiencing shoulder fatigue. The Sox cut a Toronto 6-0 lead to 7-4 by the eighth inning, but that was as close as they would come.

Five straight losses, four at home. 20-24 overall, with a 10-15 record at home. They trail first-place Baltimore by only 3 1/2 games, but it sure feels like a lot more than that.

Monday, May 19, 2014

See You For Trivia On May 27

I am really pleased to announce that I am back hosting Trivia.

I will be hosting at The Caledonia Scottish Pub, which is located at 1609 Second Avenue, between E. 83rd and E. 84th Streets. It will be happening every Tuesday night at 8 PM, beginning a week from tomorrow.

I am keeping the same format I have done in the previous bars I have done Trivia in. We will have five categories: Current Events, General Knowledge and IQ Trivia as the three staples, and a Special Category and Q Train lightning round every week.

The Caledonia is an intimate pub, specializing in drinks from the wonderful land of Scotland, and is smaller than the other bars we've done Trivia in. Please do check out their social media sites:

Facebook: The Caledonia Scottish Pub

Twitter: @caledoniapub

Instagram: @Thecaledoniapub

The bar is open every day from 4 PM to 4 AM. Their phone number is 347-276-4371.

I will also be putting up a Sneak Peek question every Monday, beginning next Monday, along with the Special Category and Q Train lightning round category names.

First prize will be a $50 gift certificate to the bar, second prize will be a $20 gift certificate, and third prize will be a round of shots. Best Team Name will also get a round of shots.

I look forward to seeing many of you at The Caledonia as we begin a new chapter of Trivia Night!

No Way To Sugarcoat a Brutal Weekend

An absolute crap weekend for the Red Sox, as they got swept by the Detroit Tigers, who have the best record in baseball, and sure proved that at Fenway.

Jon Lester pitched a decent game on Friday, but John Lackey and Jake Peavy didn't on Saturday and Sunday. The Tigers outscored the Sox 13-3 in the three-game series. It marked the first time since the Bobby Valentine Disaster of 2012 that the Red Sox have dropped four straight games.

Sure there's no shame in being beaten by the best team in the game. But this moribund offense continues to cost this team games. The 6-1 loss on Saturday night was the 9th time this season the Red Sox had scored just 1 run or less this season.

More brutal numbers: 10-14 at home and 7-9 in the month of May (after a losing record in April). It was the second weekend they have been swept at home this year (first was by Milwaukee in the opening weekend in April).

And as everyone and his uncle continue to point out, the Sox remain only 3 games back of New York, despite being 20-23. The AL East is still very tight, but it is clear this team needs an offensive jump start. Way too many guys not hitting even close to what they did last year. I can't see any trade of significance coming any time soon, as the prices are just way too high right now for anyone of quality.

So it appears that Sox brass may just have to ride this sluggish offense out. It can be brutal to watch, especially this past weekend. Sure, the season is far from over, but the way the game ended last night, with the last 10 Red Sox going down in order, sure had the feel of a game of no consequence in late September.

Let's hope that doesn't become a reality this year.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Trivia Night Is Back In Business

I am very pleased to announce that my Trivia Night, which has been on ice since last November, will be up and running again within the next two weeks.

Details are being finalized, and I will make an announcement here on the blog on Monday with all the particulars.

I will say right now that I am planning NO changes to the Trivia Night that many of you have enjoyed with me over the years. We will simply have a new venue.

Have a great weekend everyone. See you with more good news on Monday.


Tough series in Minnesota. The Twins had been playing better ball as of late, and they won two of three games in their final turn at-bat.

Mixed in was a Red Sox romp, 9-4.

Plenty of encouraging signs in the series. Felix Doubront looked good in Wednesday's win. He went 6 1/3 innings, allowed just one earned run and struck out 5 while walking just one. He's been a concern as of late, as he loses concentration and falls into holes the team doesn't can't seem to crawl out of.

David Ortiz was otherwordly in the first two games, blasting four home runs total while driving in six. The Twins finally figured him out yesterday, as he only went 1-for-4.

The Red Sox as a team came from behind late in both of the eventual losses, from 5-1 on Tuesday and 3-1 yesterday. Both losses were tagged on Andrew Miller, who has been pitching very well this season. He gave up a two-run home run to Chris Parmalee on Tuesday, and an RBI single to Aaron Hicks in the 10th yesterday.

It's been a real slog for Clay Buchholz this year, but he pitched a similar game to the one he pitched in Toronto earlier this year. He gave up three runs early, but settled down and went six innings, striking out 6 and walking three.

The young trio of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Will Middlebrooks had their moments in the series, and according to Gordon Edes, John Farrell is sticking by all three, despite some brutal numbers by all of them in May.

The Sox split the six-game road trip to Texas and Minnesota, and return home at .500: 20-20. The AL East continues to be a logjam. Sox remain in third, just 1 1/2 games behind division leader Baltimore.

Detroit, the team with the best record in the AL at 24-12, comes into Fenway tonight for a big three-game series.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Man Versus Ball"

I recently finished reading a fascinating book by a New York guy named Jon Hart called "Man Versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures."

It is very much an "everyman" story about how Jon, who was never a professional athlete but a writer for a number of publications, took on a number of jobs in the athletic world. It brings to mind what George Plimpton, the late celebrated author did in going to training camp with the Detroit Lions, tried to play on the PGA tour and sparred with pro boxers.

I was surprised when I opened the book to the first chapter to discover that Jon had played a season with the semipro Brooklyn Mariners. As a matter of full disclosure, I have known Pudgie Walsh, the Mariners head coach, for many years. I was a waterboy on the FDNY football team that Pudgie coached, in the mid-1970s. (They played the game at Shea Stadium in 1975, and I got to walk on the field and in the clubhouse. My dad was an assistant coach on that team.) I have to admit I laughed at Jon's description of the colorful Pudgie, and his attempts to get even a smidgen of playing time.

Throughout the book, Jon takes us through his adventures as a ballboy at the US Tennis Open at Flushing Meadows, a vendor at both Shea and Yankee Stadiums, Citi Field and at the Red Sox spring training site in Ft. Myers, as an amateur caddie at a PGA tournament in Connecticut, and even taking a turn at a wrestling school in Brooklyn. (His adventures with the world of  "roller basketball" is really out there.) Despite what might be termed as "fun" jobs, Jon goes to great lengths to show us that there's a lot of hard work that goes into these positions, and a lot of the politics that go on in them as well.

I also enjoyed the fact that he refers to many of the people he dealt with by using funny nicknames, like "Sergeant Pepper" for a guy he worked with as a vendor in Yankee Stadium who was a huge Beatles fan. And that players on the Brooklyn Mariners called him "Plimpton" (see above explanation), one that he didn't particularly care for.

I definitely recommend "Man Versus Ball" as a good, quick read for those of you who would like a first-hand account of what it's like to be part of the "very edge" sports world. It's one of those "I wonder what it's like to do that" kind of books. Thanks for an enjoyable ride, Mr. Hart.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Papi Breaks Up Darvish's No-Hit Bid Twice

The Red Sox sleepwalked through an 8-0 loss to Texas tonight, but of course, that wasn't the story.

Yu Darvish retired the first 20 hitters before David Ortiz hit a sky high pop up that rookie Texas second baseman Rougned Odor misplayed and let drop. It was ruled an error, but he never got a glove on it and the official scorer gave right fielder Alex Rios an error. (Would someone PLEASE explain that one to me?)

It should have been a hit, as no one got a glove on it. (If they weren't in the shift, that easily would have been Rios' ball. The shift giveth, and the shift taketh away.)

But the no-hitter continued, and Papi came up with two outs in the ninth and lined a single to right, directly through the shift. Darvish was once again denied a no-hitter in the ninth with two outs. (He lost a perfect game in 2012 against Houston on a single.)

The Red Sox were last no-hit in 1993 by Chris Bosio of Seattle. (I remember that well, as I had just returned from a trip to London and woke up the next day to discover they got no-hit on the West Coast.) The Red Sox have never had a perfect game tossed at them, and have had one pitched by them. (That was by Cy Young against the Philadelphia A's in 1904.)

Darvish was magnificent, striking out 12 and walking 2. Take nothing away from him.

The Red Sox were simply bloody awful.

Clay Buchholz had nothing, giving up six runs in less than five innings.

Absolutely NO consistency with this club through the first six weeks of the season. They not sleepwalked through this game, but have been this entire year so far. Once again, they have not won as many as three in a row and back under .500 once again.

And the question has to be asked now: are these Red Sox no better than just a .500 team this year?

"I Don't Care If We Never Come Back"

Most of us baseball fans have wanted to visit as many baseball stadiums and parks as possible in our lives, and many have visited them all. (I have been to just eight of them myself.) But in a new book called "I Don't Care If We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever," authors Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster attempt the near-impossible: visit all 30 MLB stadiums in one calendar month, the month of June.

Ben is a baseball fanatic and numbers whiz, and Eric is not. They are college friends from Harvard, and Ben, a Red Sox fan from New Hampshire, convinces his pal to take on the challenge. Ben runs an algorithm for the road trip, and they begin on June 1st at Yankee Stadium, and a journey begins that will take them over 22,000 miles over 37 states begins. The book is more about the boys' adventures than about the games being played.

The boys have a standard rule that they must be in the park for every pitch, or it does not count. They run into some interesting encounters on the road, especially with the police, as it can be a mad dash for them to get to each park in time. They also have problems involving the weather that nearly end the trip as well.

I enjoyed the book very much. There's plenty of good humor in it, and they encounter a few scenarios that almost cost them the dream coming true. The New York City subway and a stalled car in Toronto nearly cost the boys their dream at the very end; Ben goes on a date with a woman at a Cardinals game in St. Louis; Ben fulfills a dream of running the bases at the Little League field at Williamsport; Eric attempts to play a practical joke on Ben involving the Cleveland Indians radio announcer, and Red Sox fan Ben meets one of his idols: former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

I have to admire these two guys for fulfilling a dream most of baseball fanatics wish they could pull off. "I Don't Care If We Never Come Back" is an enjoyable ride through the baseball world, and they take us all along.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

More On Pedey and Mo

My friend Adam, whom I have quoted here in the past, weighs in on the "controversial" new book by Mariano Rivera, "The Closer," with an interesting take on Rivera's statement about Dustin Pedroia:

I'm sure many of you heard that Mariano Rivera "wrote" a book, and stated that he'd pick Dustin Pedroia at 2B over Robinson Cano.  ESPN quotes Rivera as saying: "If I have to win one game, I'd have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman." How about Chase Utley?  I'll cut Mo some slack because Utley played in the NL.  From 2007 to 2013, Pedey was  the best 2B in the AL.

ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand disagrees.  Marchand bolsters his argument with all kind of advanced metrics like Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers to show that Cano was the better 2B.  Here's the crux of Marchand's argument:

The highest OPS Pedroia has produced in a season is .869. Cano has bettered that number six times.

Cano has won five Silver Sluggers, which go to the best offensive player at a particular position. Pedroia has one.

On defense, they are both elite. Pedroia has three Gold Gloves, Cano has two. And while the Gold Glove is not the best metric to grade fielders, we can all agree both players are excellent on defense.

Over the past seven seasons, Cano has played in an average of 160 games. Pedroia has appeared in 141 per season over the same span. Pedroia won the MVP in 2007, while Cano's best showing was fourth in 2012.

Pedroia crushes Cano in grass stains.

OPS is a good shorthand number, but it is a somewhat flawed stat because it simply adds OBP (based on PA) and SLG (based on AB).  wOBA is better.  Despite the Silver Sluggers that Marchand cites, between 2007 and 2013, Cano wasn't that much better offensively: Cano .371 wOBA, Pedroia .362 wOBA.  The only advantage Cano had as a hitter over that period is SLG: .508 (Cano) v. .457 (Pedroia).  If you eliminated last year, when Pedey played an entire season with a thumb injury, the gap narrows slightly: .365 wOBA and .465 SLG.  Both players had nearly identical BA from 2007 to 2013--.307 (Cano) .305 (Pedroia)--but Pedroia had a better OBP, BB-rate, and K-rate.  

Marchand notes that Cano was better at staying healthy, which is why he averaged more games played.  But the numbers are somewhat skewed by the fact the Pedey only played 75 games in 2010 due to injury.  No matter.  WAR, a stat that factors in hitting, defense, and baserunning, favors players that stay healthy.  So you'd think that Cano would have a huge WAR edge on Pedey.  He doesn't.  Pedroia, despite playing 135 fewer games, was one overall win better than Cano between 2007 and 2013 (35.4 fWAR to 34.4 fWAR).  

The reason for this is Pedey's huge edge on defense and base-running.  While Marchand notes that GGs are not a good metric, he contends that "both players are excellent on defense."  He's half right.  Pedroia is an excellent defensive 2B.  Fangraphs rates him as the 3rd best at his position from 2007 to 2013.  Fangraphs also has 24 2B ahead of Cano, including some not know for their gloves.  

I'd say Mo knows baseball better than Marchand.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Rivera Really Likes Dustin Pedroia

You may have heard that recently-retired reliever Mariano Rivera has a new book coming out about his life in baseball, called "The Closer."

And in it, he makes a startling admission: he'd rather have Dustin Pedroia as his second baseman behind him than his former teammate Robinson Cano.

"Nobody plays harder, gives more, wants to win more. He comes at you hard for twenty-seven outs. It's a special thing to see. If I have to win one game, I’d have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman.”

You have to wonder about a statement like this. Cano is without question about better all-around hitter than Pedroia, but Pedey is the best fielding second baseman in the game right now (in my humble opinion). Cano has been rightly criticized in many circles for his lackadaisical play in the field and not hustling.

It also says a lot about the respect Rivera has for Pedroia. And a lot about his frustration over the years he's probably had seeing Cano waste his talent. (And I bet he's not the only Yankee teammate who has felt the same way.) Here's more about this from the New York Daily News.

I'm sure this will upset some Yankee fans, and it already has with my friend and Yankee devotee Lisa Swan.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A Series Win That Felt Like a Series Loss

One of the hottest teams in baseball came into Fenway Park this past weekend and played the Red Sox, namely the Oakland A's. And the Sox took the series, winning two of three. That should make everyone happy, right?

A mind-numbing 3-2 loss in 10 innings yesterday put a damper on the whole weekend.

Dustin Pedroia belted a grand slam in game Friday put it on ice, and Jonny Gomes hit a first inning slam to get the Sox rolling on Saturday, and Jon Lester pitched arguably the best game of his career, going eight innings, striking out 15 and allowing just one hit.

A win on Sunday would have gotten the Sox a sweep, and back to .500, in their 8th attempt of the season to reach that mark.

But the thing that has haunted this team all year so far came back to bite them yet again, and cost them another victory: lack of production with runners in scoring position.

John Lackey was terrific, going six innings, allowing just two runs. But once again, they had golden opportunities to put runs on the board, and couldn't do it:

5th inning: bases loaded, one out. Jackie Bradley bangs into a DP. Nothing.
7th inning: second and third, no outs. End up with nothing.
10th inning: man on second, no outs. A's first baseman makes a great play on a grounder, runner out at third (pictured above). DP ends game.

Oakland wins on a roller up the third base line with the bases loaded. The Red Sox finish another awful loss going 1-for-7 with RISP. Dreadful.Last year, they seemed always to find a way to win. So far in 2014, that seems to have eluded them.

They are also making too many errors and hitting into way too many double plays at key moments.

I took a look back at the first 17 losses of the season, and 8 of the 17 were close games where a single clutch hit could have made all the difference.

The Sox are fortunate right now that no one has taken control of the AL East. They remain just two back, tied for third.

Friday, May 02, 2014

I Don't Want To Use the "H" Word, But...

OK, I know this isn't a lost season. Just 29 games have been played so far.

But watching Red Sox games these days can be like banging your head against the wall. Especially when they have runners in scoring position in tie or close games.

They gave two games away to Tampa Bay yesterday. Games that could have been one with one clutch hit. Or one deep fly ball. Fenway is supposed to be a fortress for the Red Sox, but they are an abysmal 6-10 at home so far.

The Sox are simply a disaster in clutch situations, hitting .223 so far this year with RISP. They went 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position (1-for-8 in Game 1, 3-for-12 in Game 2), and left a whopping 21 men on base (11 in Game 1, 10 in Game 2). Tampa Bay pitching did all they could, especially in Game 2, to hand the Sox a win, walking 10 batters. The Red Sox had doubles to open both the 8th and 9th innings, and left both men at third.

Right now, only two teams in MLB have left more runners on base per game then the Sox: Oakland and Minnesota. Only six have left more men in scoring position than they have. And only Texas have hit into more double plays than the Red Sox have. Ugh.

The Sox dropped Game 1, 2-1, with a controversial call of Dustin Pedroia called out at home on a close relay in the 7th inning, on David Ortiz' double. Replay was simply inconclusive, and you simply couldn't tell if Pedey touched home or not and so the call stands. Naturally I saw Sox fans online screaming to get rid of replay when the call went against them. But folks, replay is here to stay. We are in the "working out the bugs" phase, and MLB is committed to making replay work. But like the NFL, unless there is conclusive evidence to overturn the call, the umps calls will stand. There simply was none on that play.

I'm not so much upset by that. I have no problem with Brian Butterfield sending Pedroia in on that play. The way they have been hitting, it was a chance worth taking. (And Mike Napoli, the next batter, struck out to end the inning.) The Red Sox had plenty of opportunities throughout both games to score runs. They simply blew almost all of them.

The pitching was decent yesterday, certainly good enough to win both games. Jake Peavy had one bad inning, the fourth, when he walked three straight including walking in the winning run. Felix Doubront was shaky, especially giving up three home runs. After getting a 5-2 lead by the sixth, he gave two back on Sean Rodriguez' home run (and not helped by Will Middlebrooks screwing up a pop up).

But even more worrying than that was Koji Uehara giving a bomb of a home run to Yunel Escobar in the ninth. He was shaky last Saturday in Toronto in getting the save. I don't expect him to be perfect, and he says he's fine. But he's 39, and you have to wonder.

The Red Sox are now 13-16, but are fortunate to be in a logjam of a division, as no one has seized control of it. They are only 3 behind New York with a long way to go. But these games are just maddening to watch. Now the hot Oakland A's come in for a weekend series. They lead the AL in ERA and are third in runs scored.

I'm glad I'm not much of a drinker, because this team would have put me into AA by now.

Last year, the Sox were 18-8 in April, the good start they needed that resulted in them making history in October. But the big hits they got last year just don't seem to be coming. One wonders if indeed they are suffering from the "H" word: hangover, from last year's glory.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The 2004 Red Sox Welcome You to the Club, Kings

It's the gift that keeps on giving.

The Los Angeles Kings made history on Wednesday night, as they became the fifth team in American sports history to come from 0-3 down in a seven-game postseason series to win the next four straight, in beating the San Jose Sharks, 5-1.

They are the fourth NHL team to turn the trick, following the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders (who nearly did it in two consecutive series, but lost Game 7 in the second series to Philadelphia), and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers.

And only one MLB team has ever done it:

From now until forever, the 2004 Red Sox will be remembered whenever a team falls behind 0-3 in any sport, let alone comes all the way back.