Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Torey and Trivia: Perfect Together

I had the pleasure of being at the BLOHARDS meeting at the Yale Club yesterday, the second of luncheons they hold every year when the Red Sox come to town.

For those who are not in the know, the BLOHARDS are the Benevolent Loyal Order of Honorable Ancient Red Sox Diehard Sufferers of New York, which has been a shelter for Red Sox fans living in New York since the mid-1960s. I am a proud member and I do five Red Sox trivia questions every meeting (and they will appear at the end of this post) and give away prizes.

A special guest from the Sox usually attends, and this time it was Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo. He was interviewed by WFAN radio host Ed Randall, who attends most of the meetings as well. Torey was very personable and articulate and Ed asked him questions about taking over as interim manager. It was also a very emotional subject for him, as when he talked about the day John Farrell let him know about his lymphoma diagnosis, Torey had to stop and compose himself. He has been a close confident of Farrell's for many years, serving as bench coach in Toronto as well as at Fenway.

I was impressed to learn that Lovullo does not occupy the manager's office at Fenway or even on the road, in a sign of his respect for John Farrell.

And I have to admit that I never knew that his father was once a producer on the 1960s/70s TV show "Hee Haw." Torey talked about hanging out with the cast as a kid, playing cards with star Roy Clark.

Torey Lovullo has impressed a lot of people since becoming interim manager on August 14th. If John Farrell is healthy enough to return next season, the Red Sox could end up losing Lovullo to another team looking for a permanent manager. (I can't help think of Bruce Arians, the NFL coach who did such a great job with the Colts a few years back after head coach Chuck Pagano left the team early in the season with a cancer diagnosis. When Pagano returned, Arians left for a permanent head coaching job in Arizona.)

I did the Red Sox trivia shortly after Torey left for Yankee Stadium. It's always fun to hit the 80 of so attendees with recent questions of the Red Sox past, and give away prizes. Here are the questions from Tuesday's luncheon (answers will follow below):

1. What former Red Sox pitcher recently picked up his 50th save of 2015?
2. Manny Ramirez hit his 500th home run in 2008 against what team?
3. What pitcher led the pennant-winning 1975 Red Sox in wins with 19?
4. Who is the only Red Sox shortstop to win a Gold Glove Award?
5. Who is the last Red Sox pitcher to throw 300 innings in a season?

I was impressed that I didn't have to give out any clues to help the crowd get a winning answer. BLOHARDS Transportation Secretary Ray Duffy concluded the day with a cool slideshow, which featured a nice tribute to the late Yogi Berra.

My thanks to Joe Cosgriff, Ray Duffy, Julie Powers Killian and Peter Collery of the BLOHARDS. They always put on a great luncheon, and I am always honored to be part of it.

The trivia answers are: 1. Mark Melancon; 2. Baltimore Orioles; 3. Rick Wise; 4. Rick Burleson (1979); 5. Luis Tiant ( 311 innings in 1974).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Closer and Closer to Break Even

The season maybe long gone, but the Red Sox continue to play like there's something still on the line.

Xander Bogaerts blasted his first grand slam in the 8th inning to give the Sox a come from behind 8-7 win over Tampa Bay at Fenway last night. Two things of significance came from the win: it pulled the Red Sox out of last place for the first time since back in June, and the club has officially bettered their record from 2014 with their 72nd win of the year.

Granted, neither is anything to shout from the hills for, but the Red Sox came playing the young guys, and they are coming through. Eduardo Rodriguez gave up three runs to Tampa Bay in the first inning before getting his first out, and it looked like he wouldn't be around long. But he settled down and went six innings without allowing another run.

Bogaerts continues to show why he is rapidly becoming the best all-around shortstop in the AL. He has made just nine errors this season, and is hitting over .350 for the month of September with 27 RBI. He has settled into the three-spot in the lineup, and is proving to be incredibly clutch. Coach Brian Butterfield says he has never seen a player make such an improvement to his game over the course of one year. Bogaerts looks confident both at the plate and in the field.

The Sox are now 22-13 with Torey Lovullo at the interim helm of the club. I must admit it was difficult watching this past weekend's series with the Blue Jays in Toronto, as the two Red Sox wins benefited the Yankees tremendously, but I am a Red Sox fan first, and it was great seeing them come from behind twice to win.

The Sox need to go 9-4 in their final 13 games to reach the .500 mark, and probably finish third. (They currently trail third place Baltimore by one game.) I am glad to see them finishing the year strong, and I am NOT one of these fans who think that they should finish as one of the bottom ten teams to protect their draft status next year. I am a fan of the team first, and a strong September could well be a portend for good things to come next year. The young guys are gaining valuable experience in what has been a lost year, even if the pressure is off.

I like what I'm seeing, and the future is bright. And the season could be made if the Red Sox go into the Bronx and hurt the Yankees playoff chances next week. We shall see.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Papi Joins The Half Thousand HR Club

David Ortiz hit two home runs last night at Tropicana Field in St. Pete in the Red Sox' 10-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, and became the 27th player ever to reach the 500 home run plateau.

He hit two solo shots off Matt Moore, and was greeted by a mob scene of his Red Sox teammates at the dugout.

Ortiz became the fourth player in a Red Sox uniform to hit a 500th home run, joining Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Manny Ramirez. He is also the fourth player ever to hit 500 home runs who played for three World Series championship teams, joining Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson. Quite elite company.

This will absolutely cement his election to baseball's Hall of Fame. His resume speaks for itself. Papi will face the prejudice against him as being mostly a designated hitter. But how do you keep someone who has hit 500 home runs, is a nine-time All-Star, 3 World Series championships, World Series and ALCS MVP and holds just about every hitting record for a DH out?

You don't. It's a matter of when, not if, he gets in.

Congratulations, Large Father.

Friday, September 11, 2015

I'm The Lucky One

It's that day again.

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the worst day in American history, when nearly 3,000 innocent people were taken from us in the worst terrorist attacks on United States soil. You just have to say the date: September 11th.

As those of you who read my blog know, I honor my dear friend Joyce Carpeneto every year here. Joyce had the terrible misfortune to be on the 83rd floor of the North Tower that fateful morning, and she and 12 of her colleagues from General Telecom all perished. No trace of anyone who worked there has ever been found.

I will be at the ceremonies at the World Trade Center memorial on Friday morning, with many others who lost loved ones that day. I will go with my dear friend Deborah, who was also a close friend of Joyce. For us, it is like a holy day of obligation to be there. And I will be there every September 11th for the rest of my life.

I want to thank all of you who have reached out to me over the last few days offering good wishes to me and Deborah. Through my words, I have met so many wonderful people, and they are from all over our country. Their words of support and comfort have helped me so much, and I'll never be able to thank you all for that.

Please do say a prayer for those lost on September 11, 2001, and for those they left behind. This is the most difficult day of the year for most of them, and the specter of the attacks never goes away for them.

I am very blessed to have had Joyce Carpeneto as a part of my life. Our common bond was music, as we met as Tower Records employees when Joyce joined the Greenwich Village store in 1985. We worked together there, and at a subsidiary of the company called TRIP, and became good friends.

People who have read what I have written about Joyce told me over the years that "Joyce was lucky to have a friend like you." I always correct them.

I'm the lucky one.

As I do every year, I link my previous September 11 posts. Here they are, since my first in 2006:

2006: Forever Missed and Forever Loved
2007: Never Forget. Ever.
2008: We Can Be The Ones Who Remember
2009: The Most Sacred Of All Days
2010: 3000
2011: Ten Years After
2012: 11 Years
2013: No Other Place In The World I Could Be Today
2014: Always and Forever Family

With special thanks to Keith De Cesare from ArtAid, for creating the above "Never Forget" banner.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Cleveland, April 4th, 2016

MLB released its tentative 2016 schedule yesterday, and the Red Sox will open the season on the road (of course) against the Indians in Cleveland on April 4th. They will play three there, then play three in Toronto, and have their home opener against Baltimore on April 11th.

They will close the season at home against Toronto on October 2nd.

Looks like I'll be in San Diego on Labor Day, as the Red Sox will be there September 5-7.

Here's the complete schedule, with thanks to Allan at The Joy of Sox, who originally posted it. (Click to see the larger version):

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Live at the BBC

It's been quite a turnaround for the Red Sox since manager John Farrell left the club for health reasons.

On August 14th, Farrell announced he had lymphoma and would leave the team for the remainder of the 2015 season. The Red Sox stood at 50-64,  7 1/2 games out of fourth, and a last place finish seemed almost a certainty.

But under the stewardship of Torey Lovullo, the Sox have gone 15-8, and yesterday caught the Baltimore Orioles for fourth place. And they are now just two games behind Tampa Bay for third place, and have a series with the Rays in St. Pete this weekend.

It has a pleasure watching this Sox team in recent weeks. The best part of the turn around has been watching the exciting outfield trio of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo. Bradley had an historic day in the 22-10 wipeout of Seattle on August 15, getting five extra base hits in a game, including two home runs. His defense has no peer in the AL, and he is making a strong case that he has finally arrived, and should be a major player in the Sox outfield in 2016.

Mookie Betts has had a stellar year in center field. 13 home runs, 34 doubles, and 55 extra base hits. He made his presence known on Opening Day at Fenway, making an amazing catch, hitting a home run and showing off some daring base running. Safe to say he is a fixture and an untouchable in the Sox outfield for years to come.

Rusney Castillo got off to a slow start after his initial callup, but after Shane Victorino was traded at the dealine, he has taken over right field, and is currently hitting .284 with 5 HRs and 26 RBI. He's recently played left field, and has shown he can adapt to the position quickly. He's signed to a long term deal, so he will be in the Sox outfield for the foreseeable future as well.

The trio has been nicknamed "The BBC Outfield" (nothing to do with the British Broadcasting Company, just the first letter of each last name). The season may have been lost many months ago, but there is real reason to watch the Red Sox these days. I would consider both Betts and Xander Bogaerts as untouchable players, and I think you can add Blake Swihart to that list as well (and perhaps Bradley as well).

Swihart was forced on to the MLB roster as the numerous injuries to the backstops this season, and Swihart has done well handling the staff. He got off to a slow start, but has come on in recent weeks, capped by his game-winning inside-the-park home run at Citi Field in the 10th inning to beat the Mets. He's brought his average up to .289, and it will be interesting to see what the Sox do with their catching situation next year, when Christian Vazquez returns from Tommy John surgery.

So, the nucleus of the next great Red Sox team may very well be in place, and there will, of course, be many changes this winter, mostly on the pitching side. The club needs an ace, and the bullpen needs to be rebuilt. And Dave Dombrowski needs to decide what to do with Hanley Ramirez. (Hopefully he has a new address in 2016.)

Funny how nobody's talking about "three last place finishes in four years" any more. The Sox maybe long out of the 2015 race, but the youngsters are making this an interesting and exciting team to watch as 2015 closes.