Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy 2017 To You All

This is my final post for 2017 and I want to wish all of you a happy and prosperous 2017.

This is just my 60th post for 2016 (and 4,800th overall), as I've scaled back my writing considerably on the blog. I write just occasionally about the Red Sox, and didn't do any weekly Trivia contests in 2016. (I'm still hopeful that one day I'll get back into it again. We'll see.)

It wasn't the best of years for me in 2016, but thankfully I'm in good health, and that is most important.

May 2017 be a successful year for you all. Stay safe tonight, and enjoy the holiday. Do yourself a favor if you are in New York: stay as far away from Times Square as you can. It will be an insane asylum down there.  I'll do what I usually do on New Year's: watch the ball drop at midnight on TV, and watch the Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners, and The Odd Couple marathons (the DVR is all set to roll). There will also be plenty of football to watch both days as well.

Good luck to you all, and be well.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Everyone

I want to wish all of you out there a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a wonderful holiday season.

As I always do every Christmas, here is the WPIX Yule Log (the original one will be broadcast tonight at 11 PM on WPIX Channel 11 here in New York).

Be well, be safe, and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Friday, Saturday, Sunday In Texas"

I don't usually review football books, but I was recently sent a copy of Nick Eatman's "Friday, Saturday, Sunday In Texas". It takes an in-depth look at football in the Lone Star State at three different levels: high school, college and the NFL.

Eatman, who writes for and manages the website, spent the 2015 season with three teams in the state of Texas: the Dallas Cowboys, the Baylor Bears, and Plano Senior High School Wildcats. The book reads like a diary of every weekend of football, starting Fridays with the Wildcats, Saturdays with the Bears, and Sundays with the Cowboys.

The 2014 season had been successful for all three teams, as all three made postseason or bowl appearances.

But 2015 turned out to be down years for all three squads. Plano is a very successful high school program, playing in stadiums on Friday nights that can hold as many as 10,000 people. With Plano, we follow their ups and downs, as well as players making difficult decisions about where they'll be heading once their high school careers come to a close. For Plano, it was a down season, going 4-8 and not making the playoffs. And in the state of Texas, even at the high school level, that is unacceptable.

Baylor had come off an 11-2 season in 2014, and just missed getting into the national championship semifinals. But it was off the field issues that surrounded Baylor as the 2015 season got started, and a sex scandal would cast a pall over it and head coach Art Briles. (It would cost Briles his job in mid-2016 when another sex scandal involving a Baylor player came to light, and Eatman does chronicle that in-depth.)

There's always drama surrounding the Dallas Cowboys, and their controversial loss to Green Bay in the 2014 playoffs opens their story. They would win their first two games before an injury to Tony Romo (doesn't that happen every year?) would lead to quarterback controversies and just about derail their 2015 season, as they finished 4-12.

Eatman weaves all three teams' seasons together, and goes behind the scenes to look at the similarities and differences of winning and losing football in the state of Texas, where the common stereotype is largely true: football is king, and it is a religion.

There are far more lows than highs in the book, and I think Eatman just picked the wrong season to chronicle. (He did point out in the acknowledgments that he originally intended to write the book about the 2014 season, but had to move it back a year because he couldn't find the right publisher for the book.)

I also found a few typos in the book, and a couple of editing errors. That doesn't speak well for HarperCollins, who published the book, but overall "Friday, Saturday, Sunday In Texas" isn't a bad read at all. Texas football is a fascinating subject, but Nick Eatman may regret not having done the book a year earlier.

"Friday, Saturday, Sunday In Texas" was published this past September by HarperCollins Books.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Clay Buchholz Era In Boston Ends

With little fanfare, the Red Sox shipped Clay Buchholz out of town yesterday, and he's headed to the Phillies for minor league second baseman Josh Tobias.

He'll be longed remembered by Red Sox fans for his 2007 no-hitter against the Orioles at Fenway in just his second MLB start. And he was part of two World Series championship teams in 2007 and 2013.

He'll also be remembered for absolutely frustrating the hell out of Red Sox fans. It seems like he was hurt every season, and would go through stretches when it seemed like he was pitching batting practice.

Yesterday's deal was really just a salary dump. The Sox picked up his option for $13.5 million for 2017, and now found themselves with seven starting pitchers. Somebody had to go, and Buchholz was the logical choice. The Phillies will pick up the entire option. Whether Tobias turns out to be anything remains to be seen, as he played at high Single A last season.

We all know Buchholz struggled mightily last season, and banished to the pen in June. Sox fans would have traded him for a used ball bag then. He pitched better in the second half, and even pitched decently in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians.

Steve Buckley in today's Boston Herald points out a mind-blowing fact about Buchholz: He played in Boston longer than such Sox greats as Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez and Fred Lynn.

He certainly won't be remembered as one.

I suspect when most Sox fans think of him years from now, they'll think of a pitcher who should have better than what his final Red Sox stats show: 81-61 and a 3.96 ERA. He was an All-Star in 2010 and 2013, but won just 10 more games three times in nine full seasons.

But we maybe seeing him up close again in 2017, as the Red Sox play the Phillies in a four-game series starting on June 12th.

And with his departure (and the departures of David Ortiz and Junichi Tazawa this winter), Dustin Pedroia is the final player left on the Sox from the infamous 2011 September collapse.

I wish Clay well. Thanks for being a part of two championship teams in Boston.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Characters From The Diamond"

In recent years I have become more and more fascinated by old time baseball. I've read many books from the Deadball Era, which was baseball as it was played before it was revolutionized by Babe Ruth and the home run ball. It is generally assumed that the Deadball Era ended in 1920.

If you like stories from that bygone era, especially from the screwballs who were everywhere in baseball, you may want to pick up "Characters From the Diamond," by Ronald T. Waldo. The author writes about not just the stars of the era like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and John McGraw, but lesser known players who didn't leave a lasting mark on the game, but for their wild and crazy antics they will be remembered.

You couldn't have a book like this without paying homage to the legendary Rube Waddell, the Philadelphia A's and St. Louis Browns hurler who was famous for chasing fire trucks from the mound. He's one of my favorite early 20th century baseball characters, and Mr. Waldo does him justice here.

There's a whole cast of characters you'll get to know and love (and even hate) in the book. From Fred Merkle's infamous boner in 1908, Rube Marquard's success in the early 1910s (and why he wanted his famous winning streak of 1912 to end), to the sad story of infielder Eddie Grant, who enlisted in World War I and was killed in combat.

You'll find plenty to like in Mr. Waldo's book. Baseball attracted a lot of colorful figures in the olden days, and a lot of their hijinx settled around liquor, gambling, women and sheer boredom. And it's not just the players covered in the book, as we hear of stories of umpires, minor leaguers you've never heard of, owners and some fans as well.

You probably have never heard of players like Arthur Evans, Mike Donlin or Ping Bodie. But they come alive in "Characters From the Diamond." They'll never be in the Hall of Fame, but Mr. Waldo has immortalized many of these ballplayers in his book.

"Characters From the Diamond" was released this past March by Rowman & Littlefield Books.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

A Good Day For The Nation Yesterday

Yesterday was a very good day to be a Red Sox fan.

Dave Dombrowski pulled off three major transactions. He traded with the Brewers for reliever Tyler Thornburg, and later in the day signed former Texas 1B/DH Mitch Moreland to a one-year deal. And in-between, he shook the baseball world by trading for one of MLB's best pitchers, Chris Sale.

Rumors were rampant Sale was heading to Washington in a blockbuster deal. But yesterday afternoon, the Sox announced they had acquired the lefty from the White Sox for two of the Red Sox' highly coveted prospects, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. They also received infielder Luis Alexander Basabe and pitcher Victor Diaz.

The Sox also shipped Travis Shaw and two prospects to Milwaukee for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who figures to be used as an eight-inning guy for Craig Kimbrel. Trading Travis Shaw tells me the Red Sox think Pablo Sandoval will be a major contributor at third base next season. He supposedly in good shape, and coming along well from his shoulder surgery, as well as totally untradeable right now, so we'll see about that.

According to my friend and Red Sox devotee Mike Kinosian, the Red Sox have traded 18 prospects over the course of the last 12 months in deals involving such players as Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Aaron Hill, Brad Ziegler and Carson Smith. They have had a deep farm system, and Dombrowski is using it to win right now. As he should.

Fans are woriied about the Sox trading such stud prospects as Moncada and Kopech. Could they end up being superstars? Of course, and it has happened to the Sox in recent years (see Anthony Rizzo). But most prospects don't end up being big time players. Anyone remember the write-ups that Anthony Ranaudo (now playing in Japan), Lars Anderson and Casey Kelly got?

And please keep in mind the Sox did NOT trade Jackie Bradley, who the White Sox really coveted, or any other player from their 2016 MLB roster. And they did not trade Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Jason Groome or Sam Travis. Dombrowski didn't gut the farm system yesterday. He saw needs the Sox had, and went for it. And I'm really glad he did.

Sale is under the Red Sox control for the next three years, the last two being team options worth a total of $26 million. Not bad for one of the MLB's best hurlers. (Considering David Price will make that and $4 million ALONE next season.)

We'll see down the road if anyone traded yesterday becomes one of MLB's elite players. But that will be years from now. The Sox want to win it all in 2017, and should the fans they are dead serious about dominating next year. It was indeed a good day yesterday.