Friday, July 29, 2005

BULLPEN HELP

Here he comes to save the day! At long last, the rumor that has been circulating around the web is corroborated in print: Michael Silverman of the Herald In his Red Sox Notebook announced that the Red Sox have signed Rich Garces, aka El Guapo, and he is working out in Fort Myers. Somehow I doubt El Guapo would truly be working himself into shape, so maybe getting his arm into shape is the best description of the rotund hurler.

Almost two weeks ago I heard a bunch of unsubstantiated reports about El Guapo being back in the fold. Finally, we have proof! Here is my note on Garces from my July 13 blog:

Hey, El Guapo was pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League as a closer this past winter at least until he left early to hit the Girls Gone Wild Portuguese edition in Venezuela on some beach and his family filed a missing person report. Whoops, sorry Hon, forgot to mention that road trip! Track Garces down! Have Theo get one of his uber-front office boys to track him down. We need bullpen help, and it beats what the Yankees are doing: getting Ramiro Mendoza ready to join the bullpen.

* * *

MORE BULLPEN HELP:

Manny Delcarmen, possibly auditioning for the Florida Marlins or San Francisco Giants, is the newest member of the Red Sox bullpen. Likely up with the big club only to showcase his wares to whatever team is stupid enough, I mean willing, to trade a potential number one starting pitcher to the Red Sox, be it A.J. Burnett or Jason Schmidt. If either of these trades happen, it would have to involve a young flamethrower, and I am sure Theo has no intention of including either Jon Lester or Jon Papelbon. Another note about Delcarmen, who hails happens from Hyde Park, MA, and since you could be armless and count the number of local pitchers made good with the Sox in my lifetime, that will certainly keep the spotlight on him.

* * *

RICHARD M.:

Nice play by Trot Nixon in the bottom of the tenth against the Devil Rays in the Sox first extra inning game. Nixon had a choice to go all out and try to catch the ball which was clearly uncatchable, or play the carom off the wall and hold the runner at third with two outs. Nixon proceeded to go with the former and that was the ballgame. Though I have said this on numerous other occasions and do not want to belabor the point or beat a dead horse here, but if that was Manny instead of Trot it would be sports talk radio news all through the weekend.

* * *

OUT, OUT CURSED SPOT:

It was another rough outing for Curt Schilling as he picks up another loss out of the bullpen. Of course, the bullpen had already blown the lead as Mike Timlin, he of the 1.44 ERA and whining about not making the all-star team, came into a game with runners on base and proceeded to let the tying run waltz home. Timlin has had an uncanny knack of letting inherited runners score. As much as Embree was a problem, Timlin is not too far behind in the blame game. The bullpen next year will likely be a veritable home of young guns which could feature Lester, Papelbon, and Delcarmen if he is still around, maybe Cla Meredith, and possibly Craig Hansen. Papelbon and Lester will eventually start (and possibly Hansen as well), but since the organizational philosophy is apparently similar to the 1970s Baltimore Orioles who broke starters in by having them learn to get out of tough spots by pitching in relief, they could be two anchors in the rebuilt bullpen next year.

* * *

CALL IN THE GOON SQUAD:

I just remembered the other day that I hate the Buffalo Sabres and the Montreal Canadians. Also, I still detest all the former Quebec Nordiques, have no love for any franchise that shared a name with a Burger King fish sandwich, and just cannot stand the thought of jerk-boy Eric Lindros.

That is the true appeal of hockey: these players on opposing teams that you do not like, they will get hit eventually if you watch long enough. It may take all game, but someone will smack the guy into the boards or send him sprawling with a sweet hip-check near center ice.

* * *

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

GO JOHNNY GO

Am I the only who thinks Johnny Damon is going to end up as the centerpiece of the blockbuster trading deadline deal? Damon is a free-agent on the wrong side of thirty who is looking to break the bank this off-season with a mega-deal. Considering he is one of the few remaining players who was not brought in by the current ownership and front office team, his position is likely tenuous at best. Where Damon would go and what he would garner in return is subject to debate, but his value is as high as it is ever going to be after his highly productive first half.

Besides, it would give NESN the excuse it needs to dump his darling fiancee and her fashion report from the pre-game show.

* * *

MORE MOVES:


I was really hoping to see the non-Miller boys potentially be packaged and shipped out of town. A package of Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar would certainly free up short-term cash if there was a match. The media keeps throwing them out as rentals in Minnesota in exchange for bullpen help, which would be fine with me. Also, I have no problem including them both in a deal with San Francisco for ace starter Jason Schmidt.

With Mueller out of the way, it opens the door for Kevin Youkilis to step in at third base. Getting rid of Millar frees up first base to be divided between incumbents John Olerud, David Ortiz, and possibly AAA first baseman and former Japanese League player, Robert Petegine. Of course, any chance to obtain a front-line starter like Jason Schmidt should be jumped at by the Red Sox management team. Schmidt has the make-up and stuff to be a number one starter for many more years, and if the Giants are dumb enough to let him go for anything less than top prospects Jon Lester, Jon Papelbon, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia and a starter like Wade Miller or Bronson Arroyo then it is a no-brainer for the Sox to make the move.

* * *

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

Training camp has finally arrived. The newspapers will have daily reports from Foxboro again at long last. The Patriots have one of the deepest, most talented rosters ever assembled in the salary cap era. There are going to be some tough cut-downs this summer, as there are probably sixty-five legitimate NFL players competing for fifty-three spots (plus some rookies and young UFAs that need to get onto the practice squad). How many instances will a team fresh from a Super Bowl have so much depth that their starting cornerbacks could end up on the bench not because of any drop-off in talent, but because the players returning from injury and arriving via trades, free agency and the draft could be talented enough to knock them out of the starting lineup? SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS for the second straight season and for the third time in four years, and they have improved themselves as much or more so than any other team in the league. They have young, intelligent playmakers being added to the mix every year along with talented, high-character veterans to create a mix that is automatically a super Bowl contender before the season even starts.

These are the glory days for the Patriots franchise: glory days I never dreamed would arrive. I thought the Bill Parcells-Drew Bledsoe-Pete Carroll days were the glory days for the franchise. Never did I dare dream that the Patriots would be the standard-bearers, the class and dignity of the league. Not the team of the Chuck Fairbanks, Rod Rust, Irving Fryar, Lisa Olsen, Victor Kiam, Sullivan family debacles seemingly every season. The Patriots are the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburg Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, or Washington Redskins of this decade; they are the team all others are measured against. Someday, I fear, maybe not for two, five, ten or more years, but someday it will end, and we will remember what we had and how we took these teams for granted. Enjoy the Patriots while you can. They are the greatest football team we have, or will ever see in these parts.

* * *

GRATUITOUS HITS:

It is Monday, so that means NESN Sportsdesk features Hazel Mae once again. Why do I mention this? Well, much like on SportsDesk, Hazel Mae brings the eyeballs. Anything to get new readers and bring traffic to the site. Of course, this time I will refrain from mentioning the words nude, naked, or lingerie near the words Hazel Mae. Whoops.

* * *

Sunday, July 24, 2005

DRIP DROP

There I am, lying in bed next to my beautiful wife watching the Red Sox game. Yeah, sounds like paradise, but that is not the point. Top of the ninth, fresh off Joe Crede crushing an outside fastball into the right-centerfield gap off of Curt Schilling, Manny digs in to face Luis Vizcaino who was inexplicably on the mound instead of their closer Dustin Hermanson during a tie game in the top of the ninth.

Kat turns to me and says: Manny is going to hit one out right now.
That would be nice, I respond.

Pitch one: ball inside.
Pitch two: pop-up foul down the third base line. While I try to talk the ball foul, Chicago third baseman Joe Crede overruns the ball and when coming back towards the field of play has the ball hit the center of his glove, rather than the pocket, and it pops out as a harmless foul and E-5. Manny has another life.

Kat turns back to me and says: Definitely now.

Pitch three: Boom. Deep fly to left-centerfield. Manny, Vizcaino, heck everyone knew it as it left his bat. All of a sudden it is six to five Red Stockings over the White Stockings.

It is a pretty funky moment when you have that feeling it is home run time, part of what makes baseball such a treat to follow.

* * *

THE CLOSER IS CLOSER:

Admittedly, Curt Schilling did not have his best stuff out on the mound last night, but he still picked up a win to go with his blown save. In the eighth inning he struggled to get his fastball over 9o MPH. In the ninth inning, he got up to 93 and 94 which helped make his 86 MPH splitter that much more difficult to hit with the increased speed differential. The healthier the heel gets for Schilling, the better he will be at getting his fastball pumped up to the mid-nineties. The sooner he gets consistent in the bullpen, the sooner he can make the move to the starting rotation so he will have time to get stretched out to the seventh and eighth inning in time for October. Yes, I do believe Keith Foulke will be back and will be effective when he returns. Call me crazy, but I really believe the 2004 Keith Foulke will return this season.

* * *

BURLY BUEHRLE:

It was difficult not to believe that with the score 4-1 in favor of the Red-Headed Stepchildren of Chicago and all-star starter Mark Buehrle on the mound that the Red Sox did not stand much of a chance to get back into the game. Buehrle has been twirling his usual gems on the mound all season and, after escaping a jam in the second thanks to yet another case of Trot Nixon making a bonehead decision on the basepaths, it seemed Buehrle was ready to settle down and shut down the Red Sox through the seventh or eighth inning.

A brief interlude: Why is it that when Trot Nixon hesitates on the basepaths, then makes an ill-advised dash to the plate and gets thrown out by a good 10-15 feet there is little to no discourse in the papers; however, let the baserunner be Manny Ramirez, and get ready for a firestorm of insults, character bashing, and general disdain on the airwaves and in the press. Is it because Nixon is a dirt dog, a hustler, a cowboy who never leaves the park with a clean uniform and is then excused for on-field blunders, or is it because everyone jumps on Manny because he has the $160 million bulls-eye squarely planted on him?

Anyway, the Red Sox did a great job of chipping away at lead by getting production from the top of the order in the fifth inning against Buehrle and then taking the lead in the seventh inning as the top of the order keyed another rally. It may not have been one of those games that are looked back on as a turning point, but the Red Sox showed some real grit by not backing down against the best lefty in the AL and not letting him dictate the game and preserve his three run lead.

* * *

GOOD FOR TEDY:

Tedy Bruschi has decided to sit out at least the start of the 2005 football season, and I can only say: Yet another good call by the Captain and defensive play caller. There is no need to rush Bruschi back onto the field this season. Let his body heal; let his mind heal; let him get back to full strength physically and mentally and be ready to play next season. The Patriots have an astonishing sixteen linebackers on their training camp roster. Roman Phifer stands ready to return if the need arises. Chad Brown is a legitimate stud middle linebacker who can step in and make an impact on defense. Monty! is a rising star at middle linebacker in the mold of no other than Bruschi. The Patriots are built so that no one player (except, just maybe, Mr. Brady) is indispensable. They have faced injuries to key players in the past. They will face more injuries to key players in the future, but they are still the best until proven otherwise.

* * *

LANCE:

Zzzzzzzzzz. Testicular cancer. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Snogging Sheryl Crow. Snore. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bike racing. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

* * *

Thursday, July 21, 2005

TWO IN A ROW

A two game winning streak against the mighty Tampa Bay Ducklings, I mean Devil Rays, never used to be a big deal in Boston, but fresh off a disastrous few weeks wedged around the all-star break, the Red Sox are trying to use this mini-streak to build momentum as they head into Chicago to take on the best team in the American League, the Chicago White Sox. The Sox need to take of three of four from the Pale Hose, which is not an easy task considering they face two all-stars, Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland, in the first two games of the series.

The Ducklings, I mean Devil Rays, put up a good fight, taking the first game of the series as they caught the Sox on an emotional low following the A-Rodapalooza at Fenway over the weekend. Rodriguez finally got his act together against Boston as he just destroyed them with a series of clutch hits. The Ducklings, I mean Devil Rays, showed that they are still a few good trades and $25 million away from building a contender. They have some decent young players who could really use seasoning in the minor leagues. Unfortunately, the major league team has so many holes that the roster is full of players better served in AA or AAA.

Another interesting note about the coming series with the White Sox is the disparity of style between the teams. The White Sox have been molded in the image of manager Ozzie Guillen. They run the bases with reckless abandon, they bunt, they hit-and-run, they play close games, and in the end they try to out-hustle and out-think the opposition. I am a huge fan of Ozzie Guillen. He is a stand-up and kick them in the crotch kind of guy who extracts every last drop of enthusiasm, energy, and spirit from his players. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the laid-back BoSox. Content to meander around the bases one at a time and wait for Manny or Big Papi to launch a moon shot, they disdain the sacrifice bunt, the hit-and-run, and almost any thought of the stolen base. However, both Sox, both White and Red, follow one mantra: you only go as far as your pitching takes you. With the only legitimate Big Three in baseball right now (Buehrle, Garland, and Freddy Garcia), the White Sox have enough starting pitching to scare anyone in the playoffs. Where they are vulnerable, like the Red Sox, is in the bullpen. Dustin Hermanson has been a great pickup, but would you want him on the mound to close out a game in the playoffs?

A final note is that the White Sox recently designated Shingo Takatsu for assignment, a set-up man with a funky delivery who, while possessing good stuff, has been unable to consistently get anyone out lately. How these two teams have not decided to merely swap Alan Embree for Takatsu is beyond me. Both teams get quality relievers who for whatever reason are struggling to get outs. Maybe the trade makes too much sense, but I would rather take the chance on the other guy than risk your guy being claimed on waivers by a division rival and have to face him down the stretch.

Even if the Red Sox do not make another move at the trading deadline, the team is still talented enough to win the division with the roster as currently assembled. However, I think that some of the veterans who are showing less value on the field (Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, and Mark Bellhorn) are quickly going to be shown the door regardless of their perceived clubhouse intangibles. In my mind, the Sox are better served with an infield of Kevin Youkilis at third rather than Bill Mueller, the two-headed monster that is Tony Graffanino and Alex Cora at second rather than Mark Bellhorn, and John Olerud, David Ortiz, and whoever at first base rather than Kevin Millar. With Gabe Kapler returning and Adam Hyzdu currently on the roster, I see nothing lost by having them at DH or play left field and let Manny DH while putting Ortiz at first base. David Ortiz is not a slouch at first base, as he has shown during interleague play, and giving some regulars a few starts at DH (why not Varitek rather than sitting out the game instead be the DH during starts by the knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield?) rather than having their bats out of the lineup to give them a day off. Using the DH as a rest stop for starters is a better use of a spot than having Millar and Bellhorn hitting in the lineup each day.

* * *

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, ER, KING

Let me get this straight: The Northwestern University Womens Lacrosse team had some players wearing flip-flops. THAT QUALIFIES AS NEWS?!? WAIT, NO LESS THAN FRONT PAGE NEWS IN CHICAGO?!?

I am so in shock I can barely think straight about this. You know what; I think I will leave the profanity laced tirade to Gallagher on this one.

* * *

YIKES:

A.J. Burnett in a Baltimore uniform is a scary thought. I am hoping that potential deal falls apart.

* * *

SLEEP:

So the Diva in Red Sox pitches pretty well in games that do not immediately follow a night of extended karaoke? Good to see Bronson Arroyo had a good night of sleep and put down the guitar long enough to silence the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. A couple more performances like that game will keep Arroyo in the rotation for the rest of the season and help with his endorsements and, most importantly to him, salary negotiation time.

* * *

JUST DEAL:

So the Alan Embree era ends as T.S. Eliot once wrote: not with a bang but a whimper. That is, unless the Yankees claim him on waivers, which I would rate as a pretty high possibility.

Tony Graffanino, who previously had the claim to fame for worst free agent decision by a player (choosing to play for Kansas City rather than the Red Sox last season), ends up with the Sox just in time to see Alex (do not call me Joey) Cora at second base make a couple of plays in the field reminiscent of 2004 folk hero Pokey Reese. Hopefully, this means that Smellhorn will follow Embree out the door. Thanks for the home runs in the playoffs last season, Smellhorn, but this is 2005, and last year, as Bill Belichick would be quick to point out, has no bearing on this year.

Also, be sure to head down to Pawtucket in August to see Adam Hyzdu, who sadly will be there once Welcome Back Kapler is off the disabled list. Hyzdu is a class act and a true professional who just cannot catch a break for whatever reason. He is the forgotten man every year, the outfielder who could hit 20 homers and hit .280 every year if he ever caught a break. He deserves every cheer and ovation he gets.

* * *

PEE IN THE CUP:

So Manny ducks into the Green Monster to take a leak (he claims), or even if he goes in to cool off in front of an electric fan (as Dan Shaughnessy claims), what is the controversy. Outfielders reserve the right to be disinterested before and during innings. Horrors, he almost was not in position for the opening pitch of an inning. Gosh, that has NEVER happened before (note the sarcasm dripping off those words). Poor Manny, if he made $12 million a year instead of $20 million he would be the most beloved player on the team. Hey, if that counts as the best contrived controversy the knights of the keyboard can come up with, then all I can say is that things must be going alright.

* * *

B-R-U-I-N-S:

Hockey has returned! At your own peril, push your way through the celebratory mobs at North Station. Nice to see that the time off has not dulled the sword of Boston Globe hockey scribe Kevin Paul Dupont, who last was heard from back in the old days when there was such a thing as NHL playoff games calling for Jumbo Joe to be stripped of his ill-deserved captaincy. Dupont proposes trading Joe Thornton before he is a free agent (due to the new collective bargaining agreement) before the 2006 season. In a way it makes a lot of sense, as Thornton has never endeared himself to the Gallery Gods.

Who am I kidding; it is nice to have another underachieving local sports team to keep me from screaming about Doc Rivers not playing the kids enough during the long winter after football and between baseball. Of course, do the Celtics have any veterans left, and is it a bad thing to think that they should trade anyone over 28 on the roster?

* * *

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE:

If I were a Yankees fan, I would be pissed off that with a one run lead in the eighth inning the immortal Wayne Franklin was summoned from the bullpen. Shockingly, he gave up a two-run lead to lose the game. Somehow, a team with a payroll over $200 million can find no one to serve as a set-up man for the best closer in baseball history.

* * *

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

HOUSE OF HORRORS

Like all good Yankees fans, the Yankees bandwagon is leading the rush to print playoff tickets because Al Leiter is the answer to all their prayers. Forget that the Red Sox are in a slump of their own making: the inconsistent starting pitching (Shaky Wakey, Rock Star Bronson, and One Inning Wonder Wade) combined with a highly flammable bullpen (Embree, Halama, et al) and an inconsistent attack (mainly due to Bellhorn and Millar inexplicably written into the lineup daily).

How to fix it? Well, that is the question of the day. For me, I will take joy from the simple phrase of “seventeen to one”. The Yankees are not going to last. The Wanger is hurt; Melky Cabrera is more Jolbert Cabrera than Miguel Cabrera; Robinson Canu is good, but he is no Alfonso Soriano (OK, maybe on defense, but that is not a good thing); Al Leiter is really not the answer, one good showing notwithstanding.

The fact of the matter is that the Red Sox are a lot better than they have played recently, the team has too much talent to continue floundering along at .500 for an extended period of time. Maybe they will not turn around like they did last season after the Nomar trade, but the team is definitely in need of something to shake them up and get them playing consistently.

* * *

HANGING AROUND:

The big, pre-training camp news for the Patriots is that the dynamic duo is to stay intact. Scott Pioli has agreed to a contract extension to stay in New England for the foreseeable future. I really think this is the most important move the front office could make, more so than keeping Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis around. Weis and Crennel had both outgrown their roles in New England: there was no way to keep them. Pioli is Director of Football Operations in everything but title. He is the other side of the Belichick coin. His role is only larger in the front office as Belichick has had to take a more hands-on role in the offense and defense with Weis and Crennel gone. Of course, a more hands-on role with the team could be beneficial, as many coaches lose touch with their players, game plans, other coaches etc. as they hand the reins to assistants and fade away until they are figureheads.

* * *

BEEP-BEEP:

Someone tried to tell me there were car races this weekend in New England. Something called the Busch Series and NASCAR. Nope, I have never heard of them, and do not acknowledge their existence in the Boston Sports realm. They can print the stuff in the Sporting News every week, but they will never make me read it.

* * *

GRATUITOUS HAZEL MAE REFERENCE:

It is amazing how many people find my page looking for Hazel Mae online. She is no doubt attracting a cult following among the unbalanced and deviant viewers of NESN and news media stalkers everywhere in the area. It is amazing to read about how these people become obsessed with these newscasters and sportscasters who visit them each day through their television sets. Hey, whackos, no naked pictures of Hazel Mae here, go get your jollies somewhere else on the web, but first, click on my ads!

* * *

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A DOZEN ROSES

That is what Bronson Arroyo should be sending to manager Terry Francona and celebrity set-up man Curt Schilling, as Schilling removed the goat horns from Arroyo and deflected all the local press away from the fact that Arroyo gave the game away innings before Schilling.

The fact that the Sox got out to a four-nothing lead in the first inning should have signaled that the game was over; however, Arroyo was ineffective to say the least, and along with three home runs, allowed the Yankees to climb back into a game that should have been an easy win. Give credit to Mike Mussina, who, despite not having good stuff, settled down and kept the Yankees in the game and was able to eat up six innings and keep the Sox bats from teeing off on the abysmal group of middle relievers in the Yankees bullpen.

In contrast, Arroyo, who rather than - I do not know, maybe resting, or going over scouting reports, or mentally preparing himself for the game (because, as Curt Schilling repeatedly insists, it is a mentally and physically taxing job to prepare for a start) – instead was out signing autographs, visiting radio stations, and playing concerts before the game. The Diva in Red Sox let his team down by burning through over 100 pitches while allowing a dozen baserunners in less than six innings. A seven inning, two-run stint (not asking too much considering the past few start by Arroyo) would have made just enough difference to keep Schilling in the bullpen and an easy close-out for the Timlin (possibly a non-save situation).

Where was the outrage on the Dennis and Callahan show on WEEI about the Diva in Red Sox letting down his teammates? Where was the outrage from Shaughnessy in the Globe and Buckley in the Herald? I certainly did not hear it.

Yes, Schilling did not look good. Yes it was a tie game. What was the good skipper to do with his bullpen? Mike Myers, Chad Bradford, Alan Embree, and Mike Timlin had already filled their respective roles no thanks to Arroyo being unable to get out of the sixth inning. I do not recall hearing any chants for John Halama Llama. It was Schilling, for two or three innings if necessary because the bullpen was running out of arms.

Schilling lost the game, but the Diva in Red Sox blew the opportunity to win the game.

* * *

YOUKED:

What the? How in the? This is total BS. I read that Tito said he was upset with it and would not even go give Kevin Youkilis the news of his demotion to Pawtucket because he did not want to tell him fro Detroit because he was not comfortable with it. Youkilis should be starting at third base, playing first base against lefties, and be given the chance to play everyday. By the way, great job again last night, Smellhorn. Working deep into the count does no good if you strikeout every single time a hit is needed.

* * *

BRADFORD NOT HE ONLY SIDE-ARMER:

Not enough was made about the play by Manny in left field in the first inning. Robinson Crusoe, I mean, Cano doubled down the left field line and Manny made a pretty cheesy sliding attempt for the ball which he missed by only five feet. The ball took a fortuitous bounce off the side wall back towards Manny which he side-armed to third not unlike a second baseman turning a double play. After he threw it, Manny turned his back to the play and started walking back to his position, totally nonchalant, as if he was knew he had him out and was too cool to watch the play at third.

* * *

WEEKEND:

Red Sox-Yankees series and Harry Potter book six. Oh yeah, that is a good weekend. By the way, a little advice for the idiots at the bookstore on the Cape who had an eight foot Harry Potter wooden painting stolen: DUHH! It was stolen? I am shocked. I am just totally shocked, outraged, and amazed. Crap, if I knew it was there it might be in my kids room right now. Just one call to Gallagher and we would be throwing back the Pabst Blue Ribbons and then loading Harry into the back of the minivan at 2 AM.

Oh yeah, a couple more Harry Potter related grudges to bring up: bring back Sirius Black, Neville Longbottom had better have a major role, and Ron and Hermione should be a couple by the end of the next book. Is that too much to ask for from two books?

* * *

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

SIGN MY BOOBS, BRONSON

Sorry, I did not make it to the Bronson CD signing extravaganza at Newbury Comics yesterday afternoon as I neither stood in line to buy the CD, bought the CD, got a wristband, nor stood in line again to get his autograph on the CD. I did, however, walk by about 15 minutes before he was due to show to see what the crowd would look that was standing in line all afternoon out on Newbury Street.

I expected the 90 percent teenybopper crowd; it was the 10% weird looking 50 year old guys in number sixty-one Sox jerseys that gave me the willies. I hope they were getting the autograph for their daughter, but I somehow doubt it.

* * *

A JOKE:


Yes, another fascinating mid-summer classic is in the books. It was not a tie, so I was happy. Why Bud Selig insists on trying to make the all-star game into something it can never be again is a conundrum. The 1941 all-star game with Ted Williams skipping around the bases after hitting a two-out bottom of the ninth, game-winning, walk-off home run will never be achieved again. Then, the all-star game was a true event. There was no free agency, no inter-league play, no ESPN, sixteen teams total, Chicago and St. Louis were as West Coast as they got back then, and the only time the leagues met were in the World Series and this newfangled all-star game. Baseball would be better served to cancel the all-star game for a few years and then re-introduce it with much fanfare if they want to truly get a buzz around the game. Otherwise, they need to accept that it is still light years better than the NFL Pro Bowl, NBA all-star game, and NHL (when they play) celebrity shootout on ice combined.

1941, I will throw in here, was also the year that Ted Williams hit .406 and led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, walks, home runs, and was fourth in RBIs. Of course, Mr. Coffee himself, Joe DiMaggio, went on to win the MVP because he captured the attention of the nation by hitting .408 over 56 games. Sure he hit in 56 games straight, but unlike Williams he had substantial line-up protection provided by the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, Charlie King Kong Keller. Yeah, keeping that average at that level for 150+ games was no doubt too tough for Mr. Coffee, but not for Teddy Ballgame. Damned sportswriters screwed the Splendid Popsicle that year, but not for the last time, that is for sure.

* * *

EL GUAPO:

Hey, El Guapo was pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League as a closer this past winter at least until he left early to hit the Girls Gone Wild Portuguese edition in Venezuela on some beach and his family filed a missing person report. Whoops, sorry Hon, forgot to mention that road trip! Track Garces down! Have Theo get one of his uber-front office boys to track him down. We need bullpen help, and it beats what the Yankees are doing: getting Ramiro Mendoza ready to join the bullpen.

* * *

ROCK ME AMADEUS:

I got a free Itunes download on my purchase of a slurpee at 7-11. No, I should have downloaded Falco but went instead for the Joe Perry solo song Shakin My Cage. Actually, it was alright. Could have been on Draw the Line or any other late seventies Aerosmith album.

* * *

Monday, July 11, 2005

OH, Os

I told you the Orioles were not finished yet. Despite all the proclamations that Baltimore was finished and could not hang in with the Red Sox, it became apparent this past weekend that the Sox are not going to run away with the A.L. East. Which, in a way, is a good thing, because the excitement of a three (or four, if Toronto gets one more starter) team race for one playoff spot (assuming that the Twins are the front-runner for the wild card) would be delicious. Of course, I do not know that I could handle the stress of watching the Sox battle it out in the last weeks of the season with the accursed Yankees and other A.L. East foes.

* * *

RED SOX GRADES:

Catcher: Jason Varitek/Doug Mirabelli: A-
An A for Varitek, who is finally making the next step up to the best catcher in the A.L. Mirabelli has been a bit inconsistent at the plate this season after being a potent bat for the previous two seasons.

First base: Kevin Millar/John Olerud: D+
Millar has been awful. His OPS (on-base plus slugging average) is almost .150 points below last year. How he continues to get playing time is beyond my comprehension. He is awful in the field as well. At this point, I would rather see Robert Petegine get a chance than keep writing Millar into the lineup. Olerud has done well, but the batting average is starting to level off. At this stage of his career, Olerud is best used as a spot starter and defensive replacement. The Sox need to address this position by either finding another position player and moving Ortiz to first, or prying a decent first baseman away from someone for minimal prospects.

Second base: Mark Bellhorn: C-
Smellhorn just continues along his mediocre way at second. He is just o.k. defensively, and his offense is severely lacking, despite what the Bill James gang says about his ability to draw walks and work pitchers deep into counts. His on-base percentage is low and his slugging average is abysmal. His OPS down over .120 from last season, and that is the main reason the Sox need help at second base. The best answer is Dustin Pedroia down at Pawtucket, who, as long as he continues to hit AAA pitching, should be up by August 1 to take over second base full time.

Shortstop: Edgar Renteria: B
Somehow, the Edgar must go club has been quieted down. Edgar is settling in about where he was expected to be. On-base percentage is equal to last year and slugging is down just a notch. On defense, there have been too many errors, but I think that as he adjusts to new parks, he should be fine. I will Renteria a bit of the benefit of the doubt and expect continued consistency at the plate and on the field.

Third base: Bill Mueller/Kevin Youkilis: C
Mueller has continued the slow decline at third base since his initial season with the Sox in 2003. His OPS went from an excellent .938 in 2003 to .811 last year to .796 so far this season. I like Mueller, he is a gamer, but if there is no power coming from a corner infield position, the player had better be contributing another way. While Youkilis has not been significantly better than Mueller this season, he does offer the potential to improve the position. Why Tito has been reluctant to make the change to Youkilis eludes me. Somehow, I feel this is a case of Tito sticking with the guys who brought him to the promised land last season, and while I admire the loyalty, I think it is time to put 2004 in the rearview mirror and start doing what is best for 2005, 2006, and beyond.

Left field: Manny Ramirez: A
Slump, what slump? Manny should move toward .300 in the second half of the season. The OPS may be down, but the RBIs keep coming (on pace for 150). Manny has improved significantly in the outfield and his baserunning gaffes are few and far between. He may not be worth $20 million a year, but that is what Dan Duquette gave him for a contract. Rather than focus on the money, focus instead on the fact he is one of the three or four best right-handed hitters in baseball right now (Pujols, A-Rod, Manny, Vlad); although, if the contract is to be focused on, remember that compared to Giambi, he is a steal.

Center field: Johnny Damon: A
Yes, he is an idiot. Yes, he has no throwing arm in centerfield. Yes, too many balls drop over his head and on the warning track. Yes, he does not steal enough bases (and that may be by design, so blame the manager). But he has had a heck of a season at the plate. At age 31 in his prime at a position that has no comparable free agent and many teams in need, expect Damon to break the bank this winter; however, I doubt that Theo and Larry and the gang are going to be the ones to give him the mega-contract he has positioned himself to receive. I really thought that the book distraction and self-marketing would be a distraction to him this season, so extra kudos to Damon for being able to put it all aside and go out and put his work in and have a great season.

Right field: Trot Nixon: B
Trot has been, well, Trot. Consistently good has been his calling card and this season is no different. I think the team would be better served keeping him in against left-handed pitching and giving him a shot to hit these guys. One thing this season is he has really cut down on the strikeouts. The Red Sox really missed Nixon last year as Gabe Kapler (why in the name of God would they bring this bozo back? Is my sister-in-law Shannon taking over as GM?) was abysmal in his place. Jay Payton was doing well as his back-up, but Payton could not handle the bench role and has punched his ticket out of town.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz: A+
Big Papi is the DH and most clutch hitter in baseball. He was cheated out of the MVP last season and certainly showed the Anaheim/California/Los Angeles Angels why he, and not Vlad, was the MVP last season. Any questions?

Starting Rotation: B-
Bronson Arroyo: B
Arroyo has started strong, weakened, and then rebounded well. Arroyo should settle in as a very good number four starter. It would be a shame for him to lose his spot in the rotation when Schilling is back as a starter in late August (yes, I believe he really will return to the rotation, no matter how well he does).
Matt Clement: A
Superb. The best free agent signing of the first half of the season. He is a well deserved All-Star, and I would love to see him continue to pitch well and pick up 20 wins.
David Wells: C
Wells has been inconsistent, either being shelled or pitching a gem. He needs more consistency. A big second half by Wells could be the most important lift for the Sox.
Tim Wakefield: B
Wakefield, as usual, has been hot and cold, good and bad, and consistently eating innings. Take away his starts without Mirabelli behind the plate, and his ERA drops to under 3.00.
Wade Miller: C-
Miller has been maddeningly inconsistent, and at the present, seems to be the most likely to lose his spot in the rotation.

Bullpen: D
Keith Foulke: C-
I hope the scope of the knee does the trick, but a month to get off the mound and get mentally set to pitch will probably do more good for Foulke. Expect a return to form for the stretch run. Yes, that would get me booted off WEEI for even suggesting it, but Foulke is a good pitcher who broke down physically. Knees are kind of important for a pitcher, after all.
Alan Embree: D
Where to start? Just when he seemed to be ready to turn it around he went right back to the stink-tank. The fastball is still there. He needs an NBA fake injury to settle down for two weeks and get back on track.
Mike Timlin: B
Not an all-star performance, but he has been consistent.
John Halama: C
He has done a decent job as a spot starter and long reliever; better than the numbers, actually.
Jeremi Gonzalez: B
I think Gonzalez could help this bullpen a lot. He is a decent pitcher who should be groomed to be a set-up man for the big club. In the bullpen, if he could add a few MPH to the fastball, he would be a great set-up man.
Mike Myers: B
Facing lefties only, it is an A. Everyone else, it is a D. Use him right, and he will be effective in his role. Man, I should have been a lefty!
Others: C/Incomplete
Scott Cassidy, Matt Mantei, Anastacio Martinez, Cla Meredith et al. What to say?

Bench: B
Without Jay Payton, the outfield takes a hit, as no one knows how Adam Stern will do at the plate. He is a good fielder, though. Alex Cora should be a significant upgrade over Ramon Vazquez. Youkilis should be starting. Olerud is a good backup at first. Mirabelli should hit more in the second half. All-in-all, some decent depth.

OVERALL: B

If someone had told me in March that Curt Schilling would have one win at the all-star break, and that Keith Foulke would be on the D.L. with a an ERA over 6.00, and yet the team would still be in first place, I would be ecstatic. I am ecstatic. The team has holes, yes, and is inconsistent, but they are still doing well all things considered. I mean, this is not the New England Patriots. With the Patriots, anything less than 14-2 is a disappointment. They are, again, a threat to the 1972 Miami Dolphins. That team is just plain stacked from top-to-bottom at every position.

But the Red Sox are on the right track going into the trading deadline. I would rather Theo keep the prospects and miss out on the playoffs than make a trade that is of benefit to this season only. This team actually has prospects coming to AA and AAA, and it would be a shame to trade them off.

Some players have exceeded expectations, some have met them, and others have disappointed: I guess that is baseball.

The key questions for the Sox are: how will Foulke and Schilling will pitch in the second half when they return? Will Clement keep winning? Can Wells show some consistency and step up? What is up with Wade Miller? Is Alan Embree ever going to get back on track? Will Bronson Arroyo make it impossible to send him to the bullpen? Will the bullpen find any level of consistency?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

JUST WEAR THE DAMN SCARF

That is just a little note for Mrs. Johnny Damon. By the way, Michelle, enjoy Yankee Stadium next summer when Derek Jeter is stabbing your husband in the back in the clubhouse and the fans are clamoring for Bernie Williams. And Johnny, glad to hear you are a pitching coach now. So if you are done with your jealous little anti-Curt rant, pack your bags and get out of town, Johnny.

Skip Bayless has the right idea at ESPN.com: Shut up and let Curt Schilling do what Curt Schilling wants to do. Although he makes some weird comment about Schilling having fake blood on his sock against the Yankees (what, sutures never bleed? Show me a suture on a foot that stays closed after the person walks 20 feet, let alone pitches six innings!), Bayless is right about one thing: Schilling is a short-term fix in the bullpen, he will be starting games soon, and the rest of the team should just shut up.

* * *

2 YEARS OF FRENCH IN HIGH SCHOOL, 2 SEMESTERS IN COLLEGE:

And I still could care less about le Tour de Francais. Is Greg LeMond still racing? Greg Louganis? Sheryl Crow putting her plastic surgery together with Lance Armstrong and his steroid fueled body? Is it an unnatural advantage in racing to have one ball? I know I snagged mine mighty painfully on the huffy more than a few times as a kid, so I wonder if the French can get some kind of injunction against Armstrong. Does anyone know if he got a silicon implant to improve balance? This is just too much to think about regarding a bike race!

* * *

WELCOME BACK, KAPLER:

Please tell me that Adam Stern is staying and that Gabe Kapler is going to be signed to play in AAA. He did NOTHING last year other than provide some muscle and intimidation for bench clearing brawls.

* * *

DUKE DAYS, TAKE TWO:

This is still gnawing in my brain and just will not quit. I mentioned these dysfunctional Duquette teams earlier this week, and when I was chatting about them with Rickles the other night, I realized that Jimy Williams just has not gotten the props he deserves for taking a collection of chumps and moody stars into the playoffs. Check this out:

1998 Red Sox (Wild Card):
Catcher: Scott Hatteberg/Jason Varitek:
Young Tek hit around .250 and was still green. Cross-eyed Hatteberg hit a bit better, but was still young and has never been much of a backstop.
BELOW AVERAGE.

First base: Mo Vaughn:
When not at the Foxy Lady, Big Mo was the original Big Pimping Big Papi in Boston. It was a contract year that is still paying off for Mo.
LEAGUE MVP.

Second base: Mike Benjamin/Mark Lemke:
Lemke hit .187 so I guess it was all about the benjamins. Talk about filling a position with any warm body found for the MLB veteran minimum salary. The less said about Mike Benjamin, the better. I have stomach pain just thinking about Benjamin coming to the plate.
WAY BELOW AVERAGE.

Third base: John Valentin:
The sulking former shortstop hit for some power, but that .247 average was the first sign of the quick decline. The end was fast approaching in his rear-view mirror.
BEING GENEROUS, I WOULD SAY AVERAGE (after all, Oakland had Mike Blowers at third base that year).

Shortstop: Nomar:
Back when he loved us! Before the wrist injury robbed him of his power. Thanks, Beautiful.
ABOVE AVERAGE

Outfield/DH: Troy OLeary, Darren Bragg, Mike Stanley, Darren Lewis, Reggie Jefferson, Damon Buford:
Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth. OLeary almost was passable at the plate, and Stanley did OK when he came over from Toronto, but the rest were horrible, horrible, and horrible. I think the Sox set a record for the most wins in a season without a single outfielder who could play both offense and defense. Buford and Lewis were above average defenders, and OLeary could hit a little. Stanley and Jefferson were adequate for DH, though certainly not an ideal situation. Darren Bragg could neither hit nor field, but, boy oh boy, did he hustle. And we loved him for it, dammit!
WAY BELOW AVERAGE

Assorted Bench Players (emphasis on the A-S-S in assorted): Jim Leyritz, Donnie Sadler, Midre Cummings, Lou Merloni, and Keith Mitchell among others:
Wow, those were some painful memories. Merloni has always and still sucks. He was nothing but a jock-strap carrier for Nomar. The way he mouthed-off about being sent to the minors was pathetic. Donnie Sadler never realized that with his speed he could hit .300 by hitting all ground balls and bunting like a maniac. Mitchell, Leyritz, and Midre Cummings all were past their limited primes (OK, Midre never had a prime past high school).
BELOW AVERAGE

Starting Pitchers: Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield, Bret Saberhagen, and Steve Avery
For Pedro, these were the glory days and though those days are gone forever, this was Pedro at his best.
For Wakefield, this was a bounce-back season as he won seventeen games as a solid number two starter.
This was the final hurrah for Sabes, the last time he lasted a full season. He was a solid three with fifteen wins.
Ten wins, 5.00+ ERA, yeah, and this was his first good season since 1993. Of course, this also qualifies, as sad as this statement truly is, as his last hurrah.
ABOVE AVERAGE

The Fight for the Fifth Starter and assorted Asian Imports:
Americans:
John Wasdin, Derek Lowe, Pete Schourek and Brian Rose:
Yuck, yick, blech, blah! This spot was never filled effectively all season long. They all stunk (caveat for Mr. Lowe, he did pitch well when he was in the bullpen).
Assorted Asian Imports:
Jin Ho Cho and Robinson Checo:
They both cost a ton of money and they both were hideous. They were 0-5 in six starts.
WAY BELOW AVERAGE

Relief Pitchers:
Tom Gordon, Fat Jim Corsi, Dennis Eckersley, Fat Rich Garces, Derek Lowe, John Wasdin and Carlos Reyes.
They were fat (Corsi and Garces), they were old (the Eck), and they were in transition (Wasdin and Lowe). Oh yeah, they also stunk save for Corsi and Flash Gordon. Also, I have no memory of who the heck Carlos Reyes was, when he pitched, how he did, and nor do I care to ever find out. EVER!
Corsi was the set-up, and this was when there was a Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and his 46 saves.
Lefties:
Greg Swindell, Butch Henry, and Ron Mahay.
Stink, stank, stunk. OK, they were not that bad, but none of them were outstanding. They were consistently mediocre.
BELOW AVERAGE

So the 1998 Red Sox had three decent starters, a set-up man and a closer in the pen, and two offensive stars. Other than that, they were woefully below average. How did this team ever win 92 games? Jimy, you get credit for your work this year. I am sorry for everything I ever said bad about you. Damned good job that year just to win the wild card. The post-Mo 1999 squad was even worse, but I do not think I can stomach an examination of that horrible squad right now. Maybe another day.

* * *

Friday, July 08, 2005

VAZQUEZ, VAZQUEZ, VAZQUEZ

When history records the Ramon Vazquez era in Red Sox history, it will be fortunate for Vazquez to get dumped in the Kevin Romine era. Romine spent seven seasons on the I-95 shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston. Not quite as popular as fellow PawSox outfielders of the 80s Reggie Whittemore or Chico Walker, Romine is likely still held in high regard by fans in the hot dog haven known as Pawtucket, RI (seriously, are hot dogs that popular down there? Every restaurant has a sign that says: Yes, we have hot dogs!)

Back to the present, I just learned that Vazquez was traded to Cleveland for fellow disappointing utility infielder Alex Cora. Cora, like Vazquez, struggled to fit in at his new home. After seven years with the Dodgers as a semi-regular, Cora signed a two year deal with the Indians this off-season and has struggled to get on track with the bat. With the glove, there is no question that this is what his true strength is, as he is above average with the occasional spectacular play and one of the best at turning the double play.

* * *

BULLPEN ISSUES:

Curt Schilling in the bullpen? The man, the myth, the legend continues.

Personally, I think this decision makes a lot more sense the more I think about it. First off, I am totally against trading for a closer as it would cost the Red Sox one or more of their premier prospects in the minors. There is no way the Sox could pry Chad Cordero from the Washington Generals or Nationals or Expos or whatever they go by nowadays, so there is no way they would get equal value back for Jon Papelbon, Hanley Ramirez, Jon Lester, or Dustin Pedroia.

Second, there is bullpen help in the minors as we are finally beginning to see. Papelbon could join the club by August to help out in the pen, as could local star Manny Delcarmen who was just promoted to Pawtucket. Cla Meredith is still struggling in Pawtucket, so there is no need to rush him, but Jeremi Gonzalez is back up and looked good in limited action this week, Lenny DiNardo is up to help in the middle innings, and now the team has added another reliever from Pawtucket, former Toronto Blue Jay Scott Cassidy.

Finally, the Sox really do not have a starter to move to closer. Sure, Bronson Arroyo has been mentioned numerous times, but right now he is the defacto number two starter and, other than Matt Clement, the most consistent starter. Wakefield and closing do not mix. Nor do I think Wells, with his deal contingent on number of starts for bonus money, is likely to end up in the pen. Wade Miller has had arm problems, so having him warming up, cooling down, or warming up in a hurry does not seem prudent. Clement is the number one starter, so he is out. Arroyo, although he has experience in the pen and pitched fairly well in the playoffs, is not the type of closer I would like at the end of the game. Like Wakefield with the knuckler, if Arroyo does not have a good curve, he is useless out on the mound. As a starter, he can take a few innings to find that curve. As a reliever, it is game over.

* * *

FREE AGENCY:

Who are the Celtics talking to? The signing days begin officially on July 22. All I have heard is New Jersey free agent backup power forward Brian Scalabrine has reportedly been the main target of Danny Ainge. Great, another great white hope to fill in garbage time. The good news if Scalabrine comes to Boston? No room at the inn for Antoine! HA-HA-HA-HAH! To the purgatory that is called Utah for you, Antoine!

* * *

HERALDING THE END:

June 30 marked the final day at the Boston Herald for two very good sportswriters: Kevin Mannix aka the Professor who graded out Bill Belichick as a C every game (must be a heck of grudge there), and George Kimball who is an excellent boxing writer. Also gone is Michael Gee, made famous for being outed as the writer who could not wait for the Sox game to end. Layoffs for the Herald are not a pretty thing, and the Globe needs all the competition they can get (since they cannot seem to deliver my paper to me before I leave for work anymore!).

* * *

KRAFTY:


I found this hilarious. After Putin seconded with the Super Bowl ring shown to him by Bob Kraft, a couple of fans put up a site to buy Krafty a new ring: http://www.replacebobsring.com/. Ever the gentleman and good PR man, Kraft requested the money raised be donated to charity.

* * *

YANKEES RULE, NO, THEY STINK, NO, THEY RULE:

Is there any team more up and down than New York? They just won four in a row, so that means they should be on target to get swept this weekend. Here is something I dug out from a previous blog about the Sox and Yankees who were both floundering at the time. From my blog on May 28 (My new notes in ALL CAPS):

The questions remaining for the Yankees, however, include;

1. Is this the best that you can expect out of Randy Johnson? APPARENTLY, YES. HE REMAINS CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT.

2. Will Kevin Brown and Chieng Ming Wang continue to pitch as effectively as they have against the bottom-feeders in the A.L. West? BROWN, NO. THE WANGER, YES.

and

3. Will the inconsistent offense continue to keep piling on runs? AGAINST BAD PITCHING, YES. OTHERWISE, NO (WHICH EXPLAINS WHY THEY ARE SO STREAKY).

The Red Sox have their own series of questions to answer over the next few series, which include:

1. Will Kevin Millar, like last season, start hitting now that he has some competition for playing time?
APPARENTLY, HE NEEDS CONSTANT COMPETITION TO RAISE HIS LEVEL OF PLAY.

2. Will the really Manny Ramirez and Edgar Renteria please stand up? YES, AND YES.

3. How long until Wade Miller and David Wells settle into that groove that starting pitchers get into? IT APPEARS THEY ARE BOTH CLOSE.

and

4. When will Francona bench Bellhorn, play Mueller at second base, and put Youkilis at third base where he belongs everyday? I AM STILL WAITING ON THIS ONE, TITO!!!

* * *

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

DAYS OF THE DUKE

Chad Finn, a sportswriter for a NH paper, has a great blog on blogspot called Touching All the Bases, and he recently pontificated on the fact that Dan Duquette blew an opportunity to sign Mark Teixeira out of high school (referencing a 2001 article on ESPN.com by Peter Gammons). Certainly, baseball is littered with mistakes such as these, and as much as Duquette ran the Sox minor league system into the ground (what was with all those Korean and Japanese pitchers who could not get anyone out being paid $3 million a year?), not signing a ninth round pick is hardly reason to rip into him when there are so many other reasons to spew venom at the Duke. Duquette, however, for all his faults really just wanted to win the world series here in Boston more than anything else; it is hard to hold it against him as he was clearly passionate in that regard (though his people skills could best be described as somewhere between non-existent and cold fish).

* * *

What is really sad, though, is thinking back to the 1998 through 2002 Red Sox teams and all the Carl Everett, Nomar, Mo Vaughn, Dan Duquette, Joe Kerrigan, John Harrington bologna that went on in those days and wonder how Red Sox fans put up all that crap without throwing their collective hands up in frustration and leaving Fenway en masse. In fact, Izzy Alcantara is a name I hope to never have to be reminded of ever again. Just as a reminder of how far the Sox have come even with Smellhorn at second base: Jose Offerman and Jeff Frye; the pride of the Irish, Troy O’Leary, in left field; Brian Daubach at first base; Darren Lewis in centerfield; Ed Sprague brought in to play third base; Ramon, the older brother, Martinez in the rotation along with Pete Shourek, David Cone, and other retreads. I realized when I was thinking about those teams that I had blocked most of this crap out after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. That is why I will argue until I am blue in the face that the Patriots first Super Bowl was a bigger deal than the Sox winning the World Series: it was readily believed that no Boston team would ever win a championship ever again. The Patriots gave the Sox hope again. Now that is a book I would like to see: How Bill Belichick Saved New England Sports.

* * *

HOW PRESCIENT:

From the above referenced Peter Gammons article from 2001: John Boles now thinks Derrek Lee can be a Gold Glove, 30-40 homer, 110-120 RBI first baseman. The RBI ability, says Boles, usually doesn't come until the fourth or fifth year. All I can say is that I am sure glad I was not the GM responsible for the trade of Lee for Hee Seop Choi. That, and I want John Boles in my front office (so I guess that means good times ahead for Seattle).

* * *

GOOD OLD WILT:

No, not Wilt the Stilt, but former Red Sox third base prospect Wilton Veras. Where is this future star today? Here is what I have found about him: After being cut by Milwaukee (well, their AAA team) after the 2003 season, Veras went on to play in the Northeast (Can-Am) League for the New Jersey Jackals in 2004 (which means I could have seen him at a Brockton Rox game last year), and then in 2005 he joined the Macoto Cobras in the Taiwanese Professional Baseball league where he toils today.

* * *

MORE PROSPECTS:

Speaking of former Sox third base prospects, Tony Blanco, once rated the number two prospect in the entire organization, is quietly plugging along for the Washington Nationals. Originally traded to the Reds for Todd Walker before the 2003 season, Blanco was taken by former Reds GM Jim Bowden with the Nationals this year in the Rule 5 draft. Blanco is not setting the world on fire, but he is holding his own as he is basically sticking to the roster so the Nationals do not have to return him to the Reds. Like most Rule 5 pick-ups (see Lenny DiNardo last year), the team will stash them on the major league roster for a season and then return them to the minor leagues the next season so they can develop. Blanco is still young and raw, but Washington may have a good player on their hands for the future.

* * *

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

FIREWORKS

So we took the kiddos to the Paw Sox Monday night for the madness which was the Curt Schilling Extravaganza. Madness, total and complete madness is the only way to describe what went on there since there were thousands of people who had tickets and no seats. How the fire marshals did not close down the venue is beyond me. Seeing a game in Pawtucket at McCoy Stadium has been a joy 99.99% of the time; however, when it crams 11,000 plus yahoos into a 9,000 person stadium, well, it kind of sucks. They simply do not have the infrastructure in place for that kind of crowd.

We arrived over an hour before game time and was stuck parking at the back of the Quebecor World plant almost a mile from the stadium. Then, the entire grandstand was already filled to capacity and we had to fight our way to the berm to watch the game. Fortunately, thanks to some subtle intimidation of some yahoo trying to cordon off half of the area by Kathy, we found ourselves in the front of the berm, akin to having front row bleacher seats.

As far as Schilling, well, he too kind of sucked. He got hit hard, even a lot of the outs were hit hard: it was not surprising at all to hear Schilling intimate that even he thought he needed another start in AAA. His fastball was inconsistent, as was his location as he left a few pitches up in the zone down the middle of the plate.

Further messing up the day at Pawtucket was the cancellation of the fireworks (as much a reason to attend as to see Schilling) which sent us off into an odyssey into the night to find parking near the fireworks (which is a whole other story). But the kids had fun, and in the end, that is all that matters.

* * *

SOX LOST WEEKEND:

The Blue Jays again beat the stuffing out of the Sox, and for good measure the Rangers smacked around Keith Foulke Monday night. All-in-all, that is not the way to assuage the masses of panicking fans and talk radio nitwits.

I caught bits and pieces of the games over the weekend, but I can tell you that the Sox seemed to be slipping into their previous inconsistent funk. The 15-2 game can be written off as the occasional clunker. The Sox coming back to win after the bizarre David Wells ejection was good to see, but they totally missed an opportunity to win the series and gain on Baltimore the next game. Roy Halliday had a shaky first inning and was vulnerable, but the Sox let him off the hook after scoring a run and never threatened again the rest of the day. Halliday is like Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens, when he is vulnerable early, you must strike quickly and decisively or else you will be lucky to get another opportunity. Of course, when they did load the bases in the sixth, they failed to plate a single run. Once a pitcher like Halliday is in a groove, they will not be beaten.

I made the cardinal sin of shutting off the Texas game with the Sox up by two thinking that the bullpen would be able to nail it down. Silly me.

* * *

STUFF THE BALLOT BOXES:

Be sure to visit MLB.com to vote for the final all-star spot in the AL and NL. And please, do us all a favor and vote for someone deserving like Scott Podesnik of the White Sox or Carl Crawford of the Devil Rays rather than bringing that smirking jerk Derek Jeter to another underserved all-star game or for that matter, Hideki the Human Bobblehead Matsui, who at least is somewhat deserving having carried the Yankees all spring. For the love of God, help leave that bozo Jeter at home for once.

* * *

TRAINING CAMP COUNTDOWN:

Two weeks until training camp kicks off for the Patriots. With all the attention on Richard Seymour and to a much lesser extent Rodney Harrison wanting their contracts redone, the Patriots still have a number of players with one-year deals who will be playing for a new contract.

On top of that list is the Franchise tagged Adam Vinatieri who is eligible to rework that one-year deal after July 15th for salary cap reasons. Vinatieri is someone who the front office will be looking to lock up long-term and does not figure to be an easy signing. Also, the Patriots have four restricted free agents remaining on one year tender offers: wide receiver David Givens, defensive end Jarvis Green, offensive tackle Tom Ashworth and offensive guard Stephen Neal. All four of the restricted free agents are integral members of team who are not likely to sign for cheap with unrestricted free agency on the horizon next season.

Givens has already, through his agent, made it clear that he is looking for a big contract. Like David Patten, I suspect that Givens will find his big money in the off-season with another team. Jarvis Green would be a starter on any other team, and may take the road of a former Patriot defensive lineman who made it big as a starter with a new team, Greg Spires. Spires, like Green, was a pass rushing machine who never was able to crack the starting lineup with the Pats. Spires finally got to start after leaving New England, and then got a big money deal from Tampa Bay where he has been a pro bowl caliber performer since getting his shot as a full-timer.

Ashworth and Neal are both key cogs on the offensive line, and both are likely to be kept around if only because the Patriots line is so unheralded that the Patriots should be able to pay them enough to stay without breaking the bank. With two linemen drafted this year in the first three rounds, the Patriots have extra ammunition come negotiating time as they should be able to give both linemen take-it-or-leave-it proposals.

* * *

WHO THE HECK IS SCOTT SAUERBECK:

Last week, local lightning rod Lawrence Eagle Tribune sportswriter John Tomase (Of the Manny and his attitude sucks fame) had a lengthy article about Indians reliever Scott Sauerbeck who pitched ineffectively for the Sox in 2003 as the lefty specialist in the bullpen. Sauerbeck had issues with the Sox trainer and blames him for his shoulder problems even though it would be an issue for the team doctor, not the trainer. I could not find the link as I believe the Lawrence paper does not keep the articles up for long, but it was very interesting to read. Obviously, Sauerbeck has no love for the organization at all.

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DRAFT DAZE:

Finally, at long last, it is time to get to the Celtics powerhouse draft last week. The question that only time can answer is whether Gerald Green is the next Tracy McGrady or the next Jerome Moiso (young, unproven and athletic ballers with tons of natural ability). However, considering the hype about Green before the draft (major features in USA Today and the Boston Globe), he came across as a fairly grounded young man with loads of basketball ability that could translate into superstardom in the NBA. Obviously, Danny Ainge knew that there was no way he could pass on Green when he fell into his lap. Personally, I hope he is able to spend a couple of years growing into the league (you can bet that Ainge and Doc Rivers will not push him too hard in his first season) before (hopefully) replacing Paul Pierce as the number scoring option/superstar.

With someone else in the league showing interest in Antoine Walker (come on Houston, sign him before Ainge is tempted to resign him again!), second round pick Ryan Gomes from Providence College could very easily slip into the back of the rotation and fight for minutes at both forward positions. Able to mix the inside and outside game like everyone wished Antoine could do, Gomes could take the role that Walter McCarty filled and actually make it a viable role as McCarty seemed to only stand around and take open threes when what was really needed was an inside-outside scorer off the bench. As Ainge said, the big surprise was finding Gomes at number fifty in the draft.

I will admit that I know nothing about Orien Greene, other than he was a point guard taken in the second round. With the Celtics expected to go after a free agent point guard (and another big man) with the $5 million exception available to them, I think Greene has to be slotted to the developmental league. Taking a point guard also underscores the need at point guard for the Celtics as Delonte West is really a 2 guard and Marcus Banks still has a lot to prove. I, however, was hoping for Jarrett Jack to drop into the second round for the Celtics to nab, or to have them trade up and nab him. I see him as the Jamaal Tinsley of this draft: all he does is pass the ball and make everyone else around him better.

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