July 31, 2005

No Deals Today

Red Sox PR Dept. tells NESN no deals were made today.

G104: Red Sox 4, Twins 3

Standing ovation as Manny Ramirez is announced as a pinch-hitter. Bottom of the eighth, tie game, two outs, runners on first and second. ... Manny singles to center on an 1-2 pitch to give the Sox the eventual game-winning run.

Afterwards on NESN: "Forget about the trade, man! This is the place I wanna be!"

Manny being Manny? That's what we want.

Updated:
Entering the game 54 minutes after the 4 p.m. deadline passed for trades without waivers, Ramirez bounced a chopper up the middle to score Edgar Renteria and give the Red Sox their fifth consecutive victory. After Renteria crossed the plate, Ramirez took off his batting helmet and pointed both hands at the crowd in a double-barreled salute.

"That's hard not to get chills when that stuff is happening," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That's about as electric as you'll see it."

Manny: "I'm Here To Win. I'm A Gangster"

Quotes from the AP:
I want to be with this team and win another World Series. ... I'm just here to play and win. I'm a gangster. I'm still here. I'm here to win. I'm here to help this team win for 2005. ... It's good I'm getting the day off, but I'm here. If they need me, I'll play.
From the story: "In a bizarre scene -- even for the ever-tumultuous Red Sox clubhouse -- clubhouse clown Kevin Millar led Ramirez into manager Terry Francona's office before the game against Minnesota and said Manny had decided to talk. While Millar mock-translated from Ramirez's easily understood English into gibberish, Ramirez said he had no problem with Francona, his teammates or the fans."

From Idiots to Gangsters?

More Manny As The Clock Ticks Down

Manny Ramirez was at Fenway Park as usual yesterday and was batting #4 on Terry Francona's original lineup card. Francona says that, closer to game time, he went to Manny and told him he thought it would be best if Ramirez took another day off.
I visited with him and told him it was not just in his best interests, but in the ballclub's best interests that he sit and clear his head, take a few deep breaths, and he agreed. ... He's got some things flying around. I've got an obligation to everyone in the ballclub to communicate, set things straight, and in some situations reassure people.
We are always told about Manny's great ability to block out all outside stuff, to focus on the game, on his current at-bat. What about all those stupid comments -- "Manny doesn't even know what team he's playing" or (before the 2004 season) "Manny probably doesn't even know about the possible A-Rod trade". Now, suddenly, he's hyper-sensitive and needs three days off (he won't play today either, according to Tito). It makes no sense.

According to the Providence Journal, "Ramirez told manager Terry Francona 30 minutes before gametime that he wasn't going to play, only to return 20 minutes later with a change of heart, offering to once again be put in the lineup. By then, however, the Red Sox manager wasn't about to accommodate him ..."

Ramirez was announced as being in the lineup over the PA, but "when the Sox took the field Millar went out to left, deepening the Manny mystery. Fans were stunned and went mute." ... After the game, Ramirez joined the team on the field for congratulations, and waved to the crowd on his way back to the dugout.

On the trade front, the consensus is that Manny will stay -- Jayson Stark reports that any deal is "99.9 percent dead" -- but who knows? We got a pretty big shock around the end of last year's deadline.

Michael Silverman has some interesting gossip in the Herald. Quoting "a source close to Ramirez, authorized to speak for the slugger", Silverman writes:
They [Manny and Francona] don't talk, they haven't spoken since the first day Ramirez came. He's had it for Manny for a while. The friction's been there for a while. Manny's not his kind of player - Francona has one way of thinking and there's one type of player he wants on his team and that's not Manny. ... I think he can get through this, but he has to be allowed to play in his kind of atmosphere. You can't make him be someone he's not. He believes the clubhouse is not what it was last year. It's not fun. Pedro was Pedro, Manny was Manny, Millar was Millar. This year, you have players trying to be GMs.
The source also said that before the game last Wednesday against Tampa's Seth McClung,
David Ortiz said aloud to Schilling, 'Man, that guy's got some nasty stuff,' to which Schilling supposedly responded, 'Yeah, that's why Manny took the day off.' Ramirez then supposedly said to Schilling, 'Screw you, I can hit anyone in baseball, including your ass.' ... Ramirez went up to Schilling and, before the confrontation escalated, Ortiz had to separate the two.
When Francona was asked about the incident, he did not deny it:
I don't have anything to say about that. ... If a player has something to say about somebody and they handle it and they get to the point where it gets a little loud, if that player runs to you, that sort of takes away some of the reality of it. Those things happen all the time with teams.
In a pay column in the Herald, Steve Buckley writes:
Now before we commence with our obligatory beating of Manny, let's stop the presses for a moment and put it out there that the Red Sox are not entirely blameless in this mess. If you begin with the premise that it was the Red Sox who leaked the Manny-wants-out story, with CEO Larry Lucchino conveniently popping up on the morning-drive airwaves to confirm the team's own whispers, then is it remotely possible that Ramirez had a reason to dredge up his ever-aching hamstrings and take to his sick bed?
The Red Sox traded for outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., sending two minor leaguers -- infielder Kenny Perez and right-hander pitcher Kyle Bono -- to Arizona. ... Matt Clement threw 30 pitches in the bullpen yesterday and then asked Francona if he could start in his normal spot on Tuesday. Francona said no. "I felt great, I felt normal. But I don't have a lot of say about how I'm going to be used. ... I think Thursday is what I'm looking at."

Top prospect Jon Papelbon makes his major league debut this afternoon, opposite Brad Radke at 2:00.

G103: Red Sox 6, Twins 2

Just when I'm starting to warm up to David Wells (who posted a nice 7-7-2-0-3 line last night and retired 13 batters at one point), actually looking forward to his starts, he has to go and remind me what an annoying blowhard he is. Bottoms up, Orson!

Wells after the game:
I didn't know until we hit in the bottom of the inning and there's no Manny. The guy's messing with my cake. I want to try to get a ring, man. If he's not out there, that creates a problem. And I don't know the situation. Whatever it is, he better have a great excuse because we need Manny Ramirez in the lineup. I don't care what's going on. This team needs him.

If he's going to come out and say he needs another day off, that's not going to sit well with a lot of guys. There's no question. ... It's selfish for him not to step up. Listen, we've got a couple guys hurt. We need you in there. His impact in that is tremendous. The [opposing] pitchers are going, 'Oh boy. What do we throw this guy?' He's hitting everything. For Manny not to step up, I think that was selfish on his part. ... He's a great guy. I mean the guys like him, very fun in the clubhouse. I think the world of him. But what he's doing is starting to reflect on these guys and he's going to get a lot of negative feedback if he continues to do what he's doing.
So, David, you admit right off the bat that you "don't know the situation". So why do you have to keep running your big mouth? And this comes only a few days after Francona apologized to Lou Piniella for Wells's comments about the Rays manager. Plus, Tito told Wells through the media to cut the crap. ... By the way, you are in the dugout, where the lineup card is, waiting to take the field; presumably, you look at your fielders from the mound; how don't you know that Manny is not in left field in the top of the first?

I was hoping to see Manny Delcarmen in the ninth inning of one of the last two games. On Friday, Boston led 8-3, and last night the Sox were up 6-2. Why not let the kid debut at home with a decent lead rather than trotting out Myers, Schilling and Bradford yet again?

Gammons

Peter Gammons will be awarded the J.G. Taylor Spink Award at the Hall of Fame today for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing".

Dan Shaughnessy:
Gammons has done more to influence the way major league baseball is covered than any columnist or beat guy of the last half-century. ... [He] changed everything about baseball coverage and his innovations and style spawned a legion of like-minded writers who bring you the game stories and notes today.
ESPN has put up Gammons's game story that ran in the Globe the day after Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, which Shaughnessy claims that Gammons banged out in 15 minutes. It begins:
And all of a sudden the ball was there, like the Mystic River Bridge, suspended out in the black of morning.
That sentence will give me chills every time I read it for the rest of my life.

A few days after the Sox lost Game 7 to the Reds, Gammons wrote:
We have postponed autumn long enough now. There are storm windows to put in, wood to chop for the whistling months ahead. The floorboards are getting awfully cold in the morning, the cider sweet. Where Lynn dove and El Tiante stood will be frozen soon, and while it is now 43 years for Thomas A. Yawkey and 57 for New England, the fugue that was the 1975 baseball season will play in our heads until next we meet at the Fens again.
An old SoSH thread discusses his impact and continued relevance.

Considering his influence and body of work over the decades, and his move from print to TV and the internet, you could make a case for Gammons as one the most important (and influential) writers in the history of the sport.

His Sunday Notes could be his biggest legacy. When he was doing the Notes -- an entire page of the Globe, information, stats, rumors, quotes, oddball stuff from all over the major leagues, in small print -- there was absolutely nothing like it anywhere. The information he provided simply would be unavailable otherwise.

As a kid, I remember having to wait until Wednesday morning to see a west coast box score from Monday night. The Sox game would be too late for Tuesday's east coast papers. Now we can visit newspapers all over the country (and world) every morning and read hundreds of baseball writers and columnists (and bloggers). We can watch any one of up to 15 games a day on EI and highlights of all the games on ESPN.

That was a fantasy for most of Gammons's career. Actually, it probably wasn't even a fantasy. Who could have dreamed that was possible back in 1978? It's really hard to overstate the impact he, and his Notes, had. ... Congratulations to Old Hickory!

July 30, 2005

Ramirez Pulled From Lineup

Manny Ramirez was pulled out of the Red Sox lineup tonight only a few minutes before the game was about to begin.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

Mets Would Absorb Manny's Contract, But Sox Refuse To Send Hanley To Rays

The Daily News reports the Manny deal is alive -- barely. But it will quickly die if Tampa Bay keeps insisting on getting Hanley Ramirez from the Sox.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon signed off today on absorbing the entire $64 million remaining on Manny Ramirez's contract, the Daily News has learned, an absolute condition on the part of the Red Sox, who would have received Mike Cameron, Aaron Heilman and former first-round draft pick Lastings Milledge from the Mets, and Aubrey Huff from the Devil Rays. ...

"This thing can get done if Chuck [Lamar] stops overreaching," said one official familiar with the negotiations. ...

The initial driving force behind the spirited discussions had been Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, who had been incensed by Manny Ramirez's recent behavior ... Lucchino's willingness to part with Ramirez ... had created a division within the Sox hierarchy. GM Theo Epstein and other front-office personnel were against trading Ramirez, realizing that would be the start of a need to retool the entire team.

Cooler heads seemed to prevail in Boston late Friday, signaling Ramirez would stay in Boston, then talks reheated today.
No way the Sox lose Hanley, but I believe the Sox would like to move Manny before he becomes a 10/5 man. That is likely more important to the front office than Manny's "antics". ... And if the only stumbling block is that Tampa is demanding Boston's top prospect -- and I'm not sure that it is -- I think this deal will happen in some form.

Also, the story has some funny stuff from Pedro, who told the paper that "Ramirez's wife Juliana has been uncomfortable in Boston and a driving force behind his dissatisfaction there." ... I haven't seen that reported anywhere else.

David Ortiz Speaks

Hey Manny Booers: If David Ortiz decides to leave Boston when his contract is up after the 2007 season, remember that you helped shove him out the door.
I don't think what our fans did today to Manny was fair at all. He didn't say nothing [about the booing], but it bothers you. Especially, this guy, man, he was here way before I got here and way before a lot of players got here. The guy leaves his heart and soul out there every day for our fans to be treating him bad like that. I don't care what kind of rumor we have out there. I don't care what people are saying. You've got to see everything from every single point, and the guy, he has done the job here. ...

We're here to represent this city, this ballclub, and if Manny's out of here, it's going to be hard on everybody. Simple as that. Manny's one of the best hitters in the game. How do you replace a guy like that? ... Let me tell you, he's a human being just like everyone else. You know what I mean? I'm telling you, he's got feelings, like everyone. I haven't seen the first player ever that in his hometown gets booed and it doesn't bother him at all. I haven't seen the first one. You tell me one.

In The Papers

Sean McAdam reports that Ramirez's antics have caused "increasing frustration in the clubhouse ... "Ramirez's insistence that he be given a day off Wednesday as promised, sources indicate, infuriated some teammates and resulted in an angry confrontation between Curt Schilling and Ramirez. Schilling got into a heated argument with Ramirez and David Ortiz had to step in and separate them."

Gordon Edes on the Sox-Mets-Rays deal: "One Sox source said the club had spoken with 20 teams yesterday, and several had inquired about Ramirez. But the Mets seemed most intent on acquiring him. ... Another significant factor in trading Ramirez now is the fact that after this season, Ramirez earns the right to veto any deal as a player with 10-5 rights, having played 10 years in the big leagues and at least five consecutive years with one team. ... But one source with direct knowledge of Ramirez's trade demand said the player also had some issues with people in the organization, and did not deny that manager Terry Francona was one of them."

Terry Francona: "I don't think I was as [rattled] as Red Sox Nation. Sometimes, these things happen. You move on. ... There's an occasional bump in the road, and you deal with it the best you can. ... Is it always 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood?' No, it's got grownups playing. You know, every once in a while you have to get a little agitated. Everybody has that right. It's not the end of the world."

Edes also quotes Pedro: "I don't know if there's going to be a trade or not. But I'll take Manny any time. I think he would be a great fit here. ... There has to be something serious going on up there for Manny to make this public." (But Manny did not make any of this public.)

Jayson Stark says the deal "is still alive and still being discussed" now that the Mets are willing to consider sending prospect Lastings Milledge to Boston. Stark also mentioned that Hanley Ramirez has been mentioned. ... Also, the Sox are insisting they will not pay any of Manny's contract. ... The Daily News mentions Braden Looper also going to the Sox and Milledge going to Tampa. ... According to Newsday, one executive involved in the talks estimated that the trade has a "20 percent" chance of happening.

Some think Manny should come home to Cleveland, but the Indians say they have not inquired.

Jeremi Gonzalez or Lenny DiNardo might start on Sunday. Or possible Jon Papelbon, who is scheduled to start for Pawtucket on Sunday. However, Papelbon is not on the 40-man roster. ... Gabe Kapler will rejoin the Sox today. In six games with Pawtucket, he hit .700 (14-for-20) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, six RBIs, and seven runs. ... Keith Foulke long-tossed at 120 feet yesterday and is hoping for a late-August return. ... John Olerud's grand slam was the team's 10th this season, breaking the previous mark of nine set in 1941, 1950, 1987, and 2001.

Wade Miller says the shoulder stiffness is normal and nothing serious. "The other injury was in the back [of the shoulder]. The stiffness is pretty much in the front. ... This year hasn't been really painful. I've just been going through a little bit of aches here and there."

Millar: "Welcome to Sox Nation. I saw Pedro Martinez get booed off the mound in 2003. I was like, 'Man if they're booing Pedro, I'm in trouble.' Sure enough, down the road, I've been in trouble. ... One little thing gets blown up and you're in a no-win situation as a player because we don't have the power of the pen. The bottom line is that Manny Ramirez had a day off on Wednesday is OK. I took a day off in Chicago and it wasn't front page. But Manny Ramirez has a day off and we play in Tampa Bay."

Differing accounts of the boos:
Ron Chimelis: "Ramirez was roundly booed in pregame introductions and with each at-bat. Only in the eighth, when he walked to load the bases for Olerud, did the fans come to his support."

Howard Bryant: "... booed three times last night, during introductions, at the plate, and in the seventh, when he muffed Lew Ford's ball for a double."

Lenny Megliola: "[A]t 6:56 p.m., Carl Beane, announcing the starting lineups, got to Manny's name. The fans booed ... But if that was the loudest Manny's been booed here, the record only lasted until 7:19. That's when he came up for the first time. ... By his second time up ... it was like Wednesday in Tampa had never happened, the cheering so out-decibeled the boos. In fact, was anyone booing this time? ... By the eighth inning ... up came Manny, two on, no outs, the fans yelling his name, totally on his side now."

Kevin McNamara: "... Sox fans who roundly booed Ramirez during pregame player introductions and sent mixed reactions his way when he stepped to the plate every time he came to bat."

Kelsie Smith: "[T]he Fenway crowd appeared split with boos and cheers at the sound of Ramirez's name ... Boos accompanied Ramirez, who went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and a walk, in each of his three trips to the plate and when his name was announced before the game. His first at-bat (a ground out to third) provoked the loudest of his unpleasant receptions."

Jeff Horrigan: "... received a mixed reaction when he was introduced last night."

Jeff Horrigan (a different story): "... was lustily booed during pregame introductions and as he came to the plate in the first inning."

Once Upon A Time ...

... the Boston Red Sox had a left fielder who often put himself first and the needs of his team a distant second.

He was thought of as a child by many people, an overgrown adolescent who didn't know how to function in adult society. Many of teammates would laugh at (or dismiss) his regular hijinks and say "Well, that's just the way he is."

He refused to play several times, even defying his manager's orders. He once quit the Red Sox and went home to pout for a few days. He deserted the team without permission, deciding he would rather play in an exhibition game (for extra money) than play a season-ending game at Fenway Park (so much for the fans who wanted to see him bash a home run that day).

He regularly disobeyed the Red Sox team curfew and was fined and benched several times. Every off-season he demanded more and more money from the Red Sox front office, telling them he'd quit the game unless they gave in to his demands. Many of his teammates were furious at Red Sox management for allowing this egomaniac to often call his own shots with the team -- come and go as he pleased -- while everyone else had to follow the rules.

He drank to excess and was sometimes found in the morning passed out in the streets of Boston by children -- children! He was regularly involved in car accidents, sometimes with women who were not his wife. He loved to spend time with prostitutes.

Red Sox fans today firmly believe the team was insane to have got rid of this mystery player.

G102: Red Sox 8, Twins 5

Red sox win; Yankees, Blue Jays and Orioles lose.

As long as the Manny Ramirez debate continues on message boards, talk radio and (to a lesser extent) the comments section of a few posts here, there were two specific plays last night that would have received a lot more attention if Manny had been involved.

Terry Tiffee's triple in the 8th inning: A line drive over Damon's head. Damon first ran straight across towards right-center, then sort of backwards. He made a futile leap as the ball sailed way over his head. Just a brutal route to the ball. Tiffee drove in a run on the play, and when he scored two batters, the Sox lead was down to 4-3. Damon's poor fielding could have been costly.

Jason Varitek's baserunning in the home half of the 8th: This happened after John Olerud's grand slam. Varitek walked with one out. Bill Mueller smacked a liner to third. When Juan Castro threw to second base, Varitek turned off towards right field. Bret Boone dropped and bobbled the ball, but because Varitek was about half way to the bag and not even in the baseline, there was no danger of the Twins not getting the out.

I hate the veer-off play. If a runner has to turn away because he's out and there is no need for a slide, it should be done much, much closer to the bag. There is very little chance of the runner getting hit in the head with the throw. Even runners that are out at first base by 15 feet run through the bag. And the fact that Varitek turned away as the throw was going to Boone showed that he was conceding the out well before the out was made.

I haven't looked through the papers yet this morning, but I'd be shocked if the team captain got criticized for giving up on that play. (At least one SoSHer in the game thread thought Varitek might have been able to get to second safely due to Boone's bobble.)

Wells / Lohse at 7:00.

Shoppach & Stern for Bigbie?

Sean McAdam, Providence Journal:
[T]he Red Sox were close to completing a three-way deal last night with the Colorado Rockies and the Baltimore Orioles that would land them left-handed-hitting outfielder Larry Bigbie from the Orioles.

The Orioles last night sent Bigbie to Colorado in exchange for Eric Byrnes -- obtained only weeks ago from Oakland. The Rockies were then poised to flip Bigbie to the Red Sox for Pawtucket catcher Kelly Shoppach and Rule V outfield pick Adam Stern.
This would be a bad deal, not because of the players lost, but because of the low return. I'm not crazy about either Shoppach (who is the Sox top catching prospect, but clearly won't get a shot in Boston) or Stern (who was kept on the roster at the expense of Chip Ambres, now in Kansas City), but Larry Bigbie?

He can play all three outfield positions and would get a few opposite field hits off the Wall, but he's also has posted a 97 OPS+ in his four seasons. With Gabe Kapler set to join the team today, no thanks on this deal.

July 29, 2005

Thankfully, Our GM Is Not A Moron

ESPN:
A proposed three-team deal involving the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Tampa Bay Devil Rays "hit a roadblock" Friday night, according to a baseball official familiar with the discussions.

The deal proposed would have sent unhappy Boston slugger Manny Ramirez and Tampa Bay closer Danys Baez to the Mets, with the Red Sox acquiring outfielder/designated hitter Aubrey Huff and outfielder Mike Cameron, and the Devil Rays getting two prospects apiece from the Mets and Red Sox. ...

A source said the Red Sox felt they could not go ahead with trading Ramirez and two prime prospects -- reportedly catcher Kelly Shoppach and right-hander Anibal Sanchez -- if all they were receiving was New York's Cameron and Tampa Bay's Huff. So they went back to the Mets "for more pieces," the source reported. At that point, the Mets "squashed the whole thing" and talks broke off.
So, Huff and Cameron for Manny, Sanchez and Shoppach?!? You have got to be kidding me. ... "More pieces"? Pedro?

Other info from SoSHer PedroKsBambino:
McAdam says on the post-game he was told that FIVE teams in on Manny. 2 AL, 2 NL, plus the three-way deal with the Mets and DRays. Says the 3-way deal is the least likely of the possible deals. McAdam guesses that the White Sox are one, didn't name any others.

Pass The Salt

Bruce Allen on WEEI's 18 hours of angry ranting about Manny, Manny, Manny:
It's interesting to hear on a show like Dennis & Callahan, the hosts saying that Manny misses so many games and gets so many days off, and guys like Damon and Renteria are really the ones who play everyday. Then when an emailer points out to them that Manny had played more games this season than either of those two, their claim is "Well, it won't be that way in the end". Damn the facts!

It's also amusing to consider the hypocrisy. Can a radio personality who was suspended for showing up to work with a alcohol buzz really be talking about Manny's failure to act in the best interests of the team? Can a radio host who was suspended for leaving his job early and replaying an earlier segment during the last portion of the show really be in a position to comment on Manny's failure to hustle? Can radio hosts who were suspended for making a racial comment really comment on Manny being offensive to the game? Can they talk about Manny's penchant for days off, when some of them basically take the entire summer off while bringing in huge paychecks ... much higher than the average listener?
And on to the papers:

Ron Chimelis writes:
Only a shrewd if selfish man could look at Wednesday's game in Tampa Bay, one night after one teammate went to the hospital and another to the disabled list, and refuse to delay a day off he didn't need.

[Unfortunately, Chimelis offers absolutely no evidence -- on- or off-the-record -- that Ramirez didn't actually need Wednesday off.]

... It looked as if Ramirez would play out his Boston days as an imperfect but adored hero, then head to Cooperstown in a Sox cap.

[Ramirez will apparently end the long string of perfect Red Sox heroes. Who's on that list again, Ron?]
David Heuschkel writes that Manny Ramirez "has walked all over Francona the way he did Jimy Williams, Joe Kerrigan and Grady Little ... Francona would send a strong message to his players by benching Ramirez, and it wouldn't be the first time. Francona sat Ramirez three straight games last July in Anaheim because he refused to play left field."

A photo caption on the Globe's Red Sox page states: "Kevin Millar (left) is one of the Red Sox who thus far has been silent concerning Manny Ramirez." ... Actually, Millar was one of the first players to talk about Manny.

Dave Doyle defends Ramirez, with many of the same reasons heard both here and in the comments. His blog has some responses to his column.

Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg referred to Ramirez's request as nothing more than casual dinner conversation: "My response is pass the salt."

In the Herald, Michael Silverman looks at Boston's three areas of concern going into the last days before the trade deadline: a reliever, a starter and an outfielder. ... Gordon Edes held a chat today and Ian Browne answers some email.

After mentioning a possible Bill Mueller for J.C. Romero deal, Gordon Edes and Chris Snow write: "The Sox and Twins play each other here in Fenway Park and it's possible talks will continue right until the 5 p.m. deadline. It's also conceivable that a deal could be struck but not announced until then because neither the Sox nor Twins relish the prospect of having a former teammate beat them this weekend."

Heuschkel notes that "Curt Schilling doesn't look like he'll be able to return to the rotation this year. He's still not able to push off the rubber the way he usually does with his surgically repaired right ankle, resulting in a 5-7 mph loss of velocity on his fastball, and hitters have been teeing off on his splitter."

Gabe Kapler has hit safely in his four games with Pawtucket (10-for-16, with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, six RBIs, and six runs scored). He has played all three outfield positions and is expected to join the Sox tomorrow.

The Yankees traded for Colorado's Shawn Chacon, who will likely start against the Angels on Saturday.

Twins in Boston (Wade Miller has been scratched from tonight's start):
Friday: Bronson Arroyo / Carlos Silva, 7:00
Saturday: David Wells / Kyle Lohse, 7:00
Sunday: TBA / Brad Radke, 2:00

July 28, 2005

Lucchino Confirms Manny Trade Request

Larry Lucchino, on WEEI this morning, confirmed that Manny Ramirez has indeed asked to be traded. Dirt Dogs has a transcript (and audio link):
The short answer to the question is yes he did [ask for a trade]. ... I think the privacy issue is the ability to kind of leave your apartment and go to the park with your kid. Leave your apartment and go out to dinner with your wife without sort of being surrounded by well-wishers and autograph seekers ... not the idea that every once in a while you might invite someone in to your house to do a photo shoot. ... [H]is concern was more with the city and the focus on baseball and the lack of some freedom of movement that comes with that obsession with baseball.
I suppose there are teams that could assume his contract in cities that aren't baseball-obsessed -- Texas and Anaheim gave tons of dough to A-Rod and Mo Vaughn -- but not many. If anything is done, it would likely be this winter. No team is going to knock Theo's socks off with a deal over the next month or two, so I don't see the Red Sox moving Manny during this season.

Also, Joel Sherman, New York Post:
The Red Sox will listen to offers for discontented Manny Ramirez, but do not believe they can be satisfied enough to move him. ... With a bad trade market now and a horrid free-agent class upcoming, the Red Sox do not see which players they can spend the money on to make dealing Ramirez worthwhile. Mets GM Omar Minaya long has been fascinated by the idea of obtaining Ramirez, but he has not spoken to Red Sox officials since the winter meetings about the outfielder.

Manny

Terry Francona on WEEI yesterday afternoon:
Manny was going to have a day off in Chicago the other day, we talked him out of it, at the time I said "to me Wednesday would be a better day." And then after last night's game we did go to him and say "Hey look, we're in a little bit of a bind now" and he goes "I still need it." So we're gonna sit Manny so he'll have tonight and tomorrow.
And so, one day after Francona said "You guys can have fun with [the Manny-wants-out rumors] because I know it'll have some legs for a couple of days," Tito himself guaranteed it some extra mileage.

The first thing that hit me is that Francona was so blunt in speaking about one of his players. And note that he and Ramirez discussed this the night before. So Francona, after a night's sleep, some conversations (I assume) with Theo Epstein, and lots of time to think about it, didn't put forth some excuse (i.e., lie) and didn't cite Manny's hamstrings -- he told the truth. (And Manny didn't reconsider and go to Francona on Wednesday morning.) ... Francona must be highly pissed off.

Gordon Edes (Globe) says Ramirez is "unmovable", "rarely held accountable" and "in essence, holding the team hostage. Speak out against him, and the fear is that Ramirez will withdraw like a petulant child and go into a three-year pout."

Theo:
We're in a pennant race and battling a lot of adversity -- injuries and otherwise. It's times like these when you find out about your team and your players. More than ever, we need all 25 players pulling together, putting the team first in pursuit of victory. It's our responsibility to get there, and I think we will. I have a lot of faith in our players -- all of them -- and in the entire organization.
It's no secret that the Sox would like to not pay the remainder of Ramirez's contract. Once his hitting skills start to decline -- something some fans fear has already started -- he will not be very valuable at all. What's less clear -- because none of us play for the Red Sox or work in the front office, and because no one on the inside has gone on the record -- is how the club really feels about Manny. There have been hints, and every fan has an opinion, but we simply do not know.

David Heuschkel (Courant) says that the clubhouse reaction "wasn't as negative as it probably will be on the talk shows today." He quotes Millar:
Days off are all part of it. You're human. You might have some tightness. You might have some sore muscles. For certain guys, they need days off. Manny plays every day. ... This gives him two days off to refresh. It was a perfect time, playing the Devil Rays and we got a day off the next day. That's unfair [to criticize him]. People don't understand the grind of every day.
and Ortiz:
I don't know [if any players were disappointed in Ramirez refusing to play]. I got no comment about that. ... He was ready in the dugout just in case we needed him. People better leave Manny alone. That's what they need to do. Leave the guy alone, let him do what he's supposed to, stop questioning him and go from there.
More Ortiz: "You think if Manny wanted to be traded only one reporter in Boston would know? Manny isn't unhappy. If he was unhappy, we all would know." ... Of course, this is the Ortiz who said Pedro "ain't going to no Mets."

Heuschkel adds that "players might have questioned his commitment to the team if the Red Sox didn't beat the Devil Rays," which makes no sense to me. ... If players are upset, they should be upset whether the end result was a win or a loss.

Tony Massarotti (Herald):
Twenty million a year clearly is not what it used to be, because it cannot buy you even a hint of compassion, pride, sacrifice or dedication. All it seems to get you is blank stares and apathy, along, of course, with an annual request to be traded. ... All of this reflects most poorly on Ramirez, who is not a bad guy as much he is an astonishingly irresponsible one.
Yesterday, Massarotti wrote this:
Let's get something straight here: Ramirez never has been happy in Boston. Never, ever, ever. We might go so far as to suggest that Ramirez never has been truly happy anywhere, but none of us is really capable of knowing that. What we do know, for certain, is Ramirez has spent almost as much energy trying to leverage his way out of Boston over the past five years as he has knocking in runs.
There are several things going on here:

1. We don't know the exact condition of Ramirez's hamstrings. If they are truly hurting, then this discussion should be pretty short. It's the reason he jogged out the grounder on Tuesday night and that's the reason he needed yesterday off. I'd rather have him on the bench for one game against last-place Tampa Bay rather than going on the DL for at least two weeks.

2. Is Francona letting Ramirez have the final say about playing? If Tito believes Manny can play, he should pencil him into the lineup and then see if he refuses to take the field or bat. If Ramirez was promised a day off -- and he says he's hurting and needs a day to heal -- what is Francona supposed to do?

3. I'm willing to believe the reporters covering the Red Sox know a lot of things about the team and individual players that never make the papers, but instead of merely hinting at these things -- and acting like privileged insiders -- they need to let us know what they are basing these conclusions on.

SoSHer Bernie Carbohydrate has some interesting points:
[H]as it occurred to those who lay into Manny--from Edes to Mazz on down to the enraged EEI callers--that "Manny being Manny" means exactly what it means?

In other words, Manny can no more take the game seriously all the time than Belli could steal 30 bases this season, or Trot could hit lefties, or Wake could touch 95 on the radar gun?

It is easy for us to forgive physical shortcomings -- Damon has a weak arm, so we live with it and focus on what he does well -- but mental shortcomings or personality defects get massive SoSH threads and columnists in a lather. Now I'm not saying that all ballplayers are above criticism, but after a while you've gotta concede that each player is a set of strengths and weaknesses, and one of Manny's major, fundamental and permanent weaknesses is his attitude.

How come we don't get column inches devoted to how Wade Miller's lack of endurance is a "disgrace to the uniform?" Because that is seen as a physical defect, and something over which Miller has no control. But very few people are willing to concede that individuals sometimes have little control over their mental makeup as well. Do the asses in your life want to be asses or are they just that way?

Being momentarily annoyed with Manny is understandable, but there is no reason to think that if he just cared a little more, or if he'd just try a little harder, he'd grow a Chris Sabo attitude to go with his Dick Allen talent. It isn't gonna happen.
The Herald's Inside Track accepted some blame for all of this: "[D]on't shoot the messengers here, but Manny's latest temper tantrum comes just days after we rang up the Sox to inquire whether Mrs. Manny is preggers." ... What is odd about the privacy complaint is that it comes less than two weeks after Manny, his wife and son posed for a huge spread in the Boston Globe's Sunday magazine, complete with pictures of Manny Jr.'s Fenway-themed bedroom.

But then there is this from the Globe's Living Arts section:
Manny Ramirez and his wife, Juliana, are expecting their second child, and contrary to some reports, No. 24's been bragging about it all over town. ... "Secrets aren't the Ramirez family. We want Red Sox Nation to know us," Juliana said. "People recognize Manny Jr. when he walks down the street." Juliana said she knew the jig was up when David Ortiz's wife, Tiffany, recently congratulated her. And how did the bride of Big Papi know there was a baby on deck? Manny announced it in the clubhouse, of course. Juliana said she was even praised the other day by a salesperson at the Ermenegildo Zegna store on Newbury Street ... As for the Sports Illustrated item insinuating that the proud papa is unhappy in Boston and wants out, Juliana had this to say: "Manny hasn't told me anything about that. As a family, we love Boston and love living here."
Stay tuned.

In other matters, Trot Nixon was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. He could miss up to a month. ... Mike Timlin has a sore right elbow, but says he needs nothing more than rest. That was why he was unavailable last night. ... Curt Schilling on pitching for the third day in a row: "If you're the bullpen and you're not hurt, I can't see myself not being available if I'm down there. You can still get people out if you don't feel great." ... People in Hyde Park are excited about Manny Delcarmen's debut.

Matt Clement:
I remember the whole thing. I remember laying there and knowing what happened to me, but not panicking. The hardest part was I didn't really start getting scared until I was coming off the field and I started thinking about my wife and two boys ...

I just remember it ricocheting off my head, laying on the ground, and looking over toward first base, with kind of a ringing sensation in my ear. ... I wouldn't call it intense pain. It was more of a shock, knowing what happened ... Missing starts isn't really in my vocabulary, but I've got to be smart about it because it is my head. ... As of now I'm planning on everything going fine. I'm not going to be stupid enough to sit here and say I'm going to make my next start.
Sox are off tonight.

July 27, 2005

Clement Discharged, Rejoins Team

Matt Clement was released this afternoon from Bayfront Medical Center in Tampa and will rejoin the team for its flight back to Boston.

Team medical director Dr. Thomas Gill: "Matt stayed in the hospital overnight and underwent further tests and observation this morning. The results of a second CAT scan taken this morning were also negative, and Matt was released from the hospital this afternoon. Matt will accompany the team back to Boston tonight and be evaluated by our medical staff upon his return."

Terry Francona: "He was in really good spirits and he looked a little groggy, but he was doing OK. He had a little cut on his ear, but I don't think it was that swollen. It was amazing, his ear was red. I was shocked."

Here are the stories from the morning papers.

G101: Red Sox 4, Devil Rays 1

It shouldn't be this hard. ... I lost count of how many times in these last three games I yelled, "WTF?!? It's the Devil Rays!"

But a shaky ninth inning (from Myers and Schilling) was closed out without any runs being allowed, and Boston won by what looks like a nice, easy margin.

The Red Sox got to Seth McClung the second time through the order. He had retired the first nine batters, but they scored single runs in the middle three frames.

First, Boston managed only one run from a bases loaded, none out situation in the fourth. The fifth inning was a riot. After Alex Cora belted his first Red Sox home run, Doug Mirabelli beat out an infield hit to deep short. Then, with McClung and catcher Toby Hall ignoring him, Mirabelli got a tremendous jump and stole second without a throw. The slower-than-slow Belli was two-thirds of the way to second by the time Hall had caught the pitch.

Edgar Renteria generated a run in the sixth inning almost by himself. He walked, tagged and went to second on a foul pop behind the plate, took third on a passed ball and scored on John Olerud's sac fly.

That would be "clean-up hitter John Olerud". With Manny Ramirez having the day off, Trot Nixon on the disabled list, and Wakefield on the mound, it was like a split-squad lineup today. ... Still, at this stage, Olerud should never, never, never be the #4 hitter.

July 26, 2005

G100: Red Sox 10, Devil Rays 9 (10)

Wow. ... The day began with reports that Manny Ramirez has asked to be traded (story to appear in tomorrow's Sports Illustrated). Manny Delcarmen is called up and John Halama is DFA'd.

Boston took a quick 5-0 lead before Matt Clement was hit near the right ear by a Carl Crawford line drive in the third inning. Clement stayed motionless on the mound for at least five minutes -- the ball caromed into left field and the Trop was as quiet as a tomb -- before being put on a stretcher and taken off the field. He is reportedly in good shape, but will stay in the hospital overnight.

Tampa Bay tied the game in that inning on Aubrey Huff's grand slam, and later took leads of 6-5 and 8-6. Delcarmen (#57) threw a perfect eighth inning, mixing in a fastball that was clocked at 94-95 and a curve at 77. He threw 14 pitches, nine for strikes.

After Curt Schilling allowed the potential winning run to reach base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Johnny Damon saved the game with a leaping catch at the wall in deep left center.

Damon then led off the top of the tenth by smacking Danys Baez's first pitch to deep right for a home run. Boston added another run in the inning and held on as Schilling allowed one run in the bottom half of the 10th.

Why Baez was allowed to pitch the entire 9th and 10th innings is beyond me. He allowed seven hits and four runs before he got five outs.

Boston would have likely won the game in nine innings if Dale Sveum hadn't sent John Olerud from first base on Bill Mueller's double. That hit tied the game (Adam Stern scored ahead of Olerud) and if Sveum had done his job -- holding one of the slowest men in professional baseball at third -- Boston would have had:
Runners on 2nd and 3rd, with 1 out in a tie game
instead of
Runner on 3rd, with 2 outs in a tie game.
Thanks for fucking up yet again, Dale. And, thanks Red Sox front office, for keeping this incompetent numbskull around to screw up potential rallies. ... Trot Nixon also hurt himself on a swing in the third inning. He strained an oblique muscle and had to leave the game.

Boston's win kept them atop the East, as the Yankees (1 GB), Orioles (3.5 GB) and Blue Jays (4.5 GB) all won.

Wakefield / McClung at 4:00.

July 25, 2005

G99: Devil Rays 4, Red Sox 3 (10)

Just a horrible game for the Red Sox. Bad fundamental baseball for ten innings -- the first extra-inning game of the season.

Both teams scored in the second inning, and Tampa took a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Although with Boston unable to hit Doug Waechter, it felt more like 5-1. Johnny Damon's two-run homer off the right field pole gave the Sox a 3-2 lead in the seventh, but Mike Timlin allowed an inherited runner to score (surprise!) and the game was tied at 3-3.

The Red Sox blew a scoring chance in the ninth -- first and third with one out, then first and second with two outs, then bases loaded with two outs.

In the 10th inning, Trot Nixon singled and stole second with one out. John Olerud hit a sharp grounder towards shortstop that Nixon couldn't get out of the way of -- although if he was running on the play, he would have been well on his way to third. The ball hit his right foot, he was out, and Bill Mueller lined to center to end the inning. It's hard to say if anything would have changed if Nixon played it correctly -- man on 3rd, two outs instead of man on 1st, two outs.

In the Rays 10th, Aubrey Huff doubled to deep right off Curt Schilling with two outs. Nixon played the ball too close to the wall -- he had no chance at catching the ball -- and when the ball bounced back towards the infield, he had too far to run to grab it and throw it in. Jose Cantu scored from first without a throw and the game was lost.

One other fuck-up by Terry Francona: Boston took a 3-2 lead after the top of the seventh. Why didn't Olerud come in to play first? I can only assume it was because Kevin Millar was due up 3rd in the top of the 8th inning -- and Tito wanted to give him another at-bat (he was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at the time; he K'd in the 8th). Unfortunately, Millar couldn't pick a throw from Edgar Renteria out of the dirt, a misplay that led to Tampa tying the score.

So with Tampa and Kansas City on the horizon, Boston should be priming to blast these AAA teams out of the water. Instead, they fart around, giving the Rays extra outs, acting like morons on the base paths, and then wondering why they ended up on the losing side in the end.

Just banging this out after the game, so excuse me if it makes little sense. Now to walk my dogs and on to bed.

Now Hear This!

It probably won't be as memorable as 1974's 10-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland or Disco Demolition at old Comiskey Park in 1979 (check out the DVD!), but "Heckler Day" -- tonight in Tampa Bay -- should at least be interesting.

Every one of the first 5,000 fans at the Trop for the Red Sox/Devil Rays game will receive a free megaphone. ... Don't the Devil Rays know that about 4,000 of those things are going to go to Red Sox fans?

What I hope to see: A pissed-off Lou Piniella running out to argue a call, with a megaphone clutched in his right hand.

Wells / Waechter at 7:00.

G98: White Sox 6, Red Sox 4

Updated

Arroyo (without a decent curveball) struggles early, the Sox don't pound Contreras like they usually do, and I'm too busy at work to even follow along on line. Tampa swept the Orioles (Baltimore is now one game out of fourth place), but the Yankees won (moving to within 1.5). All in all, a shitty day.

Edgar Renteria had Sunday off -- or as Terry Francona said, "getting a blow." Where did this expression come from and why is everyone suddenly using it?

Kevin Millar tried to stretch a single into a double in the sixth and was thrown out by Scott Podsednik. Then Jason Varitek followed with a homer. More stupidity on the bases, yet it wasn't talked about too much in the papers (except for MLB, which actually isn't a paper). Unlike if our left fielder had done it.

More on Craig Hansen. ... The Chicago Tribune reports that the White Sox want to make sure they can sign A.J. Burnett to a long-term deal before they make a deal with the Marlins. The White Sox are offering top pitching prospect Brandon McCarthy and Damaso Marte (and possibly Jose Contreras).

Names in a possible Boston deal are still Bronson Arroyo and Anibal Sanchez. ... Good wrapups of what's going on at The Buzz.

July 24, 2005

Arroyo Expects To Stay

Bronson Arroyo on the possibility of being traded:
I don't feel like there's anybody they're going to go get that's going to make our rotation that much better than it is right now. So I don't see why you would trade one of your five guys who's been healthy for you for the whole time I've been here. ... I know a lot of the guys on this team, especially the starting pitchers, are in a situation where they really can't be moved. ... I know my name's going to come up here and there. I think about it for maybe a little while but the situation I'm in, the situation we're in right now, I don't think I'm going anywhere. ...

I love playing in Boston. I've said it plenty of times. I'll sign a lifetime deal here any time they want. I like playing in this uniform, I don't want to play anywhere else. I've played in Pittsburgh where it was a complete contrast. I don't think there's any other place in baseball that brings the kind of excitement that the Red Sox do.
Arroyo's CD is at No. 123 on the Billboard 200 chart and was the No. 1 seller in Boston last week.

Tony Massarotti calls Giants starter Jason Schmidt "the most intriguing potential acquisition" of the summer and notes that "the Giants have been among the most dedicated teams scouting the Red Sox' minor league system in recent days." ... First-round draft pick Craig Hansen signed a four-year, $4 million major league deal yesterday. Could Hansen, who will report to the Fort Myers this week, debut for the big club later this season? A club official: "Probably not - no."

Curt Schilling says he's ready to "start right now," but Terry Francona says not yet. ... Gabe Kapler might rejoin the Sox next weekend. Yesterday in Pawtucket, Kapler played center field and got three hits, including a three-run homer, and four RBIs.

According to Elias, Manny Ramirez's Thursday night home run -- one pitch after Joe Crede dropped his foul popup -- was the first game-deciding homer after a hitter was given "a second life" in nearly 13 years. Back on August 28, 1992, Dan Gladden hit a two-run homer immediately after the Angels' Wally Joyner dropped his foul pop.

With his single in the ninth inning of Sunday's game, Ramirez has reached base in 82 of the past 89 games.

July 23, 2005

G97: Red Sox 3, White Sox 0

Manny Ramirez hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning and then saved Curt Schilling's bacon in the bottom of the ninth with a game-ending catch at the warning track, racing back to snare Timo Perez's line drive just before banging into the wall.

Wade Miller was the evening's other star. He allowed the White Sox leadoff batter to reach base in each of the first four innings, but wriggled out of trouble every time -- including a bases loaded, one out jam in the fourth. He finished with seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and four walks.

Tampa Bay held on to beat Baltimore 3-2, dropping Baltimore 3.5 games behind Boston. The Yankees trail Anaheim 4-3 as I type.

Trade Rumors: Millar, Mueller, Arroyo; Burnett-To-Birds Off The Table

Two Red Sox Rumors: (1): Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller to Minnesota for left-handed reliever J.C. Romero and starter Joe Mays; and (2): Mueller and prospects for Romero and Mays, then Mays and Bronson Arroyo to the Marlins for Burnett and Mike Lowell.

ESPN says the Orioles have traded pitcher Sidney Ponson to San Diego for first baseman Phil Nevin (the Padres are denying it).

This doesn't make sense, if true. Wouldn't the Orioles have an even greater need for starting pitching having dealt Ponson? Getting rid of Ponson's bloated contract would allow them to assume Lowell's equally bad deal, I suppose, although ESPN says that Baltimore's plan to acquire A.J. Burnett (and Lowell) "has been shelved."

There had been talk of a three-way deal between the Orioles, Marlins and Devil Rays. ... Florida is now back to talking with the Red Sox and White Sox. According to ESPN, Boston's "offer would center Double-A pitching prospect Anibel Sanchez and right-handed pitcher Bronson Arroyo."

Curt Schilling: "I think I can go back and start right now. If I had a couple starts where I throw only 100 pitches, I think I can do that. I think I'm much closer to being able to do that than I was seven days ago. I want to go back in the rotation as soon as I possibly can."

Boston recently played six consecutive games against a lefthanded starter (Randy Johnson, Al Leiter, Scott Kazmir, Casey Fossum, Mark Hendrickson, and Mark Buehrle). The last time the Sox faced lefties in six consecutive games: June 12-17, 1914. ... The Angels, Diamondbacks, Devil Rays and Padres are believed to be among the teams interested in Alan Embree.

Wade Miller / Orlando Hernandez at 7:00.

July 22, 2005

G96: White Sox 8, Red Sox 4

1. Adam Stern hit his first major-league home run in the ninth inning. It came a few minutes after an embarrassing two-base error in the field. The error caused no damage, so I hope Stern forgets about it.

2. Dustin Hermanson has the most ridiculous facial hair of any person I have ever seen. He must spend hours in front of the mirror every day. That is not proper use of a person's time.

3. Terry Francona needs a quicker hook. In the sixth inning, White Sox batters did the following against Wakefield: groundout, single, popup, single, three-run home run, single, single. ... Time for the pen? Nope. Next batter? The inning's second three-run home run.

3a. Wakefield retired the first 10 batters, struggled a bit in the fourth -- three hits and a walk within five batters -- but threw a perfect fifth. After that popup for the second out in the sixth, Wakefield had thrown only 78 pitches. I fully understand how hard it is to gauge whether a knuckleball pitcher has lost it or is going through a rough patch. But a three-run home run (making the score 4-1) and two more singles -- as the pen is busy -- is enough of a clue.

4. Ken Harrelson is the worst announcer of all-time. If you thought someone like Michael Kay was an annoying homer, you ain't heard nothin' yet. I've had to watch both games of this series on mute (and I see that the MLB-EI schedule has NESN for the weekend games, while I'm at work. Thanks.). What the hell kind of strikeout call is "he gone"? Heave the Hawk, indeed.

5 (updated). Tampa Bay 7, Baltimore 5. ... Anaheim 6, Yankees 3.

G95: Red Sox 6, White Sox 5

Back on June 20, John Tomase of the Eagle Tribune unloaded on Manny Ramirez. The story is in the Tribune's archives now, but BSMW quoted a chunk of it:
Players who care don't leave games after getting hit by pitches that wouldn't have hurt a Little Leaguer.

Players who care don't seek days off like the office hypochondriac.

Ramirez has done all of these things in a brazen affront to the organization and a metaphorical middle finger to its fans. The days of writing off his behavior as quirky are over. He's robbing the Red Sox and more than indirectly contributing to the cost of baseball's highest tickets. ...

So while the fans take out their frustration on players like Millar and Mark Bellhorn, who barely make $6 million a year between them, Ramirez coasts along, hitting .260, disappearing in the clutch and taking the occasional day off.
My perception is that Tomase was a decent writer, mostly free from the agendas that drive many Boston sportswriters. But after reading this piece last month (a lot of accusations and very few, if any, sources), I wasn't so sure. In his follow-up, answering readers' mail, Tomase laughed the whole thing off.

Tomase's article (or a slightly rewritten version) is getting a wider audience as the cover story of the July issue of Boston Baseball. There are gratuitous insults at Manny elsewhere in the magazine. A short paragraph about Trot Nixon begins with this sentence: "Manny Ramirez looks for reasons to leave the lineup." ... One other complaint about Boston Baseball: For every player on the Red Sox roster, BB lists uniform number, name, bat-throw information, height, weight, date of birth and salary.

I'm not in Boston, so I don't know if Tomase's hatchet job got a lot of attention or if it sparked a resurgence (among media or fans) in Manny-bashing. But at Fenway on Wednesday afternoon, several fans around me were quite freely ragging on Ramirez. They mentioned his salary (as though they actually pay it) and his trip into the scoreboard on Monday night. They called him lazy when Kevin Millar took over in left field in the fourth inning. (There was tightness in his hamstring and Tito wisely decided to rest him with the score 7-0 and the White Sox series coming up.)

Speaking of Monday night, Bruce Allen was at the game and has a different take than what the media is dishing out:
[I] saw Manny go into the wall, saw him come out, and didn't think it was nearly as close to Miller's next pitch as many media people are making it out be. If anything, his timing was just right. Trot Nixon and Johnny Damon were kneeling together in the outfield, midway between right and center field and they were settling back in to their positions at the same time Manny was getting to his. But ... this is Manny, so everything he does that's different is going to be magnified around here. There's been talk about his running out of the box ... last night, he hustled out of the box on a foul ground ball, on his home run, and even when he got walked."
I have a hard time seeing this -- and similar cracks about Pedro Martinez -- in any terms other than race. I wish I had more concrete examples of it. If any obsessive reader out there has saved some examples, send them in.

One obvious counterpoint to Manny is Trot Nixon. The pine-tarred, dirt dog has his head up his ass both in the field (forgetting how many outs there are, throwing to the wrong bases, taking poor routes on fly balls/hits) and on the bases (getting picked off second base was a recent bonehead play) pretty often. He is now wearing his uniform shirt with the top three buttons undone. Yet he gets about 1/20th of the shit Manny does.

So in watching my tape of last night's game (a sick dog forced me to use the VCR), I was glad to see Manny get the eventual game-winning hit in the top of the ninth. After Joe Crede dropped an easy foul pop near the third base stands, Manny pounded the next pitch into the left field stands for his 26th home run.

The blast broke a 5-5 tie and gave the Sox and Curt Schilling, who had blown the save in the previous inning, the win. ... Edgar Renteria went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. Johnny Damon scored twice.

In Anaheim, Vladimir Guererro belted a seventh-inning grand slam off Tom Gordon to beat the Yankees 6-5. Boston leads New York by 1.5 games and Baltimore by 2.5.

Wakefield / Garland at 8:00.

July 21, 2005

G94: Red Sox 9, Devil Rays 4

A wonderful, sunny afternoon at Fenway Park. The first six Boston batters reached base -- chasing Tampa starter Mark Hendrickson after only 30 pitches. All six scored and the first-place Red Sox cruised to an easy win behind Orson Wells.
Kevin Millar reached base four times, Doug Mirabelli "legged out" an infield hit to deep third in the third (and then looked like he needed oxygen from Lynn Jones), and Tony Graffanino made his Sox debut with an RBI double off the Wall in the fifth.

Yesterday was also the 20th anniversary of the day Laura and I met.

The Red Sox are in Chicago for four games against the White Sox, who lead the Central by 11 games.

Clement / Buehrle at 8:00.

July 19, 2005

Thank You, Dave Roberts!

When I saw that the San Diego Padres would be at Shea Stadium in mid-July, I snapped up a ticket to the first game of the series. Like many Red Sox fans across the country, I wanted to thank Dave Roberts in person for his contributions to Boston's 2004 championship.

The Padres came to New York today. One of the gates at Shea opens at 4:30 and I was out there when it did. The Mets were taking batting practice. I walked out towards the right field foul pole and watched Pedro Martinez throw in the outfield. I yelled out to Doug Mientkiewicz, but he didn't hear me.

The Padres -- and Roberts, wearing #10 -- came out and stretched and did a little running. Then he grabbed his glove and went out to center field. I had brought a ball, hoping to get Roberts to sign it. I walked down the third base line, thinking that maybe when Roberts came in from the outfield, he might come over and sign. However, he made a straight line towards second base on his way in, then disappeared into the dugout.

By the time I got back to the third base dugout, Roberts was nowhere to be seen. But I noticed that someone on the Padres was signing in a corner of the dugout. While trying to see who it was, I saw Roberts standing in the dugout, talking with a teammate. I yelled out to him and waved my Red Sox cap. A fan beside me also called out -- and Roberts looked over, waved, and walked over.

He signed a few cards and a cap, then took my baseball and pen. "Thank you so much for last year," I said. "I made sure to come out when you were in town to say thanks." He smiled, said "Thanks" and handed my ball back.

I've gotten a few autographs at games before -- Nomar at old Tiger Stadium, Johnny Pesky at spring training a few years ago, Pedro in a parking lot in Fort Myers -- Pedro! -- but I have never been as excited as I was this afternoon. I came out early thinking I might have a decent shot at saying Hi to Roberts, but nothing like that is ever certain. Yet it had been pretty easy. It was all I could do to keep from dancing in the aisle.

Now it was 5:45 and I was wondering why I was there. The game wasn't going to start for more than an hour -- and I had gotten what I came for. I'm one of those rare fans who actually doesn't mind Shea Stadium, but I knew the Sox were also playing at 7:00. (Plus I knew I had to get up on Wednesday at about 5:30 am to rent a car and drive to Boston to see the Sox. Who wanted to be stuck in Queens late at night?) ...

I decided to leave and head home. I got on the 7 train at 6:00 and actually walked into my apartment an hour later (which was amazingly good time!). Plus the Sox were kind enough to delay the start of tonight's game until I got settled in.

Roberts went 0-for-4 with a walk and was caught stealing (by Piazza?!), but made three nice catches in the outfield, for which he was heavily booed. The Mets won 3-1 in 11 innings.

G93: Red Sox 5, Devil Rays 2

A nice easy win snaps the three-game losing streak. Arroyo pitches seven, then it's Timlin in the eighth and Schilling in the ninth (for his first save since May 3, 1992).

Manny was on base in all four plate appearances, including his 25th home run of the season; Varitek and Ortiz each had two hits, a run scored and an RBI; and Alex Cora made several excellent plays at second base.

In the fifth, Casey Fossum developed what I think were cramps in his left leg. But no one in the Tampa dugout noticed, and even after he was hopping around and clearly in pain, Fossum threw two pitches and allowed singles to both Renteria and Ortiz. The trainer came out to the mound only after Fossum signaled to the bench for help.

Also: Texas beat New York 2-1, and the Twins scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to beat Baltimore 4-3. So the Red Sox are back in first place, followed by the Yankees (.5 back) and the Orioles (1 game back).

Earlier in the day, Alan Embree was designated for assignment (the team has 10 days to either trade or release him). Boston also made two trades. Pitcher Scott Cassidy was sent to San Diego for outfielder Adam Hyzdu, who played two innings in right field tonight. Hyzdu took Embree's spot on the roster, so the Red Sox went back to 11 pitchers.

The Sox also got second baseman Tony Graffanino from the Royals for outfielder Chip Ambres and pitcher Juan Cedeno.

Francona Flip-Flops On Mueller/2B; Damon Says It's Too Early To Worry About Sox

Terry Francona should have just come out and said "I blew it."

Though if Francona had said he should have pinch-hit John Olerud for Alex Cora -- an admission that he hadn't given his team the best shot at beating Mariano Rivera and the Yankees -- he would have also implied that he has little or no faith in Cora. And Francona would rather look like a dope and get roasted all day on WEEI than do that. ... Dan Shaughnessy has a very good recap of what went on yesterday.

The Red Sox considered calling up Dustin Pedroia from Pawtucket to replace Mark Bellhorn, but didn't because Pedroia isn't back to full strength after being hit on the right wrist by a pitch three weeks ago. In Portland, Hanley Ramirez has also been playing games at second base.

The Red Sox are looking at Royals second baseman Tony Graffanino and White Sox reliever Shingo Takatsu. Owner John Henry says that the club will likely increase payroll to add pitching at the trade deadline.

Are the Red Sox worried about this latest slide? Damon: "If this were later in the season, I'd be concerned. We didn't catch fire until this time last season. We just have to be better in all phases of the game. Kazmir just had good stuff tonight. It seems like everyone makes fun of the Devil Rays, but they show up to play every time with everything they've got."

It's questionable if the Red Sox do that on a nightly basis. They have been playing like shit for a couple of weeks. They should be concerned, very concerned, now. Or they'll wake up one morning in August and find themselves in third place, six games out of first.

I'm off to Shea Stadium tonight to see Mr. Dave Roberts. And then up to Fenway for tomorrow's afternoon game.

July 18, 2005

G92: Devil Rays 3, Red Sox 1

One unearned run -- one -- against a team who was 20 games out of first place. Three hits -- two of them by 9th-place (shouldn't even be in the lineup) hitter Alex Cora. The other hit was a first-inning single by Edgar Renteria. The last 19 Red Sox batters did not get a hit. Boston drew seven walks, but did nothing with them.

The Left Field Wall Scoreboard Guy was a better manager than Terry Francona, at least last night. After Green walked in the sixth -- bases loaded, two outs -- Dave Wallace paid a visit to Miller on the mound. Manny Ramirez ducked into the Monster (to pee?). As he did, Scoreboard Guy removed the #52 (Miller) from next to the Boston linescore.

It was premature. Miller stayed in -- and actually started pitching before Manny returned to his position -- and gave up a two-run single to Gathright. Which broke the 1-1 tie and gave Tampa a 3-1 lead. ... Shoulda listened to Scoreboard Guy.

Elsewhere:
Baltimore 3, Minnesota 2 (11)
New York 11, Texas 10
The East:
New York 50 41 --
Baltimore 50 42 .5
Boston 50 42 .5
Toronto 45 47 5.5
Tampa Bay 32 62 20
Who said the Sox can't go first to third?

Bellhorn to DL; Youkilis Back Up

As per WEEI this afternoon. I hope he's playing 2B tonight. I do not want to see Cora versus any of Tampa's three lefties.

71 Games -- Get Back To Work

Mark Bellhorn jammed his left thumb diving for a Giambi grounder in the fourth inning. That's why he left the game, leaving us with Alex ".199" Cora against Rivera with the bases loaded and no out in the ninth.

Why didn't Francona use John Olerud, 3-for-13 against Rivera and a better option under any circumstances? Tito offered a a lame excuse. "Who would take his place at second [if the game went extra innings]? If you have a guy I'll listen. [How about Mueller at 2B and Millar at 3B (28 appearances there as a Marlin)?] We've talked to Billy. We're not going to put Bill Mueller at second anymore."

Not even for an inning or two? When the difference is having the Yankees 2.5 back instead of .5? The Red Sox have to be more flexible than that. ... Try to tie (or win) the game and worry about whatever infield alignment you'll have afterwards. Francona was worried about the 10th inning without giving his team the best shot to get there.

The Herald says Bellhorn sprained the thumb (the same one he sprained last August), though x-rays were negative. With Bellhorn hitting .154 (8-for-52) since June 27 and .216 overall, it might be time to take a look at Dustin Pedroia or Alejandro Machado sooner rather than later. Barring a DL stint for Bellhorn, though, I don't think we'll see either of them until September.

Millar keeps saying he wants to stay: "I can't imagine going anywhere else. I really couldn't. ... I've always said all along, I know I'm not great. I can sit on a slider, that's about it." Indeed.

Any deal for AJ Burnett would likely include Mike Lowell (hitting .227 and earning $7.5 million). Florida is also talking with Baltimore. The Palm Beach Post: "Talk of a three-way trade with Boston and San Diego was reported Sunday with third baseman Sean Burroughs and Arroyo among the players headed to Florida. Burnett and Lowell would wind up in Boston."

Here's an interesting note: Rich Garces recently auditioned for Red Sox scouts in Fort Myers. Some fans think the Sox are getting desperate, but they have nothing to lose. The cost of a minor league deal would be a mere bag of shells and if Guapo can't pitch, we'll never see him. ... One reason for the Sox's slump? Jose Melendez was on vacation. His Keys to the Game returns tonight. ... The House That Dewey Built moans about the weak bench in light of last night's game. Free Kevin Youkilis! ... 12eight shares some of Joe Morgan's Sunday night wisdom.

The Red Sox, 4-8 in their last 12 home games, host Tampa. The umps may impose a "double red alert" but Piniella expects calm:
Monday: Miller / Kazmir, 7:00
Tuesday: Arroyo / Fossum, 7:00
Wednesday: Wells / Hendrickson, 1:00

G91: Yankees 5, Red Sox 3

Go here, because if I start typing about Leiter and that ninth inning, and Alex Friggin' Cora, well ....

July 17, 2005

Sox In Denial, Do Not Blame Sveum

Terry Francona and Kevin Millar profess their love and support for Dale Sveum. Both place the blame for the base-running snafu on Doug Mirabelli, but the Stud Who Hits Bombs isn't so sure.

While saying he might have been a "little bit too aggressive," the SWHB explained: "I read the ball and felt I could get to third base. I didn't think there. I thought Millar would come home easy. ... I'm not the fastest guy, so I have to put all my energy into running. I picked up my head too late. ... I even saw Bernie kind of break down and field that ball kind of flatfooted. As I rounded second, I already had my mind-set, I was going to third. I felt for sure that Bernie was going to come up and try to throw me out at third. I felt like I was going to make it there pretty easy."

Here is the New York Post's take: "Millar was already at third when center fielder Bernie Williams — who has a spaghetti arm — fielded the ball. Sveum nearly body-blocked the lumbering Millar while giving him the stop sign, and Mirabelli was caught in a pickle between second and third."

As far as the praise for Sveum, he might be a great guy -- I don't know, I've never met him -- but he is a terrible third base coach. The evidence for that keeps piling higher and higher. I wonder how high it will get before the front office takes action.

If you can get beyond the absolutely moronic political comments, Schilling gives a good Q&A to the Daily News.

Wakefield / Leiter at 6:00.

July 16, 2005

Sox-Marlins Trade Rumor

During the game this afternoon, there were rumors that the Red Sox had made a big trade. ESPN radio reported a possible deal, but gave no other information. Posters at SoSH and a Marlins message board think it may involve AJ Burnett and Bronson Arroyo.

The Marlins are playing tonight and Arroyo has a concert in Boston, so everything (if there is anything) may wait until tomorrow.

G90: Yankees 7, Red Sox 4

Following along with Gameday at work, the middle innings were about as tense as you can get without having any audio or video contact with the game.

Matt Clement had nothing this afternoon. After a nice first inning, he walked the first two guys in the second before striking out the side (26 pitches that inning). He set down the first two Yankees in the third before giving up: double, home run, walk, walk, single, walk, double. He was left in at least one (if not two) batters too many. He threw a total of 83 pitches in 2.2 innings.

Jeremi Gonzalez came in and after allowing a single, which scored the inning's sixth run, retired eight of the next nine Yankees. He closed the door long enough to give the bats time to come back. Which they promptly started doing with solo home runs by Bellhorn (in the 3rd) and Ramirez (in the 4th). Two runs in the fifth made it 6-4, but that was as close as Boston got.

According to the SoSH game thread, Dale Sveum screwed up royally in the fourth. With Mirabelli on first and Millar on second, Mueller grounded a single to center. Bernie Williams, whose arm is worse than Damon's, threw towards third, conceding Millar's run. Except Sveum held Millar at third. Mirabelli rounded second on his way to third, and was tagged out trying to get back to second.

So Sveum's screw-up -- which shocked the Yankee radio announcers, who actually said Millar had scored (that's how sure of it they were) -- cost the Sox a run and an out. One note: Mirabelli might have been in trouble even if Millar scored; it's not clear to me whether he could have made it to third ahead of Bernie's throw.

I bitched about Sveum all last summer, and I can't believe we are forced to go through this shit again. Fire this moron! ... The Sox were getting to Randy Johnson, too. If Millar scores and Mirabelli isn't tagged out, Boston trails 6-3, with two men on and one out.

Boston closed to within 6-4 after five innings, but did little else after that. Mirabelli walked to start the sixth and Damon singled after two were out (28 games!). Varitek walked to lead off the eighth, but was stranded there. That was the offense for the last four innings.

Schilling pitched the ninth, retiring Matsui, Giambi and Williams on eleven pitches. It sounds like he was more relaxed and threw with a little better velocity. ... Anyone who actually watched the game, feel free to chime in.

Nixon's ITP HR & Other Notes

Trot Nixon, on his first career inside-the-park home run: "It was like a tractor pull going from second to home. I felt like passing the baton to Dale."

Nixon: "[W]hen I left the batter's box, it looked like it was just going to be a line drive right to him. As he was coming forward, I was like, well maybe this has a chance to fall in. Then, at the last second, the ball -- on TV when I saw it -- it just darted away from him."

According to the Globe, Melky Cabrera, called up to the Yankees in the hopes of shoring up their outfield defense, "appeared to miss catcher Jorge Posada's frantic motions to play a bit more shallow during Ramirez's at-bat prior to Nixon's."

Notes: David Wells appealed his six-game suspension. ... Matt Mantei will have surgery and is out for the season. ... Bill Mueller left last night's game after straining his back in the sixth, but he's starting today. ... Adam Stern got his first career hit with a single in the eighth.

David Ortiz's grand slam was the ninth by the Red Sox this season, which ties a team record set in 2001, 1987, 1950 and 1941. .. Johnny Damon's 27-game hitting streak is tied for 5th-best in Sox history. ... Remembering Alex Cora's 18-pitch at-bat against Matt Clement.

The Red Sox signed Gabe Kapler on Friday night and put him on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain. After some rehabbing in the minors, he could be activated as early as July 30.

It looks like the Yankees are trading for Al Leiter and he will pitch Sunday night against the Sox. Today, it's Clement / Johnson at 1:20.

July 15, 2005

G89: Red Sox 17, Yankees 1

See? No reason to panic. Overreacting to a loss is so 2003.

The Red Sox ring up 15 hits, nine walks, and 17 runs off the unimpressive pinstriped quintet of Redding, May, Anderson, Groom, and Proctor. Boston sent eight men to the plate in exactly half of their innings -- the first, second, fourth, and sixth.

Nixon drives in five in the first two innings -- including a three-run, inside-the-park home run -- as the Sox take an 8-0 lead. Damon (27!) and Renteria both bat in each in the first four innings as Boston boosts the score to 13-1. And then Ortiz greets Groom with a big grand slam into the Yankees bullpen in the seventh.

Wells was strong -- throwing only 85 pitches through seven innings (five hits, no walks) -- before Halama and Gonzalez finished up.

The Yankee bullpen threw seven innings tonight. Seven. ... Bring on the Unit.

Fruitbat

In the comments here, an anonymous Yankee fan warns us not to "get too comfortable with the Rivera you saw those first two games in April."

First of all, it was the second and third games in April, but whatever. Can't expect these clowns to fact-check. Those early April meltdowns were fun -- I was there for one of them -- and who can forget his utter failure to nail down an ALCS sweep last October?

But the bigger question is how has Rivera done against Boston? Has he always been lights-out? ... ESPN offers splits for only 2004 and 2005, so for everything else, I used David Pinto's Day by Day Database.
2005       G   IP    H   R  ER  BB   K   ERA
Red Sox 5 4.1 6 6 2 4 8 4.15
Non-Sox 29 33.1 14 4 2 7 34 0.54

2004 G IP H R ER BB K ERA

Red Sox 12 11 15 5 5 1 7 4.09
Non-Sox 62 68.2 50 12 12 19 59 1.57

2003 G IP H R ER BB K ERA

Red Sox 9 10 16 3 3 3 7 2.70
Non-Sox 55 61.2 45 12 10 7 56 1.45

2002 G IP H R ER BB K ERA

Red Sox 4 3.2 2 2 2 1 2 4.91
Non-Sox 41 42.1 33 14 12 10 39 2.55
Career against Red Sox
   G   IP    H   R  ER  BB   K  ERA
61 67.2 64 27 22 22 68 2.93 (9-5, 29 sv)

No Reason To Panic; However, Embree Must Go

Curt Schilling said his splitter "was the one pitch I was not worried about coming off my rehab because my split was as good as anything down there. I was very comfortable with it. It felt good in the 'pen." But: "I threw two, as bad splits as I can throw, on back-to-back pitches. Sheff hit a split that I left up. He hammered it. I came back and hung a split on the next pitch to A-Rod. I certainly felt I was going to have more out there tonight than I did."

In the bottom of the ninth, Mariano Rivera struck out Johnny Damon, Edgar Renteria and David Ortiz -- all swinging -- to close it out. It was Boston's ninth defeat in their last 14 games. The Yankees won for the eighth time in nine games. Out in Seattle, Baltimore won 5-3, so the Orioles are one game out, the Yankees 1.5 back.

There is no reason to panic. I can't stand either Sheffield or Slappy, but both of those SOBs can hit the baseball. And while Schilling's velocity still seemed low, he did retire the next three guys. ... I wonder if there was any thought in the Sox dugout to intentionally walking Slappy and facing Matsui?

Gordon Edes notes the reaction to Schilling's appearance from ESPN and NESN:
ESPN2 had switched to Sox-Yankees at the conclusion of the White Sox victory over the Indians. [Rick] Sutcliffe, a former standout pitcher, immediately pointed out Schilling wasn't pushing off the pitching rubber ("no drive at all") with his surgically repaired right ankle. "I'd be surprised if he's thrown in this role again. He's not ready to pitch at this level." And, on NESN's postgame show, studio analyst Dennis Eckersley noted the damaging hits against Schilling by Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez both came on splitters. "Throwing the splitter shows there's no confidence in your gas [fastball].
A few notes from watching the YES broadcast:

* It sure looked like a pink-shirted fan interfered with Trot Nixon as he reached into the stands to try and catch what turned out to be a Jason Giambi home run in the second inning, but Nixon said the fan "didn't interfere in any way, shape, or form."

* Anyone else see Joe Torre pump his fist in celebration when Mike Mussina struck out Mark Bellhorn with the game tied at 5-5 and runners at first and third in the sixth. I can't remember the last time I saw Torre do anything like that. And that was only the second out. Mussina then struck out Damon on seven pitches to end the inning. It was on Damon's at-bat that the home plate ump really showed how the strike zone had changed from the early innings. Whereas both Mussina and Arroyo had to thread a needle to get a strike called, now balls clearly on the outside corner -- like the first and second strikes to Damon -- were being called strikes.

* And Boston allowed Mussina to retire the side in order in both the fourth and fifth innings on a total of 15 pitches. He had thrown 66 pithes through the first three innings and that hacking let him to stay in the game for six innings, until the better arms in the pen could take over.

* Michael Kay is an idiot. In the first inning, he mentioned that Fenway's left field pole is now called the Fisk Pole because in the 1975 World Series, "Fisk wrapped a home run around the pole."

* Horrible plays in the outfield from Manny Ramirez and Damon. Manny's slide on Robinson Cano's first-inning double was incredibly pointless, though it did serve as a good deke that allowed Manny to throw out Cano trying for a triple. (Though looking at the replay of Manny's quick, sidearm fling to third makes me think he wasn't actually trying to throw out Cano, it was just a very accurate toss.) And Damon leapt and banged into the center field wall on a fly ball by Sheffield in the third. The ball hit very high off the wall. Even if Damon was 12 feet tall, he still would have had no chance.

* Terry Francona made a huge blunder when he allowed Alan Embree to start the eighth inning. Tito had brought in the useless lefty with one on and one out in the seventh. Hideki Matsui creamed Embree's first pitch to deep right that Nixon had to leap at the warning track to catch. Then Giambi grounded out to second. Francona should have known he had dodged a big bullet, had gotten two outs from Embree and been happy with that, and gone to either Schilling or Mike Timlin for the eighth.

But Tito played a little Gradyball and sent Embree back out. Jorge Posada lined his first pitch into the left field corner for a double. ... Now Francona made the switch to Timlin, who of course, allowed the runner to score, on a double by pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra. Stupid, stupid, stupid managing. (Embree must go, because Francona will continue to misuse him if he is out there.)

* Timlin's first pitch to Sierra was inside and low and Sierra reached down and grabbed his right knee as if he had been hit. He even hopped up and down a little bit. No one was fooled.

* The five Red Sox relievers -- Mike Myers, Chad Bradford, Embree, Timlin, and Schilling -- faced one, two, three, four, and five batters, respectively.

In addition to the back page of the Daily News, check out the Post, which splashed A-Rod across both the front and back pages. (link only good for today)

Chien-Ming Wang was put on the disabled list with an inflamed right shoulder, but because Wang was sent to an orthopedic surgeon after an MRI, there were rumors of a season-ending torn rotator cuff. Tim Redding will start tonight in Wang's place. The Yankees are eyeing Colorado's Shawn Chacon and maybe Al Leiter.

Joe Kerrigan is now an advance scout for the Chokers. Kerrigan will not be part of the uniformed coaching staff, though I wonder if he is a possible replacement for Mel Stottlemyre.

Wells / Redding at 7:00.