October 31, 2005

Theo Stuns Sox -- Declines Offer, Leaves Club

Oh, fuck.
In a stunning development, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has declined the club's offer of a three-year extension of his contract, and will leave the organization.
Theo speaks:
My decision not to return as general manager of the Red Sox is an extremely difficult one. ... In my time as general manager, I gave my entire heart and soul to the organization. During the process leading up to today's decision, I came to the conclusion that I can no longer do so. In the end, my choice is the right one not only for me but for the Red Sox.

My affection for the Red Sox did not begin four years ago when I started working here, and it does not end today. I will remain on the job for several days as we finalize preparation for next week’s general managers meetings. Thereafter, I will make myself available to the organization to ensure a smooth and stable transition.
MLB, Herald.

The Herald story makes it clear that this had nothing whatsoever to do with money. ... Epstein was apparently pissed off at CHB's piece of shit Sunday column, with Larry Lucchino as the likely source of info.

FUCK YOU, Lucky!

The Joy Of Sox - 2004

"The Joy of Sox 2004" book -- consisting of my blog posts from October 16, 2003 to October 27, 2004 and a few extras -- is now available. Finally. ... One obvious fact: If I don't have a deadline, I can't (won't) get a damn thing done.

The book is being published through Cafe Press. The cover was done with the help of Leigh Hyland (aka Sibko), who runs the excellent REM Cover Studio.

A word about the price: It's $21.10 -- which honestly is way too much to pay. I'd love to make it $10 or so, but at 469 pages, it costs Cafe Press $21.07 to print the damn thing, so my "profit" will be three cents per sale.

I put this book together for myself, because I wanted something tangible from the 2004 season. ... However, if anyone out there wants a copy, you can order it here.

In Theo We (will continue to) Trust

Theo Epstein and the Red Sox have agreed on a three-year contract extension (through the 2008 season).

Item #1 on the Red Sox Winter To-Do List can be checked off.

October 28, 2005

Theo Deal Close; Cabin, Pro File

Snow/Edes in the Globe:
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and president/CEO Larry Lucchino met multiple times yesterday, and by last night there was every indication an agreement will be reached that will keep Epstein as GM for the next three years. A formal announcement could come today. ...

Epstein and the Sox were believed to be only $300,000 apart earlier in the week. On Tuesday, Lucchino offered Epstein $1.2 million per year for three years, upping the club's initial offer of $850,000 per season. Epstein, whose contract expires Monday, is believed to have made $350,000 this season and desires a bump to $1.5 million per year.
Also, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller filed for free agency.

October 27, 2005

Theo Decision Expected Today

Earlier this week, Theo Epstein rejected the Red Sox's contract offer of at least three years at $1.2 million per. Globe:
While money is a major factor in the negotiations, it is growing increasingly apparent that there are other issues, namely a personality clash in management styles between [Larry] Lucchino and Epstein that transcends chain-of-command questions.
Until a decision is announced (today?), Bob Ryan offers his thoughts, as does Tony Massarotti (here).

Greg Genske, Manny Ramirez's agent, says Manny does not want to play for the Mets. "As long as he's under contract, his loyalty is to the Red Sox. But if the Red Sox do want to trade him, the Angels are the most attractive option. Manny has a lot of respect for Orlando Cabrera and Vladimir Guerrero and for that organization." ... Genske also mentioned Cleveland.

Richard Chacón, the Globe's Ombudsman, examines the paper's relationship with the Red Sox. The first of two articles looks at "the Globe's corporate ties to the Red Sox. The second column will address readers' questions on the newspaper's coverage."

The Sox also dismissed assistant trainer and rehabilitation coordinator Chris Correnti.

It was one year ago today.

WS4: White Sox 1, Astros 0

Another World Series sweep -- and another team erases a multi-generational drought.

Congratulations to all White Sox fans!

October 26, 2005

WS3: White Sox 7, Astros 5 (14)

Damn! Now that's a baseball game! ... Thousands of words could be written about the longest (by time; 5:41) World Series game in history (Jayson Stark is always fun with games like this), but I'll mention only a few things (being tired at work after not getting to bed until 2:45):

Houston's offense is pathetic. ... After Jason Lane led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run (which actually hit off the in-play side of the yellow line in left center), the Astros sent 47 batters to the plate (over 11 innings) and managed only one hit.

Thanks to a 11 walks, two errors and a HBP, the Astros left two men on in the 8th (when they tied the game 5-5, after blowing a 4-0 lead), three on in the 9th (man on 3rd with one out), 2 on in the 10th, 2 on in the 11th (they had 1st/2nd with 1 out), and 2 on in the 14th.

I was surprised Roy Oswalt was left in to face a WS-record 11 batters (and throw a career-high 46 pitches) in the 5th inning. In fact, Phil Garner didn't have anyone warming up until the 11th batter was stepping in. Oswalt's implosion meant his team was trailing by only one run, but still ...

Why did Ozzie Guillen call on Dustin "I haven't pitched in 25 days" Hermanson in the 8th? That couldn't have been his best option. Hermanson gave up the only hit Houston recorded after the 4th inning, a game-tying double to Lane.

I continue to be amazed that no World Series game has ever gone 15 (or more) innings. Game 2 in 1916 (Red Sox 2, Dodgers 1; Babe Ruth CG) is the only other contest to last fourteen innings.

In the bottom of the 7th, with Chicago up 5-4, this was put on the screen:
1 team has come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a post. series
I expect (nay, demand) to see several Red Sox montages before and during Game 4 tonight.

Bloggers: White Sox and Astros.

October 24, 2005

WS2: White Sox 7, Astros 6

A great game, some amazing swings of momentum, but all the way through, right up to Podsednik's game-ending home run, I felt nothing. No tension, no release. I know there were fans of both sides in agony and ecstasy, like we were last year, yet there I am, dutifully keeping score and feeling as though I'm watching through several layers of gauze (or something).

Update to Rooting Interest: I cast my lot with Chicago in the last post, but I do not like the White Sox. Simple as that. Most of it stems from the media's infatuation with their (often counterproductive, imo) style of play -- which isn't actually one thing or the other, despite the talk -- their manager, and several of their players. And with no Clemens in the picture for Game 2, I found myself sort of rooting for Houston.

Sign of the Night: "Rut-Roh Rastros"

Obligatory Idiotic Sutcliffe Quote: "I didn't think anyone would make as much money as Alex Rodriguez, but Konerko, if he keeps this up, might top it."

The grand slam was huge, no doubt about it (taking full advantage of the non-HBP to Dye), but does Sutcliffe really think some team will offer Konerko $30 million a year or a $300,000,000 contract?

October 23, 2005

WS1: White Sox 5, Astros 3

The White Sox took Game 1 easily, touching Roger Clemens for three early runs and relying on the strong pitching of Jose Contreras, Neil Cotts and fireballing Bobby Jenks. The Chicago offense was balanced, with eight of the nine batters hitting safely, and five different Sox driving in runs.

Clemens was the second-oldest pitcher to start a World Series game, behind only 46-year-old Jack Quinn of the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. Fat Billy was not sharp at all, touching only 92 with his fastball, throwing 25 and 29 pitches in his two innings of work. With the game tied 3-3, he did not come out for the third inning, citing hamstring problems.

Holding a 4-3 lead, Jose Contreras allowed a leadoff double to Willy Taveras to start the top of the eighth. Neil Cotts came on and allowed a single to Lance Berkman, moving Taveras to third with no outs. Cotts came back to strike out Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb. The TV gun showed Cotts at 88-90, but it seemed he was throwing harder than that.

With Jeff Bagwell up, Ozzie Guillen called Jenks in. Pinch-runner Chris Burke stole second, putting runners at second and third, but Bagwell struck out, unable to catch up to Jenks's 98 mph heat.

The White Sox added an insurance run in their eighth before Jenks finished off the Astros on eight pitches (all strikes) in the ninth:
Jason Lane: called, foul, swing/miss.
Brad Ausmus: called, groundout to shortstop.
Adam Everett: called, swing/miss, swing/miss.
It turns out that I'm not listening to Buck/McCarver. It appears that anyone outside the US gets to hear Dave O'Brien and Rick Sutcliffe. There is no Fox logo on-screen (only the MLB logo) and the lineups also featured the player's country's flag.

Sadly, it didn't take long before I was wishing I could hear McCarver. Because even though he's drifting into senility before our ears, he will say some smart stuff every so often. Not so with Sutcliffe.

Sut's main problem is that he feels he must praise everyone, all the time. He gives the unmistakable impression that every baseball player is the greatest of all-time at something. And he has the insight to tell us exactly what that is. The gushing usually occurs when a player is hitting, but it can also be in the field. After Joe Crede's two run-saving plays at third base in the sixth and seventh innings -- admittedly, damn good stops -- I thought Sutcliffe might pass out from excitement.

But in his attempts to put every player in a good light, Sutcliffe ends up gushing over the silliest things. When Bagwell was hit by a pitch in the second inning, Sutcliffe told us to "look how fundamentally sound he turns away from that pitch." It doesn't take long before his praise becomes meaningless fluff -- because if everyone is great, then no one is great.

Rooting Interest: I will always root for the Clemens-less team, so go White Sox! Make your longtime fans as happy as we were last October.

And speaking of happy Red Sox fans: We have a new third base coach! Woo-hoo! DeMarlo Hale takes over for Dale Sveum, who will be responsible for a lot of outs at home plate for the Brewers.

David Wells wants a trade back to the west coast. I was surprised Wells's ERA+ this season was only 99, just a hair below league average. Next year, he'll be fat, 43, and recovering from knee surgery, so I don't think he'll be missed.

October 21, 2005

World Series Repeats

The White Sox and Astros begin the World Series tomorrow night. Obviously , both clubs did not play in last years's series. I wondered how often the same two teams have met in consecutive fall classics (winners in bold).
Year AL        NL

1907 Tigers Cubs
1908 Tigers Cubs

1921 Yankees Giants
1922 Yankees Giants
1923 Yankees Giants

1930 Athletics Cardinals
1931 Athletics Cardinals

1936 Yankees Giants
1937 Yankees Giants

1942 Yankees Cardinals
1943 Yankees Cardinals

1952 Yankees Dodgers
1953 Yankees Dodgers

1955 Yankees Dodgers
1956 Yankees Dodgers

1957 Yankees Milwaukee
1958 Yankees Milwaukee

1977 Yankees Dodgers
1978 Yankees Dodgers

October 19, 2005

Bill James

In mid-2004, Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts posted some highlights from all of the Bill James Abstracts. His 12-part series begins here with 1977. I have copies of the 1982-1988 books -- but not the homemade 1977-1981 editions -- so it's great to read at least some of the earlier books (tables of contents for the abstracts (and links to other James writings) are here).

Here are some quotes from James about what he does (and doesn't do).

From 1979:
I am a mechanic with numbers, tinkering with the records of baseball games to see how the machinery of the baseball offense works. I do not start with the numbers any more than a mechanic starts with a monkey wrench. I start with the game, with the things that I see and the things that people say there. And I ask, "Is it true? Can you validate it? Can you measure it? How does it fit in with the rest of the machinery?" And for those answers, I go to the record books.

What is remarkable to me is that I have so little company. Baseball keeps copious records, and people talk about them and argue about them and think about them a great deal. Why doesn't anybody use them? Why doesn't anybody say, in the face of this contention or that one, "Prove it. Baseball's got a million records and if that is true you can prove it, so prove it." Why do people argue about which catcher throws best, rather than figure the catchers' records against base-stealers? I really don't know.
From 1980:
A year ago I wrote in this letter that what I do does not have a name and cannot be explained in a sentence or two. Well, now I have given it a name: Sabermetrics, the first part to honor the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research, the second part to indicate measurement. Sabermetrics is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records.
From 1981:
1) Sportswriting draws on the available evidence, and forces conclusions by selecting and arranging that evidence so that it points in the direction desired. Sabermetrics introduces new evidence, previously unknown data derived from original source material.

2) Sportswriting designs its analysis to fit the situation being discussed; sabermetrics designs methods which would be applicable not only in the present case but in any other comparable situation. The sportswriter say this player is better than that one because this player had 20 more home runs, 10 more doubles, and 40 more walks and those things are more important than that players 60 extra base hits and 31 extra stolen bases, and besides, there is always defense and if all else fails team leadership. If player C is introduced into this discussion, he is a whole new article. Sabermetrics puts into place formulas, schematic designs, or theories of relationship which could compare not only this player to that one, but to any player who might be introduced into the discussion.

3) Sportswriters characteristically begin their analysis with a position on an issue; sabermetrics begins with the issue itself. The most over-used form in journalism is the diatribe, the endless impassioned and quasi-logical pitches for the cause of the day--Mike Norris for the Cy Young Award, Rickey Henderson for MVP, Gil Hodges for the Hall of Fame, everybody for lower salaries and let's all line up against the DH. Sportswriting "analysis" is largely an adversary process, with the most successful sportswriter being the one who is the most effective advocate of his position. I personally, of course, have positions which I advocate occasionally, but sabermetrics by its nature is unemotional, non-committal. The sportswriter attempts to be a good lawyer; the sabermetrician, a fair judge.

For that reason, good sabermetrics respects the validity of all types of evidence, including that which is beyond the scope of statistical validation.
And:
Bad sabermetrics attempts to end the discussion by saying that I have studied the issue and this is the answer. Good sabermetrics attempts to contribute to the discussion in such a way as to enable it to move forward on a ground of common understanding.
James published one collection of his writings -- This Time, Let's Not Eat The Bones (1989) -- but I think that a reprint of the first five abstracts would find a decent-sized audience. (Reading the comments at Rich's posts, you can see that this is by no means an original thought.) The stats and discussions would be between 25 and 30 years old, but it would be dirt cheap to put together and there are many seamheads who would snap it up at first sight.

October 18, 2005

Nixon Has Knee Surgery

Not a whole lot of news ...

Trot Nixon underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery Friday.

Tony Massarotti writes that there "have been recent indications" that Mike Timlin could sign a deal for 2006, but fails to tell us what any of those indications are. ... Adam Hyzdu was released, and Jeremi Gonzalez, Chad Harville, and Mike Stanton were designated for assignment. Pitcher Edgar Martinez was added to the 40-man roster.

ESPN's Jayson Stark notes that David Wells (who lost a 4-0 lead in ALCS 2) has never lost a regular-season game in which he had a lead of four runs. Over his 19-year career, Wells is 135-0, with 16 no-decisions. ... Of course, Orson could have blown a four-run lead and received a no-decision or been lucky enough to have his team rally. Still ...

October 13, 2005

More Manny

According to "a source close to Ramirez who was authorized by the player to speak for him" and someone "who's been in daily contact" with Manny since the Red Sox were bounced from the ALDS, the slugger wants to sit down with management for a discussion about the club's future.
I get the feeling that he wants to stay in Boston, but I also get the feeling that he wants to know what the direction of the team is going to be. ... Manny wants the team to get better, and he is concerned. ...

They may have already made conscious decisions to let some players go, they may say that they're trying to bring somebody back. Manny just wants to be able to give his opinion on certain things. He's an important part of the team, and like any star player on the team, he at least wants to know what they're planning. ...

He's given me every indication he's happy where he is. He's upset that the Red Sox lost in the playoffs and he's upset that everyone's been talking about him when they shouldn't be focused on him."
The source also said that the story of Manny switching agents was a "crock".

Here's some silliness from Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, headlined "Yankee Doodle Manny?"
Can you envision Manny Ramirez, the American League's most dangerous, late-inning threat from the right side, wearing pinstripes in 2006? None other than Ramirez himself has ... [telling] friends in the final weeks of the regular season he would accept, if not welcome, a trade to either New York team ...

Ramirez is "definitely ready to come to New York," said the friend, who dined with the left fielder during the Sox' road series against the Yankees. "He likes the Yankees, the Mets, either one, he just wants to be here."
Please. Theo is not trading Manny to his team's main rival.

Thank You, Howard Bryant

From his Wednesday Herald column (my emphasis):
I don't believe players should ever be booed for failing to produce. It's not like they are TRYING to strike out with the bases loaded ...

The problem is that so much of a player's persona is cosmetic. Trot Nixon quietly produced nothing in the crucial month of September, and he earns twice as much as Millar, is a platoon player, hit .223 with five homers and 30 RBI at Fenway, and .233 with a home run in September. Yet he is perceived as the consummate competitor and has never faced the anger of the nation.

But does Nixon play the game any harder than Millar, Renteria or Bellhorn? When Nixon hits a two-hop, automatic out to second base, he jogs to first in the exact same manner as Ramirez and 99 percent of baseball players at the major league level.

And nobody says a word.
Well, almost nobody. :>)

October 11, 2005

Pedro's Evil Plan


Gerry Callahan (Herald) says Pedro Martinez is hellbent on causing
the complete and utter demise of the Red Sox organization [and] the next phase of his diabolical plan [is] Making Manny a Met. ...

If Manny wanted to go back to Cleveland or down to Miami, that would be one thing. But we're talking about a perennial .500 team in Queens.

Someone must have convinced him that he would he happy in Metland, and that someone must have been a person Manny respects. It would help if that someone were smart and persuasive, perhaps even bilingual. And I'm guessing it's someone who not only would like to add a big bat to the Mets lineup, but also would love to mess with the Red Sox.

Call me rash, but I'm going to rule out Doug Mientkiewicz and Brian Daubach. ...

While his new club finished seven games out in the NL East, Pedro insisted he was happy in New York ... He even went so far as to hand out business cards with his cell phone number to the Mets beat writers at the end of the season.

"Call me when we get Manny," he told the scribes.
In his Monday column, Steve Buckley (Herald) wrote:
Talk to pretty much anyone connected with the Red Sox, and you'll be told that Epstein was on the cusp of trading superstar Manny Ramirez at the trading deadline in July, only to have Lucchino step in and crow that the Sox weren't getting enough in return.
So Theo is open to trading Manny and Ramirez apparently wouldn't mind leaving (though the seriousness of his requests, however many of them have been made (and to whom), has been in some doubt), and though Manny has only three seasons left on his contract, it seems as though the front office will once again entertain offers for the team's best (or second best?) hitter over the winter.

Boston obviously will not be able to replace Ramirez's production at the plate -- no matter who they get in return. The question is: Could they get several other solid players or some excellent pitchers in exchange? It seems unlikely.

Trading Manny for players of less value is stupid. And paying part of his salary so he can beat up on pitchers in another uniform is equally dumb. If the front office gets bowled over by an offer, then I suppose they will (should) take it. But I can't see any team capable of paying Manny's salary presenting the Red Sox with a huge package of talent for a player who allegedly wants out of his current situation and someone the Sox are at least semi-eager to get rid of. Boston is not in a favorable position.

In 2005, Ramirez was 4th in the American League in slugging, 4th in OPS, 4th in Adjusted OPS, 3rd in HR, 2nd in RBI, and 5th in Runs Created. And this was in a season he supposedly was slumping. ... When I look at the MVP numbers for David Ortiz and A-Dog, I should also include Manny.

And Ramirez led all major leaguer outfielders with 17 assists. Mediots say that's because so many runners test Manny's arm. Well, they run all day long on Damon's noodle, and he finished with only five assists. Damon also made six errors, one fewer than Manny.

(I present the Pedro story more for entertainment than news. I question how much power one player could have over a GM.)

Mind Game

Next on my reading list -- I hope, after my birthday this weekend -- should be "Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning" by the folks at Baseball Prospectus.

At SoSH, Rough Carrigan writes: "If Moneyball was sabremetrics 101 or perhaps just a seminar, this book is sabremetrics 201."

RedSoxNation has interviews with some of the authors, including Steven Goldman (Parts One and Two) and Jay Jaffe (here), and they promise interviews with Chris Kahrl and Jonah Keri very soon.

October 9, 2005

The Questions Begin

What will the 2006 roster look like?

Johnny Damon, Bill Mueller, Tony Graffanino, Kevin Millar, Mike Timlin, Mike Myers, John Olerud, and Matt Mantei are all free agents. (So is GM Theo Epstein.) David Wells will have knee surgery and is considering retirement.

Who will play third: Bill Mueller or Kevin Youkilis? Who will play first base? Which of the promising youngsters -- Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Lenny DiNardo -- should be brought into the mix?

Can Keith Foulke, Curt Schilling, Edgar Renteria, and Trot Nixon overcome the various injuries that plagued them this season?

And then there is the Manny Question. The Red Sox will listen to trade offers for Ramirez (no harm in listening), but as Gordon Edes points out, "with only three years and roughly $60 million left on his contract, moving him would not create as much financial flexibility as it would have in the past, making a trade less likely."

The front office is also apparently not convinced that Manny is unhappy in Boston. And when I checked a poll at the Globe's site, out of 14,386 votes, 70.5% want Manny to stay. (So do I; how will we replace those 17 assists in left field!)

Alan Embree:
I have friends over there and you don't want to see them go through bad times. But for management to get rid of me the way they did, [the loss] was kind of satisfying to watch.
It's a start: Matt Clement has shaved his ugly goatee.

October 8, 2005

Manny Wants To Play For White Sox?

Doug Padilla, Chicago Sun-Times:
If seeing high-priced Manny Ramirez in a White Sox uniform next season sounds far-fetched, consider that the Boston Red Sox outfielder has said he would like it to happen.

According to a source, Ramirez told multiple White Sox players earlier this season that he wanted to play on the South Side and suit up for manager Ozzie Guillen.
Sketchy, but we'll see if the Boston papers pick up on it.

No Pitching? No Hitting.

Trolling through the papers:

Bob Ryan (Globe):
It's over. The Sawx are the champions once removed. And what sane person thought it would turn out any differently? The 2005 Red Sox were a team good enough to win 95 games and get to the playoffs, but they were simply not constructed to win it all once they got there. Stop me when I start telling you something you don't already know.
Mike Bauman (MLB.com) wrote the same thing:
[Boston] had no shot to repeat this epic performance with the current crew. Not enough pitching. Not nearly enough pitching. The Red Sox were fortunate even to be the postseason, and they wouldn't have been here without a 1-5 final homestand from the Cleveland Indians ... The Red Sox lived by the bat this season. In the American League, you can do that -- in the regular season. But when you get to October, you are going to run into teams that can pitch with the best of them.
Well, Bob and Mike, I think you are wrong. (And thanks for calling tens of thousands of Sox fans insane.) If someone on the team not named Ortiz or Ramirez had hit, they'd likely be up 2-1, looking to Schilling to clinch the series today.

The Red Sox may not have had a big, scary marquee name in the rotation, but that's not what you need. You need solid performances -- and Boston had enough pitching to go the distance. Even in the sweep, they showed that. Wells and Wakefield pitched very well, Papelbon was rock solid in relief.

(I got a kick out of all the mediots pointing to how much we missed Derek Lowe (!), who pitched so badly during the 2004 season that he was relagated to the back of the bullpen.)

Boston lost the ALDS because of hitting, hitting, hitting. The Red Sox hit .240 and scored nine runs. The White Sox hit .289 and scored 24 runs. Tony Graffanino had it right: "If we hit the ball the way we did that stretch at home, it's a different story in these ball games."

Tony Massarotti (Herald) notes that while the Red Sox were outpitched, they "did not score a run after the sixth inning of any game."

Orlando Hernandez's relief performance in the sixth inning was crucial.

Varitek:
I chased a ball up and got a little under it and popped it up.
Graffanino:
My approach against him was like I had two strikes from the get-go. He can throw some slow at 63 miles an hour or throw a fastball. He surprised me with a first-pitch 93-mile-an-hour sidearm fastball. I didn't think he could throw that hard anymore. ... You have no idea what that guy's going to throw. The only pitch he didn't throw me that was hard was the last pitch. You never expect that.
Damon:
The first pitch in the at-bat was up, so that kind of makes you expand your zone. Then he throws a 3-and-2 slider. You don't expect that in that situation. He had a lot of tilt on that slider. He made the right pitch at the right time.
Afterwards, Damon talked a little about his status:
You play the whole season with these guys, you enjoy every single moment. I hope I'm back. Hopefully we'll get a pretty good offer. I fell in love with Boston, so hopefully I'll be here for a long time.
But a lot of what he said sounded like a long goodbye:
I hope to play again with some of these guys, and that could be with another team. I feel privileged to be in this clubhouse ... I felt we could leave a special mark on this game again, but we just weren't healthy enough, or good enough. ...

It's a sinking feeling right now. I'll come back here tomorrow and pack, and what my offseason holds, I'll leave that on the Red Sox. ... It's been amazing. The players, the city, how the city loves us. It was different from the moment I became a Red Sox. The joy of the game and the way it's respected. You're proud to wear a Red Sox uniform, you play hard and the fans like that.
David Wells is considering retirement. ...
Ortiz and Ramirez were the first Red Sox players to hit back-to-back homers in the postseason since Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman did it in the 1986 World Series against Ron Darling.

I'm pretty sure (and glad) that the Kevin Millar Era is over:
We had three great years together, and we could be back, but you're probably going to see some new faces. We had some good times, and we brought a lot of joy to this city. We can hold our heads high. We didn't lose because of lack of effort.
Tony Graffanino on the huge ovation he received before the game:
I was moved beyond belief. I was definitely touched. And if I allowed it to happen, I could have cried because I wasn't really sure what was going to happen. Those kind of things mean so much. I don't think people can really describe it. That was a huge moment for me. That's something I'll never forget. ... I'd love to [return in 2006]. This is by far the most fun I've had in my baseball career. I think part of it is I'm playing in this environment with that kind of crowd. This is just a blast.
Damon, Millar, Varitek and Ron Jackson all spoke about how important Manny Ramirez is to the Red Sox. ... Wells: "I've never seen a 1-2 punch like [Ortiz and Ramirez], ever. To see that, God, it was just stupid. Do whatever it takes to make them happy. Wine and dine the [expletive] out of them."

Wakefield: "That's the shocking part. Waking up tomorrow, knowing you don't have to go to work but wanting to."

Finally, why is Chicago Tribune columnist Ed Sherman so happy?
So long to hearing endless stories about the Boston Red Sox. Goodbye to Babe Ruth, breaking the curse and blah, blah, blah.

And most of all, see you later, Chris Berman.

The White Sox spared their fans from hearing Berman call another one of their games on ESPN. Thank you, El Duque.

Berman was tolerable during the first two games, giving each side a fair shake. But Friday, he walked into Fenway Park, sniffed the Boston air and began to overdose on the Red Sox. ...

The final two innings were excruciating as Berman started to eulogize the end of Boston's reign. He rhapsodized about how wonderful it has been in New England. ...

The White Sox, though, put viewers in a Berman-free zone for the rest of the postseason. Winning is sweet, isn't it?
First, it's funny hearing a White Sox guy complain about a biased announcer. Second, while Berman was indeed saying moronic things all series (he knows no other way), to my ears that eulogy singing was anti-Boston. Berman seemed to think -- even after last season -- that the Red Sox could not score one measly run. And while he praised players on both sides, but I didn't hear any excessive Soxcentric gushing.

ALDS 3: White Sox 5, Red Sox 3

The baseball season ended today, on a day of "rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets." There are a few more games left on the schedule, a couple of weeks to tie up some loose ends, but they are of lesser importance.

When Edgar Renteria ended the second consecutive Red Sox season with a infield grounder, I went out to walk my dogs, and I was somewhat surprised at how I felt. ... I didn't mind all that much. Sure, winning is better than losing. I'd rather be anxious and pacing, waiting for Game 4 to start. But it seems that within my baseball heart, the glow of 2004 has failed to dim.

Dropping the first two games in Chicago certainly helped cushion the final blow. Being unable to score the tying run with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth sent a final signal -- a few innings early, so it was hard to initially grasp its message -- that Boston would not be repeating as World Series champions. (Despite the best intentions of Manny Ramirez.)

The short series was frustrating --- the White Sox outplayed our boys in every facet of the game: pitching, hitting, fielding, baserunning -- but there was no real angst over the final result, certainly no weight of history on the shoulders. Later on in the evening, I actually said: "Hey, you can't win them all."

Which is pretty funny, coming from a lifelong Red Sox fan. And yet: Do you know how good it feels to say that? The Red Sox will be one of 28 other teams that will be watching the World Series later this month. I don't like that, I wish it wasn't so, but deep down, I'm content.

I think about that and I think about what happened to bring me to this place, and I have to smile. Soon, some other group of fans will be celebrating, but ... I'll be damned. The ripple effects of 2004 -- and the promise of 2006, now a mere dot of light on the horizon, but soon to come into clearer view -- will keep me quite warm through another winter.

I love baseball.

October 7, 2005

Let's Do It Again!

One game. One win.

Not three. Not two.

One. Today.

The Red Sox lost three straight games only twice this season (May 24-26 and July 16-18). ... Red Sox teams are 11-2 in postseason games when facing elimination since the 1999 ALDS (8-1 in 2003 and 2004).

David Wells wants, is preparing for, and expects the ball if there is a Game 5 on Sunday. He would be pitching on three days rest: "For me, three days, if I was younger, yeah, I wouldn't have a problem. Now that I'm older, three days would be tougher. I don't think you're as strong."

Aaron Rowand against Wakefield: 10-for-14, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, no strikeouts, and a 1.643 slugging percentage. ... Keith Foulke underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee yesterday and should be back at full strength for spring training.

David Ortiz:
We're against the ropes again. You have to show everything you have or that's it.
Bronson Arroyo:
It was a lot worse when we came back from Oakland in '03 down 0-2. Back then it was like, 'Geez, we can't believe this is happening.' Now we have been through this so we just say 'We've got to buckle down and get to business.' ... [T]here's an overall calm here, these guys have been in these games before.
Ozzie Guillen:
I know how they play. I know how loose they are. Seem like they don't even care. ... You have to get this thing over as soon as you can. If not, you're going to be in trouble.
Rain is expected in Boston (and New York) today, but it should come after this afternoon's game. Saturday's games -- Red Sox-White Sox at 1:00 and Angels-Yankees at 4:00 -- could be in greater danger of being postponed (80% of rain in both cities).

Wakefield / Garcia, 4:00.

October 6, 2005

Don't Let Us Win Tomorrow ...

That's all I'm sayin'. Don't let the Red Sox win tomorrow. ...

No doubt about it. That one hurt. Up 4-0 early, Wells looked good. The Graffanino error was bad -- really bad -- but Wells could have gotten out of trouble. He didn't, and here we are.

Right where these idiots like to be, apparently, staring a cold winter right in the face. Is that the way it has to be? Fine. ... If I believed after 7-10, 1-3, and 8-19, I'll sure as shit believe now.

Last year's ALCS did an amazing thing. It now seems entirely possible for the Red Sox to come from behind. In fact, I just about expect it. Don't you? They did it to the Yankees last year -- and they were as far behind as you can get -- they can certainly do it here.

Steve Buckley, in today's Herald:
Some people – the droolers, the idiots – are going to want to turn Graffanino into the second coming of Billy Buckner. ... A reporter in the [post-game] crowd said that, after Graffanino made the error, "everyone" in the pressbox was talking about Bill Buckner.

This is why some players hate the media.

Earth to idiot: Everyone in the pressbox was not talking about Bill Buckner. I'm told that the ESPN team brought it up, which would make those guys idiots.

Let's try to remember that Buckner's error ended a World Series game. Graffanino's error was huge, costly. It was also in Game 2 of the Division Series, and it was in the fifth inning. Graffanino's error did not end the game. And even after Iguchi's home run, the Red Sox still had four more innings to tie it up.
Naturally, the New York and some Chicago writers couldn't type "Buckner" fast enough. The biggest dope was Kevin Kernan of the Post, who wrote that although Graffanino's error "was not nearly as tortuous as Buckner's ... [and] did not directly lose a game or a World Series," it "belongs to the ages" and Graff will "live in infamy" with Buckner.

Steven Krasner (ProJo) not only mentioned Buckner, he brought up Mike Torrez.

Graffanino blamed himself for the loss:
I didn't get a good read on it off the bat. I came in hard [and you could see the runner coming by and I took my eye off it] and I rushed it ... it cost us the ballgame. When we got the second out I thought we were going to get out of that inning. Then he hits the home run and I'm feeling like the game swung in their direction, and it's completely my fault.
Wells:
You hang a curveball and before you know it, you're down one run. It's just a tough situation. You don't go out there and try to make errors, you just go out and try to make plays. I had my opportunity. I blame myself more so because I hung the curveball. ... I'm sure he feels bad. I feel bad because I didn't pick him up, you don't point the finger at anybody. If you point anything, point it at me because I'm the one who gave up the home run.
After Iguchi's home run, ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe said that because of the error, Wells had had to throw "at least 15 more pitches"; at that point, Wells had thrown seven pitches since the error (and ended up throwing only an extra 10 to get out of the inning).

Anyone else notice that when Chris Berman starts a sentence and throws in a few digressions, by the time he reaches the end of his comment, he's out of breath and gasping for air and his voice sounds raspy and near-choking? Man, that guy is annoying.

In the top of the eighth, ESPN showed this graphic:
Red Sox Home Runs
2004 post season -- 18
2005 post-season -- 0
14 games (133 innings) versus 16 innings -- yeah, that's comparable. Idiots.

Barry Rozner of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, thinks the ALDS was a best-of-three series: "One pitch. That's all it takes to dethrone a champion. ... that one pitch [grounder to Graffanino] was the end of the World Champion Red Sox. ... And with the current state of the Red Sox' pitching, you just can't believe for a second that Boston can do it again."

Carlton Fisk:
It's hard for me to pick one over the other, because I have allegiances to both sides. I support the Red Sox because they have a chance to defend their championship. At the same time, it's easy for me to root for the White Sox, because they haven't been in a World Series in such a long time.
Francona refused to commit to a Game 5 starter, but he did say that Matt Clement would available out of the bullpen for Game 3. "We've talked with him about possibly being available ... We're trying to give our ballclub every possibility to be successful."

It's hard to say if this is because Clement is out of the rotation or that for Francona, facing elimination, all options are open. ... Clement has made only two relief appearances in his career, both as a rookie with San Diego in 1998. If he pitches on Friday, it would presumably mean that Clement would not start a potential Game 5. That would go to Bronson Arroyo or Wells on three days rest.

How About That! Francona said a report early this week that Wells rubs shaving cream on his right arm to get a better grip on the baseball was true. Tito said Wells has done it for years and has never tried to hide it (though, despite Tito's claim, it is against the rules). ... When asked about it a few days ago, however, Wells said: "---- it. ---- it. They cheat. They give signs. They give locations. They use pine tar on their bats. We get balls that are slick."

In the final six innings last night, the hacking Red Sox hitters saw only 70 pitches. ... Of the 22 teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Division Series, 18 have gone on to win, including 14 in sweeps. A Boston team has come back in two of those four times.

Chris Snow (Globe):
This is not ideal, not easy, and most definitely not healthy -- for them or you -- but this is what the Red Sox know, and that, it seems, is where their hope and faith lie. Down two games to none to Cleveland in the 1999 Division Series. Down two games to none to Oakland in the 2003 Division Series. Down three games to none to the Yankees in the 2004 Championship Series. Revived, and resplendent, in all three.
David Heuschkel (Courant):
Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was walking through the bowels of U.S. Cellular Field with his wife when he passed a stadium worker. "See you Sunday," Schilling said.
Curt:
We've got to win three in a row. It's not like we're saying we've got to make pigs fly. We've done this before.
Millar:
The mindset going home is just to win a ballgame. We know that we're a dangerous club, [and] they know we're a dangerous club. ... [A]fter that first 'W,' a lot of things can happen. You've seen it happen in the past that way. ...

We need the Nation behind us 100 percent. We need everybody to be on their feet. We need them to be on them in the bullpen. ... Even if we get down early, they need to stay into it and realize how much energy they bring to us as a club. ...

Down, 0-2, you've got to believe that. You've got to believe that nobody should be on the same field as you. You've got to have that swagger and that confidence, especially in our house.

October 5, 2005

ALDS 2: White Sox 5, Red Sox 4

Backs to the wall ... again.

It's not supposed to end like this.

It will not end like this.

Babe Hit Only Minor League HR In Toronto

From the Toronto Sun:
A local author wants to ensure a legendary piece of Toronto's baseball history is never forgotten.

Jerry Amernic has been campaigning for months to erect a heritage site at Hanlan's Point on Toronto Island where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run in 1914.

While a small historical plaque marks the site near the island airport, Amernic wants to erect three large historical signs in a landscaped area. "We pave over our history in this city and in this country. I thought we could do more to honour that home run" ...
Ruth, then 19 years old and playing for the Providence Grays, hit the home run on September 5, 1914. He also pitched a one-hit shutout that day, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 9-0.

In his four starts before getting hit in the head, Matt Clement threw 25 innings, gave up 28 hits, 10 walks and 22 earned runs for an ERA of 7.92. As SoSHer soxfaninyankeeland writes: "The Tampa Bay game is a convenient demarcation point, but he pitched poorly before it happened, and pitched well for a short time after it happened."

In Alan Schwarz's article -- "Why Do Managers Use Some Relievers for One Batter? Because It Works" -- he notes that Mike Myers has made 257 one-batter appearances, the most in major league history.

The Yankees won the East and New York Times writer Murray Chass is rubbing it in his readers' faces. What a sad, bitter man. ... Peter Gammons is confused: On Monday's "Dan Patrick Show", he picked Boston over Chicago. But on ESPN.com, he picked the White Sox in five games.

Loss In The Past; Wells / Buehrle at 7:00

One play lost in the flood of White Sox runs was Millar being thrown out at third in the fourth inning. He had just doubled, cutting Chicago's lead to 6-2. There were no outs. Bill Mueller smacked the ball to second base. Millar didn't look at the play, he just put his head down and "ran" to third. Iguchi made a low throw to Crede at third, but he had time to scoop it up and tag Millar.

Not only did Boston lose a base runner, but there was one out. ... Graffanino forced Mueller and Damon struck out. Clement was sent back out for the fourth, he gave those two runs back right away, and the rout was on.

Millar explains:
It was a play you don't see very often. It's a play that, probably, if he had to do it over again, he would have taken the out at first. But he went to third, threw the ball in the dirt that Joe Crede made a good play on. It could have been a costly mistake if Crede doesn't make that play ...

I had no clue he would go to third, but when I got there, I could see third base coach Dale Sveum yelling, 'Down, down, down.' As a baserunner, you think on a ball to the right side, you're advancing to third base. Billy Mueller did a good job getting me over, but the big thing was he hit that ball hard.
A stupid play from a stupid ballplayer.

After that half-inning, trailing 6-2, Francona never considered pulling Clement with the 7-8-9 hitters coming up for the White Sox:
No, we wanted to get him further in the game. We got Bradford up the next inning. We wanted to get Matt through the leadoff hitter. We would bring Bradford in to face the right hitters and get out of the inning, and we could go longer if we needed to. He gave up the home run before we could even get there. It fell apart in a hurry.
Clement became the first Red Sox pitcher to surrender five runs in the first inning of a postseason game since Smoky Joe Wood in Game 7 of the 1912 World Series.

Johnny Damon was pretty blunt in his post-game comments:
I'm not even sure who our No. 1 guy is. So I'm not sure if we could have set up our rotation, who would have been going Game 1. I thought Matt was a good choice. I thought he was going to go out there and make guys look silly. He just didn't have it. He hasn't had it this past month.
Ortiz:
It's not news that our pitching needs to hold the opposing team down. We don't get that, we're going to be in trouble. Playoffs, when you give up 14 runs, what's happening?
Francona:
It was a lot of missed locations. He missed by some pretty good margins quite a few times.
At the Soxaholix, one guy says that Clement "was throwing so much gahbage he now owes a kickback to the Gambino crime family."

Clement:
I hope I get a chance to redeem myself, but if it's not [meant to be], if they want me to relieve, whenever ... I'm going to be ready. We're not worried about Game 5 right now. We're worried about Game 2.
Jackie MacMullan (Globe) asks the predictable question:
[T]he Red Sox boast a wonderful and colorful history of bouncing back, but the biggest question this morning is: Does Clement have what it takes to follow suit? ... [I]t was his no-decision last Thursday night that left me with doubts about his mental fortitude in big games.

That regular-season game against Toronto was critical to Boston's postseason chances. ... Clement was knocked around for four runs and eight hits in five-plus innings. ... The lanky righthander's body language said it all that night. He looked, acted, and pitched like he was tight.

After each inning, he walked off the mound with his head down and shoulders slumped. In pressure situations, you need to at least fake a sense of command. Clement was unable to do that last week, and again yesterday.
The Red Sox have been involved in four of the nine biggest blowout games in baseball playoff history:
Oct. 10, 1999 Red Sox 23, Indians 7
Oct. 17, 1996 Braves 15, Cardinals 0
Oct. 14, 1996 Braves 14, Cardinals 0
Oct. 2, 1984 Cubs 13, Padres 0
Oct. 4, 2005 White Sox 14, Red Sox 2
Oct. 16, 1999 Red Sox 13, Yankees 1
Oct. 16, 2004 Yankees 19, Red Sox 8
Oct. 7, 1993 Braves 14, Phillies 3
Oct. 9, 1974 Dodgers 12, Pirates 1
Manny Ramirez went 0-for-4, ending his postseason hitting streak at 17 games (tied for longest in history with Hank Bauer (1956-58) and Derek Jeter (1998-99)). ... Wells: "I'm feeling pretty good right now, but I hope we can just win the whole thing and I can run off into the sunset and say good-bye."

There are accusations from a current and a former Yankee that Wells applies shaving cream to the ball during games. Posada admits it's hard to catch Wells in the act, because "you can't see it, you can't feel it, you can't smell it." Oh, okay.

October 4, 2005

ALDS 1: White Sox 14, Red Sox 2

Matt Clement had nothing -- absolutely nothing -- and Terry Francona left him in the game way too long.

Two HBP, two singles, a stolen base and a three-run home run gave Chicago a 5-0 lead after one inning. Clement had an easy second -- because Jason Varitek threw out Scott Podsednik trying to steal second -- but got hit (literally) in the third.

Clement allowed a one-out home run to Paul Konerko (6-0), then was drilled in the leg by a Carl Everett comebacker. Clement recovered and threw Everett out, and Tito and the trainer came out to see if Clement was hurt. This might have been the best time to pull him. (It was hard to figure out when the Red Sox pen got up; ESPN was unable to give that information.) Jeremi Gonzalez is on the roster for exactly this situation. Bronson Arroyo would have been a good choice, also.

Francona kept Clement in the game. His first pitch to Aaron Rowand was fouled straight back -- and Clement visibly flinched. Rowand lined out to left. Through three innings, Clement wasn't fooling anyone. Even with a wide strike zone he was failing, throwing weak fastballs and flat sliders, and missing location on just about every pitch that ended up being lined for a hit.

Boston scored twice in the fourth -- singles from Trot Nixon and Varitek, a double by Kevin Millar and an infield error -- to cut the score to 6-2. For some reason, Francona let Clement start the fourth. Big mistake, and one many Sox fans were first-guessing.

AJ Pierzynski ripped Clement's second pitch into the right field corner for a double. After Jose Crede flew to right, Juan Uribe crushed a two-run home run to left. 8-2.

Finally, Francona decided Clement was done. How many other managers would leave in a totally ineffective starter to surrender eight runs in 3.1 innings of a playoff game? ... It was the continuation of Clement's horrible September (33 innings, 38 hits, 24 runs, 16 walks).

(If you're wondering if Clement's poor second half was perhaps caused (in part) by getting hit with the line drive in Tampa, SoSHer soxfaninyankeeland posted this:
In the four starts before getting hit in the head, Clement threw 25 innings, gave up 28 hits, 10 walks and 22 earned runs for an ERA of 7.92. The Tampa Bay game is a convenient demarcation point, but he pitched poorly before it happened, and pitched well for a short time after it happened.)
And when he went to the pen, Francona brought in -- not Gonzalez, not Arroyo -- but one of the OOgies, Chad Bradford. Chadford retired the four guys he faced, on only 17 pitches, so he should be able to face a couple of guys tomorrow. (Or he better be, or his use today was even stupider.)

Gonzalez allowed four runs in the sixth (walk, HBP, single, 3-run HR). In the eighth, Arroyo allowed a home run to the first hitter he faced (Pierzynski, who hit a double, two home runs and scored four times), then walked two guys and allowed an RBI single.

I would have liked to have seen either of those two in the third or fourth. They might have pitched just as poorly if they had been used earlier -- or they might have pitched better. It's impossible to know, but using them when the game was within reach would have made more sense.

Why did Francona keep Arroyo out of a 6-2 game in the fourth inning, but had him pitch in the eighth inning of a 12-2 game? It made no sense.

Yanking Clement earlier might not have made much of a difference. Jose Contreras, emboldened with the early lead, pitched well, aided by many impatient Red Sox hitters. In both the first and third innings, Manny Ramirez came up with a runner in scoring position and ended the rally by hacking at the first pitch. ... Contreras threw six pitches in the sixth; he needed only nine for the seventh.

A horrible loss, but let's remember it's only one game. If Wells pitches effectively and the bats do even a fraction of what they can do, Boston will win, the series will be tied, and the Red Sox will have home field advantage in a best 2-of-3. (Though who do you want in a potential Game 5: Clement or Arroyo?)

A Favor

Could a kind reader in the Boston area pick up extra copies of the Herald and Globe for me, starting today (Tuesday) if possible?

Email me and we can work out appropriate payment.

Red Sox ALDS Roster

SP: Clement, Wells, Wakefield, Schilling

Bullpen: Arroyo, Bradford, Myers, Papelbon, Timlin, Gonzalez

Lineup: Varitek, Millar, Graffanino, Renteria, Mueller, Ramirez, Damon, Nixon, Ortiz

Bench: Mirabelli, Olerud, Cora, Youkilis, Machado, Hyzdu

Theo Epstein said Craig Hansen was not seriously considered: "We think asking him to be on the postseason roster wouldn't have really been fair. ... He's going to have a very productive offseason and report to Spring Training."

Steven Krasner (ProJo) reports that Roberto Petagine and Hanley Ramirez are in Ft. Myers working out in case of a possible roster change for the ALCS.

Matt Clement's post-ASG ERA was 5.72 (and 7.20 in his last five starts). Jose Contreras was 8-0, 2.09 over his final eight starts (11-2, 2.96 ERA after the ASG), but he has a 11.67 ERA (35 ER in 27 IP) against Boston.

Theo says that Contreras has become a better pitcher than when he was in New York:
He's throwing his fastball more, really establishing that first. He's throwing it with improved velocity. His split is a lights-out pitch right now. He's taken a step forward. He's a little bit different guy than he was in the past. To me the biggest difference from afar is that he now pitches more conventionally, establishing his fastball, using his split off of his fastball. Whereas in the past, especially whenever he'd get in trouble, he would get really split happy and you couldn't get him to throw his fastball. When he did, he couldn't consistently command it. I know the Yankees tried to get him to throw his fastball more and he just couldn't do it.
Kevin Millar will be at first this afternoon; he's is 5-for-10 against Jose Contreras, including two home runs and an 1.867 OPS. He's also doing a MLB Diary again.

Ozzie Guillen:
With Jose pitching, I don't want Ortiz to beat him. I will take the chance with Manny.
Guillen also said Bobby Jenks will be his closer (not Dustin Hermanson).

Division Series Predictions

Last night, I realized now that people can comment here, I didn't need to solict predictions via email. So here are the two emails I have received so far:

Andrew at 12eight:
BOS/CHW: Sox in 4
NYY/LAA: Angels in 4
SDP/STL: Cardinals in 4
HOU/ATL: Braves in 5
I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Andrew meant the Red Sox.

Sam Pratt:
Red Sox beat White Sox, 3-1 (L, W, W, W)
Me:
Red Sox in 4
Angels in 4
Cardinals in 3
Astros in 5
Go Sox! You Can Doooo Eeet!

A commercial message ... I love my Godpapi shirt:

October 3, 2005

2005 Contest Winner

Franco Baseggio has won the Second Annual Joy Of Sox Final Record Prediction contest. He also won it in 2004.

Here were the entries, as posted back on April 3:
                     Red Sox     ERA: Curt v Unit

Brian Young 104-58 Johnson - 32
Marc Witkes 102-60 Schilling - 15
L-girl 102-60
Jere 101-61 Schilling - 11
Slater Mondale 101-61 Johnson - ?
Mike Battista 99-63 Schilling - 22
Amy McMahan 98-64 Johnson - 15
Dave Weinstein 98-64 Johnson - 67
Brian M 97-65 Johnson - 40
Darren Madigan 97-65 Johnson - 61
William Duval 97-65 Schilling - 18
Josh Friedman 97-65 Johnson - 30
Leonet_5 96-66 Schilling - 38
Franco Baseggio* 95-67 Johnson -101
Mike Torsiello 92-70 Schilling - 24
Pat Flannery 92-70 Schilling - 37

Me 100-62 Johnson - 25
*: last year's winner.

The tiebreaker -- who would end up with the lower ERA, Schilling or Johnson? -- was not needed. For the record, Johnson's ERA was 190 points lower than Schilling's (3.79 to 5.69). I see that Franco was also the closest to that actual outcome. ... The guy is good!

Now, as for the main prize: (cough, cough) I procrastinated all summer (my true talent) and now, at the point of submitting the 2004 Joy of Sox book to Cafe Press, I'm stuck. The Word file must be converted to a PDF with embedded fonts and resized to 5x8 (rather than the usual 8.5x11). A SoSHer embedded the fonts for me, but couldn't get the template to stay resized at 5x8.

Can anyone out there help out? Email if you can (the book file is between 8-9 MB). I'll send you a copy of the finished book or burn you a Stones bootleg CD or something else.

ALDS

Game 1: Clement at Contreras, Tuesday 4:00
Game 2: Wells at Buehrle, Wednesday 7:00
Game 3: ? at Wakefield, Friday 4:00
Game 4: ? at Schilling, Saturday
Game 5: Boston at Chicago, Sunday
Send your DS predictions (just the Sox or all four series) to me via joyofsox@gmail.com. I'll post totals tomorrow.

Break out the earplugs: ESPN's Chris Berman and Rick Sutcliffe (and Mike Piazza) are calling the first three games of the series.

The Sox will likely carry only 10 pitchers: Clement, Wells, Wakefield, Schilling, Arroyo, Timlin, Papelbon, Bradford, Myers, DiNardo. ... That will give Boston 15 positions players, including a bench of: Mirabelli, Olerud, Cora, Youkilis, Hyzdu, Machado. ... In the best-of-seven ALCS, Boston could add an 11th pitcher.

Bronson Arroyo led the team with 20 quality starts, but he's back in the bullpen. "I don't care where I pitch in the postseason, man. ... We win every game in a blowout, I don't touch the ball in the playoffs, it doesn't matter to me as long as we win. My arm is in shape to take the ball two, three, four days in a row if I have to."

David Ortiz was named the American League Player of the Month for September. He hit .320 with a club-record 11 homers and 29 RBI. ... Ortiz and Manny Ramirez finished with 148 and 144 RBI, respectively. Their combined total of 292 RBI is the second highest in team history (Ted Williams and Vern Stephens, 318 RBI, 1949).

In his last 12 games, Ramirez hit .386 (17-for-44) with nine homers, 13 runs scored and 19 RBI. ... In the last 23 games, Ramirez batted .349-12-27. ... Ramirez went .409-5-8 on Boston's season-ending seven-game homestand. ... Plus, he finished with a MLB-leading 17 outfield assists.

Hitting coach Ron Jackson: "Manny hasn't taken batting practice for maybe three months. We've been working in the cage, doing soft toss. I think that's helped him stay strong down the stretch. He's gotten a little closer to the plate and finally got his hands up a little higher. I think that's helped him. He's locked in."

Trot Nixon ended the season hitting .042 (1-for-24) over his last seven games.

Terry Francona wanted Mike Timlin on the mound for the final out: "My worst nightmare was him having to stay out there for 30 pitches. It didn't happen, which was good. I think he deserved to be out there when we won."

Media Blogs
Boston Globe Extra Bases

Providence Journal Sox Blog

Boston Herald Clubhouse Insider

Boston Phoenix
Scott's Shots has more on the Fox Fiasco -- and don't miss the Dan Shaughnessy Watch.

October 2, 2005

G162: Red Sox 10, Yankees 1

IN!
Red Sox at White Sox, Tuesday 4pm
Yankees at Angels, Tuesday, 8pm

Padres at Cardinals, Tuesday 1pm
Astros at Atanta, Wednesday, 4pm

P.S. After the final out, NESN did not go to commercial, so my cable package kept showing the broadcast. I got to see more than 30 minutes of lockerroom celebration and interviews. At one point, I ran and got my digital camera and took some pictures of my TV.

At the end of this interview, Damon is told that he's wearing a Houston Astros Division Series cap. How that got into the Red Sox clubhouse is anyone's guess.

ALDS Game 1 starter Matt Clement.

Tito gets soaked by Schilling.

Tony Graffanino.

Other great sights: Kevin Millar wearing his goggles on the bench during the ninth inning, Gabe Kapler on crutches in the middle of the clubhouse and Hanley Ramirez going wild, spraying anyone and everyone. From MLB's main page:

Wild Is The Win

The Red Sox control their own destination. With a win this afternoon, they head to Chicago to begin the ALDS on Tuesday afternoon.

A Monday playoff game for the wild card -- only possible if Boston loses and Cleveland wins -- would feature Matt Clement pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career.

Art Martone writes that the Red Sox
are in better position now -- both to make the postseason and in the playoffs themselves if they get there -- than they were before yesterday's game. ...

[T]he Sox probably get the easier opponent as the wild card than they would have as division champ. The Yankees have to play the scorching Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have won 12 of their last 14 games and are 19-9 since Aug. 31. The Red Sox get the lukewarm White Sox, who have barely been a .500 team (36 wins and 33 losses) since July 18.
Manny Ramirez's second homer yesterday gave the Red Sox 900 runs for the third straight season. The last AL team to do that was the 1936-39 Yankees (the Rockies did it in 1999-2001).

Unless the Yankees win by 16 runs today, Boston will lead MLB in runs scored for the third consecutive year. The last teams to achieve that were the Brooklyn Dodgers (1951-53) and the Red Sox (1948-50).

Fox Hates Baseball; I Hate Fox

Is Fox Sports on a mission to annoy every single baseball fan on the planet?

Their pre-game coverage is horrifically bad and Tim McCarver is going senile right before our eyes. Worst of all, in the middle innings, they put both the Red Sox/Yankees and the White Sox/Cleveland games in a split-screen format, though the Boston game was in a much smaller box. I have a 27-inch set and I couldn't tell a swing and miss from a foul around the plate (I had to check Gameday).

I found it odd that Fox went to split-screen only when the Red Sox were batting. When the Yankees hit, they got the normal, full-screen treatment. The entire bottom of the fourth had the Sox in a tiny square in the corner of the screen, with no audio. When did Fox return to full-screen? Just in time to see the Yankees jogging off the field after the third out.

After New York batted in the top of the sixth, Fox went to the Chicago-Cleveland game instead of commercials. And they stayed on that game even while the Red Sox were batting in the bottom of the sixth. Fox didn't broadcast Millar striking out for the first out. When they came back, Joe Buck said: "What you missed while you were away ..." Hey, I wasn't away, you incompetent morons.

Let's be clear: Fox demands exclusive rights to show the Red Sox/Yankees game -- and then doesn't show all of it.

The list of Fox's fuck-ups is nearly endless:

They failed to return from commercials quickly enough several times; they had no idea where Manny's first-inning home run went, and they missed Ortiz's leadoff double in the third.

When they suddenly went to the other game for "breaking news," it was to show a routine grounder or fly out.

Later, with Boston trailing by five runs and Cleveland down by only one and rallying in the eighth, they did not show the Cleveland game. Great sense of priorities.

The horrifically bad broadcast quality looked like a fourth generation VHS tape dub.

The super-imposed advertisements behind the plate were so bright that at times they shone through Mirabelli's midsection.

The montage of glum Sox fans with REM's "Everybody Hurts" as accompanying music. McCarver clearly hated the song, because he was moaning and then laughing like a seven-year-old girl. Then Fox started playing it again as Buck was talking. It all sounded like a bad Morning Zoo skit.

Fox is a disgrace. The sooner some other network -- ANY other network -- gets MLB rights, the better.

And guess what. Untrained monkeys were not handling the production duties yesterday. All that crap was by design and we should expect more of it during the playoffs.

Dan Bell, Fox director of communications:
We're doing just what we said we would -- following and updating the games with a bearing on the pennant races. Our job is to provide viewers around the country with every significant play. It's not like we're talking about games with no significance.
But Dan, if I wanted to watch Cleveland, I'd change the channel to that game.

Fox Sports president Ed Goren added:
Look at the score. The Sox are losing and the fans are upset.
So Fox didn't screw up -- Red Sox fans were just grumpy.

The Globe article also states:
A couple of Division Series games are scheduled to be regional telecasts with similar split-screens and cut-ins.
Regional games? Didn't MLB abolish this disaster of an idea after the wild card's first year? That sounds like Red Sox fans on the west coast could quite possibly be stuck watching the Padres instead of their team.

MLB.com lists this guy as handling broadcasting. Write him a letter if you are similarly annoyed.
Tim Brosnan
Executive Vice President, Business
Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10167
Or vent here:
http://msn.foxsports.com/feedback

October 1, 2005

G161: Yankees 8, Red Sox 4

New York wins the East. Red Sox clinch a Monday playoff game against Cleveland -- or they win the wild card tomorrow.

***

Tim Wakefield --on three days rest -- just didn't have it. The solo home runs by Matsui and Slappy in the third and fifth, respectively, deepened Boston's hole, but were not reason enough to yank Wakefield from the game. That has been his problem in several starts. The solo home runs start to add up after awhile, but it's often not a clear sign of trouble. Besides, who would have come in? DiNardo? Gonzalez? Francona was correct to stick with Wakefield (though pull him if he really faltered) and hope the bats woke up.

They didn't. Randy Johnson got his shit together after a shaky start and pitched 7.1 good innings. (People think Pedro is a diva? Man, this guy is the biggest ball-and-strike whiner I've ever seen.) If the Sox had been able to get it him a bit more, there was a decent chance he'd go postal. ... They helped him out by hacking early in the count. Johnson retired the Sox in order on five pitches in the fifth; the third (12 pitches) and seventh (13) were also quick innings. And Sheffield made two diving catches, which, if they had fallen for hits, might have altered the outcome.

Also, Francona's managing seemed less urgent today. In the sixth, trailing 7-2, he let Millar and Mirabelli bat (even though Wakefield was out of the game).

But thanks to Chicago's 4-3 win in Cleveland, this loss doesn't hurt as much as it would otherwise.

Tomorrow:
If Boston wins, they win the wild card.
If Cleveland loses, Boston wins the wild card.
If Boston loses and Cleveland wins, they play a playoff game on Monday at Fenway.
That's it.

Manny hit home runs #43 and #44, two absolute bombs -- one that landed on the roof of the Cask (true?) and one that hit the back wall in dead center. Graffanino got three hits, Damon walked twice and stole a base, and the team got nice relief appearances from Stanton, DiNardo and Hansen. ... But the bats were quiet. The Red Sox have totaled only 11 hits in these two games.

By the way -- Matsui should have been called out in the eighth and the Yankees' last run should not have scored. Rule 7.08 states that any runner is out when "He runs more than three feet away from a direct line between bases to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball."

Wakefield Impersonator Throws NY BP

It was George Steinbrenner's idea. To get the Yankees ready for Tim Wakefield, a call went out to one of their former pitchers, Joe Ausanio -– who also pitched with Wakefield in the Pirates organization in the early 1990s -- to throw BP before today's game.

Ausanio: "Honestly, I thought they were joking." ... Joe Torre ("I'm not sure if that's the answer because they're not all the same.") and Don Mattingly ("It's not going to be the same as Wakefield, but who knows.") were somewhat skeptical of the idea. Because they pitched together, Ausanio says, "I know exactly how he grips it and I can emulate his delivery."

This afternoon is a rematch of September 11, when Wakefield struck out a career-high 12 batters, but New York won 1-0.

David Wells on the small strike zone in the first inning last night: "The first walk [to Alex Rodriguez], I thought I threw a strike there, but I didn't say anything. The last thing I need right now is an argument with an umpire." ... Which reminds me -- Wells argued balls and strikes with umpires in July, was ejected and given a six-game suspension. Today's starter, Randy Johnson, argued balls and strikes with umpires on September 16, was ejected and given ... nothing.

Kevin Youkilis could play today if needed. Francona: "Third base might be a stretch. I think hitting is the main thing." ... Wade Boggs, honored by the Red Sox before last night's game: "My God. What are the headlines going to be like on Monday if the Yankees don't make the playoffs?"

Ortiz: "New season. These two teams have a lot of history. But history's been changing lately. ... Whoever feels pressure right now is in trouble. We're not feeling pressure right now. I'm telling you."

Pedro's MVP?
David is the best clutch hitter I've ever seen. He's the best I've ever seen in my now-long career. The best. That's why I say, that's your MVP, when you see something like [Ortiz's heroics Thursday]. Because of how much he's done that. ... You don't want to pitch David in a tight game. That's how you feel if you're on the other side. I don't want to see David come up.
Mike Vaccaro, New York Post:
He's making it easier and easier for the voters at home, simplifying what should be a complex argument. Look, there's little doubt that Alex Rodriguez is a better baseball player than David Ortiz, because there may not be one or two other players on the planet who even belong in the same comparative sentence with him.

But the truth is, in these waning days of the season, Rodriguez is running like Thomas Dewey and Ortiz is coming on like Harry Truman, making converts by the truckloads, making one compelling argument after another.

And when the candidates met at last at Fenway Park last night, it was a re-run of the Nixon-Kennedy debates. Rodriguez seemed to sweat and wilt and melt under the hot glare of the spotlight; Ortiz seemed to shine only brighter.

Rodriguez walked in the first, skied to deep center field twice, then took a dreadful strike three on a pitch that practically bisected the plate in the seventh inning, halting the last burst of Yankees momentum after Derek Jeter had crushed one into the bullpen in right field, cutting a four-run Red Sox lead in half, to 5-3.

Oh, yes: there was also the Johnny Damon ground ball that slid through Rodriguez' legs in the third. That was for all the propaganda readers had read about how much more valuable Rodriguez is because of his mitt, no doubt. Ortiz? Amid thunderous chants of "M! V! P!" he shrugged his shoulders and stroked a first-inning RBI single that tied the game at 1-1, and he spent the rest of the game vaguely terrifying whoever was on the mound. It's what he does. He spends most of his time trotting, either down to first or all the way around the bases. Not much need for footspeed when you do more trotting than the ponies at the Meadowlands."
Tim Wakefield / The Big Eunuch at 1:20.