October 31, 2008

Wakefield Coming Back For 2009

The Red Sox exercised Tim Wakefield's $4 million option on Friday. In 2009, Wakefield will become the first pitcher in Red Sox history to pitch 15 consecutive seasons with the team.

Wakefield had 18 quality starts, second only to Jon Lester. His 112 ERA+ was his best performance since 2003. From May 28 to the end of the season -- the last two-thirds of the year -- Wakefield posted a 3.61 ERA in 20 starts. Included in that stretch was a nine-start run (May 28 to July 12), where he had a 2.13 ERA in 63.1 innings.

Varitek Files For Free Agency

Jason Varitek filed for free agency yesterday. The Red Sox have exclusive negotiating rights for the next 15 days. After that, any of the 29 other teams can contact Varitek.

Pawtucket knuckleballer Charlie Zink was named the 2008 AAA Starting Pitcher of the Year. During one 19-game stretch, he allowed one earned run or fewer 14 times. Zink made his major league debut on August 12 at Fenway Park in the crazy 19-17 victory over Texas.

David Ortiz admits he heard some fans ungrateful morons booing him during the playoffs.
[F]ans run out of patience and I understand that. It's kind of hard. I saw Pedro Martinez getting booed. I saw Nomar get booed. Those guys, they did it all here before that. I don't mind. I'll just come back next year ready.
Boston claimed former Tigers right-hander Virgil Vasquez off waivers.

In Amalie Benjamin's mailbag, she writes: "It's extremely difficult to fault the Sox for not seeing the potential in Carlos Pena." I disagree. At the time (September 2006), many fans were furious that Terry Francona let Pena rot on the bench while penciling in Eric Hinske and the Corpse of Mark Loretta at first base.

Also: Could the unprepared-unpopular-and-gaffe-prone Joe Morgan be dropped from ESPN's Sunday night broadcasts? ... The Post reports that "several industry sources believe the Yankees will make a serious push for [Manny Ramirez] to play right field next year." !

October 29, 2008

Phillies Win World Series in 5 Games

The Red Sox are no longer baseball's defending champions.
Rays     - 000 101 100 - 3 10  0
Phillies - 200 001 10x - 4 8 1
Cole Hamels was named MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series.

Confusion On The Ground

I turned on WS 5 in the fifth inning and sheets of rains were falling. I could not believe the umpires were allowing the game to continue. Tampa Bay scored the tying run in the top of the sixth inning (I'm sure the umps heaved a sigh of relief) and out came the tarp. They could not resume the game last night, so the remainder of Game 5 is now set for tonight.

Reading this SoSH Thread about Bud Selig (as well as the lengthy WS thread starting here), I have to admit that I cannot paint the Used-Car Salesman as the huge idiot I usually do.

Once the game began -- was everyone fooled by a conservative weather forecast? -- Selig followed the rule book. There seems to have been a genuine failure to communicate between Selig, umpires, team officials, managers, players, media, and fans about how the game would be treated if it was delayed/suspended. I will also state that a World Series championship should never be decided by a game that lasts fewer than nine innings.

The Phillies clearly have the advantage for the rest of Game 5. They get to bat first and they get to bat last. Obviously, the game should have been suspended much earlier than it was. But that cannot be undone. And while it would be in violation of the rules, I'm wondering if the best solution is to wipe out what was played of Game 5 and simply start the game over.

October 26, 2008

Book Review: Baseball Field Guide

Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger are, according to their back cover bio, "design experts with many decades of award-winning work and an obsession with baseball between them".

Both of those skills are on display in this revised and updated edition of their "Baseball Field Guide" (Da Capo Press). The first edition was published in 2006.

Formosa and Hamburger have rewritten what they refer to as "the vague, misleading, confusing, inconsistent, and obscure" rules of baseball. They have recast the rule book in language that is easy to understand -- for both new fans and decades-long devotees -- with simple, yet highly informative, illustrations.

Here is one of the illustrations for interference:


Pages 64-65 -- Pitching Positions:


Along the way, you'll learn 12 ways a runner can be called out, 18 ways a batter can make an out, nine ways an error can be charged, and 21 instances that warrant a player's ejection.

Formosa and Hamburger have created a real gem. I can't think of a better book that serves an introduction to the sport and how it is played. I'll be referring to the Field Guide at least as often as I do to the actual rule book ... probably more.

[Earlier this year, a Perseus Books publicity person emailed me, asking if I wanted to review this book. In an odd coincidence, I had been admiring it in a book store the previous day.]

October 25, 2008

Dogs

Our dogs recently enjoyed some bones in the backyard. Here is Tala:


Much to our surprise, Cody has dug out a little den for herself near the patio.


(Also some shots from a recent hike.)

October 23, 2008

Beckett's Game 6 Pain; Lowrie Played With Broken Wrist

Theo Epstein called Josh Beckett's ALCS 6 start "borderline heroic". Epstein also said that Beckett had suffered, not a strained oblique, but a "torn oblique".

WEEI's Rob Bradford gives us a little bit more information:
Beyond the fact that he had to adjust his game to the point of throwing nearly 40 percent off-speed pitches because of the ailment, there was the immense obstacle that the pain presented.

Even with the assistance of pain-relieving medication following the ALCS win, Beckett still struggled to put his shirt on just before getting exiting the Tropicana Field visitors' clubhouse.

"The one thing I know," Beckett said, "is if I could have gotten the last three innings of that game I can get through anything."
An MRI on Jed Lowrie's left wrist revealed "a small non-displaced fracture". Lowrie may have sustained the injury back in mid-May. After rejoining the Red Sox two months later, he hit .248/.339/.385 the rest of the season. The team says Lowrie's wrist should be back to full strength with three weeks of rest.

Derek Lowe is interested in returning to Boston. SoSH talks.

***

Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts quotes SI's Jon Heyman: "...one person who's spoken to Dodgers people suggested that the team is considering proposing a contract to Manny Ramirez that may ..." blah blah blah (my emphasis) Weisman tell us: "How To Survive the Hot Stove League Without Getting Burned".

***

After the Red Sox lost Game 7, I commented that it would neat if Tampa Bay could complete their amazing season by winning the World Series. Well, after watching the first two innings of Game 1 last night, I've changed my mind. I don't necessarily care if the Phillies win, but the Rays annoy me and so they gotta lose.

October 22, 2008

Schilling Blogs About Manny (Again...)

Why can't Curt Schilling put Manny Ramirez and the issues surrounding the slugger's last few months with the Red Sox in the past?

Most Red Sox fans have moved on. Indeed, most of us had moved on by August 3 or so. Yet Schilling, whose disdain for many national and Boston sportswriters is well-known, has more in common with these knights of the keyboard than he would probably care to admit. What can be gained by bashing Manny every few weeks?

Around 2 PM on Wednesday, Schilling posted an answer of sorts to the question "Could the Red Sox have gone deeper into the post-season with Manny?" to his blog. It was entitled "Just To Be Clear" and could be found here -- until he went back and deleted it later in the afternoon.

However, once you post something to the internet, it's impossible to pull it back. Evan at Fire Brand had the complete post in his RSS feed and posted sections of it at his blog. I found the entire post at Sawx Heads.

Schilling wants to be perceived as a "straight-shooter" who (like it or not) calls 'em like he sees 'em. He clearly worked for awhile on this 2,499-word post and I cannot imagine him not weighing the pros and cons of posting it before hitting the "publish" button. So why won't he stand behind these words?

Screen shots below -- text in the first comment.

October 21, 2008

Epstein Discusses Off-Season Plans

Theo Epstein held a wide-ranging press conference at Fenway Park yesterday, noting the Red Sox would be a "selective shopper" on the free agent market.

The biggest roster issue for 2009 -- by far -- is catcher Jason Varitek, who will be a free agent. He had the worst season of his career at the plate (.220/.313/.359; his 74 OPS+ was worse than Julio Lugo (80) and not much better than Kevin Cash (68)). He turns 37 on April 11.

Epstein:
What we like to do is be league average at every position, and then be way above league average at as many positions as we can. We try to have no weak links and be at least league average at every position. It's well-documented that there's not a lot of elite catching out there, but we'll figure it out.
The pitching staff seems stable and unlikely to change in any significant way. In addition to the main starters, Clay Buchholz is doing well in the Arizona Fall League and the team will have to decide if it wishes to keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen.

Epstein said he is unconcerned about Josh Beckett.
The number one prescription for a torn oblique is six weeks of rest. We just couldn't afford that at the time. He just needs to rest and have himself a good offseason, [and do] what he always does and build up his shoulder strength for the coming season.
Epstein also called the surgery on Mike Lowell's right hip
a complete success. ... They finally got a look in there. They didn't see anything they didn't expect. They were actually pleasantly surprised. ... He should be ready to go for Spring Training or shortly thereafter.
David Ortiz will not have surgery on his right wrist.

Elsewhere in the infield, there is the question of what to do with the Julio Lugo/Jed Lowrie situation at shortstop. In some ways it is similar to the dilemma the team faced last April with outfielders Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury. Epstein said Lugo would have been considered for the World Series roster if Boston had won Sunday night.
I think [Lugo's] got a lot to offer. I think he's also got a lot to prove. I think he and Lowrie can also complement each other very well.
Mike Timlin, Paul Byrd, Alex Cora, Sean Casey and Mark Kotsay are all eligible for free agency.

October 20, 2008

Lowell Has Surgery

The off-season has begun.

Mike Lowell will have surgery on his right hip today in New York.

October 19, 2008

ALCS 7: Rays 3, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 100 000 000 - 1  3  0
Rays - 000 110 10x - 3 6 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 2008 AL Champions.



Lester was good (7-6-3-0-8, 107), but Garza -- named the MVP of the series -- was better (7-2-1-3-9, 118).

Dustin Pedroia lined a home run to left in the first -- 6th pitch of the game -- and David Ortiz followed with a walk. Garza retired the next two Sox and outside of hitting FY in the third and walking him in the sixth, no other Sock reached base until there was one out in the seventh.

By that time, the Rays led 3-1. Lester did set down the first nine Rays batters, but a two-out double from Evan Longoria in the fourth tied the game and three straight hits to open the fifth -- Willy Aybar double, Dioner Navarro single, Rocco Baldelli single -- gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead. Aybar donged to start the seventh to give the Rays a two-run lead.

Boston tried to rally. After Kevin Youkilis popped to shortstop to start the seventh, JD Drew walked on four pitches and Jason Bay singled. After a mound visit from Joe Maddon, Garza -- working slowly -- got Mark Kotsay to fly to right and then struck out Jason Varitek on a changeup in the dirt.

In the eighth, Alex Cora batted -- Tito was not very Assassiny tonight -- and grounded to shortstop. Jason Bartlett did not charge the ball and it clanked off his glove for an error. Maddon went to the bullpen -- repeatedly. He used four relievers in the inning. Dan Wheeler allowed a single to right from Coco Crisp but got FY on a routine fly to left. JP Howell came in and got Ortiz to ground to second (on seven pitches) and Coco was forced. Chad Bradford fell behind Yook 3-0, battled back to a full count, and walked him. Then David Price came in and struck out Drew on a 1-2 check swing.

Price -- who began the year in the lowly Florida State League -- came back out for the ninth. Jason Bay (cbbfbf) walked, but Price struck out Kotsay (ffbbc) and Varitek (bsfbs). Jed Lowrie pinch-hit for Cora and grounded a 0-1 pitch right to Akinori Iwamura, who grabbed the ball on a high hop and raced to second for the Red-Sox-season-ending force.

The Rays and Phillies will play Game 1 of the World Series at the Trop on Wednesday night.

***

Jon Lester / Matt Garza
Red Sox            Rays
Crisp, CF Iwamura, 2B
Pedroia, 2B Upton, CF
Ortiz, DH Pena, 1B
Youkilis, 3B Longoria, 3B
Drew, RF Crawford, LF
Bay, LF Aybar, DH
Kotsay, 1B Navarro, C
Varitek, C Baldelli, RF
Cora, SS Bartlett, SS
The Globe reports that the Red Sox are "sticking with the idea that Alex Cora hits hard-throwing right-handers better than Jed Lowrie". Cora went 1-for-3 against Garza in Game 3.

I checked their 2008 splits and have decided to not freak out.
Against Power Pitchers

Cora .302/.377/.415
Lowrie .200/.333/.259

Against RHP

Cora .266/.378/.363
Lowrie .222/.308/.344
***

Here is a handy chart of how many pitches each reliever has thrown in the series:
Bullpen Pitches Thrown 

Red Sox 1 2 3 4 5 6 TOT

Okajima 4 28 28 32 92
Masterson 5 18 39 15 18 95
Papelbon 12 18 38 8 76
Lopez 1 26 27
Delcarmen 20 28 17 65
Timlin 23 31 54
Byrd 47 47

Rays 1 2 3 4 5 6 TOT
Howell 12 23 20 25 23 103
Balfour 21 19 25 18 83
Price 3 12 15
Bradford 24 14 38
Miller 8 6 1 15
Wheeler 48 33 81
Jackson 14 25 39
***

Fact: Tampa Bay is three two one games away from elimination.

The Red Sox have won nine consecutive ALCS elimination games. Tonight, they go for #10.

Kevin Youkilis:
It's amazing. It's really amazing the games we play, and how much fun it's been. When we're all old and our children are all grown up, we'll sit around and meet up and talk about games like the game the other day. It's a wild ride, and we're very spoiled.
Jonathan Papelbon admits he's "pretty beat up". His fastball was only 92-93 mph last night.
For me, in these things, if I don't have my A-plus fastball, I'd better have my A-plus mental approach and my A-plus headset. My head was right tonight.
Hideki Okajima threw two scoreless innings last night -- the third time he has done so in this series.

From Josh Beckett's post-game interview:
Josh, you struggled in the postseason thus far, but tonight you looked like the Josh Beckett of 2003 and 2007.

I don't know really if that's even a question. ...

The Clifford Floyd at-bat in the fourth --

Clifford?

Some of his friends call him that. ...
Also: Post-game Q&As from Maddon and Francona.

Joe Maddon:
We've got one more shot. We can truly teach ourselves a lesson. We can do something that will make an imprint on us for a long time.
You sure can, Joe, and you will, but it's not going to be the good kind of imprint.

Evan Longoria makes no sense:
In my opinion, there'll be less pressure on anyone. We'll throw it out there and have fun. I think there was more pressure when we were up 3-to-1. There was pressure on us to end it. Elimination games are always pressure-packed. You feel you have to win them, and in that situation you start to press. Now it's back to 0-0, and we'll come out and play the way we've been playing all year.
Dood, this is an elimination game! So start pressin'!

Clifford:
They're the World Series champs. You've got to take it from them. They know how to win. They stay poised in tough situations. That said, it's going to happen [tonight].
Sean McAdam, Herald:
The Rays had spent the off day Friday swearing up and down that, nope, there wasn't going to be any sort of carryover effect from Game 5, and yep, they had already forgotten all about it and seemed almost offended by the line of questioning.

Crushing loss? What crushing loss?

But defeats like Thursday's don't wash off in the shower. They stay with you. ...

The cracks are starting to show now. Arguably the best defensive team in the league during the season, the Rays have withered in the field in the last two games. ... The bullpen, so critical to the team's magic this season, suddenly looks vulnerable. ...

Game 7 comes tonight, the game the Rays didn't want. They have whiffed on two chances to put the Red Sox away for good and tonight they get their last chance.
***

It worked in 2004. It worked in 2007. It'll work in 2008.
One.

One game. One win. That's all.

Tonight.

October 19 Newsstand






October 18, 2008

ALCS 6: Red Sox 4, Rays 2

Red Sox - 011 002 000 - 4 10  0
Rays - 100 010 000 - 2 4 1
Sometime during the seventh inning on Thursday night, I made peace with the fact that the Red Sox 2008 season had come to an end.

But then Boston came back and actually won the game. So while more than a few game threaders were highly anxious throughout Game 6 tonight, I was totally (and surprisingly) calm the entire nine innings. This might as well have been a March 20 spring training game.

After Tampa Bay had tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth, the Red Sox struck back with two outs. Jason Varitek homered to right field (!) -- it was a good thing our young dog was outside at the time, as our sudden yelling in the last two games has freaked her out. Coco Crisp singled, "Small Game" Shields was yanked, Dustin Pedroia reached on an error and David Ortiz singled in Crisp to give the Sox a 4-2 lead.

After Beckett battled through five innings (5-4-2-1-3, 78), Hideki Okajima threw two scoreless innings (allowing only a two-out walk in the sixth), Justin Masterson took care of the eighth (a leadoff HBP was marooned at first) and Jonathan Papelbon needed only eight pitches to get rid of the Rays in the ninth.


It's Lester/Garza on Sunday night -- for the American League pennant.

***

BR Preview: Josh Beckett / James Shields

Fact: Tampa Bay is three two games away from elimination.

We tried to warn Joe Maddon that "when you have your target lined up in your sights, you fucking fire. You don't stop and check if your shoelaces are tied."

But Mr. 9=8 refused to listen. And now -- thanks to a clutch effort from nearly the entire Red Sox team -- his team has its back to the wall and assigned the task of facing Josh Beckett who must be burning to atone for his poor performance in Game 2.

Cliff Floyd:
We don't go up there and think, Now we've got to beat Beckett — no one cares about Beckett. Face him the same way you face everybody else. If anything, Beckett should be worried about us. We just beat him [in Game 2].
Yeah, that's right. Piss him off. Chap his ass real good.

David Ortiz, on Beckett:
This is a big game, dog. I've got the feeling that he's going to bring it.
And on the other side of the field?

The only kind of "Big Game" Shields will be is the kind Beckett and Timlin hunt in the off-season.

The Herald's Steve Buckley describes Ortiz "navigating the media throng that had assembled in front of his locker late yesterday afternoon at Tropicana Field, zigging and zagging to avoid a cameraman, bobbing and weaving to sidestep a guy with a microphone. ... 'I'll talk tomorrow with my bat.'"

According to Win Probability stats, when Justin Masterson got Carlos Pena to GIDP and end the top of the ninth, Boston's chances of winning the game increased 22% -- from 42% to 65%. It was the third most important play of the night. Ortiz's three-run bomb increased the team's chances of a win from 2% to only 9%. So even though it closed the gap from 7-1 to 7-4 -- which got everyone thinking a comeback was truly possible -- the chances of a team getting at least four more runs and winning the game was still highly unlikely.

Greg Agami of Cool Standings told the Globe that after trailing 7-0 after six inning of Game 5, the Red Sox had a 0.1 percent - 1 in 1,000 - chance to win the series. By comparison, in the middle of the ninth inning of 2004 ALCS 4, Boston had a 2.4%. That still seems high to me, but they trailed by only one run at that point -- not seven with a mere seven outs to go -- and had a 50% shot at winning each of Games 5, 6 and 7.

J.P. Howell, recalling the plane ride back to Tampa:
We started joking, "Don't be scared of Game 6." That's what we kept saying. We were bummed out. It was a terrible way to lose a game.
***

JimBoSox9m, SoSH, October 17, 2008, 12:47 AM:
I just don't understand baseball. I don't get it. I've spent my lifetime devoting considerable mental resources to understanding my favorite sport, and I have no fucking clue how they just did that. ... Speechless, thoughtless, struck blind and deaf. Exhilarated, exuberant, overjoyed. What it comes down to? As long as the Sox still have baseball to play, it is still summer in my soul.
Savin Hillbilly, SoSH, October 17, 2008, 1:12 AM:
Just got back from Fenway....Holy SHIT that was amazing. Like the best sex you've ever had, only a 35,000-way.

***

It worked in 2004. It worked in 2007. It'll work in 2008.
One. One game. One win. That's all.

Not two. One.

Tonight.

October 17, 2008

No.

Get yours now before they're shipped en masse on Monday morning to poor children in a third world country.

Watch Game 5 Again -- Now!

MLB.com is re-showing last night's Game 5, beginning at 6 PM ET. I'm thinking this is pretty short notice -- it starts in 13 minutes -- but you'll want to see only the last three innings anyway!

Author Q&A: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith & Jere Smith - Dirty Water

Jere Smith writes the blog A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory. His mother, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, is perhaps best known for her memoir Girls Of A Tender Age. She has also written eight novels (including three mysteries), as well as some short stories and travel essays.

They collaborated on Dirty Water, a murder mystery set in and around Fenway Park and featuring several members of the 2007 Red Sox. Mary-Ann and Jere were kind enough to reply to my emailed questions.

How did the idea for a Red Sox-themed mystery come about and how did it evolve as the writing progressed?

Mary-Ann: Four years ago, the CEO of The Institute for International Sport, Dan Doyle, decided to create a publishing arm for the organization: The Hall of Fame Press, located along with the Institute on the University of Rhode Island campus. Dan asked me if I was interested in writing a mystery centered on the Boston Red Sox. I was, but knew I couldn't do it alone — I'm a longtime Sox fan, but short on the nuances of the game. So since I had a member of the family who was a Sox blogger, I asked Dan how he felt about Jere collaborating on the book and he thought it was a grand idea.

Our idea was to jump right into the clubhouse in the first scene with the what-if kind of question that often starts a fiction. What if the players should discover an abandoned baby in their clubhouse an hour or so before game time? From there, we asked the typical why, how and who questions now that we already had the when and where. The plot began to reveal itself when we saw an obscure article about a well-known sports agent arrested by the Judicial Dept. of the US Government for human trafficking, i.e., smuggling professional ballplayers from Cuba to the US.

Jere: We initially wanted to go into the Red Sox clubhouse, but couldn't get in. We ended up settling for a personal Fenway tour from someone in the organization who we had a personal connection to - and honestly, that worked out a whole lot better, as that person became a key fictional figure in our book, and meeting him made it that much more realistic. We do use the real players' and reporters' and other public figures' names. We also worried players would get traded, but then we decided to specifically have it be about the 2007 World Champion team.

How did the idea for including a blogger come about? Game recaps and stats in the book's blog obviously would not work very well narratively, so how did you decide what to include?

Jere: We didn't know going in that we'd have a running blog with comments in the text. But once we came up with a blogger character who knows too much, it was a natural. Some of the blog posts were things I'd written in some form before and figured they'd be good for our blogger's character's blog. That way the reader would feel they were reading the thoughts of a Red Sox fan while these crazy events are going on - sometimes he's talking about the game, sometimes he's writing general thoughts on the Red Sox and their history, and sometimes he's writing about the baby found in the clubhouse and events surrounding it.

Which books have you written with these characters (Detective Rocky Patel) previously? Are there any other returning characters?

Mary-Ann: In 2004, I published the third book in the Poppy Rice Mysteries, She Smiled Sweetly. The sleuth in the series is an FBI agent who works special cases that she researches before deciding to take them on. They are cases that have been closed, but Poppy finds reason to re-open them. Each book's secondary is a different character. In She Smiled Sweetly, Poppy goes to Boston to be joined in the investigation by Boston Homicide Detective Rocky Patel, an assimilated immigrant from the Gujerat who has Jesus in his heart but Shiva the Destroyer in his blood. I thought Rocky would be the perfect investigator for the crime involving the 2007 Red Sox. Poppy Rice makes an appearance in the book via a couple of advisory phone calls and transmissions to Rocky. (It is a psychic coincidence that the original sleuth's name is a combination of two of my all-time favorite players.)

Tell me about your collaboration. I'm assuming that it was not as cut-and-dried as Jere did the blog and Mary-Ann did the main narrative. Also, you must have both worked on weaving in just enough information into the blog posts to keep the readers guessing as the story goes on.

Mary-Ann: We are pleased and relieved that you intuit that the project wasn't divided up into a his/hers writing assignment. Some reviewers have assumed that was the case and stated it as fact without ever checking with anyone. The two of us determined the plot and outlined each chapter meticulously. I wrote the mystery text, Jere wrote the blog, and then we re-wrote each other's parts, and went on to edit them together. We shared the research chores, too. Rarely did we find ourselves duking it out, but when we did, we each benefited from the other's opinions.

Jere: It was hard for me to not feel like we were giving too much away at times. My mom has done this a million times, though, and she kept assuring me we weren't. We had some people read the rough drafts, and nobody said they knew what was going to happen in the end, so that eased my fears. But overall it was great learning from my mom - it's amazing how much stuff she had in her head before we even started collaborating. But it was also fun not knowing how it would end at first, and seeing how it played itself out. When I was little, I'd ask my mom how she knew what to make the characters say and do, and she'd say, "I don't do anything, I just let the characters do what they want." And I'd think, "She's full of crap." But now I know what she means.

How has the reception for the book been? Any comment from the team? I know Jere recently did a signing at a Red Sox bar in Manhattan -- any future plans for Red Sox events?

Mary-Ann: Reviews from Publishers Weekly, the Hartford Courant, Times-Argus Newspapers and Magazine (Vermont), the Rocky Mountain News, peacecorpswriters.org, and a dozen or so blogs have ranged from really good to sensational. Michael Kim, ESPNews anchor, is my neighbor. When he heard about the book, he got really excited. He asked, "Am I in it?" At the time, the answer was, No, but when we needed a TV sports news guy, we didn't have to think too hard. We had a lot of fun creating a story for our character, Michael Kim. No reaction from the team yet, but the book is just coming out now.

Jere: I got to sign for independent booksellers at a convention, and it seemed like everyone knew about and had been anticipating the book, so that was a good sign. Of course, I watch the Amazon rankings and our number has been spiking almost daily for months, which is another good sign considering the book is just now hitting stores. Signing at Professor Thom's in NYC was a blast, we'll probably do that again and maybe do a Boston bar, too. We have a release party at Redbone's Barbeque in Somerville, Mass. on Tuesday, October 21, and then a reading/signing at the West Hartford Public Library on Tuesday October 28. We'll also be at Broad Street Books at Wesleyan in Middletown, CT on November 20. We'll add future events and post them at redsoxmystery.blogspot.com.

I recall you telling me that this might be the first of a series of baseball mysteries from the Hall of Fame Press. What can you share about that?

Mary-Ann: We will see how things go for "Dirty Water" before considering a series. If the hardcover is successful enough to make it to paperback and foreign editions, we'll likely write another Red Sox mystery. At first we'd thought about one mystery per franchise but we've become very attached to Rocky Patel and his partner, Marty Flanagan, and of course, we love our Red Sox. We'd also like to mention -- we've had film inquiries!!!

Jere: I had heard about how companies like Blockbuster Video will tell moviemakers what to put in or take out of their films, and thereby controlling what people see. We got a taste of that. We had an idea for a cover, which is an eerie shot of the Fenway light tower seen from behind the reeds that are near the park in the Back Bay fens. It fit with our theme. And I took the picture myself. When one of the major national booksellers saw this, they (not having read the book, I'm sure) said they'd "prefer" a cover showing the Green Monster and fans. We "preferred" that they go screw, and went with our own cover.

[Disclaimer: I provided a blurb for the book. Plus, a "commenter" mentions JoS on page 18!]

October 17 Newsstand






99.4 Does Not Equal 100

After B.J. Upton's double made it 7-0 and Jonathan Papelbon intentionally walked Carlos Pena, the Tampa Bay's Win Expentancy was 99.4%.

99.4%!

Eric Van, SoSH's "What the hell was that!!!!!":
What happened tonight so surpassed the normal that it became surreal; it entered a realm where ordinary human emotions were insufficient.

October 16, 2008

ALCS 5: Red Sox 8, Rays 7

Rays    - 203 000 200 - 7  8  1
Red Sox - 000 000 431 - 8 11 0
ALIVE!


Tampa Bay was seven outs away from the American League pennant -- and the Red Sox were down by seven runs.

The Rays recorded only six of those outs -- and the Red Sox scored eight times to complete the greatest comeback by any team facing elimination and the second biggest comeback in post-season/World Series history and send this ALCS back to Florida.

David Ortiz's three-run dong to right in the seventh was a big blow -- cutting the lead from 7-1 to 7-4 -- but it was J.D. Drew who was the hero. After Jason Bay walked on four pitches to start the eighth inning, Drew clubbed a two-run shot to right off J.P. Howell to bring Boston to within 7-6. With two outs, Mark Kotsay doubled off B.J. Upton's glove in deep left-center and Coco Crisp capped off a 10-pitch at-bat with a line drive single to right. Gabe Gross's throw did not make the infield on the fly and Kotsay scored the tying run.


With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Kevin Youkilis reached second base on a throwing error by Evan Longoria. Jason Bay was walked intentionally. Drew then lined a 3-1 pitch over Gross's head in right field and Yook scored the game-winning run.



***

Lineups:
Crisp, CF        Iwamura, 2B
Pedroia, 2B Upton, CF
Ortiz, DH Pena, 1B
Youkilis, 3B Longoria, 3B
Bay, LF Crawford, LF
Drew, RF Floyd, DH
Lowrie, SS Navarro, C
Varitek, C Gross, RF
Kotsay, 1B Bartlett, SS
***

BR Preview: Scott Kazmir / Daisuke Matsuzaka

Fact: Tampa Bay is three games away from elimination. The Rays have been conducting a Totally Kicking Ass 101 seminar since last Saturday, but the real ALCS begins tonight. Fenway Park will be rocking. We will make our own destination.

Joe Maddon has altered his pitching rotation, not to go for the kill in Game 5, but to set his team up for a better Game 6 matchup. Big mistake, Joe. Big. Tito the Assassin knows that when you have your target lined up in your sights, you fucking fire. You don't stop and check if your shoelaces are tied.


Choosing Kazmir over Shields has left the ALCS door a bit more open than it was 24 hours ago - and the Large Father & Co. are gonna barge in and make themselves at home. Backs to the wall -- win or go home -- "got to make it interesting" -- this is what we do -- and this is when we do it -- because "If you wear a Red Sox uniform jersey, you're a bad motherfucker."

Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now
Bob Dylan - "Mississippi"


***

It worked in 2004. It worked in 2007. It'll work in 2008.
One. One game. One win. That's all.

Not three, not two.

One.

Tonight.
***

Matsuzaka, October 21, 2007:
I don't know if the term "switched on" is the right term or the right way to describe, but I am all on for [tonight].

I Am ...

And I'm hoping for a few presents tonight and this weekend, so what do you say Red Sox?

***

I am also hoping that JoSer SoSock/Tim and Cathy receive enough donations to buy a used car. Cathy has stage 4 breast cancer and she needs a reliable vehicle to get to chemo sessions. With Fundable, they won't see any money until their goal of $3,300 is met -- and we're at $3,060 as of 9 AM this morning. Check out their story here and if you can toss them $10 (or more), please do so.

October 15, 2008

Red Sox Upbeat At Workout

Terry Francona, after the Red Sox's optional workout this afternoon:
I think they wish we were playing in about 10 minutes. It's good. It's very good. It's enthusiastic. ... Pedroia came in this morning ready to fight the war, and it's spreading clubhouse-wide.
Since 1985, four of the 15 teams that have trailed 3-1 in the ALCS have come back to win the pennant. The Red Sox account for three of those four teams: 1986, 2004, 2007.

Jason Varitek:
We've got nothing but baseball ahead of us. Belief. It wasn't just '04, '07. We've been able to do it. It leaves an overriding belief. I believe.
Varitek is one of five players remaining from the 2004 team (Ortiz, Tim Wakefield, Mike Timlin, and Kevin Youkilis are the others.)

Wakefield:
We've been in this situation before. We've been down 3-0 and come back and won, so it's going to take a group effort Thursday.
Timlin:
You can rely on history. History repeats itself. That's what I've heard. Go with that.
However, David Ortiz, the anchor of the lineup, is batting only .161 (5-for-31) in October and is 1-for-14 against the Rays. He has gone 27 AB without an RBI and his last home run came way back on September 22. MLB.com:
And here is possibly the most telling trend: In 31 at-bats, Ortiz has struck out only eight times, meaning he is making consistent contact. But he has hit fly balls out of the infield only seven times, meaning he is simply not driving the ball. To a lot of people, that suggests -- disclaimers to the contrary -- that his left wrist is not strong. Others wonder if Ortiz is seeing the ball well.

Kazmir to Start Game 5

Maddon explains the move:
It's something we thought about since prior to this thing beginning. Being in the position we're in, we like the idea of pitching him with the day off to follow. ...

We like the fact that [Kazmir is] pitching with an open day following, the ability to utilize the entire bullpen. We also like the idea of him pitching [at Fenway], and we like the idea of Shields being able to pitch at home, if necessary.
***

Joe Maddon has bumped James Shields from Thursday's Game 5 start and will give the ball to Scott Kazmir, who will be pitching on four days rest.

A reminder:
Meanwhile, in New York:

October 14, 2008

ALCS 4: Rays 13, Red Sox 4

Rays    - 302 105 020 - 13 14  3
Red Sox - 001 000 120 - 4 7 0
Do you really need (or want) a recap?

Pena and Longoria hit back-to-back home runs in the first and the Rays were off to the races. It was still sort of a game at 6-1 when Tampa Bay battered Delcarmen for a single, a triple, three walks and five runs in the sixth.

Crawford went 5-for-5, with two stolen bases, two RBI and two runs, and Aybar went 4-for-5 with a dong and five RBI.

The Red Sox started to hit the ball with a bit of authority in the seventh and eighth innings. Ortiz tripled to start the eighth and scored on Youkilis's groundout. In the ninth, Lowrie and Pedroia singled and Yook doubled. Kevin Cash's solo home run gave Boston a run in the third.

So the team's backs are to the ALCS wall yet again. It has become a familiar place. We'll see on Thursday if the Red Sox can rally for a third consecutive time in five years.

***

The Assassin Has Returned!
Red Sox          Rays
Drew, RF Iwamura, 2B
Pedroia, 2B Upton, CF
Ortiz, DH Pena, 1B
Youkilis, 3B Longoria, 3B
Bay, LF Crawford, LF
Kotsay, 1B Aybar, DH
Crisp, CF Navarro, C
Cash, C Perez, RF
Lowrie, SS Bartlett, SS
***

BR Preview
Andy Sonnanstine (Rays 20-12 in his starts)
Tim Wakefield (Red Sox 15-15 in his starts)

Sonnanstine faced the Red Sox twice this season -- in consecutive starts on September 10 and 16. He pitched 13 innings and allowed only two unearned runs, along with seven hits and two walks. He struck out 12 and the Rays won both games.

Wakefield made three starts against Tampa Bay in 2008 - one great, one average, and one shitty. He had a rough September (6.65 ERA in 23 innings over five starts) and did not pitch in the ALDS.

One-third of the Red Sox lineup is hitting -- Pedroia (6-for-11, .545/.643/1.182), Bay (5-for-11, .455/.571/.818 and Youkilis (6-for-14, .429/.429/.786) -- and that is not enough. Ortiz, Ellsbury and Varitek are a combined 0-for-34 and Drew is 2-for-8. ... Crisp (3-for-6) needs to play CF tonight.

***

Somewhere around the third or fourth inning yesterday, Jon Miller of ESPN radio started peddling this clump of horseshit:
Red Sox fans are not that far removed from 86 years of pain and suffering. ... doubts may be creeping in.
I'm dealing with the radio delay to avoid ever hearing Chip "OMG!!11!!!1!1 The Rays Totally Rock" Caray, so this really pissed me off. If anyone is embracing the gloom-and-doom-woe-is-us-maybe-the-Curse-never-really-left meme, go right ahead. Make CHB's day. Just stay away from here.

Winning today will even the series. And we were in a deeper pit less than a year ago before roaring back, obliterating Cleveland and sweeping the World Series. (The Red Sox also came back from 0-2 in a best-of-5 in 2003 and from 0-3 in a best-of-7 in 2004 -- remember?)

Bay Being Manny:
We put up eight runs the other night. It's not the end of the world. And we won the first night [scoring two runs].
And to hell with those people who left before the end of yesterday's game. Loyalty does not mean supporting the team only when they are winning. It's a shame you wasted space in a seat that an actual fan could have used.

***

The shots did not work their toasty magic, so we need another source of mojo (though you should keep drinking whiskey). I believe I have found it: Kids playing AC/DC! Here's a 12-year-old kid playing "You Shook Me All Night Long":



***

It's also Election Night in Canada. So FU to Stephen Harper.

October 13, 2008

ALCS 3: Rays 9, Red Sox 1

Rays    - 014 000 031 - 9 13  0
Red Sox - 000 000 100 - 1 7 0
Lester had a four-pitch first inning (ball, 6-3, 3U, F8) and things looked bright.

But the Rays scored a run in the second on a walk, a single and a groundout. Then the Red Sox had men at second and third with one out and could not score -- though they were relying on Varitek and Cora. Lester was then pounded in the third. Bartlett singled, Iwamura doubled off the Wall, and Upton crushed a three-run dong over everything in left. After Pena struck out looking, Longoria homered to left-center.

Boston could not get anything going against Garza. Pedroia doubled with one out in the first, but was stranded. Then the Sox "stranded a pair" in the second. They had a runner on base in each of the next four innings, but could not move any of them to second. Garza began the seventh at 107 pitches. He seemed gassed as he walked Varitek and allowed a single down the right field line to Cora. Howell came in and gave up a sac fly to Ellsbury, which made the score 5-1. Pedroia then grounded into a 5-4-3 DP to end the inning. The only baserunner for Boston in the final two innings was Drew's two-out single in the eighth.

Byrd relieved Lester in the sixth and pitched the rest of the way. He gave up a three-run home run to Baldelli in the eighth that put the game on ice. Pena pounded a dong to left-center in the ninth as an exclamation point.

The one Boston run in the seventh meant that the Red Sox avoided being shut out at Fenway Park in a post-season game for the first time since Game 5 of the 1918 World Series.

The Rays lead this series 2-1. Game 4 is tomorrow night.

***

BR Preview

Matt Garza (Rays 14-16 in his starts)
Jon Lester (Red Sox 22-11 in his starts)
Red Sox                 Rays

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Dustin Pedroia, 2B B.J. Upton, CF
David Ortiz, DH Carlos Pena, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B Evan Longoria, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF Carl Crawford, LF
Jason Bay, LF Willy Aybar, DH
Mark Kotsay, 1B Dioner Navarro, C
Jason Varitek, C Rocco Baldelli, RF
Alex Cora, SS Jason Bartlett, SS
After splitting the first two games, the ALCS is now a best-of-5 -- and Boston has both home field advantage and Jon Lester set to pitch two of those possible five games.

Lester made three starts against the Rays this season, allowing only two runs in 20 innings (0.90 ERA). 18 hits, six walks, 19 strikeouts. He had a 2.49 ERA in 17 Fenway starts. He was second on the Red Sox staff with a 143 ERA+.

Garza -- in the first full season of his career -- started four games against the Red Sox, allowing 14 runs (11 earned) in 22 innings (4.50). He walked seven, struck out 10 and gave up four dongs. His 118 ERA+ was third best on the Rays staff.

There are rumblings that Alex Cora may get a start today. I'd rather Terry Francona stick to putting the best players in the lineup, thank you very much. But the Assassin loves Einstein, so I hope Flo and Lyndon pick today to come out of their offensive shells.

Corsi Combover has some fine Columbus Day art at SoSH. It's Thanksgiving Day in Canada and we're off with some friends and their dogs. You're on your own as far as links go, but the ProJo blog has press conference transcripts and a bunch of other stuff in one place.

***

NLCS 4: Phillies (2)/Dodgers (1) at 8

October 12, 2008

Has Anyone Seen Paul Byrd?

Many Red Sox fans are calling last night's loss to Tampa Bay the worst managed playoff game of Terry Francona's Red Sox career.

Two things stood out for me. One was the absence of Paul Byrd. With Tim Wakefield tabbed for Game 4, Byrd is on the roster for two reasons:
1) Long man if the starter gets bombed

2) Multiple innings after the top bullpen arms have been used
Both scenarios came up last night, but Francona never went with Byrd. Indeed, he was the only relief picther that Francona did not use last night.

Tito kept a totally ineffective Josh Beckett on the hill to get repeatedly pounded, presumably because the Red Sox bats had kept the score close. Tito said he wanted to get five innings out of Beckett in order to "set up the bullpen".

Later in the game, Francona pulled Jonathan Papelbon after only 18 pitches -- with an off-day today, why? -- and went with Mike Timlin to start the 11th against the Rays' 7-8-9 hitters. Bot was struck by Carl Crawford's line drive that became the second out in the 10th, but he said he was not bothered by that. "It hit my glove first and then grazed my arm."

While Timlin (who admitted afterwards that he had been "nervous") was squeezed by the home plate umpire -- he clearly struck out Navarro, who walked and was pulled for pinch-runner Fernando Perez, who scored the winning run -- he should have been the absolute last resort out of the pen.

Amalie Benjamin explains that Byrd was being held back in case the game went really long. But Byrd is the better pitcher and he should have been used before Timlin.

And what can we expect from a most-likely injured Beckett in a possible Game 6? He says he's "fine", but I don't think too many people believe that.

***

NLCS: Phillies (2)/Dodgers (0) at 8.

***

We opted for the delay of ESPN radio so we missed Chip "Deeeeep Into The Night" Caray. He has apparently dropped any and all pretense of impartiality. You can listen to the difference in his home run calls here -- check out Upton versus Yook or Pedroia or his call on the game-tying wild pitch. Feel free to tell TBS how you are enjoying its coverage:
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