September 30, 2008

Help Wanted

If you follow the JoS game threads, you probably recognize the nickname "SoSock". His real name is Tim and he's a big part of this blog's community. Tim and his wife Cathy live in North Carolina.

Cathy has stage 4 breast cancer -- and she does not have health insurance. She decided to go public with her story in the hopes of shining a light on the disgraceful refusal of both political parties in the US to guarantee its citizens even the basics of health care -- something everyone should be entitled to simply by existing. (Laura blogged about Cathy here.)

Fifty million Americans have no access to health care (despite what the Republicans claim (and the Democrats are little better)). For most of us, it's hard to get a sense of such a huge number, so here's the story of one of those 50,000,000 people:
My name is Cathy Baskin. I've been married 32 years, have three children, all above the age of 26, and six grandchildren ranging from one year to age 17. In my former life I was an Oncology and Hospice Nurse.

In 1996, I was involved in a serious car accident that effectively ended my nursing career. My husband is self-employed, so, as a nurse, I had carried all our health insurance.

In 2002, I felt an egg-sized lump in my breast, and went to the doctor. Even though he felt it, too, the mammograms had come back clean, so he decided it was "nothing". He didn't even do a biopsy. I was 44, pre-menopausal, and had fibrocystic breast disease. Taken together, this means mammography results are all but useless. But I had no health insurance, so there was no follow-up.

By the following year, the lump had grown: my left breast was almost twice the size of my right. In February 2004, I was finally diagnosed with Stage 3b breast cancer.

Drug companies helped me pay for my initial treatments. After six months of chemo followed by radiation, then more surgery, I was clear for about six months. Then the cancer metastasized to my bones.

I am now in Stage 4, no longer considered curable. No more help from the drug companies.

After my doctor wrote a letter confirming that my cancer is terminal, I was able to get disability benefits and Medicare. This does help, as it covers 20% of my chemotherapy. But 20% of $50,000/month still leaves a lot.

We earn $200 more than what Medicaid allows, which means I must pay for most of my Medicare benefits. This leaves $700/month for all our personal and household expenses. I've come to realize that there is nothing I can do about the financial aspect of having cancer, so I don't worry about it anymore.

What I do worry about a great deal is keeping our house. Our mortgage payment is only $700/month. We couldn't rent a place in our area for less than that. My husband's work van has almost 400,000 miles on it. We have spent more than $600 worth of repairs on the van this month alone so that he can continue to work.

I spent the better part of August and September in the hospital. The very day I came home, my car's transmission crashed. Now I am stranded. There is no way I can afford to fix it, nor would that even be wise, as the car would still need another $500 to $1,000 in other repairs. So now I must find friends who can drive me to my doctor appointments and chemotherapy sessions.

I feel stuck. What little control I thought I had has gone up in smoke.

Please help me raise the $4,000 we need to get a decent used car.

If I were being asked to donate money, I would want to check out the truthfulness of the story. So please feel free to visit my website.
You can make a donation -- as little as $10 -- through this webpage. Note: Your donation will become an actual payment only if the listed goal of $3,301 is met. If it is not, all pledges will be voided.

If you enjoy this blog, I hope you'll consider helping Tim and Cathy. I'd be thrilled if they had a reliable car (and maybe some extra gas money!) by the time the Red Sox clinch the 2008 World Series.

Lowell, Drew Both Upbeat, Hope To Play

Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew both took "lavish cuts" in batting practice at Fenway Park yesterday and seemed pleased with the results.

Drew (lower back strain) "sent balls screaming into the Fenway stands" and Terry Francona "seemed optimistic about his progress".

Lowell (partially torn labrum in right hip) was also upbeat:
It's never really bothered me to swing, so today was kind of just to get into the flow of the game. Tomorrow [Tuesday] will be a big day, because I'll be taking ground balls and seeing how that goes.
Francona is first Red Sox manager to last five consecutive years in 61 years and only the third in franchise history (Jimmy Collins, 1901-05; Joe Cronin, 1935-47). The Playoff Assassin loves October.
These games are so much fun. There's anxiety, there's nervousness, there's some tension. But I love it. ... I like who I'm doing it with. ... Trying to win with this group is fun for me.
David Ortiz:
Tito gives me tons of confidence. There's not one day I don't feel like playing for Tito. I can be dying, and when I come [talk] to Tito, all I think about is, "I've got to play for this guy, no matter what." He fills you with that.
The ProJo has a lot of quotes from Tito's Monday press conference.

Justin Masterson (2.36 ERA in 34.1 innings, with 29 strikeouts) has anchored the bullpen. Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, and Hideki Okajima have combined to allow only three earned runs in their last 48 innings (0.56 ERA).

Beckett has a 1.73 ERA in 10 post-season games (72.2 innings). He will play catch today and throw a side session on Thursday. He is scheduled to pitch Game 3 on Sunday.

We love what Beckett can do -- we respect what Beckett can do. I think we're starting to get the same feeling about Lester.
For the second time in three months, Lester was named AL Pitcher of the Month. He won the award in July and was announced as the winner for September (2.14 ERA in five starts).

ESPN Picks: Six of 10 pick the Angels. Everyone expects the series to go at least four games, with eight of the ten writers saying it'll go five. ... Fox's Ken Rosenthal says he was ready to pick the Red Sox until the Beckett oblique story broke. Now he says Angels in 5.

Boston does not have to submit its ALDS roster until 10 AM (West Coast time) on Wednesday, but we know that David Aardsma will not be on it. He will work out in Fort Myers in case he's needed for the ALCS. ... The Globe has posted hit and pitch zones and spray charts from Inside Edge.

September 29, 2008

Beckett: "Just A Freak Deal"

Rob Bradford, (Sept. 29, 12:50 a.m.)
In a text message sent moments after the Red Sox' 4-3, 10-inning win over the Yankees, Josh Beckett called the oblique injury suffered Friday "just a freak deal," having never suffered anything like it before, and reported that he felt better Sunday than the two previous days.
Art Martone's column has all the important links.

Also: Joe McDonald has a great article on Gil Velazquez, who made his major league debut on last Thursday and collected his first hit on Friday. ... Manny Ramirez talks a lot to columnist T.J. Simers. ... Stephen King freelances for ESPN.

September 28, 2008

Lester And Matsuzaka To Start ALDS; Beckett Tentative For G3

The Globe has the media Q&A with Francona here.

It was on his 40th pitch [of his side session Friday]. Because it was raining and things like that, he was almost done. I don't think it actually was something where he just threw it and grabbed it. It was almost in between pitchers, where he took a deep breath and, "Man, I feel something." He went and got treatment. They've been working on him. Initially, when you hear something like that, you're kind of like, "Damn." [A team doctor] came in and goes, "Hey, relax. We'll be alright." So that was kind of reassuring.
Beckett will travel with the team to Anaheim and throw a side session on Thursday.


Terry Francona confirmed that Josh Beckett strained his right oblique during his side session on Friday.
We're slotting him in there because we think he can pitch there. Friday [Game 2] was actually discussed. But then you're pushing. It's not just health, but it's competing also. I think he's going to be OK.
Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch the first two games in Anaheim. Game 1 will be Wednesday at 10 PM and Game 2 will be Friday at 9:30 PM (both on TBS).

It sounds like the Red Sox have no idea if Beckett will be able to pitch next Sunday, and are simply (like we are) hoping for the best.

More as it develops at SoSH.

Herald: Beckett Has Oblique Injury; Francona Confirms Report

Steve Buckley, Herald:
The Red Sox could be facing a Tom Brady-like blow to their postseason plans.

Just as the Patriots are trying to make it work this season without the injured Brady as their quarterback, the Red Sox could be going into the playoffs without Josh Beckett as the ace of their pitching staff.

According to a source, Beckett sustained an oblique injury during a bullpen session following his last start.

Asked last night if Beckett is suffering from an oblique injury, a separate Red Sox source said a medical update on Beckett will be announced today, before the team boards its charter flight to California for Wednesday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels.
After Sunday night's game, Terry Francona said Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka would pitch the first two games in Anaheim -- with Beckett penciled in for Game 3 at Fenway (Sunday, October 5).

SoSH discussion, with news links, here.

G162: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3 (10)

Yankees - 000 001 002 0 - 3  9  1
Red Sox - 100 000 020 1 - 4 7 0

Sidney Ponson (5.21, 83 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.24, 108 ERA+)


W-L Contest: The remaining contestants are:
                                   MBM OPS
If Red Sox win: Rob 95-67 1.038
If Red Sox lose: Zenslinger 94-68 1.015
Manny's 2008 OPS: 1.031.

YED Contest: The winner is Lewis S!

G161: Yankees 6, Red Sox 2

Yankees - 000 300 003 - 6 10  1
Red Sox - 000 000 020 - 2 5 0

Mike Mussina (3.47, 124 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.80, 163 ERA+)

First game of a day-night doubleheader.

The only thing I want today (besides no Red Sox injuries)? No 20th W for Mussina.


There are still two undecided playoff spots: the AL Central and the NL Wild Card.

In the AL Central, the Twins are 0.5 GA of the White Sox.
Cleveland/White Sox at 2
Royals/Twins at 2
If the Twins win and the White Sox lose, Minnesota wins the division and heads to Tampa Bay. In any other scenario -- both teams win, both teams lose, White Sox win/Twins lose -- the teams would remain a half-game apart and the White Sox would have to make up a September 13 rainout against Detroit. That game would be in Chicago at 1 PM on Monday. If, after that game, the White Sox are tied for first place with the Twins, they would play Minnesota in another tiebreaker, also in Chicago, on Tuesday. The ALDS against the Rays starts on Thursday.

Over in the NL, the Mets and Brewers are tied for the wild card.
Marlins/Mets at 1
Cubs/Brewers at 2
If Milwaukee and New York remain tied, a one-game playoff would be played in New York on Monday. Both NLDS begin on Wednesday.


JoS Contest Updates:

The Red Sox have 94 wins, with two games scheduled for today. The W-L contest tie-breaker is Manny Ramirez's OPS, based on his complete 2008 season. Right now, Manny has an 1.031 OPS (.927 with Boston, 1.232 with Los Angeles). When we weed out the sub-1.000 OPS entries, we are left with:
                             MBM OPS
The Pita 96-66 1.037
Matt 96-66 1.014
Paul Hadzewycz 96-66 1.012

SoSock 95-67 1.062
Rob 95-67 1.038
MikeT9485 95-67 1.013

Zenslinger 94-68 1.015
Devine 94-68 1.001
It looks like it's between Zenslinger, Rob and The Pita. If Manny decides to hit four dongs or something, SoSock might enter the mix.

In the Yankee Elimination Day contest, we are looking at the first tiebreaker. The Yankees have 88 wins going into today's doubleheader. Our remaining contestants:
                     NY     Last Red
YED Wins Sox Win

Lewis S 0923 89 ALDS 4
Franco B 0923 88 G 162
Chuck C 0923 88 ALDS 4
Zenslinger 0923 88 ALCS 5

September 27, 2008

G161: Yankees at Red Sox, PPD.

Today's game has been postponed.

There will be a day-night doubleheader tomorrow (1:30 and 7:30), with the Johnny Pesky ceremony at 1:15.


Sidney Ponson (5.21, 83 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.80, 163 ERA+)

In his last five starts -- 19 innings -- Ponson has allowed 35 hits, 11 walks and 25 runs. Batters are teeing off on him to the tune of a 1.116 OPS (.407/.465/.651).

Mike Lowell:
The swing doesn't hurt me. It's the non-swing. It's when I kind of start and stop, you recognize it's not a strike so you take the pitch. That's when I feel it grab. ... As I start to rotate my hips, it just catches. There's a sharp pain. ... I don't know how to avoid that. I can't go into the pitch predetermined I'm taking this one and I'm swinging at the other one.
Francona said J.D. Drew went for some more tests on Friday
to rule out any orthopedic problems. All the blood work and scans came back reassuring. Trying to exhaust every possibility, just do our homework, and everything's come back very reassuring.
Coco Crisp has not played since Tuesday because he got an injection in his left foot a few days ago and the foot has been tender.

ALDS Schedule

Game 1: Wed. October 1 - Red Sox at Angels
Game 2: Fri. October 3 - Red Sox at Angels
Game 3: Sun. October 5 - Angels at Red Sox
Game 4: Mon. October 6 - Angels at Red Sox
Game 5: Wed. October 8 - Red Sox at Angels
Mike Lowell will not play in either of this weekend's games and it sounds like it's possible he won't play in the post-season at all. Francona:
I spoke to him in the rain delay a little bit, he's certainly not ready to pull the plug or quit trying to play. So, we're kind of on board with him trying. ... Again, because of how tough he is and what he means to us and him still wanting to play, we don't want to pull the plug either. We'll just monitor the best we can, see what happens.

September 26, 2008

G160: Yankees 19, Red Sox 8

Yankees - 133 510 312 - 19  20  0
Red Sox - 300 110 003 - 8 13 1
Ouch. There were some bright spots in this one, though.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis both homered in the first inning. Ellsbury went 4-for-5 and stole his 50th base of the season -- only the third player in Red Sox history to do so.

Gil Velazquez and George Kottaras both got their first major league hit tonight. Velaquez hit an RBI single off the left field wall in the fourth and Kottaras smacked an opposite field double into the left field corner in the fifth.

And Chris Smith put a zero on the board in the top of the sixth, denying New York the chance at becoming the first team in American League history to score in all nine innings of a game.


Game back on at 11:05.


Another rain delay (tarp out at 10:26) in the top of the 5th, no outs for New York.

Tampa Bay lost (again!) to Detroit, 6-4, but if the Red Sox cannot come back in this one, the Rays will clinch the East tonight. Perhaps this debacle will be washed away.


After a rain delay of about 90 minutes, the game is on. David Pauley has replaced Dice as the Boston starter.


Alfredo Aceves (1.38, 311 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.80, 163 ERA+)

While the Red Sox are preparing for both scenarios, the general feeling in the front office is that the Angels will choose the ALDS schedule that begins on Wednesday rather than Thursday, allowing both clubs to use only three starting pitchers. As the Globe notes:
Such a scenario defies the popular theory that the Angels would opt to start Thursday, thereby preventing the Sox from using Josh Beckett and Jon Lester twice. ...

The Angels have their reasons for starting Wednesday. Los Angeles would be able to go with a three-man rotation of John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders, bypassing Jon Garland and Jered Weaver.
Terry Francona plans to use Mike Lowell at DH tonight and have him play third base on Sunday.

In the case of a playoff emergency, the Sox purchased the contract of Gil Velazquez, 28. And he made his major league debut last night, after 11 years and nearly 1,000 minor league games.

With three games remaining, Dustin Pedroia has 211 hits, good for 5th place on Boston's all-time single-season list. He needs two more to tie Jim Rice's 1978 total of 213. Tops on the list? Wade Boggs, with 240 in 1985 (which included a team-record 187 singles). Pedroia is the first Red Sox player to get 200 hits in a season in ten years (Mo Vaughn: 205, in 1998).

Jacoby Ellsbury has a career-high 16-game hitting streak (25-for-72, .347).


For the Yankees, Aceves, a 25-year-old RHP, has made two relief appearances and three starts (log) since joining the Yankees at the end of August: 26 IP, 20 H, 6 BB, 15 K. Was Watching: "I've seen his height listed as low as 5′ 10″ and as high as 6′ 1″ - and his weight is between 150 and 176 pounds ..." And BR and MLB list him at 6-3, 220!

Other news from New York is that Mariano Rivera left the team and went back to New York for a precautionary MRI. However, Joe Girardi lied to the media about this before the game and then stubbornly stuck to his bogus story even after various writers said they had gotten the truth from Brian Cashman. ... Peter Abraham (LoHud) has audio: "It has gotten to the point where team officials now apologize to reporters for the manager's actions. Nobody is sure why he does it because he gets caught every time."

And the New York Times mentions Hank Steinbrenner's "mission of contributing imbecility to every publication that will have him". Perfect!

Rays/Tigers at 7
East                     Magic #
Rays 96 63 ---
Red Sox 94 65 2.0 1

September 25, 2008

The Truth About Pesky's Pole

Johnny Pesky will be honored by the Boston Red Sox tonight and his #6 will be officially retired. The ceremony will come on the eve of his 89th birthday – and I'm thrilled that the Red Sox are doing this while Pesky is still around.

Two years ago, the Red Sox formally named the right field foul pole "Pesky's Pole". If you listen to a national broadcast or an out-of-town announcing team from Fenway, chances are that sometime during the night, they will mention the history behind the pole. If you are lucky, they'll offer a benign explanation. The worst offenders, however, are the ones who call it "the Pesky Pole" and then never explain why, leaving casual viewers in the dark – or thinking perhaps that the pole itself is pesky, like maybe it moves sometimes.

In June 2002, Pesky told the Globe that Mel Parnell
was broadcasting a game with Ken Coleman and Ned Martin one night [between 1965 and 1968]. Someone hit a home run down the line and right around the pole, and Mel started talking about a game I hit one right around the pole to win it. The game was around '49 or '50, and I hit one late that won it for us. It might have even hit the pole. ... Mel came up with the name "Pesky Pole" in that broadcast ... and it stuck.
I have often wondered whether these stories are true. Were most of Pesky's home runs hit down the right field line – listed as 302 feet from home plate though probably more like 295? Did most of them barely sneak into the stands?

Pesky, a left-handed batter, hit 17 home runs in his 10-year major league career. He hit 13 of them with the Red Sox – and six were hit at Fenway Park.

Rob Neyer, in "Feeding The Green Monster" (his account of attending every game at Fenway in 2000), states that he had read* how Pesky's home runs had "often" hit the pole. Neyer was naturally suspicious, so he got the dates of Pesky's Fenway home runs and went off to look at microfilm of the Globe and Herald.

(*: Looking through my own books, I cannot find any reference to Pesky actually hitting the pole with a home run. Almost all of what I see online states that Pesky hit his home runs "just beyond" or "around the pole". And oddly, "Red Sox Century" does not mention the pole at all.)

Neyer lists the six home runs and quotes from the two newspapers on page 70 of his book:

August 18, 1942
Globe: "nearness to the foul line"
Herald: "barely penetrated the stands"
April 20, 1946
Globe: "into the second or third row"
Herald: "a few feet ... fair"
August 8, 1946
Globe: "three feet inside the foul pole"
Herald: "into the right field ... grandstand"
June 11, 1950
Globe: "into the right field pavilion"
Herald: (no specifics)
June 18, 1951
Globe: "a good way beyond the foul pole"
Herald: "into the right field grandstand"
August 2, 1951
Globe: "into the right field grandstand"
Herald: "into the right field stands"
It's clear that Pesky never hit the right field pole with a batted ball, though it appears that perhaps three of his home runs – hit over the course of two seasons (five years) – landed near the pole. I don't know how much of a pull hitter Pesky was, but he never hit a home run in Boston over the Wall or to center field.

In that Globe interview, Pesky mentions winning a game for Parnell with a shot "around the pole" late in a game. (Some accounts say it was a walk-off home run.) However, this never happened. Only one of Pesky's six Fenway home runs came in a game pitched by Parnell. That was on June 11, 1950 and Pesky's two-run shot came in the first inning. In addition, Boston lost that game (in 14 innings) – the Tigers swept a doubleheader that day – and Parnell got a no-decision.

Pesky also told the Globe:
The one I remember most was Opening Day 1946 when I hit a two-run homer in the eighth right around the pole to win it for us.
This may be correct. Pesky did hit a home run on Opening Day in 1946 (April 20) – and Boston won the game 2-1. I do not have a box score to confirm the inning.

From the evidence above, the legend of Pesky and his pole may be partially accurate and partially a myth. Maybe Pesky hit many foul balls down the right field line that were almost home runs – and that added to the legend in the mind of people like Parnell? Perhaps, but in my recollection, no one has ever mentioned his propensity to hit foul balls down the line. It is always home runs – and home runs only.

But none of this should detract from what Pesky has done for the Red Sox organization over the last six decades. I'm glad the club is willing to bend its strict (and quite possibly outdated) rules regarding retired numbers, because if anyone deserves the honor, it's John Michael Paveskovich.

G159: Red Sox 6, Spiders 1

Spiders - 000 001 000 - 1  2  1
Red Sox - 320 000 10x - 6 9 0
Lester did not allow a hit for five innings, no doubt bringing back memories of May 19 for many of the 37,726 fans at Fenway. But Josh Barfield began the sixth with a double into the left field corner and later scored on a one-out single to right by Jamey Carroll.

With the no-no gone, Lester was pulled after six innings (6-2-1-1-4, 86) and Terry Francona used three pitchers out of the pen: Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon -- each of whom pitched one inning, faced three batters, struck out one hitter, and threw 12 pitches.

The Red Sox struck early and often against Sowers. In the first, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and took third on a hit-and-run single from Jed Lowrie. Dustin Pedroia's sac fly to the track in left-center brought in Lyndon for a 1-0 lead. Sowers then walked Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay to load the bases. Jason Varitek's fly ball to center scored Lowrie and Mark Kotsay's doubled brought in Yook.

In the second, Ellsbury pulled a one-out double down the right field line and scored on Lowrie's two-bagger to left. Lowrie moved to third on Pedroia's fly to right and scored on Yook's single to left-center. The Sultan of Sweat capped the scoring with a solo home run to deep left in the seventh.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Tigers beat the Rays 7-5, keeping Boston's slim AL East hopes alive. The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 8-2.


Jeremy Sowers (5.48, 81 ERA+) / Jon Lester (3.26, 140 ERA+)

Tampa Bay can clinch the AL East by beating Detroit this afternoon -- or if the Red Sox lose tonight's game to Cleveland.

Rays/Tigers at 1
East                     Magic #
Rays 96 62 ---
Red Sox 93 65 3.0 1

September 24, 2008

G158: Red Sox 5, Spiders 4

Spiders - 012 010 000 - 4  13  1
Red Sox - 400 000 01x - 5 10 2
The Red Sox sent 10 men to the plate in the first inning, forcing Carmona to throw 51 pitches. They scored four runs, which was nice, but they left the bases loaded.

And by the middle of the fifth, Cleveland had tied the game against Byrd (5-11-4-1-4, 89). Byrd seemed to always be pitching with men on base; he was helped out by two double plays.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, pinch-hitter Gumball Bailey tripled high off the Wall in left-center -- he missed a home run by only a few inches. Mark Kotsay ripped Rafael Perez's next pitch down the right field line for an RBI double, and the Red Sox led 5-4.

Manny Delcarmen came in for the ninth. After Grady Sizemore walked and was bunted to second, MDC struck out both Shin-Soo Choo and Jhonny Peralta. Both called strike threes were highly questionable pitches. In fact, if those pitches had been called strikes against Boston, I'd have smoke pouring out of my ears right now.

Baltimore had a 6-0 lead over Tampa Bay after two innings, but the Rays rallied (as effing usual) and won the game 11-6, lowering their East-clinching magic number to 1.


Fausto Carmona (5.19, 85 ERA+) / Paul Byrd (4.53, 98 ERA+)

Terry Francona said J.D. Drew "was putting on a clinic" this afternoon in batting practice and felt great. He will be in tonight's starting lineup, playing right field. Chris Carter will play left field, giving Jason Bay a day off.

Mike Lowell thinks he will be able to play a game or two this weekend and tune up for the ALDS.


Two more pictures from last night, posted to the SoSH Game Thread:

Rays/Orioles at 7
East                     Magic #
Rays 95 62 ---
Red Sox 92 65 3.0 2


Schadenfreude 63 (A Continuing Series)

Hank Steinbrenner is upset at baseball's divisional setup and how playoff teams are determined:
[I]t isn't fair. You see it this season, with plenty of people in the media pointing out that Joe Torre and the Dodgers are going to the playoffs while we're not.

This is by no means a knock on Torre - let me make that clear - but look at the division they're in. If L.A. were in the AL East, it wouldn't be in the playoff discussion. The AL East is never weak. ... What if the Yankees finish the season with more wins than the Dodgers but the Dodgers make the playoffs? Does that make the Dodgers a better team? No.
It's not fair! BOO HOO! People ain't buying yer bullshit, Hank!

After Mr. Hankee questioned the legitimacy of the St. Louis Cardinals' 2006 title when they won only 83 regular season games, the Daily News writer pointed out that the 2000 champion Yankees won only 87 games.

Four other AL teams won more regular season games that year, including Cleveland, who won 90 games and missed the playoffs entirely.


Time to hit the links, Hank!

September 23, 2008

YED Contest Update

September 23 is Yankee Elimination Day!

We have a five-way tie in our contest.
                     NY     Last Red
YED Wins Sox Win

Lewis S 0923 89 ALDS 4
Franco B 0923 88 G 162
Chuck C 0923 88 ALDS 4
Zenslinger 0923 88 ALCS 5
Ofer C 0923 87 WS 6
The Yankees have 86 wins -- with five games left.

Note: If no one is right on the wins (i.e., New York wins 86, 90 or 91 games), I think we should skip over to the third tiebreaker. Although that could also end in a tie. I suppose we'll burn that bridge if and when we get to it.

The only other alternative would be to delcare no winner (if no one wins with the NYY wins) and do a Sox post-season contest. But if we do go to the third tiebreaker and no one is correct, then we have no time left for another contest. Thoughts?

G157: Red Sox 5, Spiders 4

Spiders - 000 040 000 - 4  9  0
Red Sox - 000 230 00x - 5 9 1

The Globe has photos.

Kevin Youkilis's two-run home run got the Red Sox on the board in the fourth inning, but Cleveland came right back. Four hits off Wakefield, including consecutive RBI doubles from Shin-Soo Choo and Jhonny Peralta gave the Spiders a 4-2 lead in the fifth.

But Lee could not hold Boston down. Kevin Cash singled to start the home half of the fifth and was forced at second by Coco Crisp. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to right-center and Crisp stopped at third. Dustin Pedroia banged a double off the Wall, both runners scored, and the game was tied at 4-4. After David Ortiz fanned and Youkilis was walked intentionally, Jason Bay grounded a single up the middle, past Peralta's weak Jeterian dive to his left. FY scored and the Red Sox had regained the lead.

Cleveland did not go down without a fight. They loaded the bases against Manny Delcarmen in the seventh, but Hideki Okajima came in and retired Victor Martinez on a foul pop to first. They rallied again in the eighth. Justin Masterson allowed a walk and a hit, along with two strikeouts. Javier Lopez walked Grady Sizemore to load the bases. Jonathan Papelbon was able to retire Jamey Carroll on one pitch -- a fielder's choice to second base. Then Bot slammed the door in the ninth, striking out Choo and Peralta and getting Martinez to pop to short.

Tampa Bay swept its doubleheader from the Orioles, 5-2 and 7-5. The Rays came from behind in both games, including a six-run rally in the eighth inning of the nightcap. The Yankees beat Toronto 3-1, but it was meaningless, as the Red Sox had already eliminated the Chokers.


Cliff Lee (2.41, 183 ERA+) / Tim Wakefield (4.18, 109 ERA+)

In his last two starts -- against the Royals and Twins -- Lee allowed 21 hits and nine runs (seven earned) in 14.1 innings. He has not faced the Red Sox this year.

Can the Red Sox still win the East? Tampa Bay has seven games remaining. If the Rays go 7-0, 6-1, 5-2 or 4-3, the Red Sox cannot win the division.

If Tampa goes 3-4, Boston must go 6-0.

If Tampa goes 2-5, Boston must go at least 5-1.

If Tampa goes 1-6, Boston must go at least 4-2.

And if Tampa goes 0-7, Boston must go at least 3-3.

It does not seem very likely.

Rays/Orioles at 5
Yankees/Blue Jays at 7
East                     Magic #
Rays 93 62 ---
Red Sox 91 65 2.5 4

Wild Card Magic #
Red Sox 91 65 ---
Yankees 85 71 6.5 1

Red Sox To Retire Pesky's #6

Update: It looks like the ceremony will be held Friday night.


The Herald's Steve Buckley reports that a team source told him
meetings were held last night and again this morning to address how and when a player's number should be retired. The team plans to hold a press conference today or tomorrow to announce the change in policy, with all signs pointing to the dramatic news that Pesky's uniform No. 6 will be retired before the end of the regular season.
Noting that this Saturday is Pesky's 89th birthday, Buckley thinks a possible ceremony could take place before that afternoon's nationally-televised game against the Yankees.

The Globe confirms it:
A team source confirmed to the Globe that the Red Sox will retire Johnny Pesky's No. 6 this weekend, during the final series of the year with the New York Yankees. The official announcement could come as early as today.
It would be the sixth number the Red Sox have retired, after Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9) and Carlton Fisk (27). #42 was also retired in 1997.

Pesky played seven full seasons with the Red Sox -- he lost what would have been his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seasons to World War II -- before being traded to Detroit in June 1952. He returned to manage the team in 1963 and 1964, and also worked as a broadcaster, coach, and special consultant. Pesky wore #22 when he managed the Red Sox and #35 when he was a coach in the 1970s.

Hal Rynes          1931
Wally Dashiell 1932
Bucky Walters 1933
Dusty Cooke 1934
Carl Reynolds 1935
Joe Cronin 1936
Eric McNair 1937-38
Boze Berger 1939
Marv Owen 1940
Odell Hale 1941
Johnny Pesky 1942
Roy Partee 1943-44
Skeeter Newsome 1945
Johnny Pesky 1946-52
Johnny Lipon 1952-53
Harry Agganis 1954-55
Mickey Vernon 1956-57
Vic Wertz 1959-61
Lu Clinton 1962-64
Lee Thomas 1964-65
Rico Petrocelli 1966-76
Johnny Pesky 1981-84 (COACH)
Bill Buckner 1985-87
Rick Cerone 1988-89
Tony Pena 1990-93
Damon Berryhill 1994
Chris Donnels 1995
Gary Gaetti 2000

Yankees Never Mentioned Torre In Stadium's Closing Ceremonies

Disgraceful. The Yankee organization touts itself as classy and professional, but I prefer to judge it on its actions, which on Sunday resembled those of a petulant child.

Jack Curry, New York Times:
Four World Series titles and 12 consecutive playoff appearances were not enough to merit Joe Torre a mention in Sunday's closing ceremonies at Yankee Stadium. Since Torre was as major part of the Yankees' success since 1996, it was a glaring omission. ...

If the Yankees had simply flashed an image of Torre on the scoreboard and detailed his achievements, it likely would have received a raucous ovation. The Yankees would have looked dignified for doing the right thing in honoring a manager who was a vital part of their Stadium's history. Instead, the Yankees erased Torre's name from their history, at least for Sunday night.
Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo said the omission was unintentional: "A lot of great Yankees weren't mentioned."

The ceremonies saluted Jesse Barfield -- but not Torre.


Roger Clemens -- who pitched for the Yankees for six years and has expressed a desire to wear an NY cap when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame -- was also absent from the ceremonies. Which is more hilarious than disgraceful.

Estranged former Yankee Roger Clemens was "heartbroken" when his former team left him out of Sunday night's Stadium-farewell festivities, which included a video montage honoring the Bronx Bombers' greatest pitchers - but not him, a relative told The Post yesterday.

Clemens was sitting at home in hurricane-ravaged Texas, in front of a battery-operated television on his living room couch, when the team delivered a final crushing blow to its former star.

Clutching wife Debbie's hand on one side and mother-in-law Jan Wild's on the other, Clemens tuned in to his final team's last home game hoping for some recognition ... [but] the steroid-scandal-scarred Clemens was nowhere to be seen.

September 22, 2008

G156: Spiders 4, Red Sox 3

Spiders - 010 030 000 - 4  8  0
Red Sox - 001 010 100 - 3 12 0
The celebration will be delayed an additional night.

It's small consolation on a night when the Red Sox squandered numerous scoring chances -- bases loaded/one out in the seventh and 2nd/3rd in the bottom of the ninth -- and left 12 men on base, but the only thing worse than leaving guys on base is not having guys to leave on base.

In the seventh inning, Kevin Youkilis's one-out double high off the Wall brought the Red Sox to within one run at 4-3. After Jason Bay was walked intentionally to load the bases, Rafael Betancourt got Jed Lowrie looking at strike three and retired Mark Kotsay on a routine fly to left.

Earlier in the evening, the Red Sox had left men at second and third in both the first and third innings. A baserunning blunder by Jason Varitek killed a rally in the sixth. Tek was on first and Bay was at second with two outs. Jeff Bailey ripped a single down the left field line that struck the 3B umpire. As Cleveland 3B Jamey Carroll went after the ball, Bay rounded third and tried to get back. He would have been safe, but suddenly Varitek appeared. Replays showed Varitek racing around second and on to third, even with the entire play in front of him. Bay was tagged out in a rundown for the third out.

Facing Jensen Lewis in the bottom of the ninth, Dustin Pedroia looked at two strikes, then fanned. David Ortiz, who crushed a solo dong into the Sox bullpen in the fifth, lined out to right on Lewis's first pitch. One out from defeat, Youkilis singled to right-center and Bay followed with a double into the left field corner. Youkilis held at third -- and watched as Lowrie struck out on three pitches to end the game.

Beckett (6-7-4-1-6, 105) hit a rough patch in the fifth, allowing three runs on four hits and a wild pitch. However, the first run he allowed, back in the second, was complete horseshit. After getting two easy groundouts, Ben Francisco doubled. Beckett then hit both Ryan Garko and Kelly Shoppach with inside pitches. Neither batter made any attempt to get out of the way -- and under Rule 6.08(b), home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman should not have allowed either Cleveland player to go to first base.

This rule is never enforced (has anyone seen an umpire refuse to grant an HBP?), but it's in the book. So after the two HBPs, the bases were loaded. Beckett's 2-1 pitch to Asdrubal Cabrera was over the heart of the plate and at the level of Cabrera's gut. That is pretty much right through the exact heart of the strike zone. Dreckman called the pitch a ball. Beckett's next offering was ball four -- and a run scored.

P.S. Shoppach tried to get hit again in the sixth. Beckett's 0-2 pitch was inside, and Shoppach tried to drag his left elbow through the upper part of the strike zone. He was unable to get his arm in the path of the baseball -- and he was called out on strikes.

Down in Baltimore, Tampa Bay beat the Orioles 4-2. The Rays upped their lead in the East to 2.5 and cut their magic number for clinching the division to 5.

Can the Red Sox still win the East? If Tampa goes only 3-4 over its last seven games, Boston would have to go 6-0 to win the East. Meaning that if Tampa can manage a mere 4-3 record from now until next Sunday, Boston cannot overtake them.


Zach Jackson (6.35, 70 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3.96, 115 ERA+)

The Red Sox can clinch a playoff spot with a victory tonight.

A win will also snuff out any chance the Yankees (idle tonight) have of winning the wild card. And it leaves the White Sox and the Twins (2.5 GB) fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot.

Talk now turns to the ALDS roster and the pitching rotation.

Rays/Orioles at 7
East                     Magic #
Rays 92 62 ---
Red Sox 91 64 1.5 7

Wild Card Magic #
Red Sox 91 64 ---
Yankees 85 71 6.5 1

September 21, 2008

The Tub That Ruth Built

Amusing typo in one of's stories about Yankee Stadium:


G155: Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 0

Red Sox   - 102 000 000 - 3  7  0
Blue Jays - 000 000 000 - 0 3 0
Dice (7-2-0-2-6, 109), Hideki Ojakima (8th: 4-3, K, L4) and Jonathan Papelbon (9th: 6-3, 5-3, 1B, F7) combined to shut out the Jays.

Jacoby Ellsbury tripled to start the game and scored on Dustin Pedroia line drive out to left field. With one out in the third, Lyndon doubled and scored on David Ortiz's dong to left. Ellsbury collected another double in the fifth. Pedroia doubled (#52) in the eighth and stole his 19th base in 20 tries.

Dice kept his pitch count down after a long second inning: 19-26-11 9-16-13 15. He allowed only two hits -- both leadoff doubles (Vernon Wells in the second and Joe Inglett in the sixth).

Matsuzaka went to a three-ball count on only four of his 25 batters: Alex Rios in the first (F7), Lyle Overbay in the second (BB), Travis Snider in the fifth (BB), and Adam Lind in the seventh (K).

The Twins beat Tampa Bay 4-1, so we are back to 1.5 GB in the East.


Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.93, 156 ERA+) / Scott Richmond (5.06, 85 ERA+)

Richmond is a 29-year-old rookie from British Columbia. He has made three starts this season (16 innings, 23 hits, one walk, 13 strikeouts). He has not pitched for the Jays since August 10, though he did appear in a minor league game on August 29. He will be limited to 50-60 pitches.

This is the final road game of the regular season. Boston will finish with a losing record away from Fenway Park -- they are 38-42 right now, although they have outscored their opponents 381-357 on the road.


If the Red Sox win and the Yankees lose (in the final game at 33-year-old "Yankee Stadium II"), then New York will be officially eliminated from post-season play for the first time since 1993. In the YED contest, Jeff F, Jeff M, Aaron S and Tim J all picked 0921.

And at Stade Fasciste tonight, instead of the usual 400 security personnel, there will be 2,000 (including "city police officers, private security, federal authorities and members of the Bronx district attorney's office").
Twins/Rays at 1:30
White Sox/Royals at 2
Orioles/Yankees at 8
East                     Magic #
Rays 92 61 ---
Red Sox 90 64 2.5 7

Wild Card Magic #
Red Sox 90 64 ---
Yankees 84 71 6.5 2
Twins 83 72 7.5 1
Blue Jays 83 72 7.5 1

September 20, 2008

G154: Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 3

Red Sox   - 003 000 000 - 3  7  1
Blue Jays - 140 000 01x - 6 9 1
Each starter struggled early -- and the Red Sox wasted three scoring chances.

In the first, Boston had runners at 1st and 2nd with no outs, then 1st and 3rd with one out, but could not score. They loaded the bases against Halladay (6-6-3-3-3, 106) with two outs in the fifth, but Jed Lowrie struck out. And facing Brandon League in the eighth, they had men at 1st and 2nd with one out, and came up empty yet again.

Toronto batted around in the second against Lester (7-8-5-3-4, 102). After that rough inning (he also allowed two hits and a run in the first), he settled down. Over the next five innings, he allowed only three singles and a walk -- and no Blue Jay runner got past second base. However, his teammates' bats could do much with the Toronto staff.

With one out in the third, Dustin Pedroia doubled and David Ortiz singled him home. One out later, Jason Bay homered to left to cut the score to 5-3.

The Yankees scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to beat Baltimore 1-0 and stave off YED for another 24 hours. Tampa Bay beat Minnesota 7-2, eliminating the Yankees from the AL East race.


Jon Lester (3.15, 145 ERA+) / Roy Halladay (2.77, 155 ERA+)

It's a rematch of last Sunday's game, which Boston won 4-3 behind a strong showing from Lester (8-4-1-2-6, 103).

J.D. Drew wonders if he will be able return at all this season.
I took some swings today [Friday] and it tightened up. ... [I'm] just wondering if the injury is healed, or if you just keep scratching at it like a scab and picking at it and it's not fully healing ... One day it's going to get better. I don't know what day it's going to be.
Bartolo Colon has been suspended without pay. Ian Browne, MLB:
Colon went to the Dominican Republic earlier this week to tend to a personal matter and expressed a preference to stay there, rather than return to the Red Sox and serve as, at most, a long reliever or spot starter for the rest of the regular season.
Jacoby Ellsbury has a 10-game hitting streak (.351/.368/.486).


Today could be Yankee Elimination Day. If the Red Sox win and the Yankees lose (in the penultimate game at the 33-year-old "Yankee Stadium II"), then New York will be officially eliminated from both the division race and the wild card race.

In the YED contest, Joe Grav, redsauce04, and Bruce B all picked 0920. (However, Bruce picked 81 NYY wins in the tiebreaker and they have 83 right now, so he cannot win the tiebreaker; Joe has 88 and redsauce 87.)

(It could also be BJED, if Boston wins.)
Orioles/Yankees at 1
Twins/Rays at 3:45
White Sox/Royals at 7
East                     Magic #
Rays 91 61 ---
Red Sox 90 63 1.5 9
Yankees 83 71 9.0 1
Blue Jays 82 72 10.0 E
Orioles 67 85 24.0 E

Wild Card Magic #
Red Sox 90 63 ---
Twins 83 71 7.5 2
Yankees 83 71 7.5 2
Blue Jays 82 72 8.5 1

Ortiz: No Singles For Two Weeks

With his recent power surge, various members of the Boston media are saying David Ortiz is set to go on a batting tear.

But while his two home runs against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night clearly got people excited, it's a bit deceptive. In his last 11 games, Ortiz is hitting only .195/.267/.561. He is 8-for-41, with four doubles, one triple, and three home runs -- and no singles.

Flo has not singled since the first inning on September 7, nearly two weeks ago. He later homered in that game, so his last nine hits (and 11 of his last 13 hits) have been for extra bases.

September 19, 2008

G153: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3

Red Sox   - 000 030 010 - 4  9  1
Blue Jays - 020 010 000 - 3 7 1
Jonathan Papelbon's throwing error put the tying run at second base with no one out in the bottom of the ninth, but he snuffed the next three hitters on a soft liner to shortstop, a groundout to second (runner to third) and a swinging strikeout of Travis Snider.

The Rays routed Minnesota 11-1, so Boston remains 1.5 GB in the East. But the wild card lead is back to 7.5.


Paul Byrd (4.53, 98 ERA+) / A.J. Burnett (4.19, 103 ERA+)

David Ortiz on winning the division or wild card:
If you're in, you're in. It doesn't matter. We won the division last year. We look forward to being back in the playoffs this year. I never noticed the difference between winning the division and going in as the Wild Card. As long as you're in, you're in. That's what everybody looks for -- being in the top four.
Yet, I also believe the East can still be had: Down by 1.5 and knowing the tiebreaker is Tampa's, the Red Sox need to make up 2.5 games with 10 left on the schedule.

Tony Massarotti is thinking about the post-season roster. ... Mike Lowell reports a "slight improvement" with his right hip. ... Check out these year's rookie hazing pix (Chris Carter has got some serious jugs).


Mike Puma, Post:
On the bright side, the Yankees don't have to worry about their season ending in a fourth straight AL Division Series meltdown. ...

"Why is everybody acting like this year is over with?" Jeter said.
The Yankees can be officially eliminated from the division race tonight, if the Rays win and New York loses. Any Red Sox wins and/or Yankees losses totalling three will eliminate the Yankees from the wild card race.

Twins/Rays at 7
Orioles/Yankees at 7
White Sox/Royals at 8
East                     Magic #
Rays 90 61 ---
Red Sox 89 63 1.5 10
Blue Jays 82 71 9.0 2
Yankees 82 71 9.0 2
Orioles 67 84 23.0 E

Wild Card Magic #
Red Sox 89 63 ---
Twins 83 70 6.5 4
Blue Jays 82 71 7.5 3
Yankees 82 71 7.5 3

How Can We Miss You If You Won't Go Away?

I'm forever grateful for 2004, but the sooner Curt Schilling forever cuts all ties with my favourite baseball team, the happier I will be.

On Wednesday, Schilling took time out of his busy schedule to call into WEEI and criticize a long-gone teammate, needlessly stirring up shit when the Red Sox are fighting for a division title and trying to get their roster in order for the playoffs.

And, of course, Schilling, who has done less than nothing to help the 2008 Red Sox, had to say this:
I'm the last person in the world who should be telling you who's right and who's wrong in this.
And that, as we all know (i.e., I'm not a racist, but), is a springboard to do exactly what the speaker said he shouldn't be doing: unload on Manny.

Here, Curt, have a drink on me.

September 18, 2008

Something Else #21: Odds And Ends

A mixture of various things on this final Musical Off-Day of 2008:
Bruce Springsteen - Fall 1981 - Almost 18 minutes of Springsteen feeling his way through what would become "Born In The USA" during the time he wrote the songs for Nebraska. Recorded at home with only his guitar and a tape recorder, this is an utterly fascinating look at the creative process, as Springsteen tries out various tempos and verses -- moving some lyrics around, getting rid of others, as the song slowly takes its now-familiar shape. (I've also included a demo called "Vietnam", which was apparently scrapped, but some of the melody and lyrical ideas were later used in BITUSA. Maybe listen to this one first.)

Bob Dylan - November 21, 2005 - He opens his encore at the Brixton Academy with a rough (and way too short) version of The Clash's "London Calling". The opening guitar is certainly recognizable, but I'll bet more than a few fans figured it was just another re-arrangement of a Dylan tune ... until he started singing.

Dylan - Dreamin' Of You - An outtake from "Time Out Of Mind", from his upcoming Bootleg Series release (downloaded from Dylan's website).

P.J. Harvey - November 13, 1999 - A cover of Dylan's "Shot of Love", recorded live in London.

REM - July 15, 2008 - Michael Stipe has some fun with the end of "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" during a Dresden soundcheck.

Long Ryders - August 9, 1986 - An amusing soundcheck fragment of "Looking For Lewis & Clark". (Though likely more amusing if you also know the original.)

Husker Du - June 4, 1984 - These guys often played "Love Is All Around" (the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore show, which was set in their home city) near the end of their shows. This comes from a show in Sweden and is played at a much slower pace than usual.

And some guy romps through a punky, f-bomb-laden version of one of his biggest hits at a mid-80s soundcheck.
Don't Forget To Explore: (with 53,000+ concerts), TUBE, and Totally Fuzzy.

September 17, 2008

G152: Rays 10, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 200 100 000 -  3  6  2
Rays - 323 000 02x - 10 12 0
The Rays took batting practice against Wakefield, who lasted only 51 pitches, and dropped the Red Sox to 2 GB. Tampa Bay now holds the divisional tiebreaker (having won 10 of the 18 games played between the two teams), so Boston needs to make up three games in the standings to win the AL East.

The night started off with a bang, as Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left and David Ortiz cranked a one-out, two-run dong to right-center.

But the fun was short-lived. In the home half of the first, Akinora Iwamura singled and stole second, Jason Bartlett singled and stole second, Carlos Pena hit a sacrifice fly and Willy Aybar knocked a two-run homer -- and Tampa led 3-2.

In the second, the Rays' #8 and #9 batters -- Gabe Gross and Fernando Perez -- cranked back-to-back home runs. And when Evan Longoria doubled with one out in the third, Terry Francona had seen enough. Tito ended up using four pitchers in that inning: Wakefield, Devern Hansack, Javier Lopez and David Aardsma. Boston used a total of eight pitchers tonight.

Ortiz led off the fourth by launching a moon shot to right-center; it looked like it hit maybe one-third of the way up the big video scoreboard! But that was it for the Red Sox's offense. They got a couple of guys on with two outs in the fifth, but Tiz flew to center, and they wasted Kevin Youkilis's leadoff double in the sixth.

Both the Twins and White Sox lost. Cleveland beat Minnesota 6-4 and the Yankees beat Chicago 5-1. Boston remains 7 GA in the wild card -- with 10 games to play.

Remember: We are going to the playoffs this year -- most likely meeting up with the Angels -- while the Yankees are fighting tooth and nail to not finish in fourth place.


Tim Wakefield (3.92, 116 ERA+) / Matt Garza (3.60, 120 ERA+)

Tony Massarotti, Globe:
The schedule will tell you that the Red Sox will leave Tampa tonight with 10 games remaining on their schedule, so anything can still happen. The reality is that the Red Sox had better win tonight if they want to repeat as champions of the American League East.
Why? Click here.

Now ...
White Sox/Yankees at 7
Twins/Cleveland at 7
East                     Magic #
Rays 89 60 ---
Red Sox 89 62 1.0 12
Blue Jays 80 71 9.0 3
Yankees 80 71 9.0 3
Orioles 67 82 22.0 E

Wild Card Magic #
Red Sox 89 62 ---
Twins 82 69 7.0 5
Blue Jays 80 71 9.0 3
Yankees 80 71 9.0 3

Everything And More: David Foster Wallace And Infinite Jest

"The truth will you set you free, but not until it's done with you."

David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest was published in early 1996. Part of the book's huge hype (and for me, its initial allure) was its sheer size – a brick of nearly 1,100 pages (cut down from an alleged 1,700!), including 388 small-fonted endnotes. I borrowed it from the library, but my brain balked at its dense prose and confusing storylines (which were also jumping back and forth in time). I gave up after 100 or so pages.

But I returned maybe a year or two later. I bought the paperback and dove back in. At about the 200-page mark, a number of the plot lines intersected, something clicked and I was off! (Breaking through at roughly that page-point is a common experience, it seems.) I was (and remain), appropriately enough, addicted, since one of the central themes of IJ is addiction – in many forms – and recovery. Most the action takes place in suburban Boston, at either the Ennett House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House or the Enfield Tennis Academy. IJ's wikipedia page has descriptions of the main characters and is a pretty good overview to the whole thing, though it likely contains spoilers.

Time praised IJ for its "endlessly rich ruminations and speculations on addiction, entertainment, art, life and, of course, tennis". . . . A reader also gets copious amounts of information/minutiae on prescription drugs, jailhouse tattoos, avant-garde film theory, and Quebec separatism, as well as lengthy internal monologues and what seem like frighteningly accurate descriptions of panic attacks, crippling depression, suicidal thoughts, and blindly feeling your way through sobriety. There is also the international search for a film cartridge that is reportedly so entertaining that unsuspecting viewers lose their will to do anything else and are content to watch the film over and over and over (not sleeping, eating, etc.) until they die.

2006 photo from Steven Rhodes's flickr page

Here are a few of IJ's many aspects that continue to astound me:

Language and Tone: IJ is packed with dense, often analytical prose. One reviewer described it as "a postmodern mixture of high- and low-brow linguistic traits . . . juxtapos[ing], often within a single sentence, colloquialisms and polysyllabic, highly esoteric words". You will read words in IJ that you will most likely never see anywhere else. The book has various narrators (though it's unclear sometimes who is doing the narrating, especially when you read a note in the text stating that the narrator may not have actually used the precise words you just read). Wallace also delivers this in a conversational voice filled with deep insight, empathy, and a jaw-droppingly precise use of language.

Wallace once spoke about his use of compound-conjunctions (sentences starting with some variation of "And but so . . ."):
When somebody's talking and they get on a roll, and they start talking faster and faster – and they don't breathe – one of the things they'll do is have compound-conjunctions because you're really – you're wanting that sentence to serve a number of things. It's both a contrast and a continuation, and it's an extrapolation. And it's a little unconscious clue to the reader that he's more listening than reading now – that we're at a pace now that's supposed to be far more sound and pace and breath than it is these short contained sentences. . . . Infinite Jest is the first thing that I wrote where the narrator – it's supposed to sound like the narrator's talking to you.
Narrative Intricacies: IJ could also be described as a mystery. Because of the abrupt ending of the physical book and the gaps and loops of the narrative's chronology, the reader is left with many questions (and no doubt also saying, frustratingly, "wtf?"). This is by design. Readers often simply go right back to the beginning and start over – not unlike the soon-to-be doomed viewers of that notorious film. And DFW has a remarkable habit of burying possible clues in page-long paragraphs. For example, what seems like a tossed-off (and perhaps seemingly out-of-place) observation on page 835 may relate to something back on page 64.

Humanity of the Characters: Although Wallace gets lumped in with other lesser writers who use irony as a way of keeping an emotional distance from their audience and avoiding showing any vulnerability which might expose them to pointed-finger ridicule, IJ's characters and their thoughts are often heartbreakingly naked and raw. DFW explores using the crutch of irony in an essay on Dostoevsky included in "Consider The Lobster". Admittedly, I don't read much fiction, but Don Gately is one of the greatest fictional characters I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

Now. For years, I have felt that there was no possible way Wallace could have written IJ without having gone through some horrifying personal experiences with depression, drugs, addiction, and the wrestling match of recovery. When asked, he would claim he merely sat in on many open-to-the-public AA meetings in Boston and got to know and talk with many of the people in attendance.

However, shortly after IJ was published, Wallace told Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune that in the late 80s/early 90s, after the success of his first novel and a short-story collection, he admitted himself to a hospital and asked to be put on suicide watch. Another article mentioned Wallace "being treated for a drug problem he developed in the wake of his early novelistic successes" and then becoming "compelled by the paradox of the AA 12-step program, which requires utter submission to a higher power in order to give up just such a submission to addiction."

There is also a fair amount of certainty that Wallace was the anonymous author of this letter of appreciation to the people at Granada House in Allston, Mass. I think anyone who has read IJ and then takes a look at this letter will be pretty convinced (and probably utter a "Holy Fuck" or three in the process).

Mark Costello, Summer 1993:
Between April Fool's Day and the Fourth of July, 1989, I wrote a small book [Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present] with David Foster Wallace. Wallace and I were splitting a two-bedroom flop in the soot-path of the Monsignor McGrath Highway, Boston. . . . Wallace is the smartest human I have ever known, plus the quickest, but he fights to write, which is odd considering the plenty of his talents. I could never tell who, or what, he was fighting with. He's both brutal worker and brutal blow-off. He could bleed to death watching game shows, yet routinely puts out twenty-five thousand careful words a day . . . You will see no trace of this on his published page – no sign of struggle, as crime scene cops say.
Last Sunday, Wallace's father told the New York Times that DFW had
been taking medication for depression for 20 years and that it had allowed his son to be productive. . . . James Wallace said that last year his son had begun suffering side effects from the drugs and, at a doctor's suggestion, had gone off the medication in June 2007. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. . . . "He was being very heavily medicated," he said. "He'd been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn't stand it anymore."

Colby Cosh (National Post (Canada), September 16, 2008):
It was in 1996 that Wallace arrived; I never saw anything quite like it before, and I do not expect to again. For some years there had already been murmurs and hints about the arrival of a massive new contender for Great American Novel, or at least Decade-Defining Doorstop; a huge, Pynchonesque, unsummarizable, labyrinthine, comic-tragic-ironic book about tennis and addiction that some math geek from Illinois had been brazen enough to call "Infinite Jest." Books columnists talked about it like Ahab murmuring about the whale; one couldn't help but be curious.
Pretty much the first review – or at least the first major review of IJ – was from Sven Birkerts in the February 1996 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Birkerts writes that Wallace
has a penchant for weaving long braids from enticingly antiphonal plots, each of which is differently absorbing, if not for its characterizations or imaginative brio then for the sharp snap of its thought, the obsessiveness of its informational reference (hence the notes), or and  the incandescence of the writing. . . .
To say that the novel does not obey traditional norms is to miss the point. Wallace's narrative structure should be seen instead as a response to an altered cultural sensibility. The book mimes, in its movements as well as in its dense loads of referential data, the distributed systems that are the new paradigm in communications. The book is not about electronic culture, but it has internalized some of the decentering energies that computer technologies have released into our midst. The plot is webbed, branched, rife with linkages. . . . [IJ works] as a postmodern saga of damnation and salvation. The novel is confusing, yes, and maddening in myriad ways. It is also resourceful, hilarious, intelligent, and unique. Those who stay with it will find the whole world lit up as though by black light.
Michiko Kakutani (New York Times, February 13, 1996) wrote that Wallace was
a writer of virtuosic skills who can seemingly do anything, someone who can write funny, write sad, write serious, write satiric, a writer who's equally adept at the Pynchonesque epic and the Nicolson Bakeresque minute, a pushing-the-envelope postmodernist who's also able to create flesh-and-blood characters and genuinely moving scenes.
Ted Gioia (Blog Critics, September 14, 2008):
[IJ] is a big novel by any definition. Yet the creativity and energy of Wallace's vision never lag. Few writers have ever been better at delivering scintillating prose, sentence after sentence, without ever seeming to run dry. . . . Infinite Jest is not just an exercise in dazzling prose. . . . This is one of the most sober (in more than one sense of the word) novels you will ever read, and also one of the funniest. The novel is also loaded with irony, but also one of the most caustic critiques of irony.
Bruce Weber (New York Times, September 15, 2008) stated that Wallace's books are
prodigiously observant, exuberantly plotted, grammatically and etymologically challenging, philosophically probing and culturally hyper-contemporary . . . [IJ] perceives American society as self-obsessed, pleasure-obsessed and entertainment-obsessed [and is] by turns hallucinogenically stream of consciousness, jubilantly anecdotal, winkingly sardonic and self-consciously literary.
David Gates (his 1996 IJ review is here) (Newsweek, September 14, 2008):
True, Wallace was a head case, but in the sense that we're all head cases: encased in our skulls, and sealed off from our fellow humans, we have worlds upon worlds of teeming, unruly sensations, emotions, attitudes, opinions and -- that chillingly neutral word – information. . . . Wallace's literary project was to get something of that infinity within us out where we could see and hear it. This explains his characteristic footnotes and endnotes, his digressions within digressions and his compulsive, exhausting (but never sufficiently exhaustive) piling on of detail.
drawing found here

Despite my love for IJ – which I think I'd pack for the desert island before my 2004 Red Sox DVDs – the absolute starting point for anyone curious about DFW is his non-fiction essays.

Grab "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" – a lot of which was written at the same time as IJ and serves, in my opinion, as kind of addendum to the novel in terms of Wallace's working out more of his thoughts on the same subjects.

His other collection is "Consider The Lobster" (title piece here or here).

Online: DFW's commencement address in May 2005 to the graduating class at Kenyon College, "Roger Federer As Religious Experience", from August 2006, and the first of his writings (not counting that aborted first try at IJ) I ever read – a report from the 1995 U.S. Open. It's an obvious precursor to his legendary State Fair and Cruise Ship travelogues found in ASFT.

The Howling Fantods is the best DFW site in the world. I hope it stays active. There are also a ton of DFW links (interviews, reviews, etc.) here.

Have I mentioned that I own eight copies of Infinite Jest?

My heavily-marked up paperback has been signed by DFW twice. A penciled note says that the second time was on May 26, 1999, at a reading in NYC. I recall him being slightly confused when asked to sign an already-autographed book. His usual way of signing was to put a proofreader's delete line-and-curl through his printed name on the title page and then sign his name above it. Having already done that, he wrote "For Allan With Many Good Wishes", then drew a curvy line and arrow leading back to his aforementioned signature.


Last evening, I went back to Reluctant Habits, the blog where last Saturday afternoon I first saw the Wallace rumour – and there is a lengthy list of writers talking about Wallace. I feel like quoting from at least a dozen of them, but I won't.