May 31, 2011

G55: White Sox 10, Red Sox 7

White Sox - 041 104 000 - 10 15  0
Red Sox   - 001 000 042 -  7 12  1
Chicago pounded Aceves (5-8-8-3-1, 78) for five hits, two walks, and five runs in a two-inning span of 11 batters, and Scott Atchison allowed two inherited runners to score in the sixth and then gave up two runs of his own, as the White Sox put the game out of reach.

After being silenced for most of the night by Humber (7.2-9-4-1-5, 97), Boston mounted a valiant effort in the final two innings. David Ortiz's three-run homer to left was the big blow in the eighth, and Drew Sutton contributed RBI hits in both the eighth and ninth. Jason Varitek homered in the third and finished the night with three hits and two runs scored.
Philip Humber / Alfredo Aceves

Mr. Potato Head makes his third start for the Red Sox. In the previous two, against the Cubs and Tigers, he has pitched 11 innings, allowing eight hits, four walks, 3 HBP, but only two runs. Aceves would prefer to start, but what's most important to him is the chance to play for a World Series winner. "I'm a pitcher - that's what I do. It doesn't matter if I'm a reliever or a starter."

In nine starts this year, Humber has a 2.64 ERA. He has pitched at least seven innings in five of his last six outings, allowing more than two runs only once in that period. Tonight's previously scheduled starter, Gavin Floyd, was used in Chicago's extra-inning loss on Saturday, so Ozzie Guillen decided to push Floyd back one day to tomorrow, and move Humber up.

AL East: Rangers/Rays at 6:30 PM and Yankees/Athletics at 10 PM.

Stark: Red Sox Made Unprecedented Rise To First Place

Jayson Stark, ESPN (my emphasis):
The Red Sox are nature's way of reminding us how long the baseball season really is. They were once 2-10 -- and then went 22-10. They were once 5-11 -- and then went 25-11. So now here they are, just weeks after tying their worst 12-game start in the 111-year history of the franchise, in a virtual tie for first place in the AL East. ...

[Elias Sports Bureau] reports the Red Sox just became only the fifth team in history to start a season 2-10 or worse and recover to occupy first place at any point in a season. Even more incredibly, they also became the first team ever to travel from 2-10 to first place in fewer than 40 games.

So how'd they go from those depths to the best May record (19-9) in the American League? ... [T]he offense finally heard the alarm go off. The Red Sox were 21st in the majors in runs scored in April. But not only have they scored the most runs in May (149), just two AL teams (the Yankees and Blue Jays) are even within 30 runs of them. ...
Stark names Josh Beckett as his starting pitcher of the month. Among many neat factoids, there is this: In May, Beckett became the seventh Red Sox pitcher in (at least) 93 years to have five straight starts in which he allowed one run or zero runs.

Lowrie Has Stiff Shoulder; Jenks Returns Tonight

Jed Lowrie was not in last night's lineup because he hurt his left shoulder in a collision with Carl Crawford in Sunday's first game. He expects to play tonight.
They're calling it a contusion. It's not structural or any tear or anything like that. ... It's gotten better since [Sunday] night. It's just stiff.
Bobby Jenks, who has not pitched since May 1 because of biceps tendinitis, will be activated from the disabled list today. Michael Bowden will likely be sent down. After a poor April (5.13 ERA), the Boston bullpen has had a very strong May, with a 3.87 ERA and an AL-best 3.07 K-to-BB ratio.

Jon Lester had command of only one pitch last night: his cutter. He threw it 43 times, more than any other pitch.
I had no command of my fastball. I threw a couple decent changeups, and I think I threw one curveball for a strike just because I got a checked swing at it. It was really the only pitch I could command, so we had to use it.
Lester will get a couple of extra days of rest before his next start, in Yankee Stadium a week from tonight.

Peter Abraham posted some data on how often Lester uses his various pitches and thinks he's stubbornly relying too much on his cutter, trying to trick hitters instead of attacking them. (I have expanded and added to his data, thanks to Fangraphs.)
         FB      CUT    CURVE  CHANGE
2009    54.4%   19.6%   19.4%    6.6%
2010    50.4%   22.0%   16.0%   11.6%
2011    47.6%   27.9%   14.0%   10.4%
Career  54.6%   19.7%   16.5%    7.3%
His highest cutter percentage for a full-season is 22% (2007, 2008, and 2010). This year's fastball rate is the lowest of his career, by far. However, 10% of Lester's pitches this year are "unknown", compared to an average of 2.4% in other years, so that's affecting the numbers.

Clay Buchholz has been bothered by a sore back for several starts this year. He is scheduled to face Oakland this Friday night.
[S]ometimes it bites a little bit more in some particular outings. It's something that I constantly have to stretch every game when I feel it just to keep it loose ...
Dustin Pedroia, after having no RBI in 17 games (May 3-22), has driven in eight runs in his last seven games (though he's batting only .233 in that time). ... Drew Sutton worked as a body double for Justin Timberlake in 2008 for the movie "The Open Road". ... The Red Sox took a league-administered drug test before last night's game.

A post at Beyond The Box Score led me to Junk Stats, which looks very entertaining.

May 30, 2011

G54: White Sox 7, Red Sox 3

White Sox - 201 004 000 - 7 12  0
Red Sox   - 102 000 000 - 3  7  0
Lester struggled through yet another start (5.2-8-7-4-4, 127) and the Red Sox failed to score in the later innings despite a couple of small, but promising, rallies.

Lester had thrown 96 pitches through five innings, and that probably should have been the end of his night. However, the game was tied 3-3, meaning that Lester (heaven forbid!) would not qualify for the "W", so Terry Francona left him on the mound to face six more batters and throw 31 additional pitches in the sixth inning. The Red Sox bullpen did not stir at all until Chicago's first batter had singled (and Lester was at 103 pitches).

Lester recorded two outs, but he also loaded the bases, and Alexei Ramirez snapped the 3-3 tie by blooping his 127th pitch down the right field line for a two-run double. Wheeler came in and allowed a single to Carlos Quentin, which scored two inherited runners.

Adrian Gonzalez (who hit his 10th homer in the first) and David Ortiz both singled in the sixth, but, with one out, Carl Crawford lined to right and Drew Sutton struck out. With two out in the eighth, Kevin Youkilis singled and Ortiz walked. Crawford, facing Matt Thornton, struck out swinging.

Dustin Pedroia's single scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury in the third inning.

Also: Quentin was awarded first base in both the first and fifth innings after being hit by Lester. However, since Quentin made absolutely no attempt to avoid either pitch, home plate umpire Marty Foster should have followed Rule 6.08(b)(2) and called each pitch a ball and kept Quentin in the batters box.
6.08. The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when ... (b) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless ... (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;

If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.
Jake Peavy / Jon Lester

A cool note, from Peter Abraham: Since debuting with the Red Sox last September 14, lefty Rich Hill has made 14 appearances (12 innings) without allowing a run. It's the most scoreless appearances to start a Red Sox career since (at least) 1919. Hill has 12 strikeouts in eight innings this season.

Reliever Franklin Morales was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left forearm strain and Michael Bowden was recalled from Pawtucket.

After Chicago lost to the Blue Jays in 14 innings yesterday, the ever-entertaining White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had a few words for fans who have criticized some of his decisions.
They only remember the 2005 [championship] team in 2020 when we come here in a wheelchair. "Oh, yeah, thank you." As soon as you leave the ballpark, they don't care about you anymore. ... The monuments, the statues they have for you, they pee on it when they drunk. ... "Thank you for coming" for 30 minutes for all the suffering you did all your life, day in and day out.

I wish I didn't feel anything for this game. I wish I didn't care about the White Sox, what the general manager, fans and media think. I wish I could say, "#&*@, I don't give a #&*@." I can't. I try to put it in my mind that I don't [care], but I can't because I love baseball, I love this organization and this is a job I want to do.
After the media published his comments, Guillen got even angrier and headed over to Twitter:
Thas bull crap what the media print today about celular field and the fans

The should print and said everything I said thas low blow and imrresponsable no clas

Press asociacion print you name who put that today tha will be fear

I have the enterviu on tape I whish I can sue then thas a very low blow

Allways take stuff out the contest put people in bad situation to people can read then

What a hell I going to say bad thing about white sox fan they are behind me all my carrer a less most of then
Also: White Sox starter John Danks called Toronto's Jose Bautista "a fucking clown" for the way he reacted after making an out in the fourth inning yesterday.

AL East: Yankees/Athletics at 4 PM and Rangers/Rays at 6:30 PM.

Stars Of May: Beckett And Ellsbury

Slotted into the #4 spot when the season began, Josh Beckett has been the team's best starter. Indeed, he may be the American League's best pitcher right now.

With 11 starts in the books, Beckett leads the AL with a 1.80 ERA; he has a 1.01 WHIP. No AL pitcher has allowed fewer hits per nine innings than Beckett (5.9), and only two have allowed fewer HR/9.

Beckett has averaged a bit more than six innings per start and has allowed one or zero runs in seven of those 11 starts. In May, Beckett had a 1.00 ERA (six starts, 36.2 innings); 25 of the 26 hits he allowed were singles.

(Boston also has three starters in the top eight in LOB% (Beckett, Buchholz, Lester). Beckett's strand rate in 2011 is 85.8%, well above his career rate of 72%. It seems unlikely that the starters will be able to sustain that LOB% through the entire season.)

In the last six games, Jacoby Ellsbury has eight hits (including two home runs), seven walks, seven runs scored, and four stolen bases. He leads the Red Sox in May OBP (.394) and is third in average (.323).

Pitches seen in last five games: 24, 24, 24, 29, 25. As SoSHer Sprowl writes, "He's wearing out the opposing pitchers from the first inning on."

Ellsbury, among leadoff batters:
Pitches per PA: #2 in AL (3.89)
OBP: #1 in MLB (.385)
AVG: #1 in AL (.318), #2 in MLB
SLG: #2 in AL (.462), #4 in MLB
Runs Created Per 27 Outs: #1 in AL* (7.22), #2 in MLB

(IYI: Derek Jeter is 10th in the AL, at 4.38.)
In the last week, Carl Crawford has been white hot (.423/.464/1.000/1.464). His 11 hits include two doubles, two triples, and three home runs. He has scored nine runs and driven in eight in the last seven games.

Adrian Gonzalez talks about hitting with David Laurilla. The Q&A is pure muscle, with none of the flabby cliches you usually hear.
DL: What do you see when the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand?

AG: I see rotation. I can pick up on what the pitch is as soon as the pitcher lets go of it. Most of what you see is innate. If you ask some of the great hitters, they won't all say the same thing. Some just see balls. Some guys see speed out of the hand. I can't recognize speed, but I can recognize rotation. ...

DL: What do a lot of fans not understand about hitting?

AG: That hitting has evolved. It's not the same that it was 10-15 years ago. ... Pitchers are throwing more pitches now, and they're moving the ball more. ... Ten, 15 years ago, not every pitcher had four or five pitches. Now they do and you have to keep that in mind.
Joe Posnanski has more thoughts on stats and statheads:
[T]heir methods may be baffling to those of us without much feel for math but in general they are working to find things that could be really interesting. There are people out there who work hard to come up with mathematical formulas to determine the run values of different actions (how much more a single is worth than a walk, for instance). There are people out there who work the numbers to separate the pitchers contribution in run prevention from the defense's contribution. Some try to break down the statistics to see if certain players have the unique talent to hit better in the clutch than they do in regular situations. ... Some just work through the numbers to find counterintuitive facts ...

Sometimes, these mathematical efforts go over my head. And sometimes they go WAY over my head. But the point is that much of baseball number crunching is for a purpose -- to answer a question, to prove a point, to discover a whole new way to look at baseball -- and that can be fascinating if you come at it with an open mind.

May 29, 2011

G53: Tigers 3, Red Sox 0

Red Sox - 000 000 000 - 0  4  0
Tigers  - 200 000 01x - 3  7  1
Verlander (7.2-4-0-2-3, 132) handcuffed the bats and a two-spot against Beckett (6-5-2-5-5, 107) in the first was more than enough for Detroit to snap Boston's five-game winning streak.

Verlander's 132 pitches is the second-highest pitch count this season, one fewer than Tim Lincecum's 133 against the A's on May 21. (Roy Halladay threw 130 against against the Padres on April 24 and four pitchers topped 130 last season.)

With one out in the home first, Andy Dirks walked and scored on Brennan Boesch's double to right. Boesch scored on Miguel Cabrera's first-pitch single to right. The Tigers tacked on an additional run against Scott Atchison in the eighth.

Boston's first real threat came when Jason Varitek doubled with one out in the sixth. However, Jacoby Ellsbury popped to center and Dustin Pedroia flied to right. In the eighth, the Red Sox again had a man on second with one out, but Varitek struck out looking and, after Ellsbury walked, Joaquin Benoit relieved Verlander, and retired Pedroia on a fly to left.

Earlier in the day, the Yankees beat the Mariners 7-1 and the Rays beat Cleveland 7-0. ... Boston, who has more wins than all but three MLB teams, is now 1.0 GA of New York and 1.5 GA of Tampa Bay.
Josh Beckett / Justin Verlander

Update: The game is on NESN!

Second game of a day-night doubleheader. Check here for a possible game thread.

And a hearty Fuck You to MLB and ESPN, whose broadcasting agreement means this game will not be televised - anywhere.

G52: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3

Red Sox - 111 000 001 - 4  7  0
Tigers  - 000 102 000 - 3  6  0
David Ortiz hit a pinch-hit solo home run off Tigers closer Jose Valverde in the top of the ninth, as Boston upped its record to 13-2 over its last 15 games.

Ortiz has now faced Valverde twice, and is 2-for-2 with two homers and five RBIs. It was Ortiz's fourth career pinch-hit homer, and his first since April 27, 2003 (which was also his first home run for the Red Sox).

Mike Cameron and Dustin Pedroia hit solo homers earlier in the game in support of Buchholz (6-6-3-1-3, 98).
Clay Buchholz / Andrew Oliver

First game of a day-night doubleheader. Check here for a possible game thread.

AL East: White Sox/Blue Jays at 1 PM, Cleveland/Rays at 1:30 PM, and Yankees/Mariners at 4 PM. ... Boston leads the AL East by 1.5 games.

May 28, 2011

G52: Red Sox at Tigers, PPD

Tonight's game was postponed (after a delay of 85 minutes). The Red Sox and Tigers will play a day-night doubleheader on Sunday (1 and 7 PM).

Day: Clay Buchholz / Andy Oliver
Night: Josh Beckett / Justin Verlander

The Globe reports that while NESN will show the afternoon game, the 7 PM game "will not be televised as ESPN Sunday Night baseball has exclusivity for that time". ... Unfuckingbelievable.
Red Sox - 
Tigers  - 
Clay Buchholz / Andrew Oliver
Check here for a possible game thread.

AL East: White Sox/Blue Jays at 1 PM, Cleveland/Rays at 4 PM, and Yankees/Mariners at 10 PM.

May 27, 2011

G51: Red Sox 6, Tigers 3

Red Sox - 105 000 000 - 6  9  0
Tigers  - 110 000 001 - 3  7  0
Wakefield (7-5-2-2-2, 83) picked up his 181st win in a Boston uniform as the Red Sox won for the 12th time in 14 games.

Jacoby Ellsbury began the third inning with a solo homer to right. Dustin Pedroia walked and Adrian Gonzalez singled to center, and they both scored when Kevin Youkilis lined a double to deep right-center. With one out, Carl Crawford donged to right for two more runs.

Ellsbury scored in the first inning when he singled to right, stole second base, took third on a Gonzalez grounder, and scored on a wild pitch.

In their four starts in the rotation, Alfredo Aceves and Wakefield have a 1.82 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.
Tim Wakefield / Rick Porcello

Check here for a possible game thread.

Nick Cafardo wants quiet in the ball parks and I'll back him all the way on that point, but when it comes to writing anything more thought-provoking about baseball than the final score, he simply can't do it. YFSF calls his latest column "a doozy" and gives it the FJM treatment. You may remember Cafardo taking gratuitous swipes at Jacoby Ellsbury all last season, working in a rib or playing-hurt reference wherever and whenever he could. He desperately tried to stir the shit like CHB or Mazz, and even though it always awkward, he kept it up. In 2011, Ellsbury has played in all 50 games, is hitting .296/.364/.449 (122 OPS+), and has the highest line drive percentage on the team, and Nick still finds a way to insult him: "It seems he's trying to prove his durability and toughness."

AL East: White Sox/Blue Jays and Cleveland/Rays at 7 PM; Yankees/Mariners at 10 PM.

May 26, 2011

Scoring 14+ Runs In Consecutive Games

For the ninth time in team history, the Red Sox have scored 14 or more runs in consecutive games. The B-Ref search goes back only to 1919; I found one more by going through the schedules of the 1901-18 teams:
September 16: 14-7 vs Cleveland
September 17: 14-3 vs Cleveland

June 18: 14-9 vs Browns (G2 of DH)
June 20: 14-9 vs White Sox

July 4: 17-7 and 18-12 at Athletics (DH)

September 27: 24-4 vs Senators
September 28: 16-4 vs Athletics (G1 of DH)

June 7: 20-4 vs Browns
June 8: 29-4 vs Browns
[after which, the Red Sox went 1-8 in their
next 9 games, and 2-10 in their next 12]

June 17: 17-1 vs Tigers 
June 18: 23-3 vs Tigers

June 19: 15-7 at Orioles
June 20: 14-7 at Cleveland

July 2: 15-0 vs Expos
July 3: 15-2 vs White Sox

May 25: 14-2 at Cleveland
May 26: 14-1 at Tigers

The record of consecutive games with 14+ runs scored for any team (1919-2011) is three, set by the 1928 Pirates 18-4, 14-6, 14-8), 1930 Cubs (16-4, 15-2, 18-10), and 1993 Tigers (15-1, 15-5, 17-11).

The 1946 Red Sox scored 12+ runs in three straight games (June 28-30), and the 1950 team scored 11+ runs in four consecutive games (June 2-5), right on the cusp of those two games against the Browns, above.

From 1919-2011, the only team to score 14+ runs in two straight games and lose them both was the 1930 Philadelphia Phillies, who were swept in a doubleheader by Pittsburgh 2-1 and 16-15 on July 23, then were beaten by the Cubs the next day 19-15.
41 Days Later

End of play, April 15, 2011
            W   L   PCT   GB
Yankees     7   5  .583  ---
Blue Jays   7   6  .538  0.5
Orioles     6   6  .500  1.0
Rays        5   8  .385  1.5
Red Sox     2  10  .167  5.0
End of play, May 26, 2011
            W   L   PCT   GB
Yankees    27  21  .563  ---
Red Sox    28  22  .560  ---
Rays       26  23  .531  1.5
Orioles    24  24  .500  3.0
Blue Jays  24  26  .480  4.0
And there are still 112 games to play.

Boston has, obviously, had the best record among the five East teams in that span: 26-12.The others: Rays 21-15, Yankees 20-16, Orioles 18-18, Blue Jays 17-20.

G50: Red Sox 14, Tigers 1 (7½, rain)

Red Sox - 052 001 15x - 14 16  0
Tigers  - 000 100 0xx -  1  5  1
Carl Crawford had four hits for the second day in a row (two triples among the hits today), David Ortiz had two hits and two walks and scored three times, Jacoby Ellsbury belted a three-run home run, and Aceves turned in six strong innings (6-5-1-2-6, 98).
            W   L   PCT   GB
Yankees    27  21  .563  ---
Red Sox    28  22  .560  ---
Rays       26  23  .531  1.5
Orioles    24  24  .500  3.0
Blue Jays  24  26  .480  4.0
Boston beat Cleveland 14-2 on Wednesday. The last time the Red Sox scored 14+ runs in back-to-back games was July 2-3, 1998 against the Expos (15-0) and White Sox (15-2). (Then, after being shutout 3-0 by the White Sox on July 4, the Red Sox prevailed in a July 5 slugfest 15-14 (Dario Veras???).)

We were worried a possible rainstorm might sabotage our one in-person game this year, but when we got to the park, we actually had to use sunscreen. The clouds gathered overheard soon after the first pitch, however. After four innings, with rain clearly on its way, we thought we'd beat the rush and move to seats under the overhang. And we immediately snagged two cushioned chairs with tons of leg room and a little bench in front of us, perfect for scoring pens and drinks! The steady mist/drizzle continued for a few innings, and the Sox tacked on five more runs before the tarp came out.

Josh Reddick, called up as Darnell McDonald (left quad strain) was placed on the disabled list, went 3-for-5, with 3 RBI and two runs scored. Drew Sutton hit a pair of doubles and drove in two runs.

It was the eighth time in Crawford's career he has had two triples in one game, and the first since July 2008. Today was the 31st time Crawford has collected four hits in a game, but he had never had four in consecutive games until this week.
Alfredo Aceves / Matt Scherzer

JoS in Detroit!

AL East: White Sox/Blue Jays at 7 PM.

May 25, 2011

G49: Red Sox 14, Cleveland 2

Red Sox - 701 105 000 - 14 20  0
Spiders - 000 000 020 -  2  7  2
Jon Lester / Mitch Talbot

Game threads for today and the entire Tigers series will be here. Or not. (L & I will be at Thursday's game!)

AL East: Blue Jays/Yankees and Rays/Tigers at 1 PM.

Book Review: Harvey Frommer's "Remembering Fenway Park"

It's late-May, but it's not too early to start dropping hints to everyone you know that you'd sure like to receive a copy of this gorgeous book - Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral And Narrative History Of The Home Of The Boston Red Sox (Abrams) – perhaps for Mother's or Father's Day, or for your birthday, or that big holiday at the end of the year.
Harvey Frommer has been writing about baseball for nearly 40 years. A few of his more than three dozen books are: New York City Baseball: The Last Golden Age, 1947-1957, Five O'Clock Lightning: The 1927 Yankees, A Yankee Century, Remembering Yankee Stadium, Red Sox vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry, and Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball.

As you might have guessed from that list, Frommer is a Yankee fan.

Or, rather, he was.

In recent interviews, Frommer insists, although people (including some friends) don't necessarily believe him, that working on this book converted him from a Yankees fan to a Red Sox fan! In fact, he mentions it in the book's acknowledgements, noting "the transformation of a lifelong New York Yankee rooter into a proud new member of Red Sox Nation!" There is likely no better blurb for this book than that!

Remembering Fenway combines Frommer's historical narrative with memories and observations from a cast of 134 players (both Red Sox and opponents), managers and coaches, members of the media, politicians, academics, vendors and ushers and office workers at the park, and regular fans -- from Bob Allgaier (a vendor during the late 40s who later worked for the CIA) to Don Zimmer (a gerbil-faced idiot).

[An Unexpected Disclaimer: Frommer used bits of my interview with Thomas Foley, who worked as a Fenway vendor in 1918 at the age of 14 (pages 37 and 45). I wrote about Foley for Baseball America in 1997 and included his memories in my book on the 1918 Red Sox.]

Frommer goes through the team's history of playing in what is the oldest existing site to have hosted a World Series game. One nice thing about this book is that the chapters, each focusing on a decade, are all roughly the same number of pages, though as you might expect, there are more quotes from the last few decades than, say, the 1920s.

The history and remembrances are great, but the stars of the book - and the reason why you'll keep pulling it off the shelf again and again - are the photos, which also include baseball cards, program covers, and ticket stubs from throughout the years, team pictures, and lots of shots of fans in the stands, including the Royal Rooters at the 1912 World Series.

One of my favourite pictures is a colour shot of Tex Hughson warming up in 1947, with the Wall looming behind him. There is no hint of the surrounding city and, with the near total absence of advertising, the field doesn't even look like a major league park. (I find it strange that when I now see video of Fenway from before 2003, when the Monster Seats were added, it looks strange and unfinished.)

There are also two full-page pictures of a sold-out game in which hundreds of fans were seated in the outfield, creating a human wall roughly 40-50 feet closer to the infield than the warning track. There is also a shot of the park's construction from 1911. You can tell it's taken from what will be the right field stands looking towards the left field wall, but it doesn't show much detail. I'd love to see more pictures from the building of the park, like the ones you can find of the original Yankee Stadium.

There are also great quotes from Erica Tarlin and Dan Wilson of "Save Fenway Park!", when in the late 90s, it appeared that Fenway's days were numbered. At that time Red Sox officials said (without evidence) it was absolutely impossible to renovate Fenway Park -- and nearly everyone believed them. Wilson singles out Bill Lee as one former player who stood on the side of preservation.

A few tidbits and some quotes:

Bill Lee used to get his mail delivered to the park and owner Tom Yawkey would usually steal his National Geographics. ... Boo Ferriss says some players referred to the Wall as the Iron Monster before it was painted green. ... There were buckshots dents and holes in the Wall because Ted Williams used to shoot pigeons in the park. ... When the Red Sox were on the road, Tom and Jean Yawkey would often bring a blanket out to center field and enjoying a picnic while listening to the games on the radio.

After a 1926 fire burned some of the wooden bleachers in left field, cash-poor management simply left it as a cinder-strewn lot for seven years (and left fielders were suddenly able to run behind the existing stands after foul balls). ... In the late 40s, beer was sold at the park, but you had to drink it either at the concession stand or at the back of the top row of grandstand seats.

Bill Monbuouquette:
The day I signed a Red Sox contract in 1955, I finished pitching batting practice and joined my mom and dad in the right-field grandstand to watch the game. Two drunks behind us spilled their booze on my mother. They were swearing. I turned. "I don't appreciate your language or spilling your beer on my mother. No more!" "What are you going to do about it?" I looked at my farther and he nodded and we sure did a job on them. We cleaned their clocks. The next thing was that my dad and I were cuffed behind the back and put in a holding cell. We had to call Johnny Murphy, the Red Sox farm director, to get us out.
Bob Sannicandro worked in the clubhouse and often autographed baseballs for players, i.e., he forged their signatures:
If [you've got] a Yaz ball, it might not be Yaz. ... [One player,] I'll leave him nameless, showed me how he signed his name. He told me to go home and practice. I went home and the next day he says, "Not bad, keep working at it."
Fred Lynn:
Being a center fielder, all the speakers were right behind me. I could hear [Sherm Feller] clicking the microphone on and off and sometimes he would forget and I'd hear him mumbling stuff. ... The players' parking lot was as big as a postage stamp. Fans had access to it. So it was very difficult to get your car out. Either they were beating on your car because you had a good game or they were beating on your car because you had a bad game. Either way your car got beat to crap.
Bill Lee:
During rain delays, I would sneak out with an usher named the "Whale". We would run out the back entrance down Ipswich Street, cut back through the back alleyway, and end up in the Eliot Lounge. They'd hear the clicking of my spikes and they'd have a beer pulled for me. I'd have two beers, watch them pull the tarp off the field, be back in time, and never miss a pitch.
Joe Castiglione:
I remember when we used to come back from a trip at three or four in the morning. The bus would leave us off at the stadium, and we'd have to wait around for the truck that carried our luggage. Sometimes we'd just sit in the stands and look out on the field ... The place was silent, with just a few lights and the clock on. Now I get picked up at the airport in a limo and go directly home. Of course it's more convenient. But there was something cool about the way we did it before.

May 24, 2011

G48: Red Sox 4, Cleveland 2

Red Sox - 002 000 200 - 4  5  0
Spiders - 010 000 001 - 2  6  1
Palindromic dirty water!

Jason Varitek's two-run homer in the seventh gave Beckett (6.2-5-1-3-6, 111) a cushion and helped the Red Sox move into second place in the AL East.

Beckett had only one 1-2-3 inning, but except for the run that scored in the second, he allowed only two Cleveland runners to advance past first base.

In the Boston third, Carl Crawford was hit by a pitch and stole second. After Drew Sutton moved Crawford to third with a ground out, Jacoby Ellsbury walked and stole second. Jed Lowrie's sacrifice fly scored Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez's double scored Ellsbury.

David Ortiz doubled twice and was on base when Varitek hit his first dong since May 30, 2010.

The Yankees scored twice in both the eighth and ninth innings to beat the Blue Jays 5-4 and the Tigers beat the Rays 7-6, so the Red Sox (26-22) moved into second place, 0.5 GB New York (26-21), with Tampa Bay (26-23) 1 GB and Toronto 2.5 GB.
Josh Beckett / Fausto Carmona

Beckett, in four May starts: 0.39 ERA, 23.1 innings, 16 hits, 5 walks, 20 strikeouts, opponents (Angels, Twins, Yankees, Tigers) hitting .195/.267/.195. He left his last start with a sore neck.

Beckett lost to Cleveland in his first start of the season (April 5, 5-5-3-4-4, 106). Carmona threw seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits and two walks, against Boston on April 7.

Adrian Gonzalez is the fourth Red Sox player since 1920 to have 65+ hits and 40+ RBIs through the team's first 46 games of the season.
                 YEAR   HITS  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
Ted Williams     1948    65    48  .387  .528  .696  1.224
Jim Rice         1978    67    50  .347  .396  .705  1.101  
Manny Ramirez    2001    71    56   401  .483  .740  1.223
Adrian Gonzalez  2011    65    41  .342  .391  .574   .965
Gonzalez got a big boost by going 10-for-15 series against the Cubs. (He and Manny did it in their first seasons in Boston.)

AL East: Blue Jays/Yankees and Rays/Tigers at 7 PM.

Matsuzaka Will Get Second Opinion On Elbow

Daisuke Matsuzaka has an appointment later this month with Dr. Lewis Yocum for a second opinion on injured right elbow. Red Sox medical director Dr. Tom Gill said Matsuzaka has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor.

This is the sixth time Matsuzaka has been on the disabled list:
May 28 - June 21: Mild right rotator cuff strain

April 15 - May 22: Mild right shoulder strain
June 21 - September 15: Mild right shoulder strain
(Injured hip joint before the season while training for the WBC; kept injury a secret all season)

April 4-30: Neck strain
June 8-23: Right forearm strain
(Also: missed August 27 start, sore back)
Terry Francona said Dice is currently in Japan and shot down a surgery rumour:
He had permission from us to go back home. It is a personal matter. He is not going to have surgery [while he's there]. We made that decision for him to go home awhile back.
Yocum has seen Matsuzaka's recent MRI, but has not personally examined him. The Red Sox believe that rest and rehab will enable Matsuzaka to return and pitch in the second half. However, if it's later determined that Dice needs Tommy John surgery, it could mean the end of his Red Sox career, since his contract ends after next season.

Bobby Jenks (strained right biceps) threw a 25-pitch side session on Monday and reported that "everything's looking good". He'll have another session on Wednesday and could rejoin the team in Detroit this weekend. There is a the possibility of a rehab outing or two, but Jenks doesn't think that will be necessary. "I need to get back out there. I've been going crazy in the dugout."

John Lackey (right elbow strain) will throw his first side session today. ... Marco Scutaro (left oblique strain) worked out on the field yesterday, but has not received permission to swing a bat.

May 23, 2011

Pedroia Will Not Play Tomorrow, But Says He's Okay

Dustin Pedroia, on his stumble and fall around second base in the eighth inning:
Similar to what I did in Anaheim. When I do something like that my leg is like a stinger like you get in football. My leg took a while to get feeling back. I was off the field already. In Anaheim the feeling came back in like a minute. Can't hold up the game that long. I slipped on the base. ...

I was just trying to get the feeling back. That's the part that's weird. It was just numb. I just hit a nerve that shoots that stinger feeling up your leg.
Pedroia said he was scheduled for an off-day tomorrow anyway, and he should be able to play on Wednesday afternoon.

G47: Cleveland 3, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 001 010 000 - 2  7  0
Spiders - 000 100 02x - 3  6  1
Daniel Bard blew his second save of the year, allowing an inherited runner to score with one out in the eighth, then gave up a run of his own, as Cleveland took a 3-2 lead. With one out in the ninth, singles by J.D. Drew and Jed Lowrie put the potential tying run on third base, but Carl Crawford -- who had singled and scored Boston's first run and homered for its second -- grounded into a game-ending 463 double play.

Buchholz (7.1-4-2-2-4, 94) and Masterson (7.2-4-2-2-3, 112) were evenly matched -- and both pitched well despite a rain delay of 61 minutes at the start of the game. In the eighth, after Buchholz allowed a single to Jack Hannahan and pinch-runner Adam Everett took second on Austin Kearns's groundout, Bard came in to face pinch-hitter Carlos Santana.

Bard got Santana to foul out to third, but Michael Brantley lined an RBI-single to right to tie the game. (It was the first inherited runner that Bard has allowed to score this season; he's now stranded eight of nine.) Asdrubal Cabrera, who had homered in the fourth, doubled to left-center for the go-ahead run.

Dustin Pedroia was injured in the eighth inning and had to leave the game. He was on first when Adrian Gonzalez singled to right. Pedroia tripped rounding second base, got his feet tangled, and fell. He crawled back to the bag, but was very slow to get up. He seemed unable to put much weight on his left foot/ankle, and Drew Sutton ran for him and finished the game at second base.

The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 7-3 and the Tigers beat the Rays 6-3, so the Red Sox remain 0.5 GB; Toronto is now 1.5 GB.
Clay Buchholz / Justin Masterson

Buchholz has pitched seven innings in each of his last two starts and has allowed only two runs in his last 20.2 innings. In four May starts, he has a 1.40 ERA.

Masterson has allowed only one run in five of his nine starts this season. He has a 2.52 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. His walk rate is the lowest of his career and he has given up only one home run in 60.2 innings.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 7-for-18 (.389) in his last five games, with one double and three home runs:
I'm feeling more comfortable. As soon as I managed to slow things down, I've been putting good at-bats together. ... At the beginning of the season I was pressing a little bit, trying to go out and hit everything as hard as I could. ... [Now] I'm not trying to pull everything, I'm trying to put it in the big part of the park, and good things happen.
AL East: Blue Jays/Yankees and Rays/Tigers at 7 PM.

Ortiz: Gonzalez Is More Confident Than Pedroia (But Quieter)

David Ortiz spoke to the Herald's Michael Silverman about his amazement at what an intelligent hitter Adrian Gonzalez is.
We go back and forth but [expletive], I'm getting more ideas from him than he gets from me. I ask him every day, I'm like, "Hey, what you got?" and he gives me the whole information. ... I don't even go to the video anymore. I ask him, and I swear to God, everything he tells me is the same thing that happens in the game. It's unbelievable. He is extremely smart. Extremely. ...

If there's one spot on the plate that a pitcher wants to go with a hitter, it's away. And he has the ability to take that pitch and hit it out consistently. ... This guy can hit homers [to the] opposite field consistently, which is something you don't really see in baseball on a daily basis. ...

We help each other really good. I've always watched good hitters, see their approach, and get ideas. When I first got here, Manny helped me out so much when he came down to the hitting cage. I always watched his approach, the way he worked and how he much worried about slowing things down. Gonzalez is the same way. ...

This guy's got more confidence than Pedroia and you know that Pedroia's got a [expletive] load of confidence. He thinks he's unstoppable. This guy's got the same level of confidence, he's just quieter.
Rob Bradford also wrote about their friendship and Alex Speier has a follow-up and a neat table: Ortiz has hit 51.9% of his outfield hits this year to left field, much higher than any other season in his career.

May 22, 2011

G46: Red Sox 5, Cubs 1

Cubs    - 000 000 100 - 1  5  1
Red Sox - 000 210 20x - 5 12  0
Wakefield was supremely economical, throwing only 35 pitches through the first four innings (and 64 through six), sending the Cubs back to the dugout almost as soon as they reached the batters box.

Wakefield allowed a leadoff single in the third, and then erased the runner with a double play on his very next pitch. A strikeout/wild pitch put a man on in the fifth, and a leadoff single in the sixth was stranded at third. In the seventh, two doubles brought Chicago a run, and cut Boston's lead to 3-1.

Alfonzo Soriano was the potential tying run at the plate, and Terry Francona wasted no time, replacing Wakefield (6.2-4-1-0-3, 75) with Daniel Bard, who fanned Soriano to end the threat. Bard then pitched a perfect eighth, before Jonathan Papelbon closed it out. Bot allowed a two-out double, but he had a four-run lead, and there was little to worry about.

Wakefield received credit for his 194th career win, and #180 in a Red Sox uniform. He needs 13 more wins to set a new Boston franchise record.

Adrian Gonzalez went 4-for-4, and scored twice. It was the 20th time in his career Gonzalez had four hits in a game, though only the second instance of doing in four trips to the plate. The other 4H/4PA game was for the Padres on June 28, 2006, which was also the only other time beside tonight that Gonzalez had four hits, and no RBI. (Mike Cameron played CF for San Diego that day.) Bert went 4-for-6 in the first game of the Cubs series, on Friday.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered in the fifth -- his 3rd dong in his last four games -- and Kevin Youkilis cracked a stand-up, two-run triple into the triangle in the seventh.
James Russell / Tim Wakefield

Russell is a 25-year-old left-hander (and son of former Red Sox pitcher Jeff Russell) who debuted with the Cubs last season, pitching in 57 games out of the bullpen. He gave up 10.1 H/9 and was below league average in allowing runs (4.96 ERA, 88 ERA+).

This season has been a mix of starting and relieving for Russell. Looking at his game log, he has made six appearances in May, throwing 83 (his last start), 11, 1, 15, 9, 39 pitches. Only two of his six May games were for more than three batters.

AL East: Mets/Yankees and Rays/Marlins at 1 PM.

A Call For Quiet

Nick Cafardo gets a lot of criticism (usually with good reason), but he is dead-on in his Sunday Notes column today. I'm quoting liberally, because it's so great, and a lot of it seems lifted directly from my own thoughts (my emphasis):
One of the more enjoyable parts of this season for me came during a Friday night Red Sox-Yankees game when the Yankee Stadium PA system malfunctioned for about two innings. Unfortunately, it was fixed.

No more blaring music or dancing mascots. It was pure baseball, just like the old days, when all you heard was the occasional organ music in the background.

We all understand the "presentation" that very talented and creative people put together for a ballgame, but couldn't those same talented and creative people incorporate a two-inning silent time during the course of the game, when baseball is the most important thing taking place in the ballpark?

At the Yankee game, the crowd got louder, and the players actually could hear the fans.

"I thought it was pretty cool, actually," Adrian Gonzalez said that night. "It was different."

It was not only "different," it was great. There was nothing attacking your sensibilities. I'm not saying eliminate all the distractions, but have some quiet time.

They tried this at Fenway last night. The Sox, in celebration of their first meeting with the Cubs in 93 years, were trying to re-create a 1918 atmosphere, with no amplified sound and no video. A man with a megaphone announced batters for two innings, and the teams were decked out in uniforms of the era.

To the Red Sox' credit, they were going to measure the fan response and gauge whether they could incorporate more silence into future games.

Baseball is a cerebral game. It doesn't need shenanigans all of the time. Give the electronics a rest. Let the game take over, so people actually can concentrate on it rather than wonder what silly song is about to play when Jonathan Papelbon comes into the game. ... [W]hy not shut off the audio for a bit and allow fans to be fans and let the players actually hear them?

Longtime baseball and NBA executive Stan Kasten said that, based on surveys and research, silence is not what fans want.

"I think the line always has to be drawn, and I admit you walk into some places and it's too much," said Kasten, "but I must say, I think for the most part baseball gets it right. I think it adds to the customer experience and I think the customer wants the entertainment between innings to complete their experience and make their experience more enjoyable. ... The people we have talked to over the years want more of it, not less of it. ... [W]e need to appeal to a broad base of people and younger people are a very important demographic."

Important, but do they buy the tickets? Aren't the tickets bought by an older demographic who bring the younger demographic to the games? Don't those people just come to watch David Ortiz hit a home run or Dustin Pedroia lay down a bunt? Do they come to watch scenes from "Animal House" on the Jumbotron? ...

Sox CEO Larry Lucchino isn't against limited quiet time.

"I do think we have to manage sensory overload," Lucchino said. "There's a danger in doing too much and detracting from the game. We worry about that." ...

I'm just asking for what we experienced that night at Yankee Stadium and last night at Fenway. Let the game stand on its own. It was so refreshing.

"Novelty is always good," Kasten said.

It's amazing that in this era, just watching baseball without the show is a novelty.
Cafardo says he is not suggesting eliminating all the distractions. I say: Why the hell not? If you're watching a game at home and your neighbour is making a huge racket right outside your window, you don't accept that as part of your baseball experience. Why is the crap shown on the Jumbotron any different? In his previous sentence, Cafardo described those non-baseball things as "attacking your sensibilities". Who wants to be attacked?

I disagree with Cafardo that baseball has done a good job of balancing things. Baseball has utterly failed and continues to fail every single day. Camden Yards is a beautiful park, but I've truly enjoyed myself there because of the incessant noise. One reason Laura and I stopped going to the old Yankee Stadium was because we were unable to have a normal conversation between innings - and we were sitting shoulder to shoulder! It was oppressive. Pointless noise is the biggest reason why I have no desire to see the Red Sox at Skydome. For me, getting through a game amid the music and commercials has become a battle.

It saddens me greatly to know that Fenway Park has been headed in that same direction. (Even batting practice, and its wonderful, lazy sounds that echo around the park, has been ruined at Fenway.) I wish the Red Sox owners would understand that the game on the field is the sole reason why people pay big money for tickets. No one is paying $100+ to subject himself to four-second blasts of canned pop music or to be forced to watch loud unmutable commercials for four hours. The fact that people are willing to sit through all that shit is a sign of their deep love of the game.

If this ownership group actually wants to know how fans feel, that's great. We should not hesitant to call - 617-226-6000 - and tell them. I would be thrilled if the Red Sox took the lead in saying No to Noise, and stating proudly that the glorious game of baseball CAN stand on its own, and Red Sox fans do not need movie clips or dot races or instructions on when to cheer or anything else.

Give us the game - and only the game - and allow us to watch in peace, and cheer and hear each other and enjoy the community of the ballpark.

Smart Management Means Avoiding Bard And Taking A Loss

Before last night's game, the Red Sox decided that Daniel Bard needed a day off. And so he was not available to douse the fire started by Matt Albers in the eighth inning - an inferno that raged until the Cubs had sent 12 men to the plate and scored eight times.

Terry Francona:
We made the decision before the game to give him yesterday and today, and that's why we do it before the game. Because your emotions get the best of you during the game and you want to use him. We've been relying on him a lot, and it'll do him a world of good. It didn't do us a world of good tonight, but something we needed to do.
[T]hey said, "You've thrown too much lately". I wanted to be in there bad ... But we set this up before the game, and they stuck to it.
Coming into Saturday's game, Bard had pitched in 22 of Boston's 44 games. Bard had pitched four times in the previous eight days, throwing 95 pitches.

Through Team's First 44 Games
Day After G44  GMS    IP    BF   PIT
2010 May 23     22   23.0   93   356
2011 May 21     22   23.0   90   362
Dan Wheeler and Rich Hill had already pitched in the game and Scott Atchison had contributed three innings on Friday night (a strategy, perhaps, to have more arms available for Alfredo Aceves's start yesterday). So with Albers self-destructing, Francona had two choices: Franklin Morales or Jonathan Papelbon. Morales ended up facing six batters in the eighth and pitching a 1-2-3 ninth.

Having Bard healthy and effective is essential to the success of the Sox's bullpen and it makes no sense to wear him out in May and June and risk not having him as a weapon in September and October. The Globe's Peter Abraham noted that Bard said he wanted to pitch.
But he admitted a few seconds later that was his competitive nature talking and not common sense. The manager is the guy in charge of common sense. And sometimes that means Matt Albers in the eighth inning and sometimes that means a loss.
The Red Sox cut corners when it came to having their players wear replica 1918 uniforms. Rather than give fans a chance to see what the team wore nearly a century ago, the Red Sox created a uniform that had never previously existed. The team buckled and put numbers on the back of the shirts, effectively erasing the most obvious and surprising effect of the uniform change. In addition, the socks were a solid red (rather than a red stripe) and the bill on the new caps was larger and more modern.

Despite media reports describing near-unanimous dismay about wearing the all-white cap, shirt and pants, some players liked it.

Jed Lowrie:
I thought it was a cool look. For all the things we do during the year [with uniforms], I think this was a pretty good one.
Carl Crawford:
I always like the throwback uniforms. I like the baggy pants and the old-school look. You can see – I'm taking my hat home.
The Globe and ESPN each posted a set of photos from the game.

May 21, 2011

G45: Cubs 9, Red Sox 3

Cubs    - 001 000 080 - 9  9  1
Red Sox - 000 201 000 - 3  9  3
David Ortiz hit a two-run home run - his ninth of the year and 300th in a Boston uniform - and Jacoby Ellsbury knocked in Carl Crawford two innings later. The Red Sox were six outs from a win that would lift them into sole possession of first place in the AL East.

Matt Albers came out for the eighth with a 3-1 lead - and everything went to hell. Albers faced six batters: single, single, walk, walk (3-2), double (3-4), E6. Franklin Morales made his Red Sox debut: double (3-5), K, walk, F9-E5-E7 (3-7), double (3-8), P3.

Marlon Byrd was hit on the left side of his face under his eye with a pitch from Aceves (5-3-1-2-2, 86) in the second inning. Byrd walked off the field with a bloody cut under his eye and was taken to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where he will spent the night.
Carlos Zambrano / Alfredo Aceves

The uniforms both teams will wear tonight will be similar to the ones worn during the 1918 season. Many teams, including the Red Sox, have worn replica uniforms over the last few decades, but I'm especially excited to see the Red Sox wearing 1918 uniforms.

After years of imagining Red Sox players wearing the white shirt, white pants, and white hats -- no lettering, no "B"*, no names, no numbers, no nothing! -- at Fenway Park, I am actually going to see a game played with them! (On the left, we have a photo from 2000 of your faithful correspondent, modeling the white 1918 cap. I ordered it while in Cooperstown on one of my first research trips (1995 or 1996). At that time, there were no big companies selling replica shirts and caps. This was a small company - and the cap was sewn by hand! If I recall correctly, it took about a month until I received it. (Photo credit: Laura.))

The Red Sox began using numbers in 1931, two years after the Yankees and Cleveland began doing it.

Here is a open letter published in one of the Boston newspapers in January 1918 by a "great admirer" of the Red Sox:
I suggest that the Sox have some kind of lettering on the shirtfront of their play-at-home uniforms this season instead of nothing at all, as it is at present.

I think a great many fans from out of town, happening to see the Sox play for the first time, would hardly know the home team if they appeared on the field first. Another thing I notice is that the Sox are the only team in the league without some kind of lettering on their shirtfront. ... I suppose I'll get a good bit of criticism for making a suggestion as foolish as this appears to be, but I'll wager a good many fans would like to see the Sox uniforms lettered, at that. ...

Hoping that the Red Sox win the flag this year, and that you will not be bored reading this, I remain,

Yours truly,

Joseph E. Kelley
Their home uniform pants of the late teens (or at least one of those years) may have had very thin blue pinstripes. In 1999, Barry Halper put his massive memorabilia collection up for auction, and I snagged a pair of pitcher Carl Mays's uniform pants from his Boston years (1915-19). Those pants have very light blue pinstripes. (The Red Sox road uniforms had "RED SOX" across the chest.)

The Red Sox issued a statement about tonight's uniforms:
The Red Sox home uniform will be a blank button-up with no lettering and a slight off-white or ivory color. The hat will also have a blank off-white tint, and the socks will be a three-part white/red/white composition. The Red Sox used this uniform and hat combination as their primary home look for most of the 1910s, and did not have any lettering on the front of their uniform for the bulk of that decade and the entire 1920s. The team did not wear the familiar blue cap with a red "B" until the early 1930s.

The Cubs will wear navy blue pinstripes and lettering on a grayish uniform. On the front left-hand side of the uniform, there will be a horizontal outline of a "C" enclosing "UBS" in smaller, navy blue letters. The Cubs will sport a five-part sock with grey, blue, white, blue and grey color sections. The road hat will have a navy blue bill and pinstripes (but no "C" or any other lettering on the cap). The Cubs used this uniform for only one season, as they changed their road uniforms on an almost-yearly basis during the 1910s. ...

There are also plans for additional elements of the Saturday pre-game ceremony and game presentation that will be reminiscent of the fans' experience in 1918.
I have read rumours that this may mean no public address announcements or blaring pop music and commercials for several innings! If that happens, my fervent hope is that so many people love the quiet -- because it heightens the intensity of the game -- and they demand that it be done all game, every game. (Alas, there is probably a greater chance Judgment Day actually arrives before the first pitch.)

Or it could mean front office employees will go through the stands confiscating (by force, if necessary) foul balls for re-use, or fans will get soda in easy-to-throw glass bottles, or only white-skinned players will be able to play. .. So many options to choose from!

Extra Bases, post-game:
It was the first game between the two teams at Fenway Park. They played three games at Wrigley Field in 2005. ... E-Cafardo.

AL East: Rays/Marlins at 4 PM and Mets/Yankees at 7 PM.

1918 World Series - Questions Of A Fix

There have been several stories in the last few months about whether the 1918 World Series was crooked. The text of a affidavit sworn by Chicago White Sox pitcher Ed Cicotte was released in April 2008, in which he states that various Cubs players were offered money to lose to the Red Sox in 1918:

"The ball players were talking about somebody trying to fix the National League ball players or something like that in the World's Series of 1918. Well anyway there was some talk about them offering $10,000 or something to throw the Cubs in the Boston Series. ... Somebody made a crack about getting money, if we got into the [1919] series, to throw the series. ... [W]e all agreed that for a piece of money we would throw the World Series."

However, Cicotte does not say if the money was accepted or if the Cubs did, in fact, lose on purpose.

I was the first writer to address the possibility that the Red Sox/Cubs World Series was crooked in my book, Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox, which was published in 2001. Nine years later, Sean Deveney's The Original Curse covered much of the same ground and came to a similar conclusion: While there is no concrete evidence, when considering the context of the deadball era and how badly the Cubs played in the series, you have to consider the strong possibility of wrongdoing.

What follows is a condensed version of the fix chapter of my book:
The legal pad found in 1963 contained approximately two dozen pages of handwritten notes by Harry Grabiner, Charles Comiskey's secretary and right-hand man during the 1910s and 1920s. ...

Grabiner's notes almost exclusively concern the activities of the White Sox front office in the months following the 1919 World Series. But they also mention several apparently fixed games played late in the 1920 season (Cleveland–St. Louis and Cleveland–Detroit) that helped the Indians win the pennant. ... In the notes was a list of more than two dozen players suspected of wrongdoing that Grabiner gave to Commissioner Landis. Beside the name of National League pitcher Gene Packard, who had played for the Cubs in 1916 and 1917, Grabiner wrote: "1918 Series fixer."

Grabiner wasn't the only person who believed the Series was corrupt. According to a biography of Ban Johnson, the American League president "had information that a professional gambler planned to fix the 1918 World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox but dropped the idea of an investigation when he was unable to raise sufficient funds to carry it out."

Much of the other information in Grabiner's diary was verified decades later. But his assertion that the 1918 World Series was fixed — and who fixed it — has never been examined. ...

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, gambling and baseball were as inseparable as peanuts and Cracker Jacks. The National League was plagued by a game-throwing scandal in its second year of existence, when four Louisville players conspired to lose the 1877 pennant. An umpire was banished in 1882 for advising gamblers how to bet in games he worked. During the deadball era, suspicions about the integrity of the pennant races and the World Series were practically an annual occurrence.

In 1918, when the government closed the nation's racetracks, gamblers swarmed to the ballparks to set up shop. Many of them were intimate with both players and club owners; some gamblers even kept a few players on weekly salaries.

That year, there were ample motives for a fix. The World Series shares would be the smallest ever. No one knew if or when baseball would be played again. Both leagues had agreed to suspend operations until the on-going World War was over, and players were worried about money and their families' security. On top of that, the Red Sox and Cubs felt cheated by the National Commission, which had unilaterally decided to share their World Series revenue with six other teams. Combined with the players’ well-justified antagonism towards their employers and the legions of gamblers working in nearly every ballpark, the situation was ripe for exploitation and dishonesty. All of this was happening at the end of a decade soaked with greed, betrayal and anger, one of the most wretchedly disorganized eras in baseball history. Given the circumstances, it is easy to understand how some players could have been willing to entertain the idea of a fix.

Before the 1919 World Series, pitcher Christy Mathewson told writer Hugh Fullerton that the difference between an effective pitch and a disastrous one, or a fielding gem and a near-miss, was almost undetectable, even to the other players on the field. And how could one tell if a hitter wasn't trying his hardest? Fullerton and Mathewson agreed to independently circle on their scorecards any plays they found suspicious, then compare notes after the game.

What if we could have sat in that same Comiskey Park press box in early September 1918 — what would our scorecards look like? What plays would we have circled?

The best, and perhaps the only available, way to analyze the 1918 World Series is to look closely at each game through the accounts of the men who were there. The sportswriters watched the games, talked with the players, and wrote their impressions and opinions for publication either later that evening or the following morning. Their collective day-by-day reports are as close as one can get to a running narrative of the Series.

In the first four innings of Game One, Fullerton wrote that shortstop Charlie Hollocher "was in the wrong position for almost every batter. ... He was out of position on Whiteman in the second inning. ... The kid was also in the wrong position for Hooper in the third ... and in the fourth, when the lone run of the game was registered, he was sadly misplaced on Whiteman again."

Hollocher and Pick also drew criticism for not holding Dave Shean closer to second base in the fourth; Shean's long lead allowed him to score the only run of the game on Stuffy McInnis's single. "Shean and Whiteman started for third and second respectively as Vaughn wound up," wrote Paul Shannon in the Boston Post. "As McInnis' bat met the ball, Shean was well-nigh two-thirds of the way to third. ... Mann made a nice throw home and Shean was just able to beat the ball to the rubber."

Cleveland writers Henry Edwards and James Lanyon thought left fielder Les Mann was also out of position, standing "fully fifty feet from the spot to which McInnis generally hits," where Stuffy promptly deposited "one of his famous left field hits." Nine of the Cubs had played in the American League and McInnis had starred on World Series teams in 1913 and 1914 — shouldn't at least one of them have known McInnis was strictly a pull hitter?

Fullerton noted that the Cubs battled the Red Sox throughout the second game and won 3-1.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game Three, the Cubs trailed 2-1 when Charlie Pick raced to third on a passed ball. Boston catcher Wally Schang threw to third, but the ball got away from third baseman Fred Thomas. Pick got up from his slide and tried to score, but Thomas threw him out to end the game.

Cubs manager Fred Mitchell insisted that sending Pick home had been a necessary gamble. Though the Chicago Daily Tribune claimed "there is not a dissenting voice" against that decision, it was actually just the opposite. Nearly every writer in the press box thought the decision was desperate and foolish, "a frantic effort" and "reckless base-running." Pick had still been on the ground when Mitchell (who was coaching third base) yelled at him to run; the manager's failure to consider how long it would take Pick to scramble to his feet before racing home turned the play into "baseball suicide."

Paul Shannon wrote that the ball rolled "toward the Chicago dugout. Pick started home, stopped for a fraction of an instant till he saw that Thomas had lost track of the situation and then resumed his hurried journey to the plate. ... Like Lot's wife, he looked around at a critical moment only to invite disaster."

One possible explanation for Pick's hesitation was that he couldn't hear Mitchell's shouts over the crowd, which was cheering loudly after Schang's passed ball and errant throw to third. But Shannon claimed Pick had already started toward the plate when he momentarily stopped running and "the instant lost was fatal."

The Cubs had a reputation as a smart club, but so far, Henry Edwards of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote, "they have not used their heads." Earlier in the third game, Les Mann might have cost his team a run by not tagging up on Dode Paskert's deep fly to left. If the ball had fallen safely, Mann could have walked home. But he had taken a twenty- or thirty-foot lead while watching the play and was forced to retreat to the bag. There were also several times when first baseman Merkle and the Chicago pitcher were confused about who would field bunts.

Keeping in mind Hugh Fullerton's comments about Charlie Hollocher playing out of position in Game One, we should note that the Cubs shortstop committed a two-out error on Everett Scott's grounder in the second inning of Game Three. The error allowed George Whiteman to advance to third base, but Fred Thomas made the third out and Boston didn't score.

In the three games at Fenway Park, nothing changed between the foul lines. Boston took advantage of Chicago's mistakes and the Cubs sabotaged themselves several times with base-running gaffes.

Max Flack began Game Four with a single and was picked off first by Sam Agnew. In the third inning, Flack was on second when pitcher Babe Ruth and shortstop Everett Scott worked "a very pretty play" and picked him off again. Several minutes later, Flack misplayed Ruth's line drive into a triple.

In Game Four, Chicago nearly doubled Boston's hit total (seven to four); Ruth walked six Cubs in eight innings and had just one 1-2-3 inning. But the Red Sox won because of their "quick thinking," the "analytical eye" of their infielders, and a late-inning throwing error by Cubs reliever Phil Douglas. In addition to Flack's mental lapses on the bases, Agnew almost picked Charlie Deal off first in the second inning and Fred Merkle was nearly nabbed in the seventh. The Cubs hit into three inning-ending double plays.

When Tyler faced Ruth with men on first and second, "the last thing which anybody expected was that Tyler would make the mistake of putting the next one over the plate, waist high, but that is exactly what he did." Ruth smacked the ball over Flack's head for a two-run triple.

Tyler was pulled in the eighth for pinch-hitter Claude Hendrix, who would then stay in the game and pitch. But after Hendrix strangely wandered off second base, Mitchell replaced him with Bill McCabe, thereby making him send a different pitcher, Phil Douglas, to the mound in the 2-2 game. Douglas gave up a single and threw a wild pitch before his error on Harry Hooper's bunt — a play on which Douglas had "plenty of time" — allowed the go-ahead (and game-winning) run to score.

Hugh Fullerton's recaps sounded eerily similar: "[F]or the third time [Chicago] threw away a game which seemed to be won. ... It looks as if the Cubs are whipped, and whipped not by superior play, but by their own shortcomings."

(Douglas was banned from baseball in 1922 for offering to tank in games he was pitching for the Giants. And on August 31, 1920, Hendrix was scratched from a scheduled start against Philadelphia because Cubs president Bill Veeck had received two anonymous phone calls that morning claiming the game had been fixed for the Cubs to lose. There were allegations that Hal Chase and Fred Merkle were involved. When Chicago released Hendrix after the season, no other team signed him and his career was over.)

Fred Van Ness of the New York Herald thought the Red Sox "were crowned with horseshoes" in the fourth game, but other writers were more blunt: "Chicago presented the fourth game to Boston." The Cubs "made costly misplays at critical stages and displayed minor league judgment in teamwork. ... They had chances galore to win and tossed them away."

In Game Five, Jim Vaughn returned and threw a five-hitter — his third complete game in six days. "For the first time in the series, [the Cubs] made absolutely no blunders, mentally or physically" and Chicago won 3-0.

Before Max Flack's third-inning error in Game Six, bases on balls again caused trouble for the Cubs. Lefty Tyler "suffered the fate of the pitcher sent too often to the well. ... [He] paid the penalty for his brief lack of control ... [and] shattered the hopes" of the Cubs.

"Flack's muff was just one of the many evidences of Boston luck," J.V. Fitz Gerald of the Washington Post wrote. "The Cubs could not rise to an emergency in the fashion of their rivals. When they did get on base they didn't seem to know what to do."

Flack was known as one of the better right fielders in the National League. Should he have been playing as deep as he was? Whiteman didn't possess Ruthian power, but he had belted a triple to right-center off Tyler in Game Two and flown out to Flack three times in the Series. It wasn't uncommon for Whiteman to hit to the opposite field, so perhaps Flack's outfield position was justified. It's impossible to know if Flack intentionally dropped Whiteman's line drive as he ran in towards the ball, but when this error is considered alongside his misjudgment of Ruth's triple and the three times he was picked off base, Flack's play becomes a little more suspicious.

But Flack wasn't the only friend the Red Sox had in Game Six. Carl Mays picked off Charlie Pick to end the second inning, then caught Les Mann in the fourth. A total of five Cubs were nabbed: four on the bases and one for oversliding the bag. Another oversliding gaffe had given Pick a slow start home in Game Three.

When compiling The Reach Official American League Guide for 1919 (a collection of recaps and statistics from the previous year), the editors thought it was peculiar "that in all of the defeats suffered by the [Cubs] southpaws, they started their own downfall either with a base on balls or hit-by-pitcher, and in no case was the winning rally started with a [Boston] hit."

In the coming years, three members of the 1918 Red Sox would be suspected of involvement with gambling and game-fixing. Pitcher Jean Dubuc admitted before a grand jury that he had been in the Ansonia Hotel room in New York when the details of the 1919 fix were finalized. In addition, Giants manager John McGraw believed Dubuc, Hal Chase and several other Giants helped throw the 1919 pennant race to Cincinnati.

Both Carl Mays and Joe Bush were traded to the New York Yankees, Mays in July 1919 and Bush during the winter of 1921. New York sportswriter Fred Lieb claimed that Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and manager Miller Huggins were convinced that both pitchers intentionally lost World Series games in 1921 and 1922.

While it cannot be determined whether or not the 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and Cubs was fixed, there exists enough information from contemporary newspaper accounts to place question marks beside much of the Cubs' on-field performance.

May 20, 2011

The Season So Far

For the first time in 2011, the Red Sox (24-20) are on top of the Yankees (23-20) in the AL East standings.

G44: Red Sox 15, Cubs 5

Cubs    - 002 030 000 -  5 12  4
Red Sox - 202 420 05x - 15 19  1
This was an all-out assault, with the Red Sox setting season-highs in runs and hits. Their previous highs were nine runs (April 8, April 18, May 2, May 8) and 16 hits (May 10). They also hit five doubles, matching a season-high (April 30).
Ellsbury:       3-for-6, double, 2 runs, 2 RBI, SB
Pedroia:        2-for-4, double, 3 runs, 2 BB, SB 
Gonzalez:       4-for-6, 3 RBI, run
Youkilis:       2-for-5, double, HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs, 2 ROE
Ortiz:          2-for-5, 2 doubles, 2 runs, ROE
Lowrie:         2-for-5, RBI
Cameron:        0-for-3, 2 BB, run
Crawford:       1-for-5, 2 RBI, run
Saltalamacchia: 2-for-3, HR, RBI, 3 runs, 2 BB
Lester struggled again (6-12-5-2-5, 104) -- the Cubs had two men on base in each of his six innings -- and Scott Atchison (3-0-0-0-3, 33) picked up his first save of the year!

The Mets beat the Yankees 2-1 and the Marlins beat the Rays 5-3, so ...
Rays      25  20  ---
Red Sox   24  20  0.5
Yankees   23  20  1.0
Blue Jays 22  22  2.5
Orioles   19  24  5.0
Seven wins in a row, 10 of 12, and 19 of 28; 22-10 (.688) since April 16.
Doug Davis / Jon Lester

It's been 33,855 days since September 11, 1918, a chilly Wednesday on which the Red Sox clinched their third World Series title in four years (and fourth in seven seasons) by beating the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in Game 6. Tonight, after 92 years, 8 months, and 10 days, the Cubs return to Fenway. (Or, as Don Orsillo might say, it's been a 48,751,200-minute wait for the Cubs.)

Three photos from September 1918:

These are Cubs players warming up on the third base side of the field before one of the three 1918 World Series games played at Fenway. In front of the big left field wall is a steep dirt incline. When there were sell-out crowds, fans sometimes sat there. It was called Duffy's Cliff because Boston left fielder Duffy Lewis navigated it better than anyone else. (There might be two players checking it out, on the left side of the photo.) It was removed during the 1933 renovations. (There are two terrific pictures of Fenway here, showing the Wall and Cliff.)
On the other side of the field are a few Red Sox players. Unfortunately, I cannot identify the guy facing the infield. In the distance is the flag pole and the half-full center field bleachers.
Here is the Red Sox's pitching rotation for the second half of the 1918 season. This photo was taken on September 9, 1918, before Game 4. Left to right are Sam Jones, Carl Mays, Babe Ruth (who was starting that day), and Joe Bush.
AL East: Mets/Yankees, Rays/Marlins, Astros/Blue Jays, and Nationals/Orioles at 7 PM.

Red Sox + Cubs = The End Of The World

That's great
It starts with an earthquake ...

In the dark ages, before October 2004, a common joke was that if the Red Sox and Cubs ever met in the World Series, neither team would win. The two clubs, whose championship droughts had lasted so long people began thinking supernatural forces were hard at work denying them baseball's ultimate prize, would meet and play out the series to the very end - Game 7, tied, in extra innings - and just as one of these sad-sack franchises was about to actually be crowned the champions of baseball ... the world would come to an end.

Boston's 2004 and 2007 World Series championships ended that scenario (though in a way, that old world did end), and while the Cubs have not won a pennant in 66 years, the two franchises have played meaningful games against each other. In June 2005, they played three games in Wrigley Field. And this weekend, they meet for three games at Fenway Park.

But guess what is going to happen right before Saturday's game?

Judgment Day!

Harold Camping, a Christian evangelist and co-founder and president of Family Radio, has been preaching that Judgment Day will arrive shortly before 6 PM on Saturday, May 21, when a series of unprecedentedly large earthquakes will shock the globe.
It is absolutely going to happen. ... There is no possibility that it will not happen, because all of our information comes from the Bible.
In the same way people greeted the dawning of the year 2000 time zone by time zone as a new day began around the globe, the apocalypse/rapture will begin in New Zealand and move eastward.

According to Camping, May 21, 2011 is exactly 7,000 years since the worldwide flood of Noah's time. If you are curious about the math, you can click here and look through "We Are Almost There!"

Of the various doomsday predictions that come and go, this one has received a lot of press. Perhaps it's because Camping's followers have done a remarkable job of buying billboards and bus shelter ads (some believers have spent their life savings), and driving around in cars and trucks like the one above; or maybe the shit really is going to hit the fan this weekend.

Gunther von Harringa, a spokesman for Camping and Family Radio, says: "God has exhausted his patience with the world." (I can't say that I blame him.) After five months of torment, misery, and friggin' anarchy, the earth and universe will be destroyed on October 21.

IYI: Camping also predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994.