October 30, 2016

World Series 5: Cubs 3, Cleveland 2

Cleveland - 010 001 000 - 2  6  1
Cubs      - 000 300 00x - 3  7  0

Trevor Bauer / Jon Lester

Cleveland could end 68 years of baseball futility with a victory tonight.

Thirty-nine of the 44 teams that have led a World Series 3-1 went on to win the championship. ... The last team to win Games 3, 4, and 5 of a World Series on the road was the 1996 Yankees.

In 12 postseason games, Cleveland has allowed only 22 runs (an average of 1.8 runs per game). ... They have allowed more than two runs in only four of those 12 games.

As for the Cubs, no team has come back from 1-3 to win the World Series since the 1985 Royals. Here are the five World Series teams to do so:
1925 - Pirates over Senators
1958 - Yankees over Milwaukee
1968 - Tigers over Cardinals
1979 - Pirates over Orioles
1985 - Royals over Cardinals
The Cubs have a World Series batting average of .141 (9-for-64) and a OPS of .390 with runners on base. ... With runners at second and/or third, Chicago is 5-for-37 (.135).

LOL: With victories in Games 3 and 4, Cleveland has as many World Series wins at Wrigley Field in two days as the Cubs do in 100 years. Chicago is 2-13 on its home field in the WS.

October 29, 2016

World Series 4: Cleveland 7, Cubs 2

Cleveland - 021 001 300 - 7 10  0
Cubs      - 100 000 010 - 2  7  2
Pitching on short rest for only the second time in his career, Corey Kluber (6-5-1-1-6, 81) quieted the Cubs' bats once again - and brought Cleveland to within one game of baseball's 2016 championship. Jason Kipnis (3-for-5) put the game out of reach with a three-run homer off Travis Wood in the seventh. Cleveland can clinch its first World Series since 1948 with a win tomorrow night.

Before tonight's game, the team that had scored first in every LCS and World Series game had been victorious (14-0). But after the Cubs had taken a 1-0 lead in the first, Chicago starter John Lackey (5-4-3-1-5, 84) gave it right back. Carlos Santana began the top of the second with a home run. Two errors from Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, along with an infield single from Kluber, brought in another run. Cleveland made it 3-1 in the third when Kipnis doubled and scored in Francisco Lindor's single.

The Cubs put two runners on base with two outs in the third (walk, HBP), but Kluber struck out Ben Zobrist in an eight-pitch at-bat. Anthony Rizzo doubled to open the home half of the sixth, but Kluber stranded him there, as Zobrist flied to left, Willson Contreras struck out, and Addison Russell grounded to third.

Even with a six-run lead, Terry Francona did not screw around. He had Andrew Miller pitch the seventh and eighth innings. Miller retired the side in the seventh and allowed a leadoff homer to Dexter Fowler in the eighth. Dan Otero gave up a one-out single in the ninth, but had no other trouble.

Kluber has allowed only three earned runs in 30.1 postseason innings this month (0.89 ERA). Only Christy Mathewson has had a lower ERA over his first five postseason outings (0.38).
Corey Kluber / John Lackey

Tonight's game seems like a must-win for the Cubs. If they lose, they are down 1-3, with two of the possible three remaining games in Cleveland. And 69 of 81 teams (85%) up 3-1 in a best-of-7 went on to win the series.

October 28, 2016

World Series 3: Cleveland 1, Cubs 0

Cleveland - 000 000 100 - 1  8  1
Cubs      - 000 000 000 - 0  5  0
In its 11 postseason games, Cleveland has pitched five shutouts.

Josh Tomlin (4.2-2-0-1-1, 58) was pulled with two outs in the fifth with an extremely low pitch count, but it did not matter. Terry Francona's bullpen trio of Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen kept the Cubs off the scoreboard.

Coco Crisp drove in the game's only run with a first-pitch, pinch-hit single off Carl Edwards that scored Michael Martinez from third with two outs.

Chicago had some chances to tie the game in the late innings. Jorge Soler tripled down the right field line with two outs in the seventh, but he was jogging out of the box and perhaps missed a chance at an inside-the-park home run. With pinch-runner Jason Heyward at third, Javier Baez grounded to shortstop.

In the bottom of the ninth, Anthony Rizzo singled and Chris Coghlan went in to run. Ben Zobrist struck out and Willson Contreras grounded out to third.  Coghlan took third on that groundout and went to third as Heyward reached on a fielding error by Mike Napoli. With Baez batting, Heyward dashed to second. It was Baez again with the chance to possibly win the game with a hit, but he struck out on a high fastball on a 2-2 count, ending the game.

Josh Tomlin / Kyle Hendricks

Tonight's game is the first World Series game played at Wrigley Field since October 10, 1945 (25,950 days).

At 5:30 this morning, Cubs fans were already lining up outside bars in Wrigleyville:
Cover charge at most of the bars: $100.

Also: "The Postseason Strike Zone Isn't Any Better"

October 26, 2016

World Series 2: Cubs 5, Cleveland 1

Cubs      - 101 030 000 - 5  9  0
Cleveland - 000 001 000 - 1  4  2
The Cubs evened the World Series at one game apiece as Jake Arrieta (5.2-2-1-3-6, 98) took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the trio of Anthony Rizzo (double, 2 walks, 2 runs, RBI), Ben Zobrist (single, triple, walk, run, RBI), and Kyle Schwarber (2 singles, 2 RBI, walk, run) - Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters - led the offense.

The Cubs lineup was the first in postseason history with six players who are 24 years old or younger (Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Willson Contreras).

Arrieta's 5.1 innings was the longest no-hit bid in a World Series game since the Mets' Jerry Koosman went six no-hit innings against the Orioles in Game 2 of the 1969 World Series.

Trevor Bauer (3.2-6-2-2-2, 87) did not have to contend with a bloody finger on his pitching hand, but he was not sharp regardless. He needed 29 pitches to get through the first inning. With one out, Kris Bryant singled and scored on Rizzo's double. In the third, Rizzo walked with two outs and singles by Zobrist and Schwarber brought him home to make it 2-0. Bauer threw 71 pitches through three innings, and he did not escape the fourth.

Chicago scored three times in the fifth. Zach McAllister walked Rizzo with one out. Zobrist lined a shot into the right field corner which was probably going to be a double before Lonnie Chisenhall slipped and fell fielding the ball. Zobrist ended up with a triple and an RBI. Bryan Shaw came in for Cleveland and promptly gave up an RBI-single to Schwarber. After Javier Baez struck out for the second out, Willson Contreras reached on an infield error and Shaw walked the next two men on only nine pitches, the last one forcing home Chicago's fifth run.

Meanwhile, Cleveland could do nothing with Arrieta, even though the Cubs starter was not pinpoint sharp; he walked two men in the first inning and one in the fourth. Up 5-0 in the sixth, he finally allowed a hit to his 20th batter, when Jason Kipnis doubled to right center. A groundout moved Kipnis to third and he scored on a wild pitch. After Mike Napoli singled, Cubs manager Joe Maddon called on lefty Mike Montgomery.

Montgomery struck out the first two batters in the seventh before Brandon Guyer singled and Roberto Perez walked. Nonplussed, Montgomery fanned Dexter Fowler on three pitches. After giving up a two-out single to Napoli in the eighth, Montgomery was relieved by Aroldis Chapman, who struck out Jose Ramirez to end the inning. Chapman walked Guyer with two outs in the ninth, but got Perez to ground to shortstop to end the game.

Cleveland's defeat was the first World Series loss of Terry Francona's managing career. He is 9-1 after sweeps with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and Cleveland's victory in Game 1 on Tuesday.) ... In addition to their nine hits, the Cubs batters drew eight walks. ... Game 3 will be at Wrigley Field on Friday night.
Jake Arrieta / Trevor Bauer

October 25, 2016

World Series 1: Cleveland 6, Cubs 0

Cubs      - 000 000 000 - 0  7  0
Cleveland - 200 100 03x - 6 10  0
Corey Kluber (6-4-0-0-9, 88) set a postseason record by striking out eight batters in the first three innings. Roberto Perez hit two home runs and drove in four runs.

Cleveland got on the board quickly against Jon Lester (5.2-6-3-3-7, 97). Lester got the first two outs in the opening inning on only five pitches, but then the next five Cubs reached base. Francisco Lindor grounded a single up the middle and stole second. Lester walked Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana, loading the bases. Jose Ramirez's infield single brought home one run and when Brandon Guyer was hit by a pitch, it was 2-0.

The only real threat Chicago made in the first six innings was when Ben Zobrist (3-for-4) doubled to lead off the second. Kluber promptly struck out the next three hitters. Zobrist also led off the seventh with a hit - and that was when Cleveland manager Terry Francona called on Andrew Miller.

Miller was not as lights-out as he had been in the ALCS, He walked the first man he faced and then allowing a single that loaded the bases with none out. But the Cubs - with the potential go-ahead run at the plate - would come up empty, managing only a pop-up to short center and two strikeouts. Chicago put two men on against Miller in the eighth, but Kyle Schwarber, playing in his first major league game since April 7, struck out.

Miller ended up throwing 46 pitches, the most he has thrown in a game this season. Will he be available for Game 2? The last time a reliever threw at least 46 pitches and then worked the next day was Keith Foulke, in the 2004 ALCS.

Francona is now 9-0 in World Series games. ... The last Game 1 shutout was by the 1990 Reds. ... The start of Game 2 has been moved up an hour, to 7 PM, because of rain in the forecast.
Jon Lester / Corey Kluber

World Series Schedule (All Games 8 PM)
Game 1: Tuesday, October 25: Cubs at Cleveland
Game 2: Wednesday, October 26: Cubs at Cleveland
Game 3: Friday, October 28: Cleveland at Cubs
Game 4: Saturday, October 29: Cleveland at Cubs
Game 5: Sunday, October 30: Cleveland at Cubs
Game 6: Tuesday, November 1: Cubs at Cleveland
Game 7: Wednesday, November 2: Cubs at Cleveland
The 112th World Series features the two major league teams with the longest championship droughts. The Chicago Cubs have not won baseball's championship since 1908, while Cleveland last won in 1948.

The Cubs are making their 11th appearance in the World Series (1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, 1945). That is only one fewer than the Red Sox. For Cleveland, it is their sixth World Series (1920, 1948, 1954, 1995, 1997). (Winning years are in bold.)

The two team's logos, from roughly when they each last won a title - Cubs (1911-14), Cleveland (1946-50):


Sam Miller, ESPN: Are Statheads Responsible For The Most Exciting Postseason In Years?

Grant Brisbee, SB Nation: The Cubs Won The Pennant Because Curses Are Dumb

August Fagerstrom, Fangraphs: The Math Behind Jon Lester's Harmless Oddities

Jeff Sullivan, Fangraphs: Why They Don't Run Like Mad On Jon Lester

Corinne Landrey, Fangraphs: Does Cleveland Even Need Danny Salazar?

John Woodrow Cox, Chicago Tribune: Chief Wahoo, Cleveland Indians' Logo, Heads To The World Series. Prepare For Outrage.

Sports Media Overwhelmingly Pick Cubs To Win World Series

The "experts" at several sports media outlets have posted their predictions for the World Series - and most of them expect the Chicago Cubs to end their 108-year title drought.

ESPN: 26 of 32 pick the Cubs

MLB.com: 11 of 14 pick the Cubs

CBS Sports: 5 of 6 pick the Cubs

SI/Fox Sports: 4 of 6 pick the Cubs

The Sporting News: 4 of 5 pick the Cubs

My pick: Cubs in 6.

October 22, 2016

Chicago Cubs Win First Pennant in 71 Years!

The Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 on Saturday night, winning their first National League pennant in 71 years.

Kyle Hendricks (7.1-2-0-0-6, 88) and Aroldis Chapman (1.2-0-0-1-1, 15) faced only 27 batters, allowing a mere two singles and one walk. It was only the second time in postseason history a team has faced the minimum number of batters. The first time was, obviously, Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956.

So the 2016 World Series will feature the Cubs and Cleveland - the two teams with the longest title droughts - with Game 1 scheduled for Tuesday night in Cleveland.

And on Friday, October 28, Wrigley Field will host its first World Series game since 1945.

After losing Game 7 of the 1945 World Series to the Tigers, the Cubs languished almost 40 years before they made the postseason again. Since then:
1984 - Lost NLCS to Padres 3-2
1989 - Lost NLCS to Giants 4-1
1998 - Lost NLDS to Atlanta 3-0
2003 - Lost NLCS to Marlins 4-3
2007 - Lost NLDS to Diamondbacks 3-0
2008 - Lost NLDS to Dodgers 3-0
2015 - Lost NLCS to Mets 4-0
2016 - World Series

October 21, 2016

David Ortiz Played In Serious Pain For Four Years

Rob Bradford, WEEI:
It turns out we had no idea just how long Ortiz endured the injuries that ultimately forced him into retirement after a walk-off season for the ages. Many point to July 16, 2012, when Ortiz was driven from the lineup by sore heels. That created memorable uncertainty entering the storybook 2013 campaign. It opened our eyes to the agonizing process of reaching the finish line this year.

But the reality is this problem had been building for years. It impacted not just his Achilles' tendons in isolation, but basically every bone, tendon, ligament, and muscle below his ankle. It even affected his skin.

"He was essentially playing on stumps," [Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan] Dyrek said.

That's not even the half of it. Now that Ortiz has walked into the sunset with a garage full of retirement gifts after an historic farewell season, the story of how he reached that rocking chair can finally be told.

October 18, 2016

Terry Francona Claims Middle Finger Flipping Is "Nervous Habit"

Cleveland manager Terry "Playoff Assassin" Francona was shown apparently giving the middle finger to a lingering TBS camera during last night's ALCS Game 3.

Francona, during a radio interview this morning:
God, I was so embarrassed when I heard that or when somebody asked me that after the game. I think I have a nervous habit of kind of picking my face a little bit. I would never do that [intentionally]. ... That's just a quirk of fate.
Sure, Tito. It must have been an impromptu itch. Sure.

Jays Down 0-3, Comeback Has Got To Be Impossible

Thirty-four teams have been down 0-3 in a best-of-seven postseason series.

Thirty-three teams eventually lost the series.

Only one team has won Games 4, 5 and 6, forcing a do-or-die Game 7. And that team won Game 7!

With Cleveland taking advantage of every single mistake (big and small) the Blue Jays have made and Playoff Tito firing on all cylinders, with his players doing everything right, this series is over for Toronto.

October 17, 2016

ALCS: Circumstances 2, Blue Jays 0

Toronto's Jose Bautista says there are "circumstances" working against the Blue Jays in the ALCS. What he's implying is that the home plate umpires are calling pitches against Toronto and in favout of Cleveland.
I'm having great at-bats. It's just sometimes the elements and the circumstances that we have to deal with as hitters sometimes doesn't necessarily go our way. But I'm not trying to really get into that. All you have to do is go look at video and try to count the number of pitches they have thrown over the heart of the plate. It hasn't been many. But they've been able to do that because of the circumstances.
In the two ALCS games, the Blue Jays have scored only one run (on 10 hits and two walks).

So, could Bautista be right? Are the umpires secret Cleveland fans or have they received orders from the Commissioner's office to make sure the Blue Jays lose the series because having a team from Canada in the World Series might mean lower TV ratings?

Fortunately, we do not have to guess. Data exists that can tell us how accurate - or not - the home plate umpires have been in the two games. (It is that data that should be used in the actual games, rather than relying on the imperfect eyes and sometimes questionable judgment of the umpires.)

CBS Sports looked at the ball-strike calls (as plotted by Brooks Baseball) and determined:
Home plate umpires Laz Diaz and Jim Wolf called big strike zones in Games 1 and 2. That's true. The PitchFX data confirms it. The Indians got more called [strikes] on pitches off the plate because they threw more pitches there. They took advantage of the big zone. The Blue Jays did not.
Another writer reported that the missed calls were almost exactly even for both sides. A third article looked at the pitches from a number of key Blue Jays at-bats - and found absolutely nothing suspicious. And, of course, Bautista's mention of "circumstances" doesn't explain the swings and misses by Toronto batters - Bautista, among them - at pitches out of the strike zone.

As you might expect, Cleveland is having fun with Bautista's comments. The team's Twitter page now reads:
"Official Twitter of the 2016 AL Central champions. We control all of the circumstances. #RallyTogether"
This is one of the actual circumstances working against the Blue Jays (12 batters faced, 10 strikeouts):

October 14, 2016

AL/NL Championship Series

My picks:
Blue Jays over Cleveland in 6.
Cubs over Dodgers in 5.
Game threads here, if you like.

Talk Of Curses

With the Chicago Cubs having advanced to the National League Championship Series and former Red Sox manager Terry Francona heading to the American League Championship Series with Cleveland, there has been a lot of talk in the sports media about "curses" - i.e., the Red Sox's 86-year World Series drought that Francona held end in 2004 and the 108 years that have passed since the Cubs were champions of baseball.

However, the C-word is often not presented in quotes; most writers are not typing "alleged curse" or "mythical curse" or "so-called curse". No, the hex is presented to the reader as though it was/is real. If you asked these sportswriters, do you truly believe that the Red Sox were cursed by a dead man's ghost or that the Cubs were cursed by a bar patron's goat back in the mid-40s, what would they say?

This is nothing more than lazy writing.

Andy Martino, New York Daily News, October 1, 2016:
Ever since his days as the wunderkind GM of the Boston Red Sox — he was just 30 years old when that team broke its own 86-year curse to win the 2004 World Series — Epstein has always belied his new-school reputation by taking tradition into account as well.
Bill Ballou, Providence Journal, October 5, 2016:
In his first season in Boston, the Red Sox broke an 86-year curse by winning the World Series, and doing so by coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
Evan Grossman, New York Daily News, October 6, 2016:
So proven curse-breaker Theo Epstein was hired as president of baseball operations five years ago and, according to plan, he has the Cubs 11 wins from exorcising some serious demons.
John Ruane, Chicago Now, October 7, 2016:
During the next four weeks ... We will also know if the Chicago Cubs, the team with the best record in Major League Baseball during the 2016 regular season, will win the World Series and end the 108-year drought, curse and frustration of generations of Cubs fans.
New York Post Headline, October 9, 2016:
Cubs' Ugly Win May Be First Sign Their 108-Year Curse Will End
Doug Padilla, ESPN, October 10, 2016:
The Cubs are the story of the year, with the best record in baseball, a team full of dynamic young budding superstars and a 108-year curse they need to vex on the corner of Addison and Clark streets on the city's Northside.
Hunter Felt, The Guardian, October 11, 2016:
It would have been a powerful moment if Ortiz were merely the last remaining Red Sox player from that 2004 team, the one that so memorably broke Boston's 86-year curse by winning the World Series for the first time since 1918. As spectacular as that achievement was, it was merely the beginning of Ortiz’s reign as the face of the franchise.
Jerry Crasnick, ESPN, October 14, 2016:
Nineteen years after he made his managerial debut with a 68-win team in Philadelphia, Francona is mingling with more elite company. He has two titles in his portfolio -- the first of which broke an 86-year-old curse in Boston.

October 12, 2016

Blue Jays Announcer Refuses To Use Cleveland Nickname

Toronto Star:
Don't expect to hear the word "Indian" when Jerry Howarth calls the play-by-play in the Blue Jays' American League Championship Series against Cleveland starting Friday.

The longtime Blue Jays announcer said on The Jeff Blair radio show Tuesday that he made a decision more than two decades ago never to use the term because it is found offensive by many First Nations people.

Howarth told Blair that he has also made it a practice to not use "Braves" for the Atlanta baseball team, or phrases like "a powwow on the mound" for talks between coaches and pitchers.

Howarth said he made the decision back after the 1992 series, when the Blue Jays won their first World Series against Atlanta.

October 10, 2016

It's The End Of A Glorious Era

"I want people to remember me as the guy who made the impossible possible."
David Ortiz, April 29, 2016

ALDS 3: Cleveland 4, Red Sox 3

Cleveland - 000 202 000 - 4  7  0
Red Sox   - 000 011 010 - 3  8  0
After David Ortiz's remarkable, record-setting batting performance in the final year of his legendary Red Sox career, it would have been a storybook ending for Boston to win the pennant and possibly win a fourth championship during Big Papi's tenure. It wasn't supposed to end like this, abruptly and frustratingly, with Cleveland celebrating a Division Series sweep on the Fenway infield.

After the victors retired to their clubhouse to celebrate, a tearful Ortiz came back out on the field and tipped his cap to the remaining fans, who had been chanting "Thank You, Papi!" and "One More Year!" since the end of the game.

The Boston bats were held quiet by Josh Tomlin (5-4-2-1-4, 68) for four innings, but they finally stirred in the fifth. It was in the eighth inning, however, when they made their move. Trailing 4-2, down to their final six outs and facing Bryan Shaw, the Red Sox brought up the top of their batting order. Dustin Pedroia was called out on strikes. He protested the call, but the strike three pitch was called correctly. Pinch-hitter Travis Shaw grounded a single into right field. Mookie Betts scorched a grounder to third. Jose Ramirez backhanded it and got the force at second. Cleveland manager Terry Francona then called on his closer Cody Allen. Ortiz, who had driven in a sixth-inning run with a line drive sacrifice fly to center, walked on four pitches, putting the potential tying runs on base.

At first base, Ortiz motioned to the crowd several times to get up and make some noise. (But why did they need to be prodded?) Hanley Ramirez looked at two balls and then drove a hard grounder into left. Betts scored and it was 4-3. Marco Hernandez went in to pinch-run for Ortiz at second base. Xander Bogaerts, with two singles in three earlier trips, hit the ball very hard, but right at second baseman Jason Kipnis, for the third out.

After Craig Kimbrel made quick work of Cleveland in the top of the ninth, the Red Sox came up for what would be their last inning of the season. Chris Young flied to left and Sandy Leon struck out for the third time in the game. Jackie Bradley (0-for-9, with 7 strikeouts to that point) was Boston's last hope. Allen fell behind 3-0, but fought back to a full count before Bradley lined a single to right. Allen fell behind Pedroia 3-1 and ended up walking him, also on a full count pitch. Allen also fell behind Shaw 3-1, the crowd roaring on each wayward pitch, but after Shaw fouled a pitch off, he lifted a routine fly to right. Lonnie Chisenhall squeezed it - and the ALDS was over.

Boston starter Clay Buchholz (4-6-2-1-4, 75) worked most of the time with at least one opponent on base, but he kept Cleveland off the board until the fourth. In that frame, he allowed a single to Ramirez and a walk to Chisenhall. After Coco Crisp sacrificed the runners to second and third, Tyler Naquin brought them in with a single to right.

Boston closed the gap to 2-1 in the fifth. With one out, Bogaerts singled to center. Andrew Benintendi lifted a fly to deep left that scraped off the Wall on the way down. Bogaerts read the play perfectly and scored all the way from first, sliding across the plate head first.

Drew Pomeranz, who had retired the side in the fifth, walked Ramirez to start the sixth and then gave up a one-out home run to Crisp. It was a crushing blow, especially since the Red Sox had just scored in the previous inning. (Crisp was actually Cleveland's last base runner of the night, as Joe Kelly, Koji Uehara and Kimbrel retired the last 11 men to come to the plate.)

Tomlin allowed a leadoff single to Pedroia in the bottom of the sixth and was pulled. Andrew Miller struck out pinch-hitter Aaron Hill (who was batting for Brock Holt). Betts doubled off the Wall and Pedroia went to third. Ortiz lined out to center, scoring Pedroia. Hanley Ramirez struck out.

Boston managed only a one-out walk in the seventh. Then came the rallies in the eighth and ninth, when the AL East champs very nearly pushed this series to a fourth game. Instead, it is Cleveland who will host Game 1 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays.

Despite its sudden ending, the 2016 season was far from a disappointment. After two last-place finishes, this season ranks as an unqualified success. David Ortiz turned in one of the best seasons of his soon-to-be-Hall of Fame career, we witnessed the emergence of Mookie Betts, and we won the goddamn division. While we will no longer have the pleasure of watching #34 spit in his big mitts and get in the box, ready to put a hurting on some opposing pitcher, the future looks extremely bright.
Josh Tomlin / Clay Buchholz
Pedroia, 2B
Holt, 3B
Betts, RF
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Despite the Sunday rainout, both managers are staying with the same starting pitchers. (Interesting: Buchholz and Tomlin were teammates at Angelina College, a community college in Lufkin, Texas.)

The Red Sox got off to a slow start in this series, but:

Don't let us win tonight!

October 9, 2016

ALDS 3: Cleveland at Red Sox, 4 PM (Postponed)

UPDATE: Today's game has been postponed because of rain. It will be played tomorrow at 6 PM.

Cleveland -
Red Sox   - 
Josh Tomlin / Clay Buchholz
Pedroia, 2B
Holt, 3B
Betts, RF
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Don't let us win this afternoon!

The Red Sox's backs are to the wall, but Boston has a history of coming back from the brink:

1999 ALDS - Down 0-2 to Cleveland in best-of-5, won next three games 9-3, 23-7, 12-8.

2003 ALDS - Down 0-2 to Athletics in best-of-5, won next three games 3-1 (11), 5-4, 4-3.

2004 ALCS - Down 0-3 to Yankees in best-of-7, won next four games 6-4 (12), 5-4 (14), 4-2, 10-3.

2007 ALCS - Down 1-3 to Cleveland in best-of-7, won next three games 7-1, 12-2, 11-2.

The Red Sox are the only team in history to come back from 0-2 in a best-of-five series more than once, and they hope to make it a third time beginning this afternoon.

Both Game 3 starters finished the regular season on a high note. Josh Tomlin had a 1.69 ERA in five games (four starts). Clay Buchholz allowed two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts.

In two games against Cleveland this year (April 6 and May 20), Buchholz allowed nine runs in 10 innings. Tomlin pitched 7.2 innings against the Red Sox on August 15, allowing three runs.

You can feel buried in a short series very quickly, but things can reverse course just as fast. A few clutch hits, a handful of shut-down innings, and we could be on our way back to Cleveland for a do-or-die Game 5.

Remember this, from 2007? It's good advice. No need to panic. Just play ... and win.

But, seriously:

Hey, Cleveland:

October 8, 2016

Pedroia, On First Two Games: "We Lost Who We Are"

In the history of the ALDS, five of the 28 teams who have trailed 0-2 have come back to win the series, including the Red Sox in 1999 and 2003. Boston is the only team in history to come back from 0-2 more than once.

During this ALDS against Cleveland, the Red Sox have been utterly lost. The bats have gone cold, most of the young stars have been useless at the plate, the starting pitching has been poor (and homer-prone), players have been tentative on the bases, and the fielding has not been sharp.

Dustin Pedroia:
I think, coming into this series, we had a lot of guys the last couple of games feeling it out, everybody, me included. I think we lost who we are -- we're the Boston Red Sox. We need to go out there and play the game. We should dictate the tempo of the game and how everything should be played. The last couple of days, they did that and we didn't. We have to get to our workout [Saturday] and play pitch by pitch the next game and that's all we can do right now.
Told by a reporter after Friday's Game 2 loss that he looked "angry," Ortiz said, "Should I be happy? We're getting our asses beat. Nothing to celebrate."

While David Price has two postseason wins as a reliever, he's 0-8 with a 5.74 ERA in nine postseason starts. Price has allowed five runs in three of his last four playoff starts (and four of his last six).
                                IP  H  R  ER  BB  K  DEC  SCORE
2010 ALDS with TBR vs TEX G1   6.2  9  5   4   0  8   L   Rangers 5, Rays 1
2010 ALDS with TBR vs TEX G5   6.0  8  3   3   0  6   L   Rangers 5, Rays 1
2011 ALDS with TBR vs TEX G3   6.2  7  3   3   1  3   L   Rangers 4, Rays 3
2013 ALDS with TBR vs BOS G2   7.0  9  7   7   2  5   L   Red Sox 7, Rays 4
2014 ALDS with DET vs BAL G3   8.0  5  2   2   2  6   L   Orioles 2, Tigers 1
2015 ALDS with TOR vs TEX G1   7.0  5  5   5   2  5   L   Rangers 5, Blue Jays 3
2015 ALCS with TOR vs KCR G2   6.2  5  5   5   0  8   L   Royals 6, Blue Jays 3
2015 ALCS with TOR vs KCR G7   6.2  5  3   3   1  8  ND   Royals 4, Blue Jays 3
2016 ALDS with BOS vs CLE G2   3.1  6  5   5   2  3   L   Cleveland 6, Red Sox 0
TOTALS                        58.0 59 38  37  10 52  0-8, 5.74
Price: "I know my number's going to get called again to pitch a game in 2016, and I'll be ready. I want it, for sure, and I know these guys will give it to me."

What Price said after his Game 2 loss sounded very similar to what he said when he signed a seven-year deal with Boston last year:
Price, December 4, 2015: "I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox. I know those tides are going to change. ... I know good things are going to happen to me in October. That just hasn't been the case so far. I know I can throw the ball as well in October as I do in the regular season. That time is coming for me, and hopefully it’s in 2016."

Price, October 7, 2016: "I know good things are coming to me in October. ... I haven't had good results yet. They're coming. They're coming."
Impatient Red Sox fans are still waiting.

Mookie Betts: "It feels like we need to just get something going. Somebody is going to have to do it. We don't know who. We'll let the roll come and from there go forward."

In the two losses, the Red Sox are batting .200 (13-for-65) with 22 strikeouts. The Red Sox had no extra-base hits in Game 2, for only the eighth time in 164 games.

Dustin Pedroia (1-for-8, four strikeouts)
Xander Bogaerts (1-for-8, four strikeouts)
Mookie Betts (1-for-6, two strikeouts)
Jackie Bradley (0-for-6, five strikeouts)
David Ortiz (1-for-8)

Those five players are a combined 4-for-36, .111. Only Brock Holt (4-for-8) has hit with any consistency, although Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi each have two hits. That qualifies as "hot" with this team right now.

Cleveland relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, who so effectively shut down the Red Sox in Game 1, are rested. Terry Francona can lift Game 3 starter Josh Tomlin at the first sign of trouble.

Clay Buchholz made five starts in September, and allowed two runs or fewer in four of them. Last three starts: 19 innings, 3 runs, 1.42. He needs to pitch as well as he has all season on Sunday.

October 7, 2016

ALDS 2: Cleveland 6, Red Sox 0

Red Sox   - 000 000 000 - 0  3  1
Cleveland - 040 101 00x - 6  9  0
David Price's postseason misfortunes continued (3.1-6-5-2-3, 65), but even if Price had allowed only one run over eight innings, the Red Sox still would have lost. (Price has allowed at least five runs in five of his nine career postseason starts (and three of his last four, and four of his last six).)

Boston's bats were ice cold against Corey Kluber (7-3-0-3-7, 104) and two relievers. Cleveland has done everything right in this series. They have taken full advantage of any and all mistakes, and their advance scouting reports on the Red Sox could not be more accurate. The Red Sox hitters have been silenced while their top two starters were hit for five runs each.

Boston managed only three singles (coming in the first, fifth, and sixth innings), while working three walks and having one batter hit by a pitch. The Red Sox advanced a runner past first base only two times all afternoon.

Game 3 of the ALDS will be at Fenway Park on Sunday at 4 PM. It could be the final game of David Ortiz's career.

Price needed only eight pitches to get Cleveland in order in the first and he got the first batter in the second. Then Carlos Santana singled to left. Jose Ramirez reached first on an infield chopper than Brock Holt could not get a handle on. Brandon Guyer then flared a single out beyond shortstop into short left-center to score Santana with the first run of the day. After the two cheap hits, Lonnie Chisenhall lined a 2-1 pitch to right field for a three-run homer. Cleveland led 4-0 and it wasn't until Price walked Roberto Perez - the fifth straight Cleveland batter to reach base - that Carl Willis came out for a mound visit and John Farrell got on the bullpen phone. Matt Barnes began warming up. Price rebounded and got the next two batters.

Price allowed a one-out single in the third, then struck out the next two. He gave up a leadoff single in the fourth and when he issued a one-out walk, Farrell came out with his hook. Barnes allowed a run-scoring single to Jason Kipnis and was also responsible for the run that scored in the sixth.

On the Red Sox side, Holt singled with one out in the first and was erased when Mookie Betts grounded into a double play. Kluber walked Dustin Pedroia and Betts in the fourth, but Boston could do nothing with the gifts, as David Ortiz popped to shortstop and Hanley Ramirez was called out on strikes.

Xander Bogaerts singled to lead off the fifth and was stranded there as Andrew Benintendi lined to right, Sandy Leon popped to short, and Jackie Bradley struck out. Betts singled with two outs in the sixth, bit Ortiz lined to right.

Boston's last attempt at a rally came in the eighth. Kluber walked Leon and plunked Bradley. Dan Otero came in and struck out Pedroia on three pitches, got Holt to line to center, and had Betts ground into a fielder's choice out at third.

The season now rests on the shoulders of Game 3 starter Clay Buchholz. If the Red Sox can win on Sunday afternoon, Rick Porcello may pitch Game 4.

Fifty-three teams have won the first two games of a best-of-five ALDS and 46 gone to win the series. The Red Sox have two of the seven comebacks from 0-2 (1999 and 2003).
David Price / Corey Kluber
Pedroia, 2B
Holt, 3B
Betts, RF
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
Okay, here's the plan. Price brings his "A" game and the hitters stop swinging at every piece of garbage that is even remotely in their vicinity, we win and go home tied 1-1. Even with more than half of the lineup looking like shit, and getting three of their four runs on solo dongs, the Red Sox still lost Game 1 by only one run.

Terry Francona managed like Game 1 was a must-win (and with Trevor Bauer starting, maybe it was), but he's probably burned both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen for tonight; they both threw 40 pitches last night. Meanwhile, John Farrell has Matt Barnes, Brad Ziegler and Craig Kimbrel rested and ready.

SoSH's Ian York shows what the Red Sox can expect from Corey Kluber.
Kluber's favorite pitch is his sinker, which he throws about 38% of the time. ... When he is ahead in the count, he uses his curve more often; when behind, he is more likely to throw a slider. ... Kluber's curve and slider are both significantly better than average ... His changeup is also well above average, probably partly due to the surprise factor.

His four-seam fastball and sinker both grade out about average ... His curve and slider both target the bottom of the strike zone. His change is typically thrown below the zone, often drawing swings in spite of that. His fastballs tend to be toward the middle of the zone in height, but often targeting the edges in unpredictable ways ...
In two of his last four starts of the regular season, Price allowed five and six runs (both games were against the Yankees). Price faced Cleveland only once this year, on Opening Day: 6-5-2-2-10. Kluber was opposite Price back on April 5 (5.1-9-4-2-5) and he also faced Boston on May 20 (7-5-2-2-6).

Even though Kluber suffered a quadriceps strain in late September, he's still Cleveland's ace - his 3.14 ERA was 4th in the AL and he led the league in ERA+ - and Price needs to be sharp, or the Red Sox could be in serious trouble.

October 6, 2016

ALDS 1: Cleveland 5, Red Sox 4

Red Sox   - 101 010 010 - 4 10  0   
Cleveland - 013 010 00x - 5 10  0
Cleveland hit three solo home runs off Rick Porcello (4.1-6-5-0-6, 72) in the third inning. Drew Pomeranz allowed an inherited runner to score in the fifth, but left the bases loaded, giving his teammates a chance to fight back.

But Playoff Assassin Tito was working in the opposing dugout and he used Andrew Miller in the middle innings to stifle the Boston bats, then called on Cody Allen for a five-out save. Allen's first batter, David Ortiz, doubled, but a pinch-runner (as the potential tying run) was stranded at third. Allen struck out three batters in the ninth, as the Red Sox hitters, as they had been doing all night long, kept trying (and failing) to hit pitches that were well outside and usually in the dirt.

The night started strong for Boston as Dustin Pedroia doubled to right field. Brock Holt followed with a single and the Red Sox had runners at first and third against Trevor Bauer (4.2-6-3-0-6, 78). Mookie Betts struck out and Ortiz fouled to first, but Hanley Ramirez doubled to center. Holt tried to score and was initially called safe on a head-first slide, but the call was overturned when Cleveland manager Terry Francona challenged the call.

Cleveland tied the score in the second when Jose Ramirez doubled and scored on Lonnie Chisenhall's single. Chisenhall advanced to second on Jackie Bradley's poor throw to the plate, but when the Red Sox challenged, that call was overturned and Chisenhall was called out.

Boston took a 2-1 lead when Andrew Benintendi homered to open the third. He was the first Red Sox rookie to homer in his postseason debut and the youngest Red Sox player to hit a postseason home run (22 years, 92 days). Porcello could not hold the lead, though, as Roberto Perez led off the bottom of the third with a game-tying solo shot. After Carlos Santana grounded out, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor went back-to-back. Progressive Field was rocking and the TBS announcers were unable to suppress their glee. TBS showed those three home runs approximately 50 times each throughout the night.

Hanley Ramirez cracked his second double of the night with one out in the fourth, but both Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley were over-anxious and both struck out. Sandy Leon's solo home run in the fifth cut Cleveland's lead to 4-3. Two outs later, Francona pulled Bauer and brought in Miller. Holt greeted the bearded lefty with a double and Betts walked, bringing Ortiz to the plate. Miller threw four pitches outside the strike zone, but home plate umpire Brian Knight called two of them strikes. Ortiz now had no idea what the strike zone was, and he swung and missed what would have been "ball 5" for the third out. Knight effectively took control of that inning and personally killed the Red Sox's rally.

Porcello allowed a leadoff single to Perez in the fifth and after he got Santana to fly to left (Perez tagged and hustled to second), John Farrell pulled him and brought in Pomeranz (who had apparently won a spot in the bullpen thanks to a good relief effort in the season's final game). Pom looked like crap here, though. Kipnis's single scored Perez and made it 5-3. Mike Napoli hit a two-out ground-rule double to left and Pomeranz intentionally walked Ramirez to load the bases. At the time, it felt like the game was in danger of getting out of hand - and Pomeranz struck out Chisenhall.

Miller retired the Red Sox in order in the sixth and got the first two in the seventh; Bryan Shaw got the third out. Shaw started the eighth and Holt homered to right, again bringing Boston to within one run. (TBS, however, did not begin showing Boston's three homers non-stop.) Betts popped out to the pitcher and Francona called on Allen. Ortiz hit a ball to the gap in right-center and was moving as fast as he could, and he legged out a double. Francona challenged the call, but it was upheld - and Marco Hernandez pinch-ran. Ramirez grounded to second and Hernandez went to third. But he died there as Bogaerts had a horrendous at-bat, swinging wildly at Allen's outside pitches in the dirt.

In the ninth, it was more of the same. Bradley struck out swinging at a very high fastball. Leon struck out for the second out. Benintendi singled to right, and the Red Sox had a glimmer of hope. Pedroia battled for eight pitches but he half-swung at a pitch that was in the dirt and was called out.

Holt was 3-for-4, and finished the night a triple shy of the cycle. ... On the other side, Bogaerts was 0-for-4, with a dribbler to the pitcher and three strikeouts. .. Bradley struck out three times and popped to short. ... Pedroia also struck out three times. ... Porcello had not allowed as many as five runs in a start since July 24.
Rick Porcello / Trevor Bauer
Pedroia, 2B
Holt, 3B
Betts, RF
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Benintendi, LF
American League Division Series
G1 - Thu 1006 - Red Sox at Cleveland, 8 PM
G2 - Fri 1007 - Red Sox at Cleveland, 4:30 PM
G3 - Sun 1009 - Cleveland at Red Sox, 4 PM
G4 - Mon 1010 - Cleveland at Red Sox
G5 - Wed 1012 - Red Sox at Cleveland
It will be David Price/Corey Kluber in Game 2 and Josh Tomlin/Clay Buchholz in Game 3.

The best-of-five series pits Cleveland manager Terry Francona - who managed the Red Sox to Word Series titles in 2004 and 2007 - against his former pitching coach in Boston, John Farrell. Farrell also once worked as the director of player development in Cleveland. Mike Napoli, a member of Boston's 2013 World Champion team, is Cleveland's first baseman and former Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller is in the opposing bullpen. Beyond the Box Score took a look at Francona's managing style here.

Cleveland's rotation has been hit by injuries, with Kluber being sidelined because of a quadriceps strain (but will start Game 2), Danny Salazar available only out of the bullpen and Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) out for the season.

Bauer faced the Red Sox twice this year, allowing six runs and 10 hits over six innings. He allowed two runs in one inning of relief on Opening Day at Cleveland (1-2-2-1-2) and gave up four runs in five innings as a starter on May 21 in Boston (5-8-4-2-0). Boston won both of those games.

Porcello faced Cleveland only once in 2016, May 22 at Fenway Park: 5.2-5-2-1-5 in Boston's 5-2 win

This ALDS will feature the top two AL teams in runs scored per game. Boston led the league in runs scored, finishing 101 runs ahead of second-place Cleveland.
            RS   AVG    OBP    SLG    OPS    TB
Boston     878  .282   .348   .461   .810   2615
Cleveland  777  .262   .329   .430   .759   2356
Looking at OPS+, Boston remains #1 while Cleveland drops to 12th.

AVG: Boston #1, Cleveland #3-T
OBP: Boston #1, Cleveland #4
SLG: Boston #1, Cleveland #5
Doubles: Boston #1, Cleveland #2
Walks: Boston #2, Cleveland #4

Although the Red Sox lost the last two games of the regular season (and five of their last six), they had a fantastic September, going 19-8, their highest win total in any month this season. Boston averaged 5.6 runs per game (1st in MLB) and posted a 3.05 team ERA (3rd in MLB) in September, including a 1.77 bullpen ERA (2nd in MLB).

The Red Sox were a season-worst 5.5 GB on the morning of June 30. A few days later, on July 2, they were trounced by the Angels 21-2. After that, Boston went 50-32, the 2nd best record in MLB behind the Cubs.

SB Nation ranked all of the 25 possible World Series match-ups. Red Sox/Cubs (a 1918 rematch!) comes in at #7.

Will we see Playoff Assassin Farrell this month? What is told Alex Speier earlier this season (my emphasis) is encouraging:
You've got to remain flexible. You've got to remain quick, because it is the most volatile part of any given team. The postseason is, I think, very different than the regular season for a number of factors: One, certainly the urgency of the game you're in. You're dealing with starters who have got a high number of innings pitched already. Prior to going into the 2013 postseason, I did a little research on a historical level for my own standpoint, and the most games were won and lost in the seventh inning. So, going into that, I looked at the seventh inning as maybe the most pivotal time in the course of that game. Maybe you're getting the bullpen started an inning before you normally would, even for a starter who's been very good for you and who's been an elite performer throughout. So, you're mindful of the seventh inning being that time because the stress on pitches in the postseason is much greater than the regular season.
Finally, how the Red Sox have finished throughout David Ortiz's career:
        W    L     AL EAST     POSTSEASON
2003   95   67    2nd place    Lost ALCS
2004   98   64    2nd place    Won World Series
2005   95   67    2nd place    Lost ALDS
2006   86   76    3rd place
2007   96   66    1st place    Won World Series
2008   95   67    2nd place    Lost ALCS
2009   95   67    2nd place    Lost ALDS
2010   89   73    3rd place
2011   90   72    3rd place
2012   69   93    5th place
2013   97   65    1st place    Won World Series
2014   71   91    5th place
2015   78   84    5th place
2016   93   67    1st place    ???

October 5, 2016

Our Manager (Thank God He's Not Buck Showalter)

John Farrell may not be perfect, but he's no Buck Showalter.

Which means the Red Sox have a chance to win some games in this postseason.

If there is anything more unbelievable than Showalter refusing to use Zach Britton - who has been mentioned as a serious MVP and Cy Young candidate - even as the Orioles' season went swirling down the toilet, it's that Showalter wasn't fired before Edwin Encarnacion finished his home run trot. Because Showalter's inaction re Britton should have led to an immediate dismissal and a strong suggestion that he find his own way back to Baltimore to clean out his office.

Britton finished the 2016 season with the lowest ERA in the history of baseball for a minimum of 50 IP pitched (0.54). Yet Showalter left him in the pen wondering what the hell was going on while opting for Ubaldo Jimenez (5.44 ERA).

Britton allowed one earned run in 57 innings (0.16) after April. Jimenez allowed three earned runs while throwing only five pitches: ball, called strike, single, single, home run. (After the second single, Showalter actually made a mound visit - and decided to stay with Jimenez!)

Okay. This just adds to the amazingness. On July 31, Showalter had Britton pitch the ninth and tenth innings in a 2-2 game at Toronto that Baltimore ended up winning 6-2 in 12 innings. (And Showalter had used Britton for more than one inning six times during the year.) So that move makes good sense in a mid-season game, but not in the exact same situation - 2-2 tie in extras in Toronto - when it's a do-or-die playoff game?

The media's Cult of Showalter's Genius has been a mystery to me for many years. (Maybe it's because he once worked as a commentator for ESPN.) But that line of positive thinking about Showalter's abilities has been forever decimated.

And I didn't want to mention his name but Joe Sheehan did, in this tweet: "Grady Little clicks off the TV, walks over to his bar, and reaches for the unopened bottle on the top shelf. 'Finally,' he sighs. 'Finally.'"

October 4, 2016

Ortiz Finishes Final Season By Leading MLB With 87 Extra-Base Hits

In the final season of his career, David Ortiz led all of baseball with 87 extra-base hits (an MLB-best 48 doubles, 38 home runs, and one triple).

This year is Big Papi's fifth season with more than 85 extra-base hits, with 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 being the other four seasons.

The only players with more than five such seasons are Lou Gehrig (8) and Babe Ruth (7). When you're on a short list that includes Babe and Lou, you've done something pretty goddamn special.

Players With 5+ Seasons With 85+ Extra-Base Hits
Lou Gehrig      8  (1927, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936)
Babe Ruth       7  (1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1930)
David Ortiz     5  (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2016)
Stan Musial     5  (1946, 1948, 1949, 1953, 1954)
Hank Greenberg  5  (1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1940)
The most extra-base hits in a season is 119 by Ruth in 1921. Gehrig had 117 in 1927. There is a significant drop-off to 107 for the third spot, which is shared by Barry Bonds (2001) and Chuck Klein (1930).

(The criminally underrated Gehrig did it seven times in eight seasons (1927-34). The only year in that period in which he did not get at least 85 extra-base hits was 1929, when he had 77.)
More Ortiz factoids:

Ortiz is the first player in history to lead MLB in slugging percentage in his final season.

Ortiz is the first player in history to lead MLB in OPS in his final season.

Ortiz is the first player in history to lead MLB in extra-base hits in his final season.

Ortiz is the first player in history with 35+ doubles and 25+ home runs after turning 40 years old.

Ortiz is the first player in history to hit 40+ doubles in one season after his 40th birthday.

Ortiz is the oldest player in history to hit 30+ homers in a season.

Ortiz hit 38 home runs, the most in history for any player in his final season.

Ortiz's .620 slugging percentage is the highest ever by a player his age or older. The record had been held by Cap Anson, who slugged .539, at age 42, in 1894.

Ortiz finished with a .401 on-base percentage, and is the oldest player with an OBP that high since Stan Musial in 1962.

Ortiz finished with a .315 batting average, and is the oldest player with an average that high since Stan Musial in 1962.

Watch this video!
The Red Sox have three players with 30+ HR in a season (Ortiz, Betts, Ramirez) for the second time in franchise history. Jim Rice, George Scott, and Butch Hobson did it in 1977.

The Red Sox have three players with at least 30 HR & 100 RBI in a season for the first time in franchise history (Ortiz, Betts, Ramirez).

Stark: Why The Red Sox Will Win The World Series

ESPN's Jayson Stark asked 25 baseball executives to pick each league's pennant winner and the World Series winner.
American League Favorite (or Most Feared Team)
Red Sox    16
Rangers     7
Blue Jays   2
National League Favorite (or Most Feared Team)
Cubs       13
Dodgers    10
Nationals   2
World Series Winner
Cubs        7
Red Sox     6
Dodgers     4
Rangers     4
Five reasons the Red Sox will win

1. What a lineup: The Red Sox have scored an incredible 83 more runs than the next-best offense in the American League (Cleveland). While the Blue Jays had a similar run-scoring gap last year, only one other AL team in the past 80 years has managed to put up a 100-run gap between itself and the pack -- and you need to go back all the way to the 1950 Red Sox to find that one. ...

2. Their strength is greater than any other team's strength: ... Against pitchers who average a strikeout per inning or better, the Sox lead the major leagues in average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. Against pitchers defined as "power pitchers," Boston's OPS (.798) is 65 points higher than the next-best team. But the Red Sox are also first in OPS against "finesse" pitchers (.848). And they went into the weekend as the only team in the past five years with an OPS of .800 or better against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. ...

3. Their rotation is better than you think: ... Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez have made 11 starts between them since Sept. 1. They've allowed two runs or fewer in eight of those starts. ...

4. Their bullpen is hot: ... Since the beginning of September, the Red Sox pen ranks second in the AL in ERA (1.81), and first in opponent average (.198) and strikeout rate (10.4 K/9). ...

5. Papi Power: Every once in awhile in sports, the script writes itself. So there's just something about the way the stars keep lining up for David Ortiz's retirement tour that feels as if there could be one more incredible chapter to come.

ESPN: 23 of 31 Experts Pick Red Sox To Win Pennant

ESPN has posted the postseason predictions of its 31 experts.

26 of 31 (84%) pick the Red Sox to defeat Cleveland in the ALDS.

23 of those 26 (88%) pick the Red Sox to win the American League pennant.

More than half of the experts - 18 of 31 - predict a Red Sox/Cubs World Series.

Five experts picked the Red Sox to win the World Series and three of those five predict David Ortiz will be the MVP.

The top choice for World Series champion is the Cubs (18).

October 3, 2016

Wanted: NESN Video Of Ortiz Weekend Ceremonies

If anyone taped any of last weekend's David Ortiz ceremonies and could share them, I'd appreciate it.

I've seen a few clips on NESN's website, but I'd like to see the whole thing, especially Sunday's stuff (which I read lasted about 40 minutes).


Review: The Selling Of The Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball And Created A Legend, By Glenn Stout

Baseball historian Glenn Stout has written previously about the Boston Red Sox's historic sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees following the 1919 season.

In Red Sox Century and this 2004 ESPN article, Stout presented a deep understanding and an accurate portrayal of an event that has for decades been the subject of rumour, conjecture, and outright falsehoods.

Stout's book-length treatment of the subject, The Selling of the Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend (Thomas Dunne) is a well-researched and entertaining account of what still stands as baseball's most famous transaction.

[Note: I received two copies of this book from the publisher, one of which was the prize in this year's W-L contest. In addition, Stout cites my book on the 1918 Red Sox in his research of Ruth's time in Boston.]

Stout argues that "no other personality in sports has been so exalted, mythologized, and obscured by history". How someone can be the most exalted and the most obscured may seem contradictory, but many aspects of Ruth's life are a near blank. His childhood, for example. And no matter how much attention is paid to Ruth's performances on the baseball field, the more one learns about him, the more one actually starts believing that the man considered the game's greatest player was underrated.

No matter how much we learn about Ruth, he is never diminished. Even as we learn more facts, and the enormity of his greatness grows, he seems more outsized, his baseball career appearing even more improbable. Ruth's obituary in the New York Times hit the nail on the head: "Probably nowhere in all the imaginative field of fiction could one find a career more dramatic and bizarre than that portrayed in real life by George Herman Ruth."

What Stout does in The Selling of the Babe is look at why the Red Sox wanted to rid themselves of the extraordinarily talented Ruth - who was doing double-duty as a pitcher and an outfielder in 1919, while setting a new single-season home run record - and to discuss the sale in the context of Red Sox owner Harry Frazee's contentious relationship with American League president Ban Johnson.

Because the sale of the Red Sox to Frazee was not brokered by Johnson, who was far from an impartial executive and actually had financial stakes in several different AL teams, there was animosity between Frazee and Johnson from the very beginning. Because Frazee had no ties to Johnson, because he owed him nothing, Frazee also had no reason to be loyal to the despotic head of the league.

His battles with Johnson, however, had split the league in two, some magnates remaining loyal to Johnson, others banding with Frazee and calling themselves the "Insurrectos". Two of the teams aligned with Frazee were the Yankees and White Sox - and those clubs ended up being the possible landing places for the talented yet troublesome Ruth if a trade could be arranged.

Stout states in his last two years in Boston, 1918 and 1919, Ruth was a streaky hitter, "a tease, with brief periods of explosive power followed by long droughts". Although Ruth was becoming a transcendent figure in the game, at some point during the 1919 season, Frazee realized it would be advantageous to sell high on Ruth and at the same time rid himself of this colossal headache. (Even a cursory study of Ruth's off-the-field actions reveal that the young pitcher was a hard-drinking womanizier - Stout makes no bones about calling him an alcoholic - and a greedy, crass, impetuous, selfish, pain in management's ass.)

In telling this story, Stout lays bare some truths: Ruth was a selfish player who looked out for himself (and his bank account) first and foremost, Frazee was a competent front office man whose ownership was impacted more by league politics than by his allegedly overriding love of the theatre, and the sale of Ruth to the Yankees was not seen at the time as a one-sided deal.

Frazee did not sell Ruth because he needed the cash. Indeed, looking at the details of the sale, one would assume that it was the Yankees that had significant cash flow trouble. Also, there is absolutely no connection between the sale of Ruth and Frazee's 1925 hit, No, No, Nanette. Stout calls that story a "tired, spurious, hoary old chestnut". He adds: "It's a fantasy that simply allowed Boston fans to excuse generations of losing baseball, bad management by Frazee's successors, and simplistic, poorly researched, agenda-driven history."

The Ruth transaction is a perfect example of the age-old debate about whether star players should receive preferential treatment. When a team is lucky enough to have someone as talented as Ruth, does management (and his teammates) put up with his off-field shenanigans or do they insist that all players on the team be held to the same rules? When the sale of Ruth's contract to the Yankees was announced just after New Year's in 1920, this debate raged in the Boston newspapers. Opinions were neatly divided down the middle, with plenty of fans and former players believing Ruth had to be shipped out for the good of the team.

Ruth did not magically change his personality when he arrived in New York. Only two months into the 1920 season, he was rooming by himself on the road and had installed a private phone line by his locker at the Polo Grounds. He remained the same self-absorbed player he had always been - yet in New York, he was celebrated for it. The timing was perfect, with the insatiable Ruth landing in the center of the most vibrant, most exciting, most over-the-top city in the world at the dawn of the hedonistic 1920s.

Stout refers to Ruth numerous times as "oblivious" to his surroundings. While Ruth was unquestionably self-centered and often acted as though his own goals were the only ones that existed, to insinuate that he was clueless about what was going on around him is not believable (and more than a little unfair). With regards to the potential strike before Game 5 of the 1918 World Series, the fact that Ruth is not quoted in any of the newspapers does not mean he didn't know what was going on. The only player quoted regarding the strike on either the Red Sox or the Cubs was Boston's Harry Hooper, the spokesman of the four-man representative group that met with the National Commission.

Ruth slumped during his first month with the Yankees, in 1920, entering May batting only .226 with one extra base hit. However, he soon got hot, posting a 1.384 OPS in May. His batting average soared because outfielders played so deep, it left a lot of green space for short flies and line drives to fall in.

And Ruth destroyed a long list of established records. Sam Thompson had set the all-time season slugging percentage mark in 1894 at .696. In 1920 and 1921, Ruth slugged .847 and .846. Back in 1894, Hugh Duffy had an all-time best OPS of 1.196. In 1920, Ruth obliterated that mark with an OPS that was nearly 200 points higher: 1.379.

Ruth clubbed 29 home runs in 1919, something no player had ever done. Anyone who had come close in years past, like Ned Williamson in 1884, was playing at least half his games on fields with extremely short fences that artificially boosted his totals. Then, in 1920, Ruth nearly doubled his previous record-setting total, smacking 54. And he bettered that with 59 in 1921. Ruth was not only doing things at the plate that no one else had seen, he was doing things no one could even imagine.

Ruth believed that swinging from the heels hurt his batting average. (His lifetime average of .342 is tied for ninth all-time.) If he simply tried for singles, Ruth once claimed, he could have batted .600. During his Yankees career, Ruth flirted with .400 several times. He batted over .375 four times in a five-year period, finishing 1923 at .393. I have often wondered what Ruth could have done if he had put his theory into practice, and tried making contact for small hits for an entire season. He probably would not have hit .600, though. Probably.
The Selling of the Babe appears not to have been proofread. At all. The book contains more typographical errors than any book I have ever seen. There are seven errors on pages 146-147 alone. Discounting missing commas before quotes and in the middle of run-on sentences, and sentences that end in commas instead of periods, I compiled a list of more than three dozen typos. (And I'm sure my list is far from definitive.) One typo referred to Red Sox pitcher Carl Mays's "emotional and metal" problems.

There are incorrect words ("if" instead of "it" and "it" instead of "in", as though the manuscript was scanned but not cleaned up), misplaced apostrophes ("the Tiger's Ty Cobb"), and (especially) extra words in sentences: "baseball had a faced a challenge", "a big league team team", "for the that year's World Series", and "seemed like he did didn't want to".

In addition, this book could have used one more round of rewriting/editing. There are too many run-on sentences that should be split up, far too many confusing moments when a reader is not sure who is the subject of a sentence. There are awkward word choices: "wise-old heads shaking their heads" and "Those he favored reaped the benefits in the form of favorable trades and other favors".

I want to emphasize that none of these errors should diminish the quality and depth of Stout's research, but they do reflect extremely poorly on the entire production. If I was in Stout's shoes, I'd be smoke-coming-out-of-my-ears furious at Thomas Dunne for its lazy, unprofessional work on the book.

October 2, 2016

2016 Postseason Schedule

American League Wild Card
1004 - Orioles at Blue Jays

National League Wild Card
1005 - Giants at Mets

American League Division Series
1006 - Red Sox at Cleveland
1007 - Red Sox at Cleveland
1009 - Cleveland at Red Sox
1010 - Cleveland at Red Sox
1012 - Red Sox at Cleveland

American League Division Series
1006 - BAL/TOR at Rangers
1007 - BAL/TOR at Rangers
1009 - Rangers at BAL/TOR
1010 - Rangers at BAL/TOR
1012 - BAL/TOR at Rangers

National League Division Series
1007 - SFG/NYM at Cubs
1008 - SFG/NYM at Cubs
1010 - Cubs at SFG/NYM
1011 - Cubs at SFG/NYM
1013 - SFG/NYM at Cubs

National League Division Series
1007 - Dodgers at Nationals
1008 - Dodgers at Nationals
1010 - Nationals at Dodgers
1011 - Nationals at Dodgers
1013 - Dodgers at Nationals

American League Championship Series
1014 - G1
1015 - G2
1017 - G3
1018 - G4
1019 - G5
1021 - G6
1022 - G7

National League Championship Series
1015 - G1
1016 - G2
1018 - G3
1019 - G4
1020 - G5
1022 - G6
1023 - G7

World Series
1025 - NL at AL
1026 - NL at AL
1028 - AL at NL
1029 - AL at NL
1030 - AL at NL
1101 - NL at AL
1102 - NL at AL

G162: Blue Jays 2, Red Sox 1

Blue Jays - 000 010 010 - 2  9  0
Red Sox   - 000 000 100 - 1  4  1
The Red Sox were no-hit by Aaron Sanchez for 6.2 innings until Hanley Ramirez homered down the left field line. The Blue Jays challenged the initial call of "home run", but the umpires upheld it after a review.

After the Jays went ahead against Brad Ziegler, the Red Sox had two innings in which to come back. Chris Young singled to start the eighth, but Andrew Benintendi was called out on strikes (as Young stole second). Dustin Pedroia grounded to third and Brock Holt struck out swinging.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mookie Betts grounded to short and David Ortiz tapped out catcher-to-first. Hanley Ramirez walked and Xander Bogaerts singled to center to create some excitement. But Jackie Bradley grounded out to third.

In the final regular season game of his career, Ortiz - who had one of his best seasons at the plate - went 0-for-4, with two strikeouts.

The Red Sox finished the regular season at 93-69. Cleveland (94-67) has a make-up game scheduled for tomorrow against the Tigers. But since Cleveland has secured home field advantage for the ALDS, that game may not be played.

Aaron Sanchez / David Price
Pedroia, 2B
Holt, 3B
Betts, RF
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Benintendi, LF
If the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, they will force the Indians to win both their Sunday tilt with Kansas City and a make-up game in Detroit in order to have the ALDS start at Progressive Field.

If the Red Sox lose Sunday, and the Indians beat KC, the series will start in Cleveland.

If the Red Sox lose against the Blue Jays, and Cleveland loses Sunday, the Indians would play Detroit Monday. Terry Francona's team would then decide its own fate because of the tie-breaker.
Leo Ortiz, the Large Father's father, talking about staying in Boston for the festivities for his son:
I'm going to be here until the World Series because we're going to win that, too.

Red Sox Will Retire Ortiz's #34 Next Season

The Red Sox announced during Sunday's celebration of David Ortiz's career that the team will retire Big Papi's #34 in 2017.

Other announcements: The bridge over the Mass Pike on Brookline Avenue is now the "Big Papi Bridge" and the street that intersects with the T station near Fenway Park will be renamed "David Ortiz Drive".

Vin Scully's Last Game

After 67 years behind the microphone, Vin Scully will call his last baseball game this afternoon at 3 PM. Dodgers at Giants.

Grant Brisbee, SB Nation:
Baseball on the radio sticks around as a kind of anachronism as the rest of the world shifts to television for its news and entertainment, and it sticks around long after the quality of televised baseball improves. Not only is it the format that you can sneak up to your room, follow at work, and bring to the beach with you, but the pace of the game fits it perfectly.

Baseball is action and inaction, with the gaps giving us time to breathe, time to contemplate the next move. It’s sort of a cliché to compare baseball to chess, but ... c'mon, the fastball's the rook, the curveball's the bishop, the slider's the knight ... here, let me draw you a diagram. As the catcher and pitcher are figuring this all out, the hitter is going through the permutations in his head, too. Runners are leading. The crowd is roaring. Everyone crouches down and waits for the next active moment. There's tension. Oh, how there's tension.

And there's a voice describing it all. When you're following the radio, you get one sense to work with, and then you have to fill the rest in on your own. That means your imagination has to do at least a quarter of the work, and sometimes it sighs and complains, but it's OK because you're your imagination's biggest fan. It was designed just for you, you know.

Scully was that voice for everyone, echoing through the garage while you were under a car, in the car as you were going for a drive, at the mechanic's because you had no business being under the car in the first place. When you're young, old, in-between, with an old friend, remembering an old friend, everywhere.

When television took over, Scully spent more and more time on the medium, for different sports and different audiences. But the foundation of the affection felt for him, the necessity of him, was built on the stream of consciousness coming over the radio. It was perfect for him. Baseball was perfect for the radio. He was perfect for baseball. The feedback loop got stronger with each decade.

* * *

It helps that Scully is the best, of course, a master storyteller with a photographic memory and appreciation for tangents. It helps that his voice is unquestionably the archetype of what a sports broadcaster's voice should be — calm, sonorous, with enough range to let you know when the really important stuff is happening. It helps that he knows he's there in service of the game, not the other way around, which means there are times when it's better to shut up and let the crowd call the game for a little bit.

It's possible that Scully holds the highest possible approval rating for anyone who's done any job in the history of the world. ...

Everyone else loves him. Probably because he's the best.