Friday, April 30, 2010

Only Second?

Interesting story in the Wall Street Journal the other day about how the Boston Red Sox are the second-most hated team in baseball.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Clay Comes Up Big

Every pitcher has a team he loves to see. Roger Clemens enjoyed destroying the Royals (25-7 lifetime). Pedro salivated whenever he pitched against Seattle (13-1, 1.57 ERA, 0.854 WHIP). El Tiante? A perfect 9-0 lifetime against the Blue Jays.

Which fittingly leads us to Clay Buchholz. In his short career, Clay seems to enjoy pitching against Toronto more than any other team. He made that clear once again last night by leading the Sox to a 2-1 win over the Jays. The win pushed the Sox past Toronto into third place even though they are both at 10-11 (thanks, alphabetical order!) and they are three back of the Yankees for second place. Baby steps...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Slugging For Cover

The most important thing about yesterday's 13-12 win by the Patriots Red Sox over the Argonauts Blue Jays is that they did, in fact, win. They are now 9-11 on the season and sport a winning record on the road (4-3). They are a game back of the Jays for third and 5.5 back of the Rays.

Another good thing is that the Sox finally outhit their opponents for the first time in five games. And wonder of wonders, there were no errors committed in the field. But no one should look at this win and think that everything is better in Boston.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Tale Of Two Games

Two games. Identical 7-6 scores. Boston was outhit by Baltimore in both games. Boston had an error in both games.

Boston won the game on Saturday. Boston lost the game on Sunday. But there was very little difference between the two.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Turning A Corner?

Granted, Boston's three wins in their last four games have been against Texas and Baltimore. And two of them were of the "come-from-behind" variety. But beating Texas or Baltimore is the same as beating Minnesota or New York when it comes to wins and losses.

So last night's 4-3 win over the Orioles wasn't the prettiest game played in Fenway, or the easiest. But it was a win. And that is something that had been in short supply for the Sox at home for most of the early 2010 season.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Who Are You, Dallas Braden?

Yes, I'm paraphrasing Pedro Martinez's infamous rant about Karim Garcia from the 2003 ALCS.

Who exactly are you, Dallas Braden, to be yelling and screaming at Alex Rodriguez about a dubious at-best infraction of baseball's unwritten rules during the Yankees' 4-2 loss to the A's Thursday in Oakland, Calif.?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vazquez Moving In The Right Direction

It is easy to get caught up in the moment, especially in New York.

Witness Javier Vazquez's second start of the season, during which he was booed mercilessly.

Did Somebody Say McDonald?

Well, I was right about the Sox needing to mix things up. I was also right about Reddick being a part of it. En route to Boston's comeback 7-6 win over Texas, Reddick's two-run double in the sixth cut the deficit to 6-4.

What I didn't see coming, what no one saw coming, was a 31-year-old journeyman Triple-A lifer, a former first round pick who never quite made it, coming in to pinch-hit and possibly stopping Boston's slide.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No

I'm not discussing it. What is there to discuss? The Sox looked like some double-A backwater crew against the Rays. How to sum it up? Tito had Dustin Pedroia lay down a bunt. Pedroia, the only consistent batter and fielder on the Sox. The only guy hitting for power and average and on-base percentage.

He bunted.

That was in the first inning, and right there you knew it was over for the game. And it was.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I've Got Nothing

I'm not even writing about that abomination of a game yesterday. Five hits? Another error? Just one run, and that one in the ninth? The 3-5 batters go a collective 0-9? Oh, and now JD Drew is batting .132 with a .444 OPS. Tell me again how this guy is worth $14 million. Please, I'm all ears. Break out the UZR, VORP, and every other acronym to somehow convince me that JD Drew isn't killing this team.

Feh! The Sox are now 4-8 on the year and 1-5 at home. One measly win! Hopefully, John Lackey can stop the bleeding. But the Sox need to figure out what is going wrong and fast. Because contrary to popular belief, games in April actually count.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unfriendly Confines

I never thought I would see the day when Boston did better away from Fenway Park. But 11 games into the 2010 season, the simple truth is that Boston wins more on the road than at home. The Sox are 3-3 on the road and 1-4 at home. Yesterday's double-whammy with the Rays contributed a lot to that abysmal home start.

What makes it worse is that the losses are never blowouts. In their two losses against the Yankees and their two losses against the Rays, the Sox haven't lost by more than two runs in any game. They are in the games right to the end but cannot seem to find a way to win.

Time To Take A Deep Breath

April has never been Mark Teixeira's month.

A career .240 hitter in the season's first month, Tex is accustomed to slow starts.

But this April has been beyond slow, even by Teixeira's standards.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Francisco! That's fun to say! Francisco. Frannncisco.

Actually, it's not fun at all. I tried hard to channel Buddy the Elf after Francisco Liriano led the Twins in a 8-0 beatdown of the Red Sox. But it's hard to have good cheer and a bright attitude when a team that is supposed to have great defense commits three errors and a pitcher that the Sox have hit with regularity looks Gibson-esque.

Robinson's Day

There's something about Jackie Robinson Day that brings out the best in Robinson Cano.

A year ago, Cano went 2-for-4 with a double, homer and two RBI against the Rays.

Thursday he took it a step further.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No One's Lackey

It's early in the season, but so far John Lackey has been worth every last one of his 80+ million dollars that's he'll receive from his new contract.

Lackey pitched a solid 6.2 innings today and helped lead the Sox to a 6-3 victory over the Twins in Minnesota Wednesday afternoon. The win gave Lackey his first victory of the year and brought the Sox back up to .500 with a 4-4 record. They're 1.5 games back of the Rays with a game in hand.


Open Season On Javier Vazquez

Javier Vazquez's second stint with the New York Yankees has begun just like the first one ended: as a nightmare.

Vazquez was hammered by the Rays in his first outing of the season.

His second start was slightly better, but still well below par by any standard.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Perfect (Almost) Opener

This was a day we've been waiting for since early November, when the Yankees captured World Championship No. 27.

When it comes to celebrating accomplishments and history, there is no team in sports that come close to matching the Yankees. The pomp, the circumstance, the celebration of the past, no one can compare --no matter how hard the Red Sox try.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Twin Killing

Remember when Carl Pavano sucked? When he would get injured all the time and get chased out of a game in five innings or less? Those were some good times.

Sadly, Pavano seems to have forgotten all about them. He helped lead Minnesota to a 5-2 win over the Sox today in the grand opening of Target Field.*

Monday, April 12, 2010

Escape From Kansas City

Sometimes it isn't pretty. Sometimes it isn't easy. But as long as you have more runs that the other team when that last out is recorded, that's all that matters.

What looked like a runaway win for the Sox Sunday afternoon turned into a bit of a nail-biter thanks to Ramon Ramirez and his remarkable ability to surrender runs. But by the end, the Sox got away with an 8-6 win and got back to .500 (3-3).

Burnett Makes It A Solid First Week

As Yankees fans, we know not to make too big of a deal about what happens in April, especially the first week.

We've seen this team get out of the gates slowly, yet still make the playoffs. Heck, last year the Yankees started 13-15 and still won 103 regular season games and their 27th World Championship.

Still it's nice to get off to a good start, and taking each of the first two series against the Red Sox and Rays -- the two teams the Yankees figure to be battling for the AL East and/or the wild card -- makes this a particularly good first week.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sox Start To Right The Ship

It's one thing to lose two close games to the Yankees. That's a heavyweight bout between two opponents of great size and stature. It's another to lose a close one to Kansas City, which is like having Lennox Lewis lose to some scrub by unanimous decision.

So thankfully, Josh Beckett matched defending Cy Young winner Zach Grienke while Boston's bats propelled them to a 8-3 win over the Royals. With the win, the proper order of things has begun to reassert itself.

Girardi Was Ready With The Right Call

The decision had been made.

No matter what Kelly Shoppach did, CC Sabathia wasn't going to face another hitter. Forget about the no-hitter, Joe Girardi had a season to consider.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Piling On West

Aviv more than covered the problems surrounding umpire Joe West's tirade directed at the Red Sox and Yankees over the amount of time it takes them to play a game. But I want to get my two cents in as well.

From the unnecessary language to the blind spot surrounding the umpires' own culpability in games going too long, West took aim at a legitimate target but went completely wide of the mark.

Crossing The Line With Joe West

Joe West really has really put people in a tizzy.

Then again, as an umpire, West is used to taking some heat.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bad Breaks and Dumb Luck

What did I say last year? What did I say over and over again? What one move that Tito occasionally does is the one that throws me over the edge?

In case you missed it, I'll say it again: Don't pitch your closer more than one inning! The only time it is even remotely acceptable is when you use your closer to get the last out in the eighth and then have them pitch the ninth. But even then it's a dicey move.

A Grand Start

Curtis Granderson got his Yankees career off to a good start on Sunday with a home run in his first at-bat.

It didn't take him much longer to secure a big spot in the rivalry and win the hearts of Yankees fans everywhere.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mirror Image

As the game progressed last night, as a Sox fan you got the sinking feeling you had seen this all before. The pitching problems, the fielding miscues, the back-and-forth scoreboard.


The problem was, you sensed you were watching it from the other side.

MLB Does Yankees, Red Sox No Favors

Two games into the season and this much is clear, the MLB schedule makers did the Yankees and Red Sox no favors by having them open the season against each other.

For the second straight game neither starter managed to get through the sixth inning, but this time the Yankees bullpen got the better of the Red Sox bullpen in a 6-4 victory Tuesday at Fenway Park.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Where's Joba's Fear And Arrogance?

"You be cocky and arrogant, even when you're getting beat. That's the secret. You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance."
-- Crash Davis


That was the last piece of advice Crash Davis gave Nuke LaLoosh as the fireballer was leaving for the show in "Bull Durham."

Maybe Joba Chamberlain ought to sight down and watch that baseball classic because he seems to forgotten an important part of Crash's teaching.

With the exception of three starts following the All-Star break last season, we've seen Joba pitching only with fear. The arrogance, the hair-on-fire, uber-aggressive, attack the batter persona has been nowhere to be found.

It certain was nowhere near Fenway Park in Sunday's 9-7 season opening loss.

Now, Joba certainly wasn't terrible -- that's a description was seized by the fugitive pitcher from the Island of Misfit Toys, Chan D'oh! Park -- but he was far from the sensation that took the league by storm as a rookie in 2007.

Joba allowed one run on two hits and a walk in 1-1/3 innings, throwing 33 pitches.

McClatchy-Tribune
It was a performance that left us wondering: What has happened to that rookie phenom? Where has his arrogance gone?

This isn't a physical problem; Joba's fastball was hitting 96 mph, according to mlb.com's Gametracker. This is about what's going on in Joba's head -- and you can see it in his pitch selection. Chamberlain has fallen in love with his offspeed pitches, especially his slider.

While Gametrack failed to register 10 of Joba's pitches (likely curves and changes), it did pick up 13 sliders and only 10 fastballs.

Umm, hello? Does anyone else see something painfully wrong with this?

Instead of pitching with fear and arrogance, Joba's pitching with "fear and ignorance." (LaLoosh's witty retort to Crash)

There is a reason the fastball is called No. 1. It is the pitch that sets up everything else. It is the pitch that makes every other pitch more effective.

It also is Joba's best pitch.

We saw that when he came up in 2007. His fastball was so dominant, so lively that the hitters had to gear up for it and start their swings early. That made the slider deadly because hitters couldn't look for it and couldn't lay off it.

But Joba doesn't pitch like that any more. For some reason, he believes the slider is his best pitch, his out pitch.

And he's just wrong.

By throwing his slider so much -- and Sunday's 39.3 percent is way too much -- he's actually making that pitch less effective. He's giving hitters too much of an opportunity to see, identify and layoff that pitch.

In other words, he's allowing hitters to get comfortable at the plate.

It's time for that to stop. The Yankees need the old Joba back. The one who as a rookie wasn't afraid to challenge and attack hitters with his fastball. The one that had fun blowing hitters away.

The one who played this game with fear and arrogance.

Up Next
Tonight at Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., YES, NESN, MLB Network
A.J. Burnett vs. Jon Lester

Monday, April 5, 2010

Josh Beckett Gets A Well-Deserved Extension

Josh Beckett has signed a four-year, 68 million dollar extension with the Red Sox. For all you playing at home, that works out to $17 million per year.



Beckett gets a $5 million signing bonus and yearly salaries of $15.75 million. The deal was agreed to a few days ago but by waiting until after Opening Day, the Sox will not be taxed by MLB on the signing bonus.

Trust Theo to find an extra angle to help the team out. Beckett also got limited no-trade protection until he hits his 10/5 status.


Now, some people will make the requisite jokes about Beckett signing this extension after last night's poor performance. That is to be expected. But other people have made the claim that Beckett does not deserve this contract. That he is over-rated. One wag in a message board called him barely better than Gil Meche.


Ummm....no. Not even close. That is so fundamentally wrong it makes my head hurt. Let's settle this once and for all.


Josh Beckett joined the Sox in 2006. Over the next four years he was consistently one of the best starting pitchers in the American League. Here are some stats and where Beckett ranks among starting pitchers with a minimum 60 decisions in the AL between 2006-09. Everyone got that?


65 wins: 2nd


65-34, .657 win percentage: 4th


4.05 ERA: 14th


116 ERA+: 9th


723 K: 3rd


792 IP: 6th


6 complete games: 7th


1.205 WHIP: 3rd


3.56 K/BB ratio: 6th



I trust you're getting the picture here. Beckett has unarguably been one of the best starters in the AL during his first four years in Boston. The stats back that up. With the exception of ERA, Beckett is top ten in every major category over the last four years. How can you not want him in your rotation? Beckett has more than earned this extension.

Chan Ho Park, Just A Bad Fit

Every so often, the Yankees will break from spring training with one guy on the roster who just doesn't seem to fit.

LaTroy Hawkins ring a bell?

Ladies and gentleman, meet this season's fugitive from the Island of Misfit Toys: Chan Ho Park.

Park was called on in the seventh inning of Sunday's season opener at Fenway Park in Boston after the Yankees had just taken a two-run lead and promptly gave up three runs to take the loss in a 9-7 defeat.

Park has had some good moments in his career, mostly early on during his time with the Dodgers. For the last several years, he's been nothing more than a journeyman, splitting time as a starter and a reliever.

Last season, the Phillies caught lightning in a bottle with Park, getting a good season out of the righthander, who went 2-2 with 2.52 ERA in 38 appearance.

Associated Press
Certainly a nice season. Enough to considered a legitimate option for the Yankees? Not when you look at his career relief numers 7-9, 3.95 ERA in 136 appearances.

So when Brian Cashman signed the 36 year-old South Korean near the beginning of spring training, it left many scratching their heads. You can never have too many arms in the bullpen, but this guy? Really?

And in Sunday's Season Opener, we saw exactly why the Yankees would have been better off steering clear of Park.

After retaking the lead in the top half of the seventh Sunday, Joe Girardi turned to Park, who promptly allowed a single to Marco Scutaro before striking out Jacoby Ellsbury. And then up to the plate stepped Dustin Pedroia and out went the ball and the Yankees' lead, as that pain-in-duff pounded a 2-and-1 pitch over the wall to knot it at 7.

It didn't get much better after that.

After Victor Martinez grounded out, Kevin Youkilis ripped a double to center and Park's night was done. Damaso Marte followed, but looked nothing like the guy who was so dominant in October, throwing a wild pitch to move Youkilis to third before crossing up Jorge Posada for a passed ball that allowed the go-ahead run to score.

And like that, Park and the Yankees were on their way to an Opening Day loss.

Associated Press
Now look, losing on Opening Day is not that big of a deal. Fifteen teams lose their season openers every year and that doesn't mean their seasons will be disasters or that they can't win the World Series. There is a long way to go.

Heck even losing a game to the Red Sox in April really isn't that terrible. Since 2001 the Yankees have played an April series in Boston seven of the nine years. They have not even split any of those series.

But what is frustrating is that this is a game the Yankees could have and should have won, especially after jumping out to a 5-1 lead after four and knocking out Josh Beckett in the process.

Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson hit back-to-back homers in the second to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, Granderson's coming in his first at-bat as a Yankee.

New York then seemed to take control in the fourth as Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter had two-out RBI singles before pulling off a double steal that plated Gardner.

Getty Images
Meanwhile CC Sabathia was strong into the fifth. Boston scratched out a run in the second after Youkilis led off with a double and then plated another on Scutaro's two-out single.

By that point, Sabathia's pitch count was at 90. In midseason, that wouldn't be a concern, but in the opener, it was clear the big lefty was running out of gas. He was starting to struggle with his command, and possibly was a bit tentative, nibbling too much.

Instead of going to long relievers Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre, Girardi sent Sabathia back out for the sixth -- and paid the price. Pedroia led off with a walk and went to third on Martinez's double before Youkilis plated both with a triple that should have been held to a two-run single. Had Nick Swisher taken a proper route, he could have cut the ball off before it could reach the fence. Youkilis eventually tied it a 5 on an RBI single by Adrian Belte off David Robertson.

Still, the Yankees' offense got the lead right back as Mark Teixeira led off with a walk and went to third on Alex Rodriguez's double. Robinson Cano brought in one with a groundout and Posada drove in the other with a single, to give the Yankees a 7-5 lead.

That should have been enough. The Yankees should have been able to close it out from there.

But Park is not worthy of Pinstripes.

He's just a bad fit and by June, he'll be long gone.

Opening Night Blow By Blow

Pre-game

- As the little kid giving the "Miracle" speech says about the Yankees: "Screw 'em!"

- Nice seeing Pedro throw the first pitch. Wish he had scaled it into the Yankee dugout instead.


Top of the First

- Scutaro throws out Jeter on a first-pitch grounder. He's already better than Renteria.

- 1-2-3 inning. Yeah, that "defense-first" idea really sucked...



Bottom of the first

- Is Sabathia somehow even fatter this year? 10 more pounds and the baseball will start orbiting him between pitches.

- That said, he puts his weight behind it. Easy out with Ellsbury flying out to center.

- Pedey chases a fastball about a foot over his head for the second out. Granted, that is chest-high for you or me, but he knows better.

- CC is pitching well, can't deny that.

- Rem-Dawg talking about the Gold Gloves won by the Yankee fielders. Impressive number, until you remember the only one Jeter should have won was in 2009.*

- V-Mart hanging tough with CC. But he bounces it off the first base bag for the third out.



Top of the Second

- ARod up. Surprised he finds time to hit in between giving testimony about doctors who supply PEDs.

- Beckett looking sharp. Makes it hard for Youk to get ARod out on the grounder with a lousy throw. But Youk shows why he is one of the best first baseman in the game. He made that out look easy.

- Cano out on two pitches.

- Just a thought: you think the Marlins are regretting canning Girardi?**

- Up comes Gramps Posada. He joined the Yanks in the first Reagan Administration, right?

- And the old man makes me STFU. Beckett hangs a high fastball for Posada to ding off the Pesky Pole. 1-0 Yanks.

- Here's newcomer Granderson. You think he's thrilled to get out of Detroit? He hit 30 homers last year and only racked up 71 RBI. How is that even possible?

- Beckett goes full against Granderson. And then allows another solo shot. 2-0 Yanks.

- Just a thought: the run-prevention defense is the right idea. But you need to allow the defense to actually have a chance at the ball.

- Beckett gives a single up to Swisher. And he looks shaky as hell all of a sudden. NESN had a poll about which pitcher should be considered Boston's ace. Beckett was running away with it. I would have chosen Lester in about a half-second. Not that Beckett isn't a good pitcher, but Lester doesn't have these kinds of moments.

- Single to Gardner. On the upside, maybe CC's arm is getting cold from sitting down for so long.

- Here's Jeter with runners at first and second. Beckett's breaking stuff looks weak right now. And Jeter is fighting off Beckett's fastballs.

- Jeter grounds to Scutaro for the force at second. Scutaro is now officially better than Lugo.

- The bad news: Boston is down 2-0 going into the bottom of the second. The good news: it could have been worse.


Bottom of the Second

- What do you think CC eats in the dugout between innings? A whole grinder? Bowl of pasta?

- Youk with a double off the scoreboard. Helps when CC puts a fastball over the middle. Probably didn't get all the mayo off his fingers.

- And here comes Papi. No pressure, Big Guy, but if you can't get back to normal you're going to kill us. Good luck.

- CC runs it to 3-1 on Papi. You know a fastball is coming now. What's Papi going to do? Foul it to the back, that's what. Three years ago, that ball would've broken someone's windshield on Lansdowne.

- Papi grounds out to first but moves Youk to third. A real "kissing your cousin" moment.

- The first appearance of Adrian Beltre. Be nice to see him get Youk across the plate. He should do well in Fenway with the Monster.

- Beltre flies out to Granderson in center, but gets it as close to a homer as you can without doing it. Nevertheless, Youk crosses the plate and its 2-1 New York.

- JD Drew goes 0-2 in two pitches. You're kidding? Really? What a shock.

- Well, the Sox haven't been hitting CC per se. But they've been making him work. He's sweating already. That must be encouraging to Yankee fans. At this rate he'll need a defibrillator by the fifth.

- JD Drew strikes out to end the second. Color me completely unsurprised.


Top of the Third

- Between innings I've decided to call CC "Black Homer Simpson" (BHS) from now on. If he gets any chunkier he'll need a pitching wand because his fingers will be too fat to grip the ball.***

- Meanwhile, the much more svelte Beckett walks the first batter of the third. Beckett is doing a dead-on impression of John Wasdin right now. Sadly, it's not Halloween.

- Beckett had Teixeira at 1-2 and now runs the count full. But he gets Teixeira to chase ball four for a fly-out to shallow center. Better to be lucky than good, baby.

- And here's ARod. Who promptly grounds into a classic 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Nice...

- The once-upon-a-time Toyota spokesman got old and looks like he was stung in the face by 100 bees. Not good...


Bottom of the third

- BHS is breathing like he just finished the Ironman. It's the third inning. C'mon, man...that just isn't right.

- CC walks Cameron. Both pitchers just losing their stuff after the first inning.

- Remy and Orsillo tell us we have a "special" musical guest coming up later between the top and bottom of the eighth. What are the odds on it being Ronan Tynan? 5-1? 4-1?

- Wow. Scutaro lines out to ARod who picks Cameron off first for the double-play. Well, he sure made up for his weak-sister act to end the Yankee third. Of course, on the replay its obvious Cameron was safe. But such is life.

- Ellsbury up. Be nice to see him get on base so he can put his speed to use. I think he has it in him this year to hit 80 stolen bases.

- Ellsbury grounds out to end the third. But BHS hits 50 pitches after three innings. The sweat glands must be working overtime. Nothing a few sandwiches can't help.


Top of the Fourth

- Cano hits it into the left-field corner for a double. Ellsbury mis-times his jump for the ball. Left field in Fenway is not easy in the corner with the Monster and complete lack of foul territory. He'll make those outs in time, but it's a process.

- Posada grounds out and moves Cano to third.

- Beckett gets Granderson to ground out to first for the second out and keeps Cano at third. At the risk of jinxing the Sox, it looks like Beckett is slowly re-finding his groove.

- Too slowly. Swisher is looking to get Cano home and Beckett's breaking stuff is still all over the place. It's starting too far off the plate and not breaking enough to the left.

- Still, Beckett gets Swisher to chase a fastball to run the count full. But he misses with a third breaking pitch for the walk.

- Falls behind on Gardner 3-1. Beckett either has to get cracking on the breaking stuff or just pound the fastball. Beckett grabs the corner for a full count.

- Gardner gets the single and drives home Cano for the 3-1 lead. BHS is happy because he gets to chow down some more.

- Beckett goes inside on Jeter. I only wish he had meant to do that.

- Jeter gets a seeing-eye single past Scutaro to bring home Swisher home for the 4-1 lead. Forget that whole groove thing I wrote earlier.

- Remy bitching about Joe West not giving Beckett the corner. That's true to a point, but Beckett's stuff has just been mediocre tonight. His breaking stuff is crap.

- Good lord. Yanks pull off a double-steal to perfection and get their fifth run. But hey, Beckett gets the strikeout to end the fifth right after. Now that's what I call timing.

- The Yankees are now right where they want to be. Last year, once they got five runs they were near unstoppable. It will be interesting to see how Boston responds to this inning.


Bottom of the Fourth

- 21 minutes and six cannolis later, BHS takes the mound.

- Pedroia leads off the second.

- Pedey grounds to first and looks like he beats the flip to BHS on the bag. Replay shows Pedey beats the tag by a hair. But hey, looks like Joe Hernandez wants to screw the Sox over tonight. That's two calls he's screwed up at first that have gone against the Sox. I don't agree with the West criticism tonight, but Hernandez has been atrocious at first.

- By the way, Pedroia is not a speedster. So let's not get all excited about BHS lumbering over to first. Speed is relative, people.

- That blown call at first just sucked the life out of Fenway. At this point, as long as Yankee pitching doesn't throw a rod, the Yankees should win this.

- 1-2-3 fourth. Thanks Hernandez. Want to kick some babies in the larynx between innings to top it all off?


Top of the Fifth

- Look, Josh. West isn't giving you the corner tonight. He isn't giving it to BHS either. So adapt already, okay? God damned stubborn Texans...

- First Heidi Watney sighting of 2010. She's looking very...blonde.

- Josh gets the first two outs and then Cano lashes a hit to deep right that hits so hard that Drew gets it back in to hold Cano to a single. Love those.

- Beckett goes 2-0 on Posada as he hits 90 pitches in the fifth inning. Wow. It's like the Brian Rose Era all over again.

- Does it make anyone feel better that Beckett was lousy last April as well (2-2, 7.22 ERA)? Me neither.

- Hey, Beckett doesn't get the corner again and walks Posada. Who saw that coming? Oh, right, everyone!

- And here comes Scott Schoeneweis. 4.2 innings for Beckett along with five runs on eight hits...so far. Let's see if Scott can close this inning out.

- Well, a muffed pitch by V-Mart allows runners to move to second and third with two out. Not exactly a great Opening Night for Sox fans thus far.

- But Schoeneweis gets the strikeout to end the fifth without any damage.


Bottom of the Fifth

- Word is that between innings, Joe Hernandez drowned a couple of kittens in the Muddy River out in the Fens. And laughed while he did it.

- BHS wakes up from his nap for the fifth inning. It's fun to joke and all, but Chubsy-Ubsy is throwing a one-hitter through four and working with a nice lead. Still, it hasn't been a dominating outing for BHS. But when Beckett goes Wasdin, you don't have to be dominating.

- Papi pops out on a 3-1 fastball. That's two he has missed. It's not a good sign when your slugger can't tee off on a fastball.

- Beltre chases a low change-up for out number two. You can almost hear the grass growing in Fenway right now.

- Drew gets a two-out single. He makes it look so easy. WHY CAN'T YOU DO THAT MORE OFTEN????

- Cameron runs the count full and gets a single off BHS. Runners on first and second with two outs.

- Scutaro gets Boston's third single in a row. Drew comes home on a crap throw from Gardner that allows Cameron and Scutaro to advance a base. Second and third, two outs and Ellsbury coming to the plate with Boston down 5-2.

- Ellsbury has had a rough night. No hits and a botched fly ball in left.

- West suddenly decides to start giving the corner. BHS uses it twice to go 0-2 on Ellsbury. Thanks, West. Could have used that decision about three innings ago.

- Ellsbury leaves the runners on base with a called third strike. Still, Boston grabs another run and makes BHS sweat through his shirt.


Top of the Sixth

- Schoeneweis gets two quick outs and comes out for Ramirez, who gives up a first-pitch single to Jeter. Look, I understand the whole "left-right" thing. But Schoeneweis was rolling. Why not give him the third out?

- Nick Johnson flies out to end the inning. Wow...a pain free inning. Haven't seen one of those in over an hour.


Bottom of the Sixth

- BHS comes out to start the sixth and is approaching 90 pitches. This is when I believe they wheel out the portable oxygen tank.

- Pedroia walks on five pitches. Now, I think it's clear that BHS is starting to fade. How long with Girardi wait to go to the pen? Why risk your lead? On second thought...good plan, Joe!

- V-Mart laces a double down the left-field line. Runner on second and third with no outs. One cannoli too many for BHS.

- Youk comes up and Girardi leaves BHS in. Could this be a major mistake? The Fenway crowd is warming up. I don't know, but I am wagering that Aviv is screaming at Girardi through his TV screen right now to take out BHS.

- Youk calls time to get sweat out of his eyes. That's the downside of going bald - no natural mop-up material.

- YOUK!!!!!! A triple down the right-field line makes it 5-4 as Swisher seems to lope after it. Thanks, Girardi! Everyone could see BHS was on his last legs except you.

- And then Youk almost gets picked off third on a passed ball. Luckily, ARod wasn't on the bag so there was no throw.

- Another fastball, another foul from Papi. And BHS is still in the game. What is Girardi waiting for?

- Broken-bat ground out from Papi that keeps Youk stranded at third. And Girardi finally pulls BHS. Because this was the obvious time to do so...if you're clinically insane.

- Beltre with the single and we have a tie ballgame folks! Never doubted it for a second! Forget all that other talk.

- The Yanks escape without any more damage. But it's 5-5 going into the seventh. Now we see which bullpen can carry the day.


Top of the Seventh

- The happiest guy in Fenway right now? Beckett, who gets a no-decision for the night.

- Steven Tyler in the house for "God Bless America". He is officially in the "Creepy Looking Old Dude" phase of his life.

- Ramirez walks the first batter and then gives up a monster double to ARod. Second and third with no outs. Way to piss away the tie, Ramon!

- In the Battle of the Bullpens, New York takes the lead.

- Yanks get 6-5 lead on sac grounder. Right play by Pedroia.

- 7-5 with a single from Posada. Oki seems to have Ramon Ramirez Disease. Boston's pitching (with the notable exception of Schoeneweis) has pretty much failed them tonight.

- Good lord, Joe West's strike zone is about the size of a deck of playing cards.

- 5-4-3 to end the inning. Very nice. A good example of what Boston's defense can do. That wasn't an easy DP and it looked easy.

- Steven Tyler sings "God Bless America'" and shows why Steven Tyler shouldn't be singing "God Bless America"****


Bottom of the Seventh

- And Chan Ho Park starts off by almost decapitating Scutaro. This should be fun!

- Scutaro with the single. I missed you, CHP.

- Ellsbury goes 0-2. Rough, rough night.

- Strikes out. Oof.

- Neil Diamond in the eighth inning. If you care. Which I don't.

- PEDROIA!! Two-run blast for the 7-7 tie. Who can hit? Pedey can hit!

- CHAN HOOOOOO!!! Love you, baby.

- Full count to V-Mart. Suddenly, Francona's decision to throw Ramirez out instead of Atchison looks good.

- Youk wall-balls a double off the Monster. And Girardi once again waits too long to pull a pitcher.

- That outing was Chan-tastic!

- So that Youk... he can play, huh?

- Marte goes wild and Youk moves to third. A single puts Boston in front. C'mon Papi!!

- Again!! Another wild pitch and Youk comes home for the 8-7 lead. Another unpredictable Boston-New York matchup.

- As a pitcher, Marte is mediocre. But he could clean up on the lawn bowling circuit.

- Here's comes Joba, the Reliever Who Wanted to Be a Starter.

- Joba gets the third out, but Boston leads 8-7.



Top of the Eighth

- It's Boston's next closer, Daniel Bard.

- Neil Diamond singing before Boston's half. If you care. Which I don't.

- Bard gets Gardner to ground out for the first out.

- Bard 2-0 to Jeter. Big at-bat here.

- Bard gets Jeter for the second out.

- Johnson walks. Once again, the Sox cannot close the deal with two outs.

- Teixeira up. Big moment for Bard. And he comes through. Bard showing some maturity here.

- Bard is the 21st Century version of Dick Radatz. Except his slider won’t end his career early.

- And Diamond comes out to kill momentum. I blame you pink hats for this garbage.

- He has a blazer that says "Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn." How very timely. I’m going to start petitioning to make sure the Braves don’t leave Boston.



Bottom of the Eighth

- Peter Abraham just twittered that the biggest cheer of the night was for Diamond. Kill. Me. Now. God damned pink hats...

- Papelbon warming up for the ninth. I don't feel particularly comforted by that fact.

- Cameron works Joba to get a single. Man on first with one out.

- Joba goes 3-2 on Scutaro. Cameron going on the pitch.

- Walk.

- Ellsbury... NOW is the time.

- Guess not.

- Pedroia gets the insurance run with a single as Cameron turns on the jets to score. Joba picks up relieving where he left off starting.

- What power outage?

- Joba double bluffs on the pickoff. Best part of his game.


Top of the Ninth

- Here comes Paps. By the way, Joba Chamberlain needs to get his head straight. What a mess.

- ARod up first. Paps gets the grounder to third on two pitches.

- Ellsbury hoovers up a Cano fly to left-center. Two outs.

- Posada gets a single. Crafty grandpa.

- Granderson could make it interesting.

- 0-2. Finish it, Paps.

- Beltre shows his awesome fielding powers for the final out. Sox win a doozy 9-7. And it isn't even midnight yet!

- Beckett looked bad and the bullpen was mixed, but the fielding was good and Boston’s hitting was damned solid. And not every umpire will call a strike zone as small as Joe West’s. In other games, Beckett will get those strikes. Bottom line, the Sox beat the Yanks to kick off 2010. Works for me.

-----------

* Go on, defend one of the other ones. You Yankee fans know he got the early ones on name recognition.

** It's still one of the most baffling managerial decisions made in recent memory. Of course, Girardi did a lousy job of managing the pitchers tonight...

*** The only way this could get better is if Sabathia broke out a mumu. Or just starts eating things between pitches.

**** If you missed this, I cannot describe just how bad Tyler was. It was embarrassing. Just a painful experience all the way around.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

And Now A Word From George Steinbrenner

Last June, as the Yankees hit rock bottom following their eighth straight loss to the Red Sox, I held a seance and contacted the "spirit" of owner George M. Steinbrenner III.

With the 2010 season and the quest for Championship No. 28 set to start tonight at Fenway Park, The Boss' spirit has asked to address the team and Yankee Universe yet again.

He is, afterall, the Boss, so here you go:

...

Men, a season ago you made me, our fans and our city very proud. Despite a difficult start to the season, you dug deep, fought hard and showed the perseverance that has become synonymous with our great city.

The result was World Championship No. 27 in the Yankees' illustrious history.

But a new season is upon us and it is time to put the glory of last season in the past. We are the New York Yankees and the expectations don't change. Your mission, men, is to bring back to New York yet another championship.

This is what I expect, what our fans expect and what our city expects. Anything less is unacceptable.

Our general manager, Brian Cashman, has gone out an improved our team, providing you with all you need to bring back that title. Cash has improved our defense, provided more pitching depth, strengthened our bullpen, and has done it all without weakening the best offense in the game. Make no mistake, men, you have all the talent and tools to win it all again.

And under the leadership of our manager Joe Girardi, our fans and I expect you will put those tools to good use and to maximize your talent.

Men, I have great faith in you and I expect you to go out and show the world what this team is made of. Go out and make us proud.

Let's get going. The season is about to begin. Let's go out and bring World Championship No. 28 back to New York. That's what I want.

...


And there you have it. A missive from The Boss (sort of), at his inspirational best.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Built For The Grind...And Beating The Yankees

The 2009 Boston Red Sox season was one that ended in disappointment. Not only did they lose to an Anaheim Angels team that many people thought they should have been able to beat in the ALDS, but the hated Yankees added another championship to their name. Not exactly the way we fans wanted things to end.


That will change this year.


Rather than over-react to what happened and pursue every big bat and big name in the free agent market, Theo Epstein and company went out with a plan. The first part was to bolster the pitching rotation, which was decimated by injuries last year. Adding John Lackey to the rotation not only gave Boston the best front three in the game today, but it also weakened a potential post-season rival. Never mind that now the Sox don't have to face him any more...Lackey was a pain in the ass.


The nay-sayers will point out that Lackey hasn't pitched 200+ innings or started 30+ games in the last two years. Both points are true, but Lackey isn't being asked to lead the rotation now. He's also only 30 years old and in his prime. Is there a better #3 pitcher in the game today? No.


The front three of Beckett, Lester and Lackey more than matches up with New York's trio of Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte*. The real question comes at the back end. I'd give Buchholz the edge over Hughes right now only because Buchholz has more experience as a starter and proved himself finally capable of starting in 2009. The real question is whether Wakefield/Matsuzaka or Vazquez will do more for their team in 2010.


Vazquez pitched well with the White Sox in 2007-08 and with the Braves in 2008-09. And although he is atrocious lifetime against the Red Sox (2-7, 4.23 ERA, 1.394 WHIP, 11 G), he can pitch in the AL. Wakefield was one of the best pitchers in the AL over the first half of 2009. He's also been one of the most steady in recent memory, winning 10+ games in six of the last seven years. But he has broken down in the second half of the season the last two years. Matsuzaka seemed to regain his skills over the final few games of 2009 but every game he pitches is an adventure in walks and run prevention. How these pitchers perform for their teams will go a long way to determining how the season goes for the Yankees and Sox respectively.


The Sox bullpen, annually one of the best in the game, will continue to be so...with one large question. Boston strengthened their pen with last-minute addition Scott Schoeneweis and stole a march on the rest of the MLB with getting Scott Atchison into camp early and onto the roster. The reliable Hideki Okajima returns along with promising youngster Daniel Bard. Hot-and-cold Manny Delcarmen will look to become more consistent and finally grow into his considerable natural talent.


And then there is Paps.


Yes, he had 38 saves. He had a 1.85 ERA. But he also imploded in the post-season and looked shaky in the regular season. His final numbers masked what was a very uneven season for Papelbon. Frankly, Papelbon was a little lucky in the regular season and his luck finally ran out in the ALDS. If he can return to his historic dominant self, all the better for Boston. If not, then the Sox will have trouble getting through the post-season once again.


On the field, the Sox have assembled a group that will be one of the best defensive teams in Boston's history. They have Gold Gloves at first (Youk), second (Pedroia) and third (Beltre) along with Mike Cameron in center. Moving Ellsbury to left cuts down the amount of ground he has to cover and maximizes his prodigious speed. Marco Scutaro at short (while I still question his ability to hit like he did in 2009) brings a top-notch glove to the position. This team is very much built for run-prevention.


And that was the right call.


Many people (Aviv among them) have said that Boston's big problem is that they don't have enough power. They won't be able to produce enough with their lineup. That they will be overwhelmed by New York's hitting.


Ummm...no. First off, to try and compete with New York based on their strength would have been suicide. There is no way, even if Boston had kept Bay and added another bat, that the Sox would have been able to out-slug the Yankees. New York is a power team built for a park that rewards that power.


That is also their weakness. If you can neutralize their run-production, they become a much easier team to beat..."easier" being a relative term when it comes to New York. But last year, when held to four runs or less, New York went 25-44. Once they hit that five run mark, the Yankees became near unstoppable. So to try and outslug the Yankees is madness. The trick is to hold them down. And that is what Boston's team is built to do. Last year's problem wasn't run-production, it was defense.


Second, the idea that Boston is "power-challenged" in their lineup is a bit of a myth. True, they aren't stacked with guys that crack 40+ homers each and every year. But they do have six batters capable of hitting 20+ homers. And run-production as a sign of a team's ability to win is somewhat inaccurate. Boston's 2007 championship team scored fewer runs than the 2009 version. New York's 2007 team produced 53 more runs that their title-winning team last year.


The time-worn phrase we hear in relation to football is "Offense sells tickets; Defense wins championships." Well, I believe that by-and-large applies to baseball as well.Yes, you do need offense; Toronto has one of the best fielding teams over the last two years and they haven't won squat. But combine an offense that can generate at least 850 runs with a defense that doesn't give away runs to their opponents and you have the makings for a team that can make a run at the title. Boston will have both those elements this year.


Of course, the Yankees will be the big obstacle for Boston this year. And while they got stronger on paper in their rotation (Vazquez), lineup (Nick Johnson) and in the field (Granderson), their path to a repeat isn't easy. It's hard as hell to be a repeat champion in baseball, probably more than any other game. You can have all the talent in the world, but without lucky breaks along the way you won't win. And there is another reason.


Sooner or later, age has to start telling with some of their players. Posada is 38. Jeter will be 36 mid-season. A-Rod will be 35 in July. Pettitte will be 38. Mo Rivera is around 142 but apparently he was born on Krypton because his age doesn't matter. But these are key players who have excelled year-after-year but are approaching ages where their production should start to fade. New York has to hope that doesn't happen if they want to even come close to competing for the title again in 2010.


So who will win the AL East? Either New York or Boston, with the other team as the wild-card. Tampa has too many questions in their bullpen even with a new closer. Toronto and Baltimore are still years away from competing, although Baltimore could be interesting.


As for a title...history would dictate it won't be the Yankees. And the Sox are built for a 162-game grind, to win the close games and neutralize the power other teams will bring against them. Bats can slump, while gloves don't...unless your name is Chuck Knoblauch**.


Get ready for your third title in seven years, Sox fans.


------------------------


* Look for Lester to be a dark horse Cy candidate this year. He should have gotten a couple of votes last year.


** Too soon?

The Quest Begins Anew

The toughest thing in sports just may be to repeat a championship.

The last time it happened in baseball, the 1998-2000 Yankees. Before that? The 1992-93 Blue Jays. And before that? The 1977-78 Yankees.

That's because unless you're the UConn women's basketball team, you not only have to be very good, you also have to catch enough breaks and avoid injury. In other words: You need to be a little bit lucky.

You also need to avoid that plague known as complacency.

So can the Yankees repeat in 2010?

Count on it.

There is a reason the Yankees have won 27 World Championships in their illustrious history: They expect to win -- every year. And a title doesn't change that expectation. Not for the Steinbrenner family. Not for Brian Cashman. Not for Joe Girardi. And certainly not for Derek Jeter and the rest of the players.

The Yankees enter this season younger, more athletic, deeper and with fewer questions than they had at any point last season, including Game 6 of the World Series.

Cashman, while staying off a weak free agent market, nonetheless had a very busy winter reconstructing and improving the roster.

Gone as free agents are Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, who played key roles in winning last season's titles, but whose age and injury troubles were starting to make them liabilities.

Could Damon and and Matsui have helped this year? If they stayed healthy, yes. But that's a big if. And in the long run, its the right move. There's an axiom in baseball that it's better to get rid of a player a year too early, than a year too late. This was the right time to move on.

To replace them, the Cashman brought in Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson, two players who will come close to replacing Damon's and Matsui's offense, while Granderson will significantly upgrade the outfield defense. No longer do we have to be concerned about Damon's pop-gun arm and declining ability to chase down fly balls.

And even though the Yankees will be starting light-hitting Brett Gardner in left, they have more than enough firepower to cover for that deficiency. Remember, the Yankees actually won a championship with Chad Curtis in left.

Cashman also found some much needed depth for the starting rotation. Throughout the playoffs, the Yankees went with three starters, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, and survived, thanks in part to an ALCS schedule that provided an extra day off between Games 4 and 5 and weather that threatened to rain out several games, but held off.

The reality is Girardi had no choice. Joba Chamberlain was never going to available to start in the playoffs, no matter how foolishly the Yankees tried. And the Yankees didn't give Chad Gaudin consistent enough work to make him a viable starting option.

But the Yankees shouldn't have to worry about that now. Cashman gave up Melky Cabera -- a solid and clutch contributor -- to bring in Javier Vazquez, who has pitched more than 200 innings in nine of the last 10 season, falling just short in his previous stint with the Yankees in 1994, when a sore pitching arm hampered him in the second half and playoffs.

Dave and other Sox fans can point to Vazquez's 2-7 career record with a 4.23 ERA against the Sox and snicker, but if last year taught us anything, it's not to get too hung up on past performance.

Remember, Sabathia couldn't beat the Sox or win in the postseason. Burnett also was supposed to be a Red Sox killer. Neither was the case last season.

Vazquez gives the Yankees another veteran arm and strikeout pitcher, who will give the team a strong chance to win every fifth day against every opponent.

Meanwhile, the Yankees' biggest weakness at the start of last season has become one of its biggest strengths. The bullpen is deep, defined and balanced with Mariano Rivera, of course, anchoring the closer role and Joba Chamberlain set to reprise the eighth-inning role that made him a rock star when he burst onto the scene in 2007. In addition, David Robertson has become a reliable and versatile middle reliever with Alfredo Aceves a weapon as a long reliever. Damaso Marte showed what he can as the left-handed specialist during the playoffs.

That leaves the Yankees with just two questions: Can they avoid injuries and will they catch enough breaks?

The reality is every team -- no matter how young the roster -- faces those questions and no one can answer them. The season just has to play out.

But we know this, the Yankees' rivals have many more questions to answer this season. Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have to be wondering if they have enough offense and power after an offseason devoted to improving their pitching and defense, while allowing arguably their best power hitter in Jason Bay to leave via free agency.

And the Rays, while young, athletic, talented and hungry after missing out on the playoffs last season, still have questions to answer about their bullpen, albeit improved, and a rotation that lacks a proven ace.

So as we sit here at the start of a new season, I predict the Yankees will once again win the AL East and capture World Championship No. 28. And really? Is that any sort of a surprise? I think not.

Here's the surprise, the Rays will win the wild card and reach the ALCS (I picked the Sox to take the wild card last year). The Red Sox's lack of power will prove too be a bigger problem than Theo Epstein, Terry Francona and Co. are expecting. And any deadline deal will prove to be too little, too late.

Now let's play ball.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Scott Atchison Makes The Team

In a nice feel-good story, 34-year-old Scott Atchison made the Red Sox Opening Day roster. Atchison had pitched in Japan previously and put up some awesome numbers. He continued that trend in Spring Training, posting a 1.50 ERA in 10 appearances.


What makes it a feel-good story is why Atchison came back to the US. His daughter Callie has a rare illness and Atchison wanted his daughter to be closer to her hospital for her treatment. So all this was for his daughter. With my own situation, I was pulling extra hard for Atchison but didn't want to jinx it by talking about it. Because, as a Red Sox fan, I am convinced that anything I do or say could affect the Red Sox in a tangible and likely negative fashion.


Congratulations, Scott.