Friday, June 18, 2004

Luck 'o' the Mullet

Sometimes all it takes is one game to shake of the fan malaise and frustration, last night was just such a game.

Lowe allowed only one fly ball out in seven dominating, shutout innings in an 11-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies that allowed the Red Sox [stats, schedule] to avoid being swept in the interleague series (Horrigan, Herald).

No, this doesn't mean everything will be rosy from here on out, but at least I know I won't be metaphorically taking the bat to the dugout water cooler as in frustration I lash out at coworkers or let feeble criticisms of my team, of my writing style, get under my skin.

More good news, Steve Bonner of The Midnight Hour blog (She cried more, more, more?) has heroically stepped up to the plate to answer my recent plea to see some stats on teams leaving men on base. Guess what? The Red Sox do not lead that infamous category. Do check it out for yourself.

Elsewhere, Will Carroll (the guy Steve Silva once referred to as a "megalomaniac" … but aren't we all?) opines,

If the Yankees are indeed the “Evil Empire” - and they aren’t - might the Cubs rather than the Red Sox be the Rebel Alliance? …
While the Red Sox try to position themselves as the white knights (to add a midieval metaphor), they enjoy much of the same advantages if not the unbridled lust to win.

Silly Willy, this is wrongheaded on several counts.

First, if you don't understand why Red Sox fans perceive the Yankees as the "Evil Empire" then you don't really comprehend the dynamic. (It's a Red Sox thing, you wouldn't understand.)

Next, Chicagoans are just too laid back to seriously do battle with New York, they lack the intensity and most probably lack the fan neurosis and insanity necessary to storm the ramparts when out manned and outgunned year after year. (We get close way more often than the Cubs, let's face it.)

Finally, the fact that Boston is so similar to New York in terms of payroll, etc. is exactly why they are anointed ones to battle the evil. That was the ultimate lesson of Star Wars after all. Darth Vader was Luke's father. The line between good and evil is razor thin. And players (e.g., Clemens, Boggs) flip to the dark side as naturally as Anakin did. I suspect some fans to as well. We, Yankees and Red Sox fans, are cut from the same cloth, we are blood relatives, which is why we hate each other so much.

Back to the Dirt Dogs, Silva is at it again, thankfully, and has another scoop: "Curt to Skip Tuesday Start." And now the song and dance begins as everyone, including Schilling denies the veracity of the claim.

Whatever the outcome, in hindsight, Dave Pinto is the one who seems to be thinking outside the box on the matter of Schilling's ankle,

So the Red Sox have a pitcher with an injured ankle. His out pitch doesn't work well at this park. It's a really lousy weather night (game time temp, 48 °F). Did anyone think, "Let's have Schilling skip this start and send him against the Giants on Friday." A game at Coors is likely to be won in a slugfest anyway, and a long reliever can get hammered just as easily as a number one starter (Baseball Musings).

Now here's some non baseball related "inanity" that is sure to get some interloping readers fired up, this morning walking the the dog I saw a guy driving a beat up Chevy pickup, smoking a Marlboro, and sporting one of the most fantastic mullets I've ever seen. Totally long, way past his shoulders in the back, but with the top part looking like some sort of conk, i.e., as if he'd tried to chemically straighten the natural curls out such that he was left with stretched, flatter, yet still curly hair.

Now we all have our bizarre good luck charms, and for me, it's seeing some guy with a killer mullet. I don't know what this is. I don't want to know why. It just is. This could bode well for the Red Sox or it could just bode well for me. For instance, maybe I'll find a $20 bill on the pavement or something. Who knows? But it's a good omen for sure.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

"Expecto Patronum!"

If Harry Potter were a Red Sox fan (and perhaps he is, why not?), his scar would be causing him acute pain right now as Voltebrenner slowly gains more and more power, and the Dementors begin to close in, sucking all the good memories and joy out of one's Red Sox soul, leaving only the horrific and cynical …

The loss dropped the Sox a season-high 5 1/2 games back in the American League East as the surging Yankees cruised past the Diamondbacks, 9-4, in Arizona.…

Schilling's encounter at hitter-friendly Coors was a 113-pitch case study in misery as he surrendered seven runs (five earned) on nine hits, four walks, and a hit batsman. He had allowed more than nine hits only once this season (a 13-hit thumping by the Blue Jays April 22). He had not walked four batters in a game since April 17 against the Yankees. And he had not hit a batter since April 11 against the Jays (Hohler, Globe).

When the Death Eaters are in the vicinity, good thoughts are hard to come by, and conflict among those on the same side of the struggle of good versus evil arises,

"I can't win - 21 ABs (for Pawtucket) but no, `You're faking it' and `Cmon, what are you waiting for?' Then I come back, they are still going to say `See - he sucks. He's not good. You were bad last year, you're bad this year.' It's a no-win situation. They should just be glad I'm back." — Nomar Garciaparra

I thought ballplayers didn't read the papers or listen to talk radio (The Daily Howlers, so to speak)?

Time to start practicing your patronus spells, people, else the Dementors give us the kiss of death.

Totally off topic (and at 5.5 games back, off topic is sometimes just what's needed), I bought one of those fancy Sonicare electric toothbrushes yesterday. Wow! If my mouth feels so unbelievably good and fresh that were it a ballclub, it'd be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the hottest team in baseball at the moment.

The Rays are 17-6 in their past 23 games, the best stretch of 20 or more games in franchise history. Their overall record of 27-34 is the team's best after 61 games (Gaddis, Tampa Bay Tribune).

Those guys and their fans have to feeling pretty good these days. Wish I could say the same (well, my Sonicare flushed mouth can, but not my Red Sox heart.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I'm Having Anxiety Issues

Is there anyone the least bit surprised that the Rockies ended their 8 game losing streak against the Red Sox after all the hubris expressed yesterday?

This was no place for a 25-year-old without courage to be: bases loaded, none out in the fifth inning, with the Red Sox hitters staring from the dugout with dropped fangs. Then something strange happened for a team that has been baseball's worst since August. Kennedy took the ball, and became Indiana Jones, escaping without allowing a single run (Renck, Denver Post).

So what happened? Here's one take:

"They didn't play like a team that had just lost eight in a row," Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon said. "They played like you have to to win" (Renck).

And the Red Sox played like your Red Sox and your momma's Red Sox and your grandpa's Red Sox and your lost great uncle from the old country Luigi's Red Sox, that is, they left xn players on base.

As the late President Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, "Well, there you go again."

This from "mr guido" at SoSH is amusing (in a noir sort of way):

It's time for the public voting to name the 2005 Red Sox Movie:
A. Left 'em Loaded: The Boston Red Sox Movie
B. Kings of LOB: The Boston Red Sox Movie
C. My Kingdom For a @#%$ Hit With Runners In Scoring Position: The Boston Red Sox Movie

And this from another poster is something we've all thought: "I've always felt there should be a stat for Runners Squandered (RSQ) … I'm sure the Red Sox are at the top of the list every year."

Seriously, I wonder exactly where the Red Sox fall in such a category. For all my life it has seemed like they leave more men on base than any other team, but is that observation biased by our Red Sox myopia? Do other teams do this just as often but we miss it?

Where are the stats? Somebody get me the [expletive] stats!

Speaking of stats and skewed personal observations, did you catch this from sabermetrician Dave Pinto:

The two things I see from this [win shares] data is that Youkilis is generating wins at twice the rate of Pokey Reese. When you're in second, 3 1/2 [make that 4 1/2]games back, generating wins is the most important thing to do! The second thing I see is that Reese and Bellhorn are about even in defense. Reese should be ahead due to the fact that he's been playing short most of the year, which gives you a bonus in win shares. So the fact that they're that close tells me that Bellhorn has been doing a good job at 2nd base.

Right now, the lineup that will give the Red Sox the best chance of winning has Youkilis at third and Bellhorn at 2nd. Use Pokey when Lowe pitches or as a late inning defensive replacement. But don't start him everyday just because he makes a spectacular play once in a while.


Much will become clearer tonight, perhaps crystal clear by tomorrow.

The Big Curt will put his bruised right ankle to the test again and find out how well it responds to pitching out of the stretch and off the rubber. Then he'll take another MRI for confirmation of its status (Silverman, Herald).

Forget the Rolaids, I'm having anxiety issues. Pass me a double dose of Xanax, my liver be damned.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Master and Commander

OK, so it seems that I'm definitely in the minority in being cautiously optimistic rather than exuberant (to use some Alan Greenspan speak) over the Red Sox fortunes on this 15th day of June as reader comments from yesterday can attest. Hell, even the typically iconoclastic with regard to good cheer Boston print media is drinking from a half full tumbler of absinthe.

Sixty-two games down, precisely 100 still to play. And so as the Red Sox step into the helium tank known as Coors Field, there is more reason to feel optimistic for them than at any other point during this 2004 season.

… While some [who me?]have focused unnecessarily on the sizzling New York Yankees [stats, schedule] - it's beating them in October that is important, remember - the Sox got Garciaparra back from the disabled list. Then came Williamson. And tomorrow night at Coors, with right-hander Jason Jennings due to face the Sox, the rock-jawed Nixon is expected to be back in right field (Massarotti, Herald).

And nascent big media blogger Eric Wilbur of the Globe has gone giddy with anticipation:

Meanwhile, the last time the Rockies were at home, they dropped three out of four to the Giants, with scores of 13-7, 11-2, 16-4, and 10-5. Only the Expos have a worse record than the Rockies, and that, my friends, is a field that includes the Devil Rays, who just swept these Rockies over the weekend. That’s not a misprint. The Devil Rays.

I'm all for it, though, I will confess that I get a bit spooked when folks start suggesting an opposing club is going to be cake walk to beat. For then, if things don't go as we'd hoped in our hippity hopeful heads, the situation always feels exponential worse than it would sans the hope hype.

But I am feeling full of it myself. How not with a genuine Captain Jack Aubrey steering our good Red Sox ship?

"If we have a trade that we think will help us this year, but if the price is too much in terms of prospects, we'll work to make the price right, and if we can't, we just won't do the deal. We're not going to blow up the farm system. Will we trade a piece here or there? Yes, maybe we'll trade a guy the other team likes more than we do, but we're not going to move the guys that we really, really like." — Theo Epstein

Meanwhile, here's the fictional Capt. Jack Aubrey doing the positive visualization thing regarding his fighting vessel:

The Surprise is not old. No one would call her old. She has a bluff bow, lovely lines. She's a fine sea bird - weatherly, stiff and fast. Very fast. If she's well handled. No, she's not old. She's in her prime.

The same can be said about the Old Towne Team, no?

Remember the scene in Master and Commander when Aubrey is rallying the sailors? Here's a little variation:

Q: You wanna see MTV's TRL in Quincy Market?
Sox Fans: NO!

Q: Wanna call Steinbrenner your King?
Sox Fans: NO!

Q: Do you want your children to sing "New York, New York"?
Sox Fans: NO!

Onward we sail to'ard the blood red harvest moon of October!

Monday, June 14, 2004

So Tonight We Gonna, We Gonna

Pedro Martinez said regarding his pitching performance last night against the Dodgers that he "didn't feel quite as well as the last one," but watching him from the vantage point of my living room couch, he looked every bit as good to me, each pitch making giving me the same feeling I had back in the "old" days.

Dirt Dogs best headline ever was "We're Gonna Petey Like It's 1999," and that couldn't be more applicable than at the present.

Staked to the lead for the first time in the game, Martinez worked his way through the seventh without allowing another run. The resurgent right-hander stranded a runner at third base in the fifth and got an inning-ending double play in the sixth, then escaped a somewhat unsettling seventh thanks to the defensive wizardry of Reese (Massarotti).

Speaking of Reese, this encapsulates the sentiment and scene in a hundred thousand living rooms (Red Sox) nation wide:

There's nothing like one of those moments where you and everyone in the room with you gawps in disbelief at the television and, after a pause for incredulity, shouts out "HOLY ****" in unison.

That's what Pokey Reese brought into the ol' living room tonight, as he climbed some sort of invisible staircase known elsewhere only to Michael Jordan to deny Dodgers' outfielder Dave Roberts a base hit into the gap in right with two men on base and a flagging Pedro on the mound (Beth, Cursed and First).

And we are just in the early stages of our collective love affair with Pokey Reese.

Meanwhile, can you believe that none other than Johnny Damon leads the AL in "defensive win shares." Not bad for a an outfielder who is oft described by non politically correct Red Sox fans as "throwing like a girl."

But despite all the above, I'm restless (and I'm not the only one) and on edge as a fan. This is starting to feel like 2002 when the Red Sox were a very good club, yet so were the A's, the Angels, and so was some other team from that dingy borough somewhere south of Connecticut.