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Home » Monthly Archive » October 2005

October 31, 2005

General Mismanagement

Could we get a Sane Person to Red Sox Fan translator? Because I’m hearing this talk about Theo Epstein “resigning,” as in leaving, and I’m pretty sure they actually mean “re-signing,” as in extending Epstein’s contract. Because that’s what Dan Shaughnessy said on October 30th in the esteemed, impartial Boston Globe; it was all but a done deal yesterday. Shaughnessy and the Globe are not shills for the Red Sox front office as Tony Massarotti claims. Right? Right?

Late this afternoon, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald broke the story that Epstein was walking away from the Red Sox’s 3-year, $4.5M offer in large part because he was disturbed by Shaughnessy’s Sunday column. Epstein felt it revealed too many of the intimate details of the negotiations and that it reeked of a leak by Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. In Silverman’s article, sources close to the 31-year old former GM said that he was satisfied the money, term, and organizational details of the contract. However, the article signaled to Epstein that the deal was negotiated in bad faith by Lucchino.

Lennie Briscoe, portrayed by the now-departed Jerry Orbach, was my favorite character from “Law & Order” and he also uttered a classic line from the series: “I want to go to law school so I can learn how to turn gold into lead.” Lucchino, the antithesis of King Midas, continues to try and turn our memories of the championship into figments of the past rather than a foundation for the future. He is aided by Shaughnessy, who plays the role of Silenus, the chief satyr whom Midas granted hospitality in exchange for the satyr’s wondrous tales.

I’m probably not alone in thinking that I’d much prefer Epstein’s services for the next few years rather than reams of Shaughnessy columns or reels of Lucchino press conferences. The former are coldly calculated inklings of a man determined to live off the misery of others while the latter are the delusory diatribes designed to circumvent responsibility.

My impression of the situation is that the ownership group was trying to avert a situation where Epstein would have too great an influence in the organization. Much as Joe Torre’s championship run has imbued him with an air of invulnerability, Epstein’s accomplishments, both real and attributed, have vaulted him into the stratosphere of Boston sports lore. Why feed yet another ego, one that carries with it World Series cachet, when you can hire, say, a just-dismissed Paul DePodesta, who will likely be malleable and willing to toe the company line? Just as the statistical-based approach of running a team removes the chimera of chemistry from the mix, getting another GM as versed in number crunching as Epstein will prove just as successful.

At least, that is what we’re all hoping.

October 28, 2005

Rethinking Agency

Step Up to the Mike
The title of this post may give literature, philosophy, or social science majors some bad flashbacks to the postmodernist authors articles they had to wade through. It did me.

Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal reported that Mike Timlin and the Red Sox came to a tentative agreement for him to return for the 2006 season in a deal worth approximately $3.5M. He’ll likely end his career with Boston, especially given Terry Francona’s tendency to overuse him. The Red Sox are most likely going to return the veteran righty to the role of set-up pitcher for Keith Foulke.

Catacorner Conundrum
Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller, the pair whose names confused us when they were signed prior to the 2003 season, both filed for free agency yesterday. My wish would be that Mueller retired with the Red Sox, but such a thing seems unlikely. My other wish is for Millar to retire, but if he does not, I hope that whichever organization picks him up will have the foresight and good judgment to have his access to the media curtailed.

Cars Not Bombs
GreenvillelogoThe Class A affliate of the Red Sox in Greenville, South Carolina has changed its name from the “Bombers ” to the “Greenville Drive. ” I’m not a fan of the abstract nicknames that have been the vogue lately, but I suppose there are only so many savage carnivores and ethnic slurs to go around.

Theodolite: Its Uses and Abuses
No, it’s not the name of a new cult that has sprung up around the Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, a theodolite is “an optical instrument consisting of a small mounted telescope rotatable in horizontal and vertical planes, used to measure angles in surveying, meteorology, and navigation. ” In other words, nothing that will help gauge the progress of the talks between Epstein and the Red Sox, which according to Gordon Edes and Chris Snow, appear to be close to a deal acceptable to all parties. Assistant general manager Josh Byrnes will probably take a job in the arid Arizona Diamondbacks organization and will likely be replaced by current assistant to the general manager Jed Hoyer.

Our Goliath
Prior to Game 4, David Ortiz of the AL and Andruw Jones of the NL accepted their Hank Aaron awards in recognition of their outstanding offensive production this past season. An amazing 89,809 fans voted for the Red Sox designated hitter, which was 42% of the total AL votes. Many baseball writers consider the DH to be less important than position players, the implication being that being a good hitter doesn’t require the same commitment. Ortiz said, “It takes a lot of concentration and a lot of hard work to get to that level. I guess it’s been working the right way for me, and I’m going to want to keep it that way.”

October 27, 2005

Red-Letter Day

Happy world championship anniversary, fellow fans. Just a year ago today, everything changed. The sun shone brighter, the air seemed fresher. Things fell into sharp focus, touched with a clarity never before seen, not even on the most expensive high definition television available. My life did not change, but I learned that the gulf between what you are told is impossible and what is actually achievable is only as small or large as you make it.

Of the Red Sox, Darin Erstad said, “These boys are winning the World Series, by the way.” His team had been swept by the Red Sox in three games, including an extra innings affair that sustained the lore of David Ortiz. The last game of the ALDS had Ortiz wrenching victory from the clutches of defeat yet again with his 2-run homer in the 10th. Despite their rousing divisional series performance, however, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park down 0-2 in the ALCS.

On the same evening as Game 3 my friends got married. For the first time I attended a Jewish wedding ceremony, an event that I played a small role in by holding the chuppa and assisting with the layout of the ketubbah. My friends, although they had scheduled the wedding in the midst of baseball’s postseason, knew well enough that there was a pivotal game that night and that I wouldn’t miss it. They understood when I bade them well somewhat early and rushed home from their reception so I could watch the opening ceremonies for the first home game of the series. Had I known the Cowsills would be part of the game’s festivities and the results of that game, I probably would have willingly chosen to participate in all manner of embarrassing dances and behaviors concomitant with receptions.

There was a haiku thread on the Royal Rooters message board initiated by Johnny of Love of Sox that chronicled the 2004 season in concentrated bursts of words. With my team down 0-3, 17 syllables of thought was the outside limit of what I could muster.

For a team that has some faith-
Word has no meaning.
October 17, 2004 at 10:14 AM

I sounded confident in that verse. I wasn’t. At that point, I was hoping the Red Sox weren’t going to get swept, plain and simple. I woke up early that Sunday morning and slouched dumbfounded in front of my computer for a long while, waiting for a coherent thought to coalesce. Those three lines were the result.

Sunday, October 17th was a nervous day. Somehow I had made it to game time almost emotionally intact. It’s difficult to write about the waves of anguish and jubilance of the next games. It seemed certain that Boston would lose in Games 4 and 5, a set of games that were a recursion of the postseason run itself. Just as three outs make an inning and 9 innings comprise a game, or how the regular season is divided into thirds and the post season into three series; the repeating of patterns seen at every stratum.

Special hightop cleat
Is the method to avert
“Walking disaster”
October 19, 2004 at 9:16 AM

By the coming of Game 6 I was giddy. My co-workers, all casual fans but enthusiastic, looked to me for some sort of guidance. I thought I should maintain some level of decorum, unlike Gary Sheffield, who conveniently provided bulletin board material with his rantings. So, to them, I obscured my delerium with platitudes: “They have to take it one game at a time.” “Schilling’s not in too much pain, so it’s possible for him to get in some innings.” “They’ll have to turn it over to Arroyo if Curt can’t continue.” “Foulke’s not your typical closer, so he can go longer than others.” But inside me roiled a maelstrom of emotions, most of which were pushing me perilously close to the land of the faithful. It’s not a place I visit often, unlike Schilling, who is one of the evangelical Chritians of that team.

A special shoe was constructed by Reebok for Schilling, customized to hold his capricious tendon in place. Schilling didn’t have enough range of movement in that hightop, however, so he submitted himself to a novel tendon-stapling surgery. Team physician Joe Morgan practiced on a cadaver before attempting the same operation on the starting right-handed pitcher. Seeing Curt Schilling on the mound with his slapdash ankle fix convinced me that there would be no way that his team would disappoint.

On October 27, 2004, my every baseball wish was fulfilled in a manner most improbable. The game that had mellowed my summers since I moved here in 1997 had finally gifted me with everything I could request. And yet, baseball was still over and I would miss it. I was struck by a pang of loss despite the title. I feared that the little details that made up the totality of the season would dissipate with time. So, this is why I chronicled the past season here.

Happy anniversary, and may there be many more memories for us all to share.

It Is So

World Series Game 4: October 26, 2005
White Sox (4-0), 1
Astros (0-4), 0

W: Freddy Garcia (1-0)
H: Cliff Politte (3)

H: Neal Cotts (2)
S: Bobby Jenks (2)
L: Brad Lidge (0-2)
White Sox win the series 4-0

I have to break down and admit it: this White Sox team reminded me more of the 2004 Red Sox than I care to admit, and not just in the superficial “hey, they both finally won it all and have similar names” ways that you will hear ad infinitum in the mainstream media for months to come. I believe this is why my resistance to them has been so strong: I did not, do not, want to accept that there could be a team that was as inspiring and singular as last year’s Red Sox. Especially since this year’s version played the role of the Angels, which was not the most dignified manner to defend the championship. In retrospect, both Sox teams heated up when they needed to and for a sustained period, relished the role of the underdog, hit in a timely fashion, trotted out quality starting pitchers, and drew upon reliable (for the most part) closers.

There are differences, to be sure. The White Sox payroll this year is $75M; the price tag for the Red Sox of last year was $127M. Chicago had better defense; there’s no equivalent of the two 4-error games the Red Sox had to open their fall classic. For the first time an African American general manager (Ken Williams) and a Latino field manager (Ozzie Guillen) led a championship team. Boston would not sacrifice bunt, while this proved a winning option for Chicago in several instances.

Brandon Backe pitched like a man possessed, as if his life were on the line. Being a native Texan, it was readily apparent he did not want to go down in ignominy. He could have easily let a run slip through in the 7th inning, when Chicago threatened to break the scoreless tie. After getting the first 2 outs easily enough, which is no easy feat when Paul Konerko leads off an inning, Backe gave up a line drive single to Aaron Rowand that bounded into center field. Joe Crede, for whom a case for World Series MVP could be made, then launched a fly ball double that came agonizingly close to being a home run in the miniscule landscape of Minute Maid Park’s left field. Rowand, who isn’t the best at baserunning or reading game situations judging by his bunt attempt that ended in a strikeout in the 4th, stopped at third base because he lagged while heading into second. In an laudable effort, the Galveston-born righty returned his attention to Juan Uribe, who struck out on 4 pitches, the last strike swinging, to end the top of the 7th with the scoreless tie intact.

So, hope, though dwindling, still shone for the Astros. Phil Garner chose to pinch hit Jeff Bagwell in the bottom of that inning in place of Backe, which for the most part is a rational decision. Bagwell’s last hit, a single, occurred on September 27th against the Cardinals, however. The Bagwell of 1994 wasn’t at the plate last night, and nor has he been seen the entirety of the season. Desperate times, desperate measures, I suppose.

Brad Lidge, whose name may unfairly go down in history as a postseason goat, surrendered the only run of the game in the 8th inning to the eventual World Series MVP, Jermaine Dye. As it happened, it was the most mundane of RBIs: Willie Harris leadoff single to left, sacrifice bunt by Scott Podsednik, ground out by pinch hitter Carl Everett to advance Harris, then Dye gutshot ground ball single to plate the run. On the defensive side, White Sox shortstop Uribe initiated all the outs of the final inning, including a play on Orlando Palmeiro’s foul ball that had him weaving into the ambit of the home fans and falling into their midst while simultaneously making a stellar catch for the second out of the 9th. Such a simple sequence of events to end the 88-year dryspell of the second city’s second team.

And just like the Boston Red Sox, who toiled backstage so long while their division nemesis basked in the spotlight, the Chicago White Sox renounced their second class status and became kings of the town.

TypePad + Microsoft = Stomp Profit, Decay!

You may have been experiencing difficulties accessing this site with Microsoft Internet Explorer when using the “empyrealenvirons.blogs.com” URL. I’ve been trying to resolve this issue with TypePad. In the interim, you shouldn’t have problems if you use “www.empyrealenvirons.com” instead, or a different browser. I highly recommend Firefox.

October 26, 2005

Raise the Roof

World Series Game 3: October 25, 2005
White Sox (3-0), 7
Astros (0-3), 5

H: Cliff Politte (2)
BS: Dustin Hermanson (1)
W: Damaso Marte (1)
S: Mark Buehrle (1)
L: Ezequeil Astacio (0-1)
14 innings
White Sox lead the series 3-0

What if, before a fall classic game at Fenway Park, Bud Selig proclaimed, “Congratulations, Red Sox. You’re going to have to lower the Green Monster by 5 feet, by the way.” Or, if the World Series were at Yankee Stadium: “Another crack at the title, eh? By the way, reduce capacity by 30,000 for the games here.”

That is effectively what happened to the Houston Astros last night. They were told by MLB to keep the roof open to recreate the atmosphere of fall baseball. Rather than having to cope with the full effect of a raucous home crowd, the White Sox got a diluted version of the ruction at Minute Maid Park. As a result of the league’s dictum, it may have been better off resurrecting the tomb-like Astrodome to play these games rather than play out the charade at Minute Maid. Why force a team to significantly alter one of its advantages at home? Just another one of those picayune details that, although one can’t say that it enormously impacted the game, cumulatively make this series seem less than wholesome.

Poor Ezequeil Astacio. He threw the pitch that transformed into a 2-run blast off the bat of Geoff Blum in the 14th inning to give the Chicago AL club a lead they would ride to their seventh straight playoff victory. Astacio’s given name was presumably dervied from Ezekiel, or Yechezkel, meaning “God will strengthen,” which is what the Astros desperately need to do if they hope to salvage one win from their first ever fall classic appearance. We know what graphic Fox will be using a dozen time before their 23,000 commercials hyping their program lineup: “Teams that have come back from 3 games down in a 7-game series. 2004 Red Sox*. 1975 New York Islanders. 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. *Only team in baseball history.”

Along with the streak of four complete game wins the Pale Hose accomplished in the ALCS and possibly breaking an 88-year championship drought, the team is also poised to replicate the Red Sox eight-game run from last year’s postseason (those copycats). They are merely a pale imitation of the 2004 Red Sox, however, since they were only down one game in their ALCS.

The nooks and crannies of Astros’ home field are growing on me. Jason Lane’s leadoff homer in the 4th inning was ruled as such because it hit the wall to the right of a yellow line that presumably accounts for the jutting balcony seats above it. It reminded me fondly of similar lines on Fenway’s center field wall. I still think Tal’s Hill is a contrivance, however; nothing will ever truly recreate Duffy’s Cliff.

The Book of Ezekiel spoke of the resurrection of the dead in its pages. It might be time for the Astros to peruse that chapter. “Son of man, can these bones live?”

October 24, 2005

Getting Off Scott-Free

World Series Game 2: October 23, 2005
Astros (0-2), 6
White Sox (2-0), 7
H: Dan Wheeler (1)
BS: Chad Qualls (1)
L: Brad Lidge (1-0)
H: Cliff Politte (1)
BS: Bobby Jenks (1)
W: Neal Cotts (1-0)

White Sox lead the series 2-0

What began as a duel between the left-handed aces turned into a battle between the bullpens. And what would a White Sox game be without an umpiring controversy? The second game of the World Series with its lead changes and dramatic homers did not disappoint any except for Houston fans.

Mark Buehrle was fairly effective but far from his usual dominant self, pitching 7 innings with a line of 7 hits, 4 earned runs, no walks, 6 strikeouts, and 1 home run, a solo shot by Morgan Ensberg in the 2nd inning. The 5th inning could have been much worse than the 2 go-ahead runs driven by Lance Berkman’s 2-out double, but Buehrle recovered and he did not allow the next 7 batters to reach base.

Postseason exemplar Andy Pettitte pitched 6 innings with 8 hits, 2 earned runs, and 4 strikeouts. His 5th inning was also eventful. After relinquishing a leadoff ground ball double to Juan Uribe, Pettitte induced a short fly out to center from Scott Podsednik, keeping the antsy Uribe pinned to second base. With the count full to Tadahito Iguchi, the Astros’ lefty snagged a sharply hit ball and proceeded towards the left part of the infield to nab Uribe. Pettitte was merciless against his prey as he flawlessly executed a rundown with only a single throw. With similar sang-froid he picked off Iguchi to end the inning.

The bottom of the 7th inning reminded me of the 2004 ALCS Game 7 grand slam by Johnny Damon. The details vary, but the template is there: the beseiged pitcher who allowed the bases to get loaded is replaced by a bullpen arm only to give up a home run. The batter must know to expect a strike, so he can narrow the zone of where he expects the ball and then swing with abandon. Paul Konerko put his team ahead with a single swing on the first pitch. The score remained 6-4 until the 9th.

How the bases got loaded is a point of controversy. In the replay, it is difficult to see if Jermaine Dye was actually hit by Dan Wheeler’s pitch, which happened with a full count. But that’s what Jeff Nelson called it, and he did not deign to consult with the other umpires. He should have had the best view of that particular play, anyway, and yet the lack of official replay continues to impact the playoffs.

Would the legend of Bobby Jenks continue to grow? Could it (or he) get any larger? After looking lost in Game 1 against the cheese-dealing hulk, Jeff Bagwell muscled a looping single into shallow center field. The next two batters represented the extremes of Jenks: Jason Lane struck out on 3 straight pitches while Chris Burke walked on 4. Brad Ausmus grounded out to first base, but the placement allowed the runners to advance. Jose Vizcaino made Phil Garner look like a genius with his pinch hit line drive into the left field to score 2 runs for the tie. Jeremy Giambi take note: Burke scored the second run by sliding to avoid the tag while reaching for the plate with his hand. Sliding, quite a novel concept.

Podsednik hit his second home run of the postseason to win the game. Such a sight isn’t unfamiliar to the eyes of Red Sox fans. But Brad Lidge gave up his second game-losing round-tripper, something mournfully reminiscent to Houston fans. Will the Astros recover from their second gut punch loss in less than a week?

October 23, 2005

First Inning Fireworks

World Series Game 1: October 22, 2005
Astros (0-1), 3
White Sox (1-0), 5
L: Wandy Rodriguez (0-1)
W: Jose Contreras (1-0)
H: Neal Cotts (1)
S: Bobby Jenks (1)

White Sox lead the series 1-0

The score from last night was familiar. It was the score of Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS, the last game of the Red Sox season. And with that wistful remembrance, on with the colorless socks versus the Jetsons’ pet postseason.

When your home stadium sets off fireworks in the 1st inning of the World Series for a homerun because of tradition, one would almost prefer the legacy of the Black Sox scandal rather than Bill Veeck’s. Everyone recalls the things Veeck would do for publicity, from Eddie Gaedel to Disco Demolition Night. What goes unremembered is that he was the first to sign an African American to an American League team (Larry Doby to the Indians in 1947) and that he signed the oldest rookie in major league history as well (Satchel Paige in 1948, when the pitcher was 42).

Roger Clemens, himself now 43, entered the majors in 1984, the year prior to Ozzie Guillen’s debut. The 7-time Cy Young award winner and one-time MVP did not live up to his past excellence and lasted only 2 innings while giving up 4 hits, 3 earned runs (including the firework-prompting Jermaine Dye 1st inning jack), no walks, and striking out one. Clemens contiues to be an unknown quantity in the playoffs. Before, his mental composure was questioned; but now, it is apparent that the decades have weathered him to something less than his former glory. He left the game after reaggravating a hamstring injury.

Wandy Rodriguez was able to keep Houston in the game for the 3.1 innings he pitched, although Phil Garner tempted fate when he kept the lefty into the 6th inning with Joe Crede leading off. Rodriguez had barely escaped a huge 5th inning in which he walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a single. Ozzie Guillen gave the Astros an out by calling a sacrifice bunt play with designated hitter Carl Everett at the plate, which I suppose why some think he should be named Manager of the Year. I didn’t realize the criteria included transforming outs into lost opportunities.

With runners on second and third and 1 out, Garner called for Aaron Rowand to be intentionally walked to load the bases. The move worked as my new nemesis, the smug A.J. Pierzynski, promptly grounded into a 3-6-1 double play.

It’s not superior managing that wins games, however, but execution. Chicago bullpen pitchers Neal Cotts and Bobby Jenks combined for 2 innings of nearly perfect pitching, yielding only 1 hit and striking out the rest. The killer B’s were anything but, and the Astros were a paltry 2 out of 11 with runners in scoring position. Several hard-hit balls were snuffed by Crede, and the White Sox proved the oft-repeated maxim that pitching and defense wins championships.

Showboating does not, however. Could Jenks possibly be a little more demonstrative on the mound? He’s like a latter-day hillbilly Francisco Rodriguez. Sure, he’s as explosive as US Cellular Field’s scoreboard, but just because that is reminiscent of the bush leagues doesn’t mean that he should be as well.

October 22, 2005

All Hale DeMarlo

Start working on your signs for the 2006 season now, fans. DeMarlo Hale, former first base coach of the Texas Rangers, is now the third base coach for the Red Sox. Theo Epstein, whose own contract is up at the end of this month, made the announcement today. The goal of a third base coach is for one’s name to go unrecognized, but this is unlikely in a city of such intense scrutiny. “Hale” is an easier name to both pronounce and lampoon. To wit: “Halefire and Brimstone,” “Time for DeMarlo to Hale a Cab,” and, if he does well, “All Hale the Chief.” The first name is more difficult; my best effort is “DeMarlo-ition Derby.”

Like Grady Little, Hale never broke out of the minor leagues as a player. In five seasons as a first baseman and outfielder in the Boston and Oakland organizations he attempted 87 steals and succeeded 67 times. Hale was recognized by Baseball America, The Sporting News, and USA Today as Minor League Manager of the Year in 1999. That year he led the Trenton Thunder, then part of the Red Sox organization, to a 92-50 season. Welcome to the panopticon.

October 19, 2005

Fveum and Fortune

Dale Sveum signed with the Milwaukee Brewers to be their third base coach today. Sveum will probably appreciate a place that cares more about which sausage will win a race than his name or performance. The Red Sox will now consult with Don Quixote about which windmill to hire next. The thing that most fascinated me about Sveum after his incredibly bad judgment, lack of depth perception, and inability to gauge the speed of moving objects was his nearly unpronounceable surname.

I looked up “Sveum” at ancestry.com and found that it is Norwegian in origin, which explains his height of 6'3", which might be shorter than the average Norwegian. The name is dervied from “Sveen,” which in turn has its origins from the Old Norse word “svið” (land cleared by burning) and “sviða” (to burn). That is fairly descriptive of his tenure here. He took the fans’ criticism with a good sense of humor, however. I will always remember him in the rolling rally pretending to wave in runners in response to fans who recognized him and honored him with that trademark motion.

October 18, 2005

All the Hexes Live in Texas

Does it feel as awful to be a Houston Astros fan today as it did to be a Red Sox fan back on October 16, 2004? It’s probably fairly comparable, although the details vary. Last night the Astros suffered what Bill Simmons has already classified as a stomach punch-level defeat.

For Red Sox fans last year, however, the league championship series was not a vacillation between highs and lows from game to game. It was pure agony followed by pristine ecstasy. Houston fans probably feel as if they were being strung along, and rightly so.

One out away from the 2005 World Series, Brad Lidge, he of the 42 regular season saves and 2.29 ERA, only had to strike out David Eckstein to advance his team. Lidge’s team was leading 4-2 and the league championship seemed to be in the bag. Eckstein, he’s small potatoes, right? Sure, he’s gutty, but he can’t win the game on his own. With the count 1-2, Eckstein eked out a single to give the Cardinals a baserunner and another chance. To faze the Astros’ closer further, the Cardinals shortstop took second with the infield standing by diffidently.

Lidge was both shaken and stirred. He walked Jim Edmonds on five pitches. Then Albert Pujols came to the plate. This is not a man to be trifled with, a fact he proved in two pitches, the second of which was neatly deposited onto the train tracks staked above the left field seats to grant his team a 5-4 lead. Predictably, Houston went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th.

The trajectory of that homer instantly effaced the memory of Lance Berkman’s 3-run round-tripper in the 7th that gave his team a 4-2 edge. What I thought would be the abiding memory of this game and the series was re-written into a footnote in Pujols’s hagiography.

I thought I’d prefer that the Astros make it since it would be their first trip to the Fall Classic. Such a novelty, combined with the White Sox’s historic appearance makes for a more compelling match-up. The Redbirds have been there, done that. Denying St. Louis one last series at their old stadium seems fitting to me: that would be payback for tearing down the stadium where the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. And yet, I just can’t get too emotional about the National League. I’d just as soon see the Cardinals have another go at it for their tenth title in 16 tries.

Despite, or more accurately, because the Red Sox are not embroiled in the race for the trophy, postseason baseball has been highly enjoyable rather than utterly nerve-racking. Go Astros, go Cardinals, but moreover, go baseball.

Still losing when I saw myself to win!

Week 6: October 16, 2005
Patriots (3-3), 20
Broncos (5-1), 28

Did a typical Roman denizen know the moment when her civilization was falling? She didn’t have Edward Gibbon there to tell her the exact date of decline. Gibbon retroactively reckoned that date was September 4, 474, the day Flavius Romulus Augustus was deposed. Other historians claim that the empire was never as exalted as we imagined it to be and carried within its own seeds of decay, so there was no rarerified air from which to descend. Still others posit that no one reason, let alone moment or event, can be isolated to describe the descent of an idealized state. Even today the debate on the whys and hows of the fall of the Roman Empire rage.

Worry not, Patriot fans, because you do not have to live in such a state of nescience. For you, I can mark the very day of the 2005 team’s downfall. Just think back to September 27, 2005: the Red Sox were on the way to splitting a double header with the Blue Jays and the Patriots were flush with a close but rousing victory against the Steelers on their home field. In that game, strong safety Rodney Harrison was buffeted by wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who rolled into Harrison’s knee. The collision rived three ligaments: the anterior cruciate, medial collateral, and posterior cruciate, which is every ligament save the lateral collateral.

Call it Gloomy Tuesday, for that was the day we learned Harrison would not suit up for the rest of the season. There have been other injuries and retirements, but none more vital than this missing piece. In the three games since Harrison’s injury, the New England has lost 2 games, been outscored 97 to 68, and have had no interceptions from any part of the defense.

Much blame can be laid at the laggard feet of cornerback Duane Starks, who was covering, or supposed to have been covering, a stable full of Broncos on several key plays. He was responsible for Rod Smith on his 72-yard reception to open the 2nd quarter, Ashley Lelie (formerly of UH) on his 55-yard catch on the second drive of the same quarter, and Tatum Bell on his 68-yard run up the middle to close out that calamitous 15 minutes. All three plays led to touchdowns. Ultimately, however, the loss of Harrison’s skills and leadership can be labelled the turning point of the season.

Tom Brady led yet another comeback attempt in the second half and scored 17 unanswered points. New England’s hopes were dashed when the normally sure-handed Deion Branch missed a pass on a 3rd and 20 play with 3:53 left on the clock. A reception would have granted the Patriots another set of downs and a shot at touchdown and 2-point conversion for a tie, but the gap was too wide.

The numbers tell part of the story:

  • New England’s second half comeback attempt is readily seen in its yardage split: 175 for the first half and 213 for the second. In contrast, except for one 74-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, the Broncos were feeble in the second half. Their production decreased by 48% between the halves as they plummeted from 275 to 142 yards. The home team’s early scoring binge proved insurmountable, however. Advantage: Denver.
  • The two fumbles in the game were recovered by their respective fumblers (Daniel Graham and Tatum Bell), so there were no changes of possession to grant either team an edge. Advantage: Push.
  • Denver was a stunning 4 for 4 in red zone conversions while New England was an acceptable 2 out of 3 for 67%. Advantage: Denver.
  • The Patriots had 8 infractions for 55 yards, the lowest since the first game of the season. However, rookie left guard Logan Mankins was ejected on Adam Vinatieri’s missed 53-yard field goal attempt to end the second half. Mankins was caught punching Ebenezer Ekuban after the whistle was blown. Even though it is his first year, the incident is troubling not only because it left Tom Brady’s blind side vulnerable but because it may bespeak a lack of understanding on the part of young players on the Patriot doctrine of discipline. The Broncos had 11 penalties for 82 yards. As in the game against the Chargers, the discrepancy seems to be the result of the time of possession battle that the visiting team lost, 27:43 to 32:17. Advantage: Denver.
  • The Broncos’ third down version rate seems paltry at 27% (3 out of 11), but this is due to the second half malaise as well their opposition’s tendency to surrender immense swaths of yardage, which negated the need for conversions. The Patriots were 6 for 16 (38%) to tie their second-highest third down conversion percentage this season, but in this case the numbers aren’t telling the full story. Advantage: New England.

So, the Patriots limp into their bye week with a .500 record and a sheaf of questions to be answered. Tedy Bruschi has been medically cleared by his doctor as well as the team’s and the medical consensus seems to be that the Pro Bowl linebacker is not at risk for recurrence of stroke. With Bruschi’s return, will the Super Bowl champions find a new defensive field general to follow into a reinvigorated campaign into another golden era? Or has the team grown surfeit and complacent, lacking the appetite for a four-course feast?

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 24/46, 299 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Jake Plummer: 17/24, 262 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Patrick Pass: 10 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD, 17 yard longest gain
Tatum Bell: 13 carries, 114 yards, 1 TD, 68 yard longest gain
Patrick Pass: 6 receptions, 89 yards, 0 TD, 39 yard longest gain
Rod Smith: 6 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD, 72 yard longest gain
Mike Vrabel: 8 tackles, 5 assists
Willie McGinest: 3 tackles, 2 assists, 0.5 sack
Dan Klecko: 1 tackle, 2 assists, 0.5 sack
Domonique Foxworth: 8 tackles, 1 assist

October 15, 2005

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths....

Week 5: October 9, 2005
Patriots (3-2), 31
Falcons (3-2), 28

The Patriots did not know Michael Vick was not going to be in this game until just a few hours before the coin toss. In anticipation of playing the multi-faceted Falcons quarterback, New England scrimmaged with backup quarterback Doug Flutie playing the role of Vick. Despite preparing for the incorrect situation, New England won to pull ahead of the division rival Dolphins. Miami came off their bye week with a loss to Buffalo, a team that wisely aborted the J.P. Losman experiment to snap a 3-game losing streak with Kelly Holcomb’s first start for the Bills.

New England scored first in the game on its second drive. Tom Brady handed off to Corey Dillon four times for 21 yards and passed to Deion Branch twice for 55 yards to set up a Patrick Pass 6-yard run to the left for a touchdown. With his 81st yard, Dillon became the 18th player to reach 10,000 yards.

With the score 14-10 and 1:03 left in the half, the Falcons nearly had possession at the Patriots’ 23-yard line thanks to Allen Rossum’s 50-yard punt return. Atlanta was penalized for an illegal block above the waist on the return and began at their own 35-yard line instead with 45 seconds remaining. Two incomplete pass plays seemed to stifle the Falcons’ chances for a last second score until backup quarterback Matt Schaub completed a 17-yard pass to Brian Finneran, a play that stopped the clock and brought Atlanta into field goal range. Instead of using their usual placekicker for the 58-yard attempt, the Falcons wheeled out punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen, who missed his attempt. New England had called a timeout just before the snap to nullify the attempt to give their opponents a second chance. Koenen successfully scored this time, placing his name in the history books with his franchise’s second-longest field goal.

As so often happens, however, it would be the Patriots’ placekicker with the final word. Opposing coaches, particularly Bill Cowher, take note: Brady devised the 18th drive in his career to tie or take the lead in the 4th quarter or overtime. It was already the second time this season he did this.

The final score was close, but in the main it was one of the better played games. The score and the metrics show how equally matched these teams were; here’s the breakdown on my selected statistics:

  • The Vick-free offense earned 225 yards in the first half and 173 the second for a 23% decrease. Meanwhile, New England notched a steady 206/267 split. Advantage: New England.
  • Atlanta scored a touchdown in early in the 4th quarter after Demorrio Williams intercepted Brady near midfield. Yet again the Patriots forced no turnovers either on the ground nor in the air, which is proving to be an area where they show substantial and sustained weakness. Advantage: Atlanta.
  • The Falcons converted 2 red zone attempts out of 3 for a 67% efficency percentage. In contrast, the Patriots were only 1 of 2 for 50%. However, New England scored three touchdowns on pass plays of 45, 33, and 55 yards to tight ends Daniel Graham and Ben Watson and wide receiver Bethel Johnson, respectively. Against a weak Atlanta secondary, the Patriots were able to score without having to sniff the end zone. Advantage (however slight): Atlanta.
  • Atlanta was penalized 8 times for 84 yards and New England 11 times for 83 yards. This was the third lowest penalty yardage for the Patriots this season, but the number of penalites continues to plague them. Three Patriot defensive penalties on the Falcons’ final drive of 1st quarter assisted them in getting into field goal range. The Falcons enabled their own demise with a 30-yard defensive pass inteference call on Rossum on a first down and 20 pass play at New England’s 26 yard line. This alone swings the pendulum in favor of the Patriots. Advantage: New England.
  • The Patriots converted 3 of 10 third downs (30%) versus the Falcons’ 5 of 13 (38%). Once again the home team came out on top, but this again seemed more a function of the visitors’ success in getting first downs before reaching the third down. Interestingly, both Atlanta and New England had 19 first downs by their own effort, but the home team gained three additional sets of downs due to Patriots’ penalties while the Patriots only had one first down because of the Falcons’ miscues. Advantage: Atlanta.

Tomorrow, the Patriots face the 4-1 Broncos at Denver. Rarely will fans of football see two head coaches of such renown pitted against each other. In 2003, when the teams last met, Bill Belichick called for a safety with 2:49 left in the game to widen the Denver lead from one point to three. This canny tactic granted the Patriots the field position they needed while circumventing their weakness at punter in the form of the feckless Ken Walter. Brady showed his nascent ability to lead game-winning drives and New England won with the final score of 30-26. This next Patriots-Broncos match-up might be another defining moment in the history of these illustrious teams.

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 22/27, 350 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Matt Schaub: 18/34, 298 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Corey Dillon: 23 carries, 106 yards, 0 TD, 12 yard longest gain
Warrick Dunn: 19 carries, 83 yards, 0 TD, 13 yard longest gain
Daniel Graham: 5 receptions, 119 yards, 1 TD, 45 yard longest gain
Brian Finneran: 5 receptions, 103 yards, 0 TD, 53 yard longest gain
Ty Warren: 6 tackles
Willie McGinest: 5 tackles, 1 sack
DeAngelo Hall: 10 tackles
Brady Smith: 3 tackles, 1 sack
Demorrio Williams: 3 tackles, 3 assists, 1 INT

Dear Mr. Bruschi,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time now. When you had that stroke after you played in your first (!) Pro Bowl earlier this year, I was worried for your health and wished for your speedy recovery. At least you could leave the game at the height of your career with the knowledge that you have nothing left to accomplish in the sport.

But now I’m reading reports that you are trying to get back on the gridiron. I’m not entirely surprised, given your competitive nature. I’ll always remember you wresting the ball away from Dominic Rhodes of the Colts in the AFC divisional game on the way to your third Super Bowl championship. Everyone thought Indianapolis’s high octane offense would overpower your team’s defense, and yet Peyton Manning’s vaunted scoring machine only managed a single field goal. I bet you still feel as if you could have shut them out, don’t you?

Because that’s they way you are. Always striving, never satisfied. That’s why you’re trying to make this comeback. I’m sure you’re hearing this from everyone and their uncle, but no one would think any less of you if you never played another game.

Consider what you are risking should you venture back on the field. There are at least five reasons not to return the game: your wife Heidi, Tedy Jr., Rex, Dante, and yourself. You only get one life and it seems to me you’ve reached heights that few before you have achieved and fewer still after you can hope to attain. You can’t give any more to the Patriots than you already have; don’t sacrifice your health, and possibly your life, as well.

Yours truly,
a fan

October 13, 2005

It Ain’t Quaint

Much of the appeal derived from baseball is its rich and celebrated history. We can imagine, when attending a modern game, that it was much like the sport our predecessors watched.

And yet, it is much different. Fielders used to perform their duties without gloves, and by the 1870s they wore gloves designed only to relieve the impact to their hands of balls they rapped down to eventually throw back into the infield. Gloves gradually evolved into the fundamental defensive tools they are today. Players did not wear numbers on their uniforms until 1929, when the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees began the practice so that fans could identify their favorites from afar. Numbers used to indicate a player’s position in the batting order. Now we honor players for their achievements by retiring their numbers, signifying their everlasting impact on the game.

So things change, often for the better.

Last night, Game 2 of the ALCS was determined in part by a questionable signal given by home plate umpire Doug Eddings. The scored was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth. A.J. Pierzynski was at the plate with 2 outs and the count full. He swung and missed at Kelvim Escobar’s sixth pitch that backup Angels catcher Josh Paul caught cleanly. Eddings first signaled with his right arm that Pierzynski swung and then pumped his fist, seemingly indicating the last out of the inning. However, he did not verbally announce Pierzynski was out, so the White Sox catcher bolted for first base. Meanwhile, Paul rolled the ball to the infield and the rest of the Angels defense ran towards their dugout because they thought Eddings called the final out when he was actually indicating the third strike.

Pablo Ozuna pinch ran for Pierzynski and stole second base on the 0-2 count. Of course, Ozuna scored the winning run on a double to left field by Joe Crede to grant the Chicago AL club a series split before flying to the West Coast for the next three games.

It is time for further standardization in baseball. Football referees have a system to indicate every type of score, foul, and down. Baseball umpires are in desperate need of such a system, especially because play can continue based on their judgment. There is no clock to stop nor replay system to which an appeal can be made.

To be sure, the Angels made an incorrect presumption that cost them the game. They also would have likely played differently had they known Eddings was calling strike three rather than the third out. Umpires are like air: essential, but it’s better when you don’t realize they are there.

And don’t even get me started on the capricious personal strike zones of individual umpires....

October 11, 2005

Not Going Coastal

With the Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves eliminated, there are no teams from the eastern divisions of the leagues remaining in the playoffs. But the oft-alluded to East Coast bias will prevail; I can just see the ESPN SportsCenter recap now:

“Leading off on tonight’s SportsCenter: A-Rod steals away Johnny Damon’s stylist in his efforts to establish a more grassroots appeal. More on this [dramatic pause] hair-raising scandal after the break. In other news, the Angels beat the White Sox in a 27-inning duel in Game 7 of the ALCS.”

What better way to while away the upcoming winter than examining the salaries of the eliminated teams? Reviewing the postseason roster salary totals, I devised the following breakdown:

Eliminated Team Postseason Salary Total Runs Scored $ Per Run Innings Played $ Per Inning
New York $170M 20 $5.7M 44 $3.9M
Boston $105M 9 $7.6M 27 $3.9M
Atlanta $68M 21 $3.2M 44 $1.5M
San Diego $51M 11 $4.6M 27 $1.9M

It’s hard to comprehend how the Red Sox, the AL leading offense in multiple categories throughout the regular season, managed only 9 runs in the ALDS, two less than the laggard Padres, who were fourth to last in the majors in runs scored (684). Other points of interest:

  • Alex Rodriguez made almost twice as much as the entire Padres infield and just slightly less than the Braves infield. Rodriguez went 2 for 15 but did manage 6 walks in his ALDS for a .435 OBP, .200 slugging percentage, and no runs batted in. The Padres offense managed a .375 OBP collectively with a .425 slugging percentage and 11 RBIs.
  • Manny Ramirez made about $6M less than Rodriguez and was 3 for 10 with 2 walks in his 3-game series. His OBP was .417 and he garnered a slugging percentage of .900 with 4 RBIs.
  • Derek Jeter continued to be worth the money he makes. He completed the postseason by going 7 for 21 with .348 OBP, .619 slugging, and 5 RBIs, many at key points in the game (unlike other Yankee infielders we could name).
  • The Yankees played almost 30% more innings than the Red Sox but their per inning price tag was nearly equal.
  • The combined salaries of the starting pitchers left off the Yankees’ playoff roster, the trio of Kevin Brown ($15.7M), Carl Pavano ($9M), and Jaret Wright ($5.7M), was $30.4M, which was $7.4M less than Boston’s playoff pitching staff. This total is $3.9M more than the Braves and $12.5M more than the Padres.

Once wonders how marketable the Yankees will be after their long championship drought. I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll use their defeat to their advantage by exploring new realms of endorsements.


Special thanks to Joe a.k.a. gerky for the image, inspired by this thread at redsoxnation.net. Salary data gleaned from multiple sources, including ESPN, USA Today, and The Hardball Times. You can download this file for salary details.

October 10, 2005

Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

Week 4: October 2, 2005
Chargers (2-2), 41
Patriots (2-2), 17

I watched the first half of this game in a sports bar directly across Federal Street from PNC Park before my flight out of Pittsburgh. Since it was the Steelers’ bye week, the projection screens showed the Chargers-Patriots match-up. I’m sure Steeltown fans were particularly pleased with the second half of this game, but perhaps also confounded by how the Chargers were able to manhandle the Patriots, who had beaten their team just a week earlier.

If I were able consume alcohol for pleasure or had a higher tolerance of cigarette smoke, I would truly enjoy the sports bar experience. From the perfect perch of a revolving barstool I could watch Jaret Wright get shelled while Corey Dillon followed Richard Seymour into the end zone for the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game. The best vice available to me was the copious amounts of greasy food. Paramount on the menu for me was the highly vaunted pierogie, a peculiarly Pittsburgh specialty that is the essence of anti-Atkins dining with its doughy goodness enveloping potato and cheese, cottage cheese and chives, sauerkraut and potato, or beef.

Mercifully, I didn’t witness firsthand the drubbing of the Patriots in the second half, in which they were outscored 24-0. Had I stayed much longer at Hightops, it was likely that I would transform into a human-sized pierogie, much like those that race at every Pittsburgh Pirates game.

I’m going to go out on a not so precarious limb and guess that San Diego will win every statistical category I cover convincingly. However, I will risk stating that, barring injury to key positions such as quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end, or placekicker, the Patriots will not suffer such a defeat for the remainder of the season. This loss will be the nadir to which New England will never sink again

  • The Chargers gained 212 yards in the first half and 241 the second, the only team that increased its offensive production after halftime against the Patriots the season so far. The Patriots split was 253/56 for an alarming decrease of 78%. Advantage: San Diego.
  • Turnovers did not play a large part in the game since the two interceptions New England relinquished happened late in the game and served only to pad San Diego’s time of possession and points. Tom Brady’s pass intended for David Givens in the 4th quarter with 4:38 left led to a San Diego punt after a 2:45 drive in which the Chargers had a touchdown nullified due to an offensive holding penalty. With 46 seconds remaining in the game, backup quarterback Matt Cassel was intercepted by Donnie Edwards, who lateraled to Clinton Hart for a 40-yard touchdown run. Advantage (for what it’s worth): San Diego.
  • The Chargers were an outstanding 3 for 4 in the red zone for a 75% efficiency rating while the Patriots struggled with 1 for 3 for 33%. Advantage: San Diego.
  • New England had its lowest penalty count of the season with only 4 infractions for 62 yards, but this seemed to be a product of its paltry 23:22 time of possession rather than crisper play. San Diego had a greater number of penalties with 7, but it only cost them 50 yards. Advantage: San Diego.
  • The Chargers converted 7 of 12 third downs (58%) while the Patriots were 4 of 11 (36%). Advantage: San Diego.

In all phases of the game the defending Super Bowl champions looked anything but, while the Chargers proved they are better than their 1-2 record going into Gillette Stadium led observers to believe. The Patriots were feeble on defense without their captain, safety Rodney Harrison. The New England secondary has not had an interception yet this season, and without an opportunistic defense it seems unlikely the Patriots will be able to fend off its stronger opponents such as the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos. Until Eric Mangini can solve the conundrum of a secondary without Harrison, expect the seesaw between triumphs and defeats to continue.

Game Leaders
Drew Brees: 19/24, 248 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Tom Brady: 19/32, 224 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
LaDainian Tomlinson: 25 carries, 134 yards, 2 TD, 11 yard longest gain
Corey Dillon: 14 carries, 63 yards, 1 TD, 29 yard longest gain
Antonio Gates: 6 receptions, 108 yards, 0 TD, 38 yard longest gain
David Givens: 6 receptions, 66 yards, 0 TD, 18 yard longest gain
Donnie Edwards: 9 tackles, 2 assists, 1 INT
Bhawoh Jue: 4 tackles, 1 assists, 1 INT

Mike Vrabel: 10 tackles, 1 assist

October 9, 2005

Still be kind, and eke out our performance with your mind.

Week 3: September 25, 2005
Patriots (2-1), 23
Steelers (2-1), 20

Back to Patriots football, Discovery channel, and other forms of potato couchery now that the Red Sox playoff run is over. I watched this game furtively, switching between it and the final Baltimore-Boston standoff in Charm City, a series that the Red Sox swept.

The Patriots eked out a win in the final minute of the game as Steelers head coach Bill Cowher demonstrated inexplicably bad clock management. With the score in favor of New England, 20-13, Ben Roethlisberger marshalled his team for a scoring drive that began on his 49-yard line. At the Patriots’ 27 on 4th and 11, Patriots cornerback Chad Scott was called for defensive pass interference, granting the Steelers a new set of downs from the 4-yard line. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown pass to Hynes Ward on the first play after the penalty, not even attempting a few running plays to run down the clock. The Steelers tied the score 20-20 and gave the ball to Tom Brady with 1:14 left on the clock.

Apparently, Cowher doesn’t recall the last three Super Bowls in which the Patriots played, all of which featured Brady leading his team down the field for last-second victories. It slipped his mind that the New England quarterback has executed 17 game-winning drives to tie or take the lead in 4th quarter or overtime.

The Patriots offense marched down the field from their own 38-yard line to get within Adam Vinatieri’s field goal range. As the seconds dwindled to nothingness and the Patriots without timeouts, the vaunted placekicker calmly setup for a 43-yard field goal to take the lead. It was later discovered that the clock keeper at Heinz Field added 52 seconds early in the 4th quarter, but both sides stated that this discrepancy did not impact the game’s outcome.

I’m predicting that Pittsburgh had the edge on the five metrics I’ve isolated to analyze previous games and the game was lost due to Cowher’s horrendous decision making. Let’s see how the teams performed:

  • When comparing the teams’ first and second half yardage, the Patriots split was 165/241 while the Steelers earned 211/101. Advantage: New England.
  • Neither team scored points off of fumbles or interceptions, but the Steelers did manage to be the recipients of turnovers that stopped New England from scoring. In the 2nd quarter, Kevin Faulk fumbled at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line and Steelers linebacker Larry Foote brought the recovery to his 35-yard line. Antwaan Randle El attempted a lateral to Ward after completing a 49-yard pass, but New England was unable to score on their free possession. Brady was intercepted by Chris Hope in the final seconds of the first half deep in the opposition’s territory, but the Steelers declined to risk moving the ball up the field with only 31 seconds left in the half. Advantage: Steelers.
  • In red zone efficiency, the Patriots were 2 for 5 for 40% while the Steelers were 1 for 3 for 33%. Advantage: New England.
  • New England continued its disturbing trend of high numbers of penalties with 10 for 118 yards. Pittsburgh had a mere 5 penalties for 35 yards. Advantage: Pittsburgh.
  • The Steelers converted 3 of 13 third downs (23%) while the Patriots were 8 of 16 (50%). Advantage: New England.

So I was wrong. I was a bit surprised by the Patriots’ success in these five facets of play, especially since they lost Rodney Harrison with 7:34 left in the 1st quarter and Matt Light with 10:36 remaining in the 2nd quarter. However, the Patriots’ 3 out of 5 edge is the closest this season so far.

I was tempted to wear my Patriots gear in Pittsburgh, but my judgment is better than Cowher’s. Instead I indulged a wry, inward smile at many a Steeler fan’s expense as I walked through black and gold clad masses. My enmity towards the team goes back to when I cheered for Dallas (give me a break, I grew up on Maui) as a child. I did like the Mean Joe Green Coke commercial, however. “Hey kid, catch.” Perhaps Randle El should have yelled this to Hynes on the lateral attempt for some clarification.

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 31/41, 372 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Ben Roethlisberger: 12/28, 216 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Corey Dillon: 22 carries, 61 yards, 2 TD, 9 yard longest gain
Willie Parker: 17 carries, 55 yards, 0 TD, 11 yard longest gain
David Givens: 9 receptions, 130 yards, 0 TD, 30 yard longest gain
Hynes Ward: 4 receptions, 110 yards, 2 TD, 85 yard longest gain
Guss Scott: 5 tackles, 1 assist
Richard Seymour: 4 tackles, 1 assist, 2 sacks
Willie McGinest:
3 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack
Rosevelt Colvin:
1 tackle, 1 sack
Ike Taylor: 11 tackles, 4 assists
James Farrior: 9 tackles, 6 assists, 1 sack
Clark Haggans: 7 tackles, 3 assists, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles
Chris Hope: 6 tackles, 4 assists, 1 INT
James Harrison: 2 tackles, 1 sack

October 8, 2005


ALDS Game 3: October 7, 2005
White Sox (3-0), 5
Red Sox (0-3), 3

W: Freddy Garcia (1-0)
H: Orlando Hernandez (1)
S: Bobby Jenks (2)
L: Tim Wakefield (0-1)

White Sox win the series 3-0

What would I do without the Red Sox? They’ve inspired me to learn how to correctly program my DVR, a very necessary thing since, despite the club being the defending world champions, they did not get the coveted prime time slots because of the Yankees. I was assured of not missing a pitch thanks to modern technology.

At around 11:00 AM at work Andrew of 12eight instant messengers me (is that the correct verb form?) asking me if I’d like to go to the game today. I briefly considered he might have been pranking me since I told him that David Ortiz was out of the lineup in Game 2 of this series. He had every right to retaliate, though taunting about tickets would be exceptionally cruel. But he did indeed have an extra ticket and offered it to me despite past transgressions. He gave me the opportunity to witness the Chicago AL club’s first postseason series win since 1917. That was quite a way to get back at me.

We would at least be spared the idiocies of the ESPN crew. The guys behind us, however, discussed fantasy football in excrutiating, infuriating detail throughout the evening. Is this the type of fans the club accrues with success? They might be in for some disappointment in the coming seasons should the front office decide to retool. The Red Sox proved they could be a championship team using the free agent method, but it remains to be seen if they can build a sustainable, farm system-based organization like the Atlanta Braves or the Cleveland Indians.

This is the real story of what 2004 meant for succeeding seasons. The albatross fell away when Boston learned to see baseball not through the prism of insurmountable despair but as the glorious game it is in every facet. To me, it is ever more wondrous to see the spark of talent in the young players than to rekindle the fading glint in a veteran’s eye.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched 2.2 innings perfect innings and struck out 2 after Mike Myers and Chad Bradford failed to sit their batters. In the 9th, Mike Timlin gave up a leadoff double to A.J. Pierzynski, who would eventually score to push the score further into the White Sox favor, 5-3. The future, in the form of a reinvigorated prospect pool exemplified by Papelbon, is now.

Strangely enough, I was visited by a vision of the past on the way home. On the Green Line train going inbound, Jermaine Evans and Jessamy Finet, two fans featured on Still, We Believe, boarded the train. It was crowded, so I wasn’t able to talk to them. Their expressions conveyed clearly enough what we all felt, however. Long gone were the memories of the three home runs hit by David Ortiz (1 in the 4th) and Manny Ramirez (4th and 6th innings), which represented the total offensive output by Boston last night and the only Red Sox round-trippers in the 2005 ALDS. I wanted to ask them what they were feeling as they lived through 2004, since their reactions to that season were not chronicled, and if 2004 lessened the current disappointment. But the emotions were too fresh and the pain too present, so I went my separate way after reaching Park Street.

Just as 2003’s crushing end spurred the team to address their weaknesses for the 2004 championship drive, 2005’s fading finish will inform the front office’s strategy for the coming seasons. And we might be reaping the benefits of an abundant homegrown talent base for seasons to come, not just haphazardly hitting the jackpot once. That “once” we recently experienced was phenomenal, but once is just not enough. To the future.

Not a whit; we defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.
William Shakespeare

October 7, 2005

Dave’s Diegesis: Hiatus

Dave’s Diegesis will not be published again until pitchers and catchers report next year. Dave’s ghostwriter will be taking a brief sabbatical from that particular column, but there will offseason content on EE, including book reviews, hot stove conjectures, continuing analysis of the Patriots, and whatever else that might grab the interest.


October 6, 2005


ALDS Game 2: October 5, 2005
Red Sox (0-2), 4
White Sox (2-0), 5
L: David Wells (0-1)
W: Mark Buehrle (1-0)
S: Bobby Jenks (1)

White Sox lead the series 2-0

So the Red Sox leave Chicago, the hog butcher, tool maker, and stacker of wheat for the world, trailing in the series. This is not insurmountable. Since the inception of the wild card, four teams have rebounded from an 0-2 deficit in the ALDS: the 1995 Seattle Mariners, the 1999 Boston Red Sox, the 2001 New York Yankees, and the 2003 Boston Red Sox. A comeback, unlikely as it may seem, is not unprecedented. You don’t even need to reach very far back into the shelves of your memories to find the chronicles of improbable revivals.

Close losses sting, particularly before a travel day. Columnists, fans, television commentators, and radio personalities will endlessly cavil over minutiae, assigning blame as if they were the Moirae, weaving and reading the threads of fate that apportion to humanity their lots in life.

In the 1st inning, Johnny Damon singled to begin the inning and Edgar Renteria doubled. The table was set for David Ortiz, who struck out on a 1-2 pitch. Manny Ramirez’s fly ball over Scott Podsednik’s grasp granted the Red Sox an early 2-run lead.

Damon led off with a single to left in the 3rd inning. Down two strikes in the pitch count, Ortiz doubled to the opposite field. With runners on second and third and 1 out, Ozzie Guillen decided to intentionally walk Ramirez to put the pressure on Jason Varitek, who hits .188 with an OBP of .176 and .438 slugging with the bases loaded this season. Batting right, the Red Sox catcher went to the opposite field to notch an RBI single. Paul Konerko fielded Trot Nixon’s ground ball and could have thrown Ortiz out at home plate but opted to erase Varitek at second base.

The 4th inning showcased excellent defense by Boston. John Olerud laid out, snagged Podsednik’s sharp grounder, and relayed it to Wells, who had to engage in a foot race with the speedy left fielder for the first out of the inning. Bill Mueller knocked down Tadahito Iguchi’s ground ball that threatened to creep past him and up the line for extra bases. The stop proved vital as the next two batters, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko, are power threats who could have brought Chicago back into the game with a single swing.

The Fates intervened in the 5th inning. Chicago leadoff batter Carl Everett reached on a single and scored on a double to left field by Aaron Rowand that just nicked the left field foul line. Mike Piazza solemnly informed us that A.J. Pierzynski’s ground out that advanced Rowand to third base was a “productive at bat.” Joe Crede hit a single up the gut to score Rowand with a grounder that Tony Graffanino could have stifled. With the pitch count 1-2, Juan Uribe, the 9-hole hitter, then poked a room service double play ball to Graffanino. The second baseman lifted his glove too early, too eager to begin the twin killing. The ball slipped through his legs and along with it went the possibility of dampening Chicago’s hot hitting. With runners at the corners and 1 out, the White Sox second baseman Iguchi, whom the Red Sox briefly courted during the offseason, launched a 3-run homer in the exultant fans in left field. The South Siders garnerd a one-run lead they would never relinquish.

The thread allotted to the 2005 Boston Red Sox playoff run dwindles to a few scant strands. This team has beguiled the Fates before, winning them over with their inimitable charm and indomitable will to tease a few more filaments of hope from its stingy holders. By Friday evening, we will see if the club’s skein will diminish to a mere empty bobbin.

October 5, 2005


ALDS Game 1: October 4, 2005
Red Sox (0-1), 2
White Sox (1-0), 14
L: Matt Clement (0-1)
W: Jose Contreras (1-0)
White Sox lead the series 1-0

When the Red Sox make the postseason, for good or ill, history is often made. The White Sox won their first postseason game at home since the 1959 World Series and had their second-best inning in their not-so-storied playoff history when they scored 5 runs in the 1st.

Clement did nothing to improve his spotty postseason renown, which was based on two starts for the 2003 Chicago Cubs with 12.1 innings pitched, 13 hits, 7 earned runs, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts, and 1 home run. In fact, he may have irrevocably damaged his reputation with his 3.1 inning appearance last night in which he yielded 7 hits, 8 earned runs, and 3 homers. He had no walks or strikeouts.

The much-coveted Contreras at last displayed why he was so highly sought after in the 2003 offseason. The righty of indeterminate age showed his unsolvable splitter to Red Sox batters over 7.2 innings, culminating in a line of 8 hits, 2 earned runs, no walks, and 6 strikeouts.

The Chicago AL club was boisterous in its offensive outburst. A.J. Pierzynski hit 2 homers while Paul Konerko, Juan Uribe, and Scott Podsednik each had four-baggers of their own. In fact, Jeremi Gonzalez gifted Podsednik with his first circuit clout of 2005 in the 6th inning. In the regular season, Podsednik’s slugging percentage was a mere .349.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox failed to cash in on several key scoring opportunities. Their momentum lurched to a standstill in the 4th inning when Kevin Millar broke for third on Bill Mueller’s sharp grounder to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. The ball reached Iguchi more quickly than Millar anticipated and the Red Sox first baseman broke one of the cardinal rules of baseball: never make the first or last out at third.

For fans, last year’s come-from-behind win in the ALCS pays dividends to this day. My local news station just showed a series of interivews with Red Sox fans that made the journey to Chicago’s South Side for this series and most of them remain sanguine in the face of this blowout. Five-game series are harrowing, to be sure, but leaving the hog butchers of the world with a split is still possible. Even if that turns out not to be the case, comebacks in short series are not unprecedented. The 2003 Red Sox were down 0-2 in the ALDS to Oakland and won three games in a row to advance.

This isn’t 2004’s team, nor 2003’s. Pedro Martinez isn’t going to come walking through that door. Derek Lowe isn’t going to come walking through that door. And if they did they would be older and asking for more pay. Who of the team will be willing and able to heed the call? We’ll find out tonight.

October 4, 2005

The Odd Squad

The Red Sox 25-man roster for the ALDS is almost set; just one spot remains that will go to either Lenny DiNardo or Jeremi Gonzalez. My pick would be Gonzalez, who has been one of the unsung heroes of the season with his 56 innings of work with a 4.50 K/9 and 1.75 K/BB. DiNardo pitched only 14.2 innings, so his gaudy 9.20 K/9 and 2.50 K/BB is misleading. Terry Francona has opted for a 10-man pitching staff because of Bronson Arroyo’s ability to pitch on short rest.

  1. Bronson Arroyo
  2. Chad Bradford
  3. Matt Clement
  4. Alex Cora
  5. Johnny Damon
  6. Tony Graffanino
  7. Adam Hyzdu
  8. Alejandro Machado
  9. Kevin Millar
  10. Doug Mirabelli
  11. Bill Mueller
  12. Mike Myers
  13. Trot Nixon
  14. John Olerud
  15. David Ortiz
  16. Jonathan Papelbon
  17. Manny Ramirez
  18. Edgar Renteria
  19. Curt Schillling
  20. Mike Timlin
  21. Jason Varitek
  22. Tim Wakefield
  23. David Wells
  24. Kevin Youkilis

I’m calling it: Machado will be this year’s Dave Roberts. This utility player was Pawtucket’s Rookie of the Year, plays infield and outfield, is a switch-hitter, and has good speed. I track this player on the Royal Rooters message board and have earnestly hoped for his success since seeing him play back in April.

According to the Boston Herald, Jeremi Gonzalez will be the tenth pitcher. Good call! He pitched 3.1 scoreless innings of relief against the White Sox across three appearances this season, allowing only 2 hits.

October 3, 2005

Carl’s Primer on Life

A is for Adam, who was not gay.
B is for Bible, which shows me the way.
C is for Creation, which God hath wrought.
D is for Demons, against whom I have fought.
E is for Evolution, a damnable lie.
F is for Fornication, an act I don’t deny.
G is for God, who rules high above.
H is for Heaven, a place I would love.
I is for Infidelity, a sin I abhor.
J is for Jesus, the man I adore.
K is for Strikeout, just 99 times.
L is for Lifestyle, some of which are crimes.
M is for Morals, in which I believe.
N is for Nature, from God we receive.
O is for Orangutans, not related to Man.
P is for Piety, a fine trait for Woman.
Q is for Quiet, when I am a parishioner.
R is for Rock, who should be Commissioner.
S is for Sauropods, whose fossils are forged.
T is for Temptation, my life’s greatest scourge.
U is for Umpire, good for head-butting.
V is for Victory, which will get me a-strutting.
W is for Wright, an architect I admire.
X is for Xanax, without which I perspire.
Y is for Yard, out of which I hit frequently.
Z is for Zealot, a name you could call me.

Inspired by this interview posted in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Yankees Want Say in Other Teams’ Postseason Rosters

Following the Angels’ defeat of the Texas Rangers on Sunday, several Yankee players and Joe Torre himself expressed their surprise over field manager Buck Showalter’s decision pull his starters early in the match-up. Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, and Hank Blalock were all pulled for pinch-runners in the 3rd inning with Texas leading 4-1. Anaheim rallied to defeat the Rangers 7-4 and earned home-field advantage in their upcoming playoff series against the Yankees.

“There’s a code of honor when so much is on the line,” Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez told the New York Daily News. “I mean, I don’t have to follow it, and neither do the rest of my teammates, but I expect other teams to do so.”

Other members of the Yankee organization also expressed their dismay and added that they expect some compensatory action in the postseason. “It’s surprising,” Joe Torre told The New York Times. “If his team was in the playoffs, I could understand it a little bit more. It’s just surprising he pulled them so soon. I’ll be making sure the Yankees get the proper show of respect in the ALDS, however.”

As a result of this slight, the Yankees have requested the right to determine the other teams’ playoff rosters. “It’s only fair,” continued Torre. “I’ve called [Terry] Francona, Ozzie [Guillen], and Mikey [Mike Scioscia] and sent them preliminary lists of who I want to see on their rosters. I even included some batting order suggestions to get them on the right track.” Torre then brought out a piece of Yankee stationary with a Red Sox lineup that had Kevin Millar batting clean-up and David Ortiz in the 9-hole. “Oh, this is for the ALCS... if they make it that far, that is.”

Torre then produced another sheet dedicated to the upcoming ALDS against the Angels. “See, here’s what I faxed to Mikey just now. I’ve recommended that [Vladimir] Guerrero get a breather for the next few games and that he sit Orlando Cabrera against Randy [Johnson].” Angels shortstop Cabrera hits the lefty at a .364 clip with an OBP of .481.

“We just request that other teams do what we ask in the name of good sportsmanship,” concluded Torre. “That includes making reparations for how shoddily the Yankees were treated in the course of Showalter’s game mismanagement this past Sunday.”


Game 162: October 2, 2005
Yankees (95-67), 1
Red Sox (95-67), 10
L: Jaret Wright (5-5)
W: Curt Schilling (8-8)

Tied for the lead in the division
Clinched the wild card
1 game winning streak

Congratulations to the AL East co-champion Boston Red Sox. A wild card berth might seem like a consolation prize after having led the division for so long, but it is a chance to defend the title nonetheless. Our boys relish the wild card spot and adore being cast as the underdogs.

As Boston entered the playoffs for the third time in three years I was in a plane returning from Pittsburgh to Boston. While in flight I surreptitiously checked my text messages for the automated updates I enacted just before checking out of my hotel. I heard the murmur of a new text message arrive and I see these blessed words flash on the screen: “Manny Ramirez home run. Johnny Damon scores. David Ortiz scores. Red Sox, 6-0.” Such messages came rapidly as the Red Sox closed out the season with a convincing win.

I had a superb view from my seat on the Embraer ERJ 145 jet. I was in row 3, seat A. As the plane made its approach to Logan Airport I thought there might be a chance I would be able to see Fenway Park for at least a few seconds. The familiar Boston skyline eased into my view and I picked out familiar landmarks: Zakim Bridge. Longfellow Bridge. Citgo sign. Then, finally, Fenway. The lights were still on in the park. I stared, transfixed at the vivid lights blazing through the night. Another season had passed and I felt a pang of longing as necessity dictated that I could not be in Boston for the final game.

And yet I felt as close as ever to this team. For every game this season, win or lose, healthy or sick, I wrote a post. Sometimes it was easy, clever words dancing like a Wakefield knuckleball. Other times it was as agonizing as a digging out a desultory ball out of the garage door operning in left field. This act of commemorating the season was so vital to me. After 2004 ended, I felt I had wandered into a dream. I had memories, to be sure, but I felt I had lost the minute details of how the team got there through the course of a long, toiling regular season. I decided to remedy this in 2005, and I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing these past few months.

Now the real season begins, where eight teams’ mettle will be tested. The Red Sox will face the White Sox in the ALDS beginning tomorrow. This is the team that, although it faltered in September, was able to sweep its final series, something that the Red Sox were unable to do. The season series went in favor of the Red Sox, 4-3. Of course, the AL Chicago team’s World Series drought of 88 years does not get the press of their glamorous North Side neighbors. The Cubs are the Red Sox without the near misses; they seduce Chicago fans with their 97-year long wait, quaint park, and storied curse. The White Sox are the ugly stepchild of losing teams, beaten and holed away because of a long-past scandal. Is the child now grown and seeking revenge?

October 2, 2005


Game 161: October 1, 2005
Yankees (95-66), 8
Red Sox (94-67), 4
W: Randy Johnson (17-8)
L: Tim Wakefield (16-12)

1 game behind in the division
1 game ahead for the wild card
1 game losing streak

Because of this loss, no matter the outcome today the Red Sox will not win the division title. As much as I hated to see the Yankees celebrate their eighth straight AL East title on our field, it’s not as if Yankee Stadium has not seen its fair share of Red Sox jubilation.

So, going into the final game of the season, the Red Sox can clinch the wild card if they win. If Boston loses, Cleveland must win to force a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the wild card. If both the Red Sox and Indians lose, the Red Sox clinch the wild card, too. Andrew of 12eight points out that with a win today, the Red Sox would be co-champions of the AL East this year since the teams would finish with an identical record.

Wakefield was not his usual self against the Yankees today. He pitched only 5 innings and gave up 7 hits, 7 runs (all earned), no walks, 1 strikeout, and a whopping 3 homers. Gary Sheffield jacked a home run in the 1st inning with his fellow slugger Jason Giambi on base. Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez homered in the 3rd and 5th, respectively. The Yankees even brought in a knuckleball pitcher to practice against before the game.

The consolation to this game is that the Red Sox discovered they could hit Randy Johnson, who pitched 7.1 innings with a line of 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, and 2 home runs. Unlike the last match-up in September when the Red Sox were shutout, Johnson was hittable. This will be key should the teams face each other again in this year’s ALCS. Manny Ramirez’s second four-bagger in the 8th inning was particularly stunning; I have never seen a ball hit above the seats covered to be the batter’s eye in day games until yesterday.

Did this game not seem like Game 3 of last year’s ALCS? The Yankees hit bomb after bomb yesterday, much like the did on October 16, 2004. Remember how that story ended.


October 1, 2005


Game 160: September 30, 2005
Yankees (94-66), 3
Red Sox (94-66), 5
L: Chien-Min Wang (8-5)
W: David Wells (15-7)
H: Chad Bradford (8)
H: Mike Myers (9)
S: Mike Timlin (13)
Tied for the lead in the division
1 game ahead for the wild card

2 game winning streak

The Red Sox and I are are currently in a long distance relationship. I had to travel to Pittsburgh for work and find myself in a distant city during a crucial series. I think we can weather this brief separation and, upon my return, find ourselves moving towards a bigger commitment, perhaps resulting in another ring?

The thing about the Red Sox that I’m beginning to reconsider is our current living situation. I visited an old friend, Freddie Sanchez, in his new digs and I must say that PNC Park is quite an upgrade over the quaint little bandbox in Boston. Imagine: affordable ticket prices, restrooms where women don’t have to wait in line for over 10 minutes, a concourse from which you can monitor the field, beer vendors prowling the stands (at least 5 varieties, and I’m not saying merely Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite, and Coors; there was Yuengling, Iron City, and other lesser known breweries) and a sound system that doesn’t sound like two tin cans connected by twine.

Better yet, you can monitor men on base, outs, and scores from around both leagues. As much as I enjoyed the nostalgic ambiance PNC afforded, most of my concentration was devoted to the out-of-town scoreboard. With the Red Sox-Yankee score 2-1 and the Pirates-Brewers tally 5-0, I left the park and strided across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to see the Red Sox game on television. Had I tarried much longer at PNC, it was likely I would have been killed by a foul ball as I was so close to the batter’s box and I spent very little time watching the game at hand.

I must have spirited away the Pirates’ mojo because shortly after leaving, Pittsburgh’s shutout slipped into nonexistence and the Red Sox mounted an attack in what turned out to be a pivotal 3-run 6th inning.

Soon I’ll be back in Massachusetts. If I could bring a park like PNC back with me and drop it in the midst of the Fens I doubt even the most stalwart Save Fenway Park zealot could claim that it was not an improvement over the antiquated edifice that Fenway has become.

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