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Home » Monthly Archive » April 2009

April 30, 2009


Game 21: April 29, 2009 ∙ 10 innings
WinRed Sox6
W: Hideki Okajima (2-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (6)
14-7, 1 game winning streak
H: Rafael Perez (2)
H: Rafael Betancourt (3)
BS, L: Jensen Lewis (3, 2-3)
8-14, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Everyman. Variant form: everyman. Noun: An ordinary person, representative of the human race.

The clock is ticking for Jonathan Van Every. He was drafted in the 29th round of the 2000 amateur draft by the Indians. As the 876th overall pick, it was unlikely Van Every would have made it into a major league stadium as anything other than a spectator. He kicked around the Cleveland system for seven years, the most precious years of his baseball career piling up like the grains of sand in an hourglass.

If you haven’t made the bigs by the time the team that drafted you no longer holds your rights, it’s usually time to polish the resume and see if the interview suit fits. This is where Van Every found himself at the end of the 2007 season. But instead of packing away his baseball gear, he signed with the Red Sox as a minor league free agent on December 1.

He had a solid year in 2008 with Pawtucket: .263 batting average, .360 on-base, .524 slugging, with 26 homers. As a 28-year old at that level, however, the numbers were not eye-popping.

For six years the Indians never called up Van Every. In the eighth inning, he found himself in the box against his former team with the bases loaded, two outs remaining, and trailing by three runs. The worst possible outcome: an inning-ending double play, would justify all those years the Indians ignored him. The best result: a lead-taking grand slam.

Van Every was everyman in that eighth inning; he did just enough to keep it interesting but not so much as to be awe-inspiring. His RBI single to right kept the inning going. His team clawed its way back to tie the game that inning.

Not only did Van Every spark the visitors’ rally but he also preserved the lead with a running grab of Grady Sizemore’s fly ball. Had the ball dropped and gotten by the Red Sox right fielder all three of the men on base could have scored.

Sometimes in those parables about the common man the protagonist rises above his workaday tedium. Van Every did just that in the top of the tenth. Jensen Lewis notched two quick outs and the home team was poised to take over in the bottom of the inning with the score knotted at five runs apiece.

Van Every launched a home run into straightaway center field. His run would be the winning run. Instead of flipping his bat, he flipped over the hourglass.

April 29, 2009


Game 20: April 28, 2009
Red Sox8
BS: Takashi Saito (1)
L: Javier Lopez (0-2)
13-7, 1 game losing streak
W: Kerry Wood (1-1)
8-13, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: In the entry under scapegoat, there is a cross reference: see Lopez, Javier. As hideous as his game- and streak-ending error was, it paled in comparison to Brad Penny’s performance: 2⅔ innings, 7 hits, 7 runs, 4 earned, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 1 home run, and he lost the lead three times. Amazingly enough, Anthony Reyes’s line was worse. This is a family blog, however, so I won’t expose the tender sensibilities of the young and impressionable to his line.

As early as 2004 William Safire was calling for the obsoletion of the penny. That year the 26-year old Brad Penny pitched between Florida and Los Angeles as he, Hee Seop Choi, and Bill Murphy were traded to the Dodgers for Juan Encarnacion, Paul Lo Duca, and Guillermo Mota. In the first inning of his second start in Dodger blue Penny injured his arm. He rehabbed and returned in September for just three more innings before he found himself on the disabled list again. For the Dodgers that season he started three games and pulled down a record of 1-2 over 11⅔ innings. He was a non-factor in the playoffs, as was his team, which was eliminated by the Cardinals in the NLDS 3-1.

There’s not even a cent sign on computer keyboards. Cashiers leave out dishes of pennies because it is not worth the time it takes to count them. The pitching namesake of the coin should be treated similarly. Terry Francona, save Brad Penny for a rainy day.

If a statue is ever made of Theo Epstein, it should be embellished with a variation on a theme by Emma Lazarus.

Give me your tired, your hard impacts,
Your aching hamstrings yearning to breathe free,
The wretched herniated discs, your blooming cataracts.
Send these, the spineless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my pen to sign the golden contracts!

The Dodgers used to be the Red Sox West with Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, and Manny Ramirez. Now Boston is Dodgers East with Brad Penny and J.D. Drew.

Tonight the Red Sox have the chance to win their first road series of the season. Drew and Kevin Youkilis are both riding pine, replaced by Jonathan Van Every and Jeff Bailey. Go Pawtucket!

April 28, 2009


Game 19: April 27, 2009
WinRed Sox3W: Manny Delcarmen (1-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (5)
13-6, 11 game winning streak
Indians1L: Kerry Wood (0-1)7-13, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: May Tim Wakefield never retire. He wasn’t part of the decision, but his seven scoreless innings of work with one hit, four walks, and five strikeouts was only surpassed by Cliff Lee’s demonstration that his Cy Young performance was not a fluke. Lee allowed five hits but no runs or walks and struck out five batters over eight innings.

Cliff Lee and Tim Wakefield made such quick work of the batters that Kerry Wood and Jonathan Papelbon decided that they would let the hitters get their hacks in.

Until Wood entered the game the visitors didn’t have an extra base hit. He fed Dustin Pedroia a steady diet of fastballs and tried to get the second baseman to swing at a slider down and away with the count full, but Pedroia didn’t bite. With Pedroia on first thanks to the free pass David Ortiz somehow singled to the one part of center Grady Sizemore can’t cover. Kevin Youkilis flied out to right and for the first time since April 22 he didn’t reach base.

With his powerful yet effortless stroke Jason Bay made me wish that he and the Red Sox had come to an agreement on an extension during the offseason. He all but ensured that the winning streak would go up to 11, just like in Spinal Tap.

Papelbon wasn’t his complete shutdown self, however. Consecutive singles to center field by Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Garko put the tying run in the box.

Mark DeRosa came off an outstanding year with the Cubs and, much like his teammate in Wood, came over from Chicago to hopefully fill in the gaps that have kept Cleveland from getting to the World Series. Neither seem to have fully adjusted to the American League just yet, but DeRosa did make a game of the series opener by driving in the first run of the evening. It would be the only run for the home team, however.

Sizemore and Jacoby Ellsbury both made superlative catches behind their starters. Sizemore stole an extra base hit from Youkilis in the fourth with a snare on the left-center warning track. Not to be outdone, Ellsbury countered witih a diving grab of a swiftly falling liner off the bat of DeRosa. Ellsbury may never wrest the Gold Glove from the hands of Sizemore, but in my opinion Ellsbury exhibits smarter overall play in the outfield. The Red Sox centerfielder foregoes the spectacular play to make the smart play. Rather than dive for Mike Lowell’s line drive in the ninth as Sizemore did, allowing the hobbling third baseman a triple, Ellsbury would not have not let the ball get past him.

Grady’s got his ladies, but Jacoby’s got his... Ellsbury’s got his... Jake’s got his... well, he’ll obviously never get a Gold Glove because his name can’t be made into a cutesy fan club moniker. Ell’s Belles?

April 27, 2009


Game 18: April 26, 2009
Yankees1L: Andy Pettitte (2-1)9-9, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox4
W: Justin Masterson (2-0)
H: Hunter Jones (1)
H: Michael Bowden (1)
S: Takashi Saito (2)
12-6, 10 game winning streak
Highlights: The all-time tiebreaker between these teams was played last night. Going into Sunday night the head-to-head record stood at 446-446 with 4 ties. Boston now leads the series, 447-446-4. What a game, what a series, what a streak. Jones pitched ⅔ of an inning perfectly; he struck out a batter and didn’t allow his two inherited runners score. Bowden, who debuted last year, pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts.

Most of the time I watch a game at home on television I instant message with a few other rabid fans, including one of my closest friends. The moment we saw Jacoby Ellsbury make an outright steal of home he wrote, “I saw Billy Hatcher do that at Fenway.”

On August 3, 1992, Hatcher swiped home from under the nose of Juan Guzman of the Blue Jays in the bottom of the third. Hatcher had just been traded from the Reds about a month before. He told me that for the rest of the game the park was crackling with energy despite the Red Sox trailing in the division by 13½ games. My friend wasn’t there for Hatcher’s April 22, 1994 theft against Chuck Finley of the Angels, which was a Red Sox player’s most recent successful piece of outright thievery.

There are quite a few things I can only imagine witnessing live in a game. A no-hitter or perfect game must be at turns exhilarating and anxiety-ridden. I have seen an inside-the-park home run by Kevin Youkilis; that was an ever-building crescendo of insanity.

A triple play by definition must happen quickly; you could be pouring the last few kernels of popcorn down your throat and miss it. After it happens there is no palpable change on the scoreboard except the turning of the innings.

The outright steal of home has all the spontaneity and flawless synchronization of events of a triple play but all the chips have to fall the way of the offense. At the end of it there is the exuberance of a player who outwitted the heedless battery and another run on the board. It is an audacious play, like wearing red on your wedding day. I wonder if the clever father that carried the “Ellsbury, will you marry my daughter?” sign would approve of such attire?

If there were a way for Joe Morgan to spoil such a historic day, he would find it. While Morgan pontificated about how Dustin Pedroia was not a base stealer the screen flashed that Pedroia had the highest percentage of successful steals in franchise history in 2008. Morgan’s own staff is out to sabotage him.

Not that he needs help to show that he is ignoramus. He claimed that Pedroia shortened his swing after Morgan talked to him.

In the fifth after Jason Varitek led off the inning with a walk Steve Phillips (who seems like Bill James in comparison to Morgan) and Morgan opined about how Nick Green should sacrifice bunt in this situation. Do they even know about this team called the Boston Red Sox? Jon Miller lobbed his peers a hanging curve but only Phillips nailed it: within seconds he blathered about how the Red Sox were second to last in sac bunts last year.

But rather than dwell on the negatives of ESPN’s broadcast, I looked back at my notes at how the broadcast opened. Pedroia sat with Peter Gammons, Dave Winfield, and Karl Ravech and gave a bit of an inspirational interview:

Advice that he would give players his size? “Work hard. Doesn’t matter how big you are or how strong you are. You hit it at the right moment and it will go out.”

How to deal with the pressure of a post-MVP season? “Be relaxed and have fun. Play it like you play it in Little League.”

To Winfield: “I hope you’re not mad at me, you’re pretty big.”

If Winfield can forgive the Yankees and George Steinbrenner, certainly nothing Pedroia could ever do would incite his ire.

April 26, 2009


Game 17: April 25, 2009
Yankees11BS, L: Jonathan Albaladejo (1, 1-1)9-8, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox16BS, W: Hideki Okajima (1, 1-0)
H: Ramon Ramirez (3)
11-6, 9 game winning streak
Highlights: Did the new seats in right turn Fenway into the Nouveau Stade Fasciste? Of the games’ six homers, five of them were hit to right field. Neither former Marlin pitcher, Josh Beckett or A.J. Burnett, played a part in the decision and their lines were eerily similar: both pitched 5 innings, gave up 8 earned runs, struck out 3, and allowed two home runs. The only difference was that Beckett gave up two more hits (10) and one more walk (4).

The theme from “Miami Vice” accompanies that famous shot of sunlight streaming through palm fronds. Flamingos rush towards the camera but instead of cutting to a shot of the camera rushing over the ocean when the guitar begins to squeal there is a montage of Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Miguel Cabrera, Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell in Marlins uniforms.

The music fades to background and a deep voiceover intones, “Here at Florida Marlins Academy, we prepare the finest baseball talent for their future roles as stars of big market MLB teams.” Slow motion clip of Josh Beckett being hoisted above his teammates’ shoulders as he wins the last game of the 2003 World Series morphs into him accepting the 2007 ALCS MVP award.

“Which Florida Marlin player will you sign to a multi-year, nine-figure deal?” asks the narrator as a clip of Hanley Ramirez launching a home run into the empty seats of Dolphin Stadium fades to black.

I avoided as much of the Fox pre-game show as possible, but I did turn over in time to learn more about Jonathan Papelbon. Do we really need to know more about Cinco Ocho? He does have his video blog already. Papelbon said he could take all of the Red Sox pitchers deep, including Beckett. He went to Disneyworld for his honeymoon and riffed on how Dustin Pedroia wouldn’t meet the height requirement for the rides there.

Red Sox/Yankees games are long enough as it it, but with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver involved they seem all the more wearisome. I want to enjoy the game, not hear Joe Girardi wish his wife a happy birthday. (Happy birthday, Kim Girardi. Did you like the grand slam Jason Varitek hit in the fourth? Any more games like yesterday’s and your husband is going to be unemployed soon.)

After yesterday’s defensive gem where Pedroia initiated a 4-2-3 double play to keep a run off the board, the second baseman was out of sorts. In the seventh he let a Johnny Damon grounder dribble under his glove and through his legs, an error that allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score.

The Yankees lead, like the one they held fourth, would be brief. Girardi gave the four-finger salute to Jason Bay to put the go-ahead run on first. Mike Lowell, as a proud graduate of Florida Marlins Academy, didn’t take kindly to that. His three-run homer secured the lead for the home team once and for all and an exuberant man in the Monster seats wearing a rally visor now has a priceless souvenir.

By the end of the four hour 21-minute affair, Buck and McCarver relied on a fan’s heckles to carry the show. He had some good ones, though, better than anything the Fox duo could improvise. Commenting on Jeter’s fly ball fouled off to the right he said, “That would have been a home run in your stadium.” As Robinson Cano, who jacked two home runs and smacked a two-run double off the wall, fouled off Papelbon’s offerings, the exasperation in his voice was clear when he said, “This game could go on forever.”

April 25, 2009


Game 16: April 24, 2009 ∙ 11 innings
Yankees4H: Jonathan Albaladejo (1)
BS: Mariano Rivera (1)
L: Damaso Marte (0-1)
9-7, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox5W: Ramon Ramirez (2-0)10-6, 8 game winning streak
Highlights: Eight innings of frustration culminated in Boston’s first walk-off home run this season. Rivera is all too familiar with this situation: of the 61 blown saves in his career, 12 of them have come against the Red Sox.

Every season it’s the same situation: two evenly matched combatants face off on an arena of green. In 2009, the similarity played out even to the teams’ records, both 9-6. What isn’t equal are their opening day payrolls. According to USA Today’s salary database, the Yankees actually trimmed their salary from $209M to a meager $201M between 2008 and 2009 while the Red Sox went from $133M to $121M.

Most times the game doesn’t live up the hype, but last night’s game was an instant classic. It made the hundreds of millions of dollars these players are paid just about worth it.

Boston shot out to an early lead on the fleet feet of Jacoby Ellsbury. After lining a single into right he advanced to second on a balk. Joba Chamberlain was exasperated by the call and sent the ball to the backstop. Ellsbury was already speeding to third and continued on towards home while Jose Molina tried to dig the ball out. Chamberlain was slow to cover home and nearly crushed Ellsbury under his bulk. It took just about the same amount of time for the ponderous pitcher to run 60 feet 6 inches as it did the zippy outfielder to cover 90 feet.

Runs would not come easy, however. Despite having the leadoff batter on base for the first five innings and loading the bases in the third and fourth innings, the Red Sox trailed until the ninth inning.

How unalike are Boston and Pittsburgh as baseball towns? In Pittsburgh, probably only Roberto Clemente or Willie Stargell have ever been cheered for as loudly as Fenway cheered for Jason Bay last night. His two-run home run sailed out over the juncture of the left and center field walls, taking with it the accumulated vexation of innings of lack of offense.

With Mariano Rivera out of the game and the vulnerable underbelly of the Yankees’ bullpen thus exposed, it was only a matter of outs that the Red Sox would win. Who would be the hometown hero?

Fittingly, it was Chamberlain’s bête noire, Kevin Youkilis, who shattered the stalemate. His eleventh-inning home run was his fifth of the season. Right from the sound of the crack of the bat everyone watching knew that the game was over, the rapturous sound of Red Sox victory and Yankee futility.

April 23, 2009


Game 15: April 22, 2009
Twins3L: Francisco Liriano (0-4)7-9, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox7
W: Brad Penny (2-0)9-6, 7 game winning streak
Highlights: Dave Roberts brings happiness and and good fortune wherever he goes. He visited Fenway yesterday, Terry Francona’s birthday, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. His stopover coincided with the Red Sox’s second series sweep of the season and the team’s 16th sweep of doubleheader since its inception. Francona so clearly adores Roberts, as do we all. He is so loved he didn’t even have to don the minty green Earth Day uniforms.

That uniform looks familiar.

Ah yes, we saw those uniforms in the World Baseball Classic worn by our neighbors to the south. Boston’s version had a recycling logo on the right sleeve and clover emblem on the left. Even Jason Varitek’s armor was green.

Kevin Youkilis covers both corner infield positions with ease. He spelled Mike Lowell at third while the recently recalled Jeff Bailey played first. Nick Punto thought he led off the third with a line shot double, but Youkilis’s glove had other ideas. There is no one else in the league who can transfer Gold Glove skills across the diamond like Youkilis. Most players grow out of third and are shuttled over to first by default, like Miguel Cabrera.

Bailey made the most of his opportunity with a three-run blast in the second inning off former phenom Francisco Liriano. The Twins pitcher didn’t notch a victory, but when his stuff was on he had Red Sox batters flailing. Should he ever return 2006 form we will all be thankful he pitches in the AL Central.

Twins hitters got to Brad Penny by the fourth inning. Justin Morneau led off with a homer to the short bleachers in center and Jason Kubel followed up with a ground-rule double that took a path out of the park at angles only possible in Fenway.

But the local nine provided unparalleled run support. In six games in this seven-game winning streak the Red Sox have scored six runs or more. That’s almost enough runs to help get a pitcher like Chien-Ming Wang a win.

Speaking of, the Bronx Bromides will be in town for a weekend series. They represent another kind of green: $.

April 22, 2009


Game 14: April 22, 2009 ∙ 7 innings
Twins1L: Scott Baker (0-2)7-8, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox10W: Tim Wakefield (2-1)8-6, 6 game winning streak
Highlights: Kevin Youkilis, Nick Green, and Mike Lowell all homered. Wakefield pitched for the entire game again, but today the game was shortened by rain. Mother Nature rewarded him for keeping his starts so crisp and efficient by giving him two innings off.

Rapped to the tune of “Lazy Sunday,” a Saturday Night Live Digital Short

Lazy Wednesday, wake up in the late afternoon
Call Wakefield just to see how he’s doin’
What up, Wakes?
Yo Tito, what’s crackin’?
You thinking what I’m thinkin’?
Yawkey Way!
Man, it’s happenin’
But first my hunger pains are stickin’ like pine tar
Let’s hit up El Pelón and mack on some carnitas
Aw, wait, that place burned in a four-alarm blaze
Damn, I loved that place like Joey loved Pacey

Two, no six, no twelve, Baker’s dozen!
How many runs ya gonna give up, cousin?
Yo, where’s the ball flyin’?
Over tha Monstah, dude
Well, let’s hit up MLB hit charts find the home run length
I prefer Fangraphs
That’s a good one, too.
Hit Tracker is the best
True that
Double true!

Brookline and Yawkey Way
Step on it, sucka
What you wanna do, Drew?
Hit attack, motherfucker!
It’s the Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia
Yes, the Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia
We love that Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia
Pass that Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia

Yo, stop at the GameStop
Fenway’s over-priced
You got the backpack?
Gonna pack it up nice
Don’t want security to get suspicious
MLB 2K9 equals crazy outrageous

I’ll reach for the controller, select Peewee for the two-hole
Girl actin’ like she never seen a 5'9" playa befo’
It’s all about the plate coverage, baby
Knock around Scott Baker and I’m gone like Jacoby
Roll up to the ballpark
Ticket buying, what we’re handlin’
You can call us Beyoncé
From the way we upgradin’

Now parked in our seats
Red Sox Trivia the illest
Who did the Red Sox trade for George Kottaras?
We answered so fast, we excel
Everyone stared in awe when we screamed “David Wells!”
Keep your head quiet when you swing or it’s gonna get tragic
We’re about to get taken to a dream world of magic with…

It’s the Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia
Yes, the Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia
We love that Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia
Pass that Chronic (What?) –les of Pedroia

April 20, 2009


Game 13: April 20, 2009
L: Mark Hendrickson (1-2)
6-7, 5 game losing streak
WinRed Sox12
W: Justin Masterson (1-0)
H: Manny Delcarmen (1)
7-6, 5 game winning streak
Highlights: The Red Sox and Bruins have been hogging all the sports goodwill of late. They need to pass some over to the Celtics, who are down 0-1 in their series against the Bulls and went into the second half trailing. The Bruins are tied 2-2 in the second period. I’m far from a knowledgeable hockey fan, and I admit I was somewhat swayed into watching some matches by the clever commercials they have been airing. “But she’s so pretty....”

The Red Sox don’t need cutesy advertisements to fire up their fan base. A sold out crowd of 37,865 showed up for 11:00 AM baseball on a weekday.

(As I type this the Bruins went ahead 3-2 and the Celtics took the lead! Must. Keep. Writing.)

Dustin Pedroia had as many hits today as Ray Allen had points in the first game. Allen is turning it around tonight, however.

Speaking of turnarounds, reports of Jason Varitek’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. He is tied with Jason Bay, J.D. Drew, and Kevin Youkilis for the team lead in homers.

As for team leaders, David Ortiz is tied with Bay and Drew for triples thanks to his sixth-inning, two-run shot just over Felix Pie’s reach. Pie looks so much like Alfonso Soriano in build, but the former is a much better outfielder. Rare is the ball hawk that could have made a play on Ortiz’s fly, however. After the ball caromed off the wall and bounded towards right, Pie gave chase but not before he looked back at the wall accusatorially.

Of hockey, baseball, and basketball I think hockey can be the most dangerous. Start with a six ounce disc of rubber flying 100 miles an hour or more, throw in hockey sticks swung in proximity of other players, and add the metal blades of skates and you have a lethal trio. In baseball you have balls no more than five and a quarter ounces thrown at speeds up to 100 MPH and batted back faster, shattering bats, and collisions with various and sundry outfield fences.

(The Bruins pulled ahead 4-2, but the Celtics lost the lead. Come on, Bruins, share your fortune.)

Basketball seems to be the most collegial of the sports. There are no more than 10 men on the court at a time and the only instruments the players to achieve their goal are their bodies, minds, and teamwork. Hockey has six men to a side but with deadly implements, cold-induced grumpiness, and indigestion due to lack of dentition to properly chew food.

Baseball is the most lonely team sport of them all. Mano a mano, pitcher against batter. The clock couldn’t, wouldn’t save Mark Hendrickson, Dennis Sarfate, or Radhames Liz as Red Sox batters piled on run after run. In baseball, each at bat is a match of wills subject only to desire, not to a timekeeper.

Time ran out for the Candiens on their home ice and the Bruins triumphed 4-2.

The clock killed the Bulls. With 12 seconds left and no timeouts the Celtics held possession. Rajon Rondo dribbled until the clock drained to 3 seconds and then passed the ball to Ray Allen. The shooting guard nailed the game-winning three-pointer with two ticks left, making the score 118-115.

It was a good day today.

April 19, 2009


Game 12: April 19, 2009
Orioles1L: Koji Uehara (2-1)6-6, 4 game losing streak
WinRed Sox2W: Jon Lester (1-2)
H: Ramon Ramirez (2)
S: Takashi Saito (1)
6-6, 4 game winning streak
Highlights: The Baltimore starting pitcher’s family name, Uehara, is comprised of two symbols: 上原 that mean “above the field.” I can’t quite figure out what Koji means because each of the two symbols, 浩治, have a multitude of meanings. “Kō” can mean wide expanse, abundance, or vigorous and “ji” symbolizes govern, rule, reign, be at peace, conserve, heal, and a few other concepts. Uehara did keep it above the field: he had 13 fly ball outs compared to 3 ground outs. The visiting pitcher had a terrific day, but Lester’s was better.

Elmo needs some coaching from John Farrell. That must have been the most distressing delivery I’ve seen since Dontrelle Willis. Don Orsillo noted that Elmo used go over the top but his arm slot has dropped to three-quarters. Jerry Remy conjectured that the promising young pitching monster might be suffering from the ill effects of rotator cuff surgery.

Not that Farrell doesn’t have his hands full. Brad Penny needs to figure out how to pitch in the American League, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Smoltz need to keep to their respective rehabilitation schedules, and surveil Jonathan Papelbon in accordance with his exacting health program.

One thing to mark off Farrell’s list is “fix Jon Lester.” Lester bounced back from mediocre outings with a gem: seven sparkling innings, four hits, no runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. Throw in a pickoff of Ty Wigginton in the top of the second and it was the type of performance expected of Lester.

Fenway fans are not in midseason form yet. In the first inning Chad Moeller reached into the stands and made an unimpeded catch of Dustin Pedroia’s foul ball into the seats. By the second, however, the crowd knew what they had to do and hindered Moeller’s reach when Kevin Youkilis popped a ball into the seats behind the home side of the on deck circle.

Youkilis pinballed the very next pitch into the left field corner for a double. Felix Pie, Nick Markakis, and Brian Roberts couldn’t catch up to Mike Lowell’s wind-buffeted fly ball to shallow right-center, allowing Youkilis to cross home for the first run of the game.

Double play tandem Nick Green and Pedroia paired up for the only other Red Sox run in the fifth. Green attacked the first pitch he saw, doubling to left and scoring on Pedroia’s line drive single. This run turned out to be the margin of victory for the Red Sox.

Takashi Saito made for an interesting save. Consecutive singles and an RBI ground out brought Baltimore within a run of breaking their three-game skid, but Saito refocused to tally the final two outs.

Funny how when talking heads leave NESN the remaining personalities are loathe to acknowledge that they still exist. Not the girl that visited the booth in the fourth. Miss DiPietro has a degenerative eye disease that will eventually leave her blind, but she aspires to be a sportscaster. She was so inspired by the women formerly of NESN that she named her mouse Hazel Mae and her guinea pig Tina Cervasio.

You can make up ground in the American League East, but you just can’t make that up.


Game 11: April 18, 2009
Orioles4L: Adam Eaton (0-2)6-5, 3 game losing streak
WinRed Sox6W: Josh Beckett (2-1)
H: Hideki Okajima (2)
H: Takashi Saito (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (4)
5-6, 3 game winning streak
Highlights: Written in Japanese, “Saito” is comprised of two kanji. The first symbol, 斎, is pronounced “sai” and means “purification.” The second part of his name, 藤, is pronounced “tō” and symbolizes “wisteria.” His give name, Takashi, is written with a single ideogram, 隆. This symbol has several meanings: hump (as in something elevated, like a baseball mound), high, noble, or prosperity. Saito took the mound in the eighth and allowed a leadoff single to Ty Wigginton but quickly buckled down. He whiffed the next two batters and induced a fly ball out for the final out. Saito seemed to be annoyed by the bullpen drumming; perhaps he played out his chagrin on the mound.

Doug Eddings, the home plate umpire last night, is every pitchers’ best friend. He tends to give hurlers the outside edge and more, at least according to Brian Roberts and Dustin Pedroia. Those two second basemen would know, as they can barely reach across home plate with their bats as it is.

The new look Orioles seem to be much the same to me. Of course, the bird image they use is now slightly different, but don’t overlook the change to the alternate batting practice cap logo.

In 2010 they should issue a correction to make the opening single quote mark they have (‘) an actual apostrophe (’).

The Orioles also have a sleeve patch that incorporates the Maryland state flag. Maryland’s flag is the only state flag that incorporates British heraldry. Its quarters alternate between the Calvert and Crossland coasts of arms, a jarring assemblage of black and yellow spliced with red and white. The Ravens also include the flag in one of their alternate graphics. I question the aptitude of the graphic designers that would include orange or purple with the already gaudy state flag colors.

The Baltimore baseball club’s construction reminds me of the haphazard way its new devices: a slapdash collection of players whose individual talents do not combine for a harmonious whole. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones will drive the team’s offense in the years to come. Will they mature before Roberts’s eventual age-related decline begins? When will uberprospect Matt Wieters finally take his hacks against major league pitching?

Inconsistent pitching is the Orioles’ key deficiency. A trio of pitching prospects, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta, are assumed to eventually become top of the rotation starters. From Clay Buchholz we all know the vagaries of projecting pitchers.

Boston’s American League East opponents may have a future as bright as their new insignias, but in the present day they will likely not maintain the tenuous division lead they established.

Kevin Youkilis feasted on Orioles pitching. The first baseman went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer in the third that dropped into the lap of a lucky fan in the Monster seats.

Just when you thought Dustin Pedroia couldn’t be more hilarious, in the sixth he tried to pull the “oh I hurt my leg so bad I probably can’t run that well — psych! — here I go stealing on the very next play and you didn’t even suspect it” maneuver. It didn’t fool Gregg Zaun, however, who threw out the Red Sox keystone bagger with ease.

With last night’s win the local nine ensured at least a series split and brought them one step closer in their slog to a winning record. Although Boston’s record isn’t as good as the Yankees, the Red Sox have been playing much better baseball. The Indians beat the New York American League ball club in historic fashion yesterday, 22-4.

April 18, 2009


Game 10: April 17, 2009
Orioles8L: Danys Baez (0-1)6-4, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox10W: Ramon Ramirez (1-0)
H: Hideki Okajima (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (3)
4-6, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: No lead is safe in Fenway, particularly if your name is Jeremy Guthrie. The Orioles pitcher was the victim of the 2007 Mother’s Day Miracle (or Massacre, from his point of view). Last night he and his bullpen failed to hold a seven-run lead, breaking the curse of the alternate jerseys. Corner outfielders Jason Bay and J.D. Drew both smashed four-baggers into the visitors’ bullpen, countering Nick Markakis’s 5 RBI evening.

Who did Brady Penny remind you more of, Carl Pavano (rocked by the Rangers on April 9th of this year for 9 earned runs and 2 home runs) or Jeff Suppan (7 earned runs and 3 homers in his August 5, 2003 Fenway start against the Angels)? Theo Epstein and his staff know full well how National League pitchers have difficulty adapting to the American League, but they had success bringing over Curt Schilling. But Penny is no Schilling, no matter what conversion rate you use.

Fridays mean alternate jerseys. Last night was the first time the hanging sox were coupled with the alternate home jerseys. For traditionalists, the new cap’s debut went over as well as Penny’s first home start.

Two Greens impressed me last night. Pumpsie visited the booth in the bottom of the fourth and shared his recollections of his days as a Red Sox player. On July 21, 1959 Green pinch ran and played short for the Red Sox at the old Comiskey Park to become the first African-American on Boston’s roster, which was the last team to integrate.

“Hey, that was terrible,” Pumpsie Green chuckled about his ceremonial first pitch. What was also terrible was the systematic bigotry that held back the Red Sox from breaking the color barrier for more than a decade after Jackie Robinson’s debut. If there is some sort of karmic force in the universe, I do believe that John W. Henry’s commitment to undo the wrongs of the owners that preceded him has brought his team the success on the field that we enjoy now.

The other Green to make his mark was Nick. He ended the visitor half of the fourth with yet another outstanding play. The Orioles had already gotten a run in the inning and Nick Markakis was camped out on third, ready to increase the then three-run lead. Green ensnared Luke Scott’s grounder behind second before it crept into the outfield and then twirled dervish-like to fire to first.

Green’s calling card isn’t his offensive skills, but in the fifth he tied the game with a two-run double off the center field wall. Makes one appreciate the greenery.

April 16, 2009


Game 9: April 15, 2009
WinRed Sox8W: Tim Wakefield (1-1)3-6, 1 game winning streak
Athletics2L: Brett Anderson (0-2)4-5, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: You can’t be a little pregnant and you can't have a bit of a perfect game or a smidgen of a no-hitter. Wakefield was three innings from a perfect game until Mike Lowell’s error on Kurt Suzuki’s batted ball in the sixth. He was then five outs from a no-hitter when Suzuki lined a single into left.

The Red Sox offense picked a fine time to bat around the order for the first time this season. The knuckleballer sat in the dugout for 25 minutes waiting to return to the mound. Tim Wakefield said the delay didn’t impact him, but Dennis Eckersley thought otherwise.

Mike Lowell was the only glimmer of offense for either team until that fateful eighth. It came in the second inning and was Lowell’s second homer of the season.

As he did in Jon Lester’s no-hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury played a key role, although his contribution wasn’t as stunning as his catch last year. The ball hawk made an outstanding grab to end the third, tracking down Landon Powell’s deep fly and snagging the ball on the run.

The play of the game, however, was Nick Green’s twisting snare behind second on Jack Cust’s flare for the second out of the seventh. Had Wakefield pitched a perfect game or no-hitter, Green’s name could have risen out of obscurity. Now the best the infielder can hope for is to be as insignificant as Gerald Green. Winning the slam dunk contest doesn’t do one-dimensional players very well.

Kurt Suzuki is from the island I was raised on (Maui) and he went to my high school (Henry Perrine Baldwin High School). I admit to owning a baseball card of him and rooting for him when he isn't playing against Boston. Shane Victorino, Suzuki — can’t keep a Maui boy down.

I have a number of odd devotions revolving around baseball: kids from Hawai‘i, knuckleballers, triple plays (unassisted and conventional), hitting for the cycle (the Red Sox are due for one, it hasn’t happened since 1996). We’re not even through the first 10 games we’ve already had our first triple play (turned by the Pirates this past Sunday) and two players hitting for the cycle (Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers and Ian Kinsler of the Rangers, both second basemen).

Suzuki will always be from Maui and he has many more games in front of him, but who knows how many more innings the 42-year old has left, let alone perfectly pitched ones strung together. Perhaps one day Wakefield will emulate fellow knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, who had a no-hitter on September 20, 1958, against the Yankees no less.

April 15, 2009

Ishiki no nagare [意識の流れ]

Game 8: April 14, 2009 ∙ 12 innings
Red Sox5
L: Javier Lopez (0-1)2-6, 3 game losing streak
W: Sean Gallagher (1-0)
4-4, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Ishiki no nagare means “stream of consciousness” in Japanese. For most of this game I tried to remain conscious.

Top first: Mark Ellis and Bobby Crosby are versions of each other. I always forget which is which. Dustin Pedroia skips one past the third baseman. It’s windy in Oakland. I don’t know if Papi’s spit will make it to his gloves because of the gusts.

What if Eveland were a tourist attraction? There would be stand after stand of apple sellers (but some would hock pomegranates, figs, or grapes). Instead of Zoltan telling you a fortune you would put quarters into a glass case featuring a mechanized hissing snake.

With the shift on, no one was covering second on Papi’s ground out and Pedroia advanced to the vacant sack. Kevin Youkilis singled up the middle to plate Pedroia and the visitors have the lead. J.D. Drew doubles in Youkilis with a fly ball over Matt Holliday’s head for another run. One would think a Colorado outfielder would take better routes.

This is the team we were expecting.

Jason Bay walks on six pitches and Mike Lowell replicates Youkilis’s hit up the gut. Sean Gallagher warms in the pen; get ready for some water melon smashing.

Another Jason walks, but for Varitek it takes only four pitches. Nick Green enters the batter’s box; if he reaches it would be the first time the Red Sox bat around this season. Green strikes out.

(I jinxed it.)

Just before NESN cut away I caught a snippet of the public address announcer’s voice that proclaimed that Captain Chesley Sullenberger was at the game.

Bottom first: Ryan Sweeney finds the hole up the middle. It’s a theme for tonight, sing the Jimmy Eat World song. Orlando Cabrera just Vlade Divac-ed on that pitch “inside.” That exaggerated duck is just a touch less overdone than soccer player’s dives.

Bay shows Holliday how to make a catch in left on Jason Giambi’s fly ball. Jacoby Ellsbury can’t elevate on Holliday’s fly to center, though, and two runs score.

Jerry Remy conjectures that the long top half impacted Daisuke Matsuzaka. Cust must be dust. He bloops a single over Green for the tying run.

Nomah. No mas. Remy zinger: When you walk Nomar Garciaparra that’s doing something. It takes only four pitches.

The score is going to be 18-15 or some other ridiculous figure.

So, in Eveland, there would be other concessions besides apples and pomegranates. Baby back ribs! Available in five different sauces and three different dry rubs.

Another run driven in for the home team, this one by Travis Buck.

The Athletics bat around with Crosby’s RBI grounder off Mike Lowell that was retrieved by Green. Sorry, that’s actually Ellis. Oakland has as many runs as the number of times Eve’s name is written in the Bible.

Eveland would be so much less intriguing that Lilithland. Not the pallid Lilith of “Cheers” and “Frasier” but the mythological first wife of Adam. In Lilithland you would constantly have to be avoiding thousands of her malicious spawn. One attraction would be a roller coaster with cars in the shapes of demons.

Second inning: Crosby (not Ellis? Oh right, he’s already in the game) replaces Garciaparra at third. This time no mas for reals. Justin Masterson replaces Matsuzaka and comes through with a perfect inning. Just need five more of those and this game is in the bag.

Third inning: Cue the clown music! Holliday traps the ball but the umpires don’t see it. Youkilis dashes back to first but falls like an old growth tree under the onslaught of a logging machine and is doubled off. Buck makes a comical dive for Bay’s fly ball but Bay’s two-out double is for naught.

This game is going to go until 2 in the morning.

The later I go to sleep the more vivid dreams I have. Sometimes they are lucid dreams where I realize I am dreaming so I manipulate my dream environment, like when I imagined I controlled the elements and rode currents of air and caused thunderstorms and lightning (not very original, I used to read “X-Men”). Other times I dream of various violent things happening to me that inevitably leave me feeling as if something or someone is pressing down on my chest and strangling me. I try desperately to wake up but my body won't respond.

Fourth inning: The usually steady Drew allowed Cabrera’s ball not only to drop in front of him but slip by his glove for a single and error. It was about as lackadaisical as Manny Ramirez in his get me out of town phase. The only thing missing was rolling around the outfield trying to retrieve it. And dreadlocks.

Wikipedia reassures me that the terrifying moments frozen between sleep and awakening I have are common: sleep paralysis. What did we do before the internet? Made up stories about demons or ghosts sitting on our chest foretelling our doom.

Fifth inning: Cabrera rocks the hat with ear flaps, Joe Maddon like. Bay grounds out to Eveland and Youk crosses home. Then Lowell ricochets the ball off his counterpart to drive in the tying run. We are now exiting Eveland, please don't forget your belongings. Andrew Bailey's name is so boring I'd rather stay in Eveland and have another Parad-ice Lost ice cream cone.

Sixth inning: Ellsbury dives for Kurt Suzuki's rainbow but doesn't get the benefit that Holliday did on his phantom catch. O, Cabrera, of the delicate ears and hands, how lightly you dodge the missiles that are nowhere near your dainty extremities.

Seventh inning: The visitors try to capitalize on the other team's errors and free passes like AIG executives.

The home plate umpire sympathizes with me having to stay up late and starts calling the high strike. Ramon Ramirez in with an out remaining.

Eighth through tenth: Zzz. Finally get word on why Matsuzaka was pulled out: arm fatigue. I blame the Kōshien. Speaking of fatigue: zzz.

Eleventh: Is that Papelbon? Zzz.

Twelfth: Javier Lopez? Well, we’re losing this one. Buck was safe at first? Ron Kulpa just wants to go bed. Like me.

April 14, 2009


Game 7: April 13, 2009
Red Sox2L: Jon Lester (0-2)2-5, 2 game losing streak
WinAthletics8W: Dallas Braden (1-1)3-4, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: The Athletics plated a season-high eight runs last night. This from a much-maligned offense that features at best one elite hitter (Matt Holliday, who must prove that his prowess was based on innate skill and not the atmospherics of his former home park, Coors Field), a pair of reclamation projects (Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra), and a passel of underperformers (Ryan Sweeney, Bobby Crosby, and Rajai Davis).

What was more odd, seeing another rough outing by Jon Lester or seeing Nomar Garciaparra hit against his first team in verdant green?

Not surprisingly it was Garciaparra’s first time facing the Red Sox. He has been kicking around the National League since 2004. When he wasn’t on the disabled list he usually wasn’t starting, so his at bats have been few and far between.

We’ll never know all that Garciaparra thought as he stood in the box against his former team. He always answered in politically correct soundbites and didn’t reveal much more in post-game interviews:

The guys just need to keep swinging. We’ve been swinging the bat well, but balls haven’t been falling. Tonight they did. It was good to see.

I look forward to it, just because of the fans and to see some old friends and everything. I always loved the fans and that city will always have a special place in my heart.

No plumbing the depths of his emotions about finding a job with a team that has but a slight chance to make the playoffs, unlike his previous teams. He had only positive things to say about Boston and its fans but assiduously avoided commenting on the organization and the media.

While Alex Rodriguez observes the “the only bad publicity is no publicity” philosophy, Garciaparra abides by the “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” edict.

I’ll follow Garciaparra’s lead and not say anything more about this game.

April 12, 2009


Game 6: April 12, 2009
Red Sox4L: Josh Beckett (1-1)2-4, 1 game losing streak
WinAngels5W: Dustin Moseley (1-0)
H: Jose Arredondo (4)
H: Scot Shields (3)
S: Brian Fuentes (2)
3-3, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Moseley was one of the Angels who gave a press conference to talk about Nick Adenhart. They were friends and minor league teammates. Even though Adenhart replaced Moseley on the major league roster last year there was not a trace of animosity. It may sound like a cliché, but they were more like family than friends.

I don’t begrudge Dustin Moseley and the Angels their victory in this game or their series win. It must have been some small consolation given the events of the past week.

It was apparent their nerves were raw. They overreacted to Josh Beckett’s plunking of Bobby Abreu in the bottom of the first, clearing the benches to stand behind their new right fielder. Perhaps Beckett’s throw was meant to hit Abreu, but it should be noted that pulling up in mid-delivery is potentially dangerous to the pitcher. There is a reason for the extreme annoyance you see on hurlers’ faces when batters call for last second timeouts.

Torii Hunter flew off the handle and was quickly ejected. Justin Speier was booted for his unceasing invectives from the dugout. At some point in the first inning Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was tossed. During the tussle Adenhart’s number was erased from the back of the mound.

Mike Scioscia badgered the umpires again in the second, making it clear that either he or Beckett goes. The officiating crew wouldn’t capitulate to the skipper’s demands and Scioscia was thrown out.

If anything, it seemed the skirmish fired up the Red Sox more than the Angels. In the second inning Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew responded with back-to-back homers while the home team went down in order.

But by bottom of the third the Angels regained their composure and Beckett lost his. Alternating singles and walks plated three runs for a lead the Angels would not hand over. The moment was particularly sweet for Abreu, whose revenge against his adversary was a single to right that plated the tying and go-ahead runs.

Brian Fuentes was as shaky as Jonathan Papelbon in Saturday’s game. Fuentes hit Nick Green to begin ninth but sat Rocco Baldelli and Dustin Pedroia with a strikeout and pop out respectively. Whatever confidence Fuentes got by sitting last year’s MVP was short lived. David Ortiz singled in Green and Youkilis singled as well.

Perhaps Drew was being overly prudent when he watched the final strike for the final out cross the plate. He had been too rash in the eighth, when he swung at the first pitch out of Scot Shields’s hand for the first out, right after the reliever walked two batters in a row. The blame was not Drew’s alone, however. The Red Sox as a team left 25 men on base.

Boston now makes the trip up the coast to Oakland to take on the 2-4 Athletics. Who would have thought the Red Sox would share the same record as the rebuilding Oakland club?


Game 5: April 11, 2009
WinRed Sox5
W: Brad Penny (1-0)
H: Ramon Ramirez (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (2)
2-3, 1 game winning streak
L: Joe Saunders (0-1)
2-3, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: I analyzed the quartet of color analysts for Friday’s games, but there are not enough words in all the languages of the world to describe the lackluster performance of the Fox broadcasters yesterday. They confused Jason Bay with Rocco Baldelli and mixed up Mike Lowell and Jed Lowrie. Left and right fielders with “B” names, names that start with “L” next to each other in the batting order — way too confusing for Fox.

Mike Scioscia’s team started the game with their usual small ball strategy. The poster child of that school of baseball, Chone Figgins, walked to lead off the bottom of the first, swiped second, and scored on two ground outs. Somewhere, Ty Cobb, Tony LaRussa, and Joe Morgan glowed at the thought of runs (or more correctly, a single run) being manufactured. It only cost two outs.

All of the Red Sox runs were knocked in by homers, a fact that would make Earl Weaver smile. Mike Lowell jacked a two-run home run in the fifth that was caught with Jerry Rice-like skill by a fan. And that was just the second-best catch yesterday afternoon. Rocco Bal — I mean, Jason Bay — snowconed a Torii Hunter fly ball in the fourth. Bay’s glove seemed to have hit the wall, which then caused the ball to pop out. Or perhaps the ball slipped out and hit the wall back towards Bay. Replays from two angles were inconclusive but this was not a replay situation anyway, so Scioscia’s appeals to second base umpire Marvin Hudson fell on deaf years. Bay kept his composure and re-caught the ball before it reached ground.

Bay put those same quick reflexes to work on the other side of the plate. The Red Sox left fielder put his team ahead for the first time in the game with a two-run longball in the seventh. He tacked on another four-bagger in the top of the ninth that would be the difference in the game.

After the first, the Angels all but abandoned any thought of small ball. Mike Napoli lofted two homers off the rotund Brad Penny. Penny’s Red Sox debut coincided with the debut with the new road grays, which are pretty much like the road uniforms of the early 80s but with the ornate Red Sox typeface rather than block letters. Penny wasn’t spectacular, but thankfully the Red Sox front office selected him as their reclamation project this season rather than Carl Pavano (1 inning pitched, 6 hits, 9 runs, 2 home runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 81.0 earned run average).

Ramon Ramirez had another impressive outing (1⅔ innings, 1 hit, 1 strikeout); the only hit he relinquished was a double off the bat of Napoli, but no one was getting anything by the Angels’ catcher yesterday. In the eighth Bobby Abreu smacked a sharp grounder to Kevin Youkilis who knocked it down but couldn’t glove the ball. The ball ricocheted towards Dustin Pedrioa who swiftly barehanded it and fired to Ramirez for the out. How odd to see a first baseman get an assist.

Jonathan Papelbon labored for 39 pitches to get the final four outs and gave up a home run to Hunter in the process. With the bases loaded, two out, and the count 0-2 Papelbon refused to waste a pitch to Howie Kendrick. The Fox color analyst kept on exhorting the closer to waste a pitch away or in the dirt to perhaps get Kendrick to chase after one, but with speedy Reggie Willits on third representing the tying run the Red Sox battery insisted on pounding the zone. After fouling off seven straight pitches, Kendrick finally straightened one out, but it found Rocco Baldelli’s glove despite the glare of the late afternoon sun.

The visitors will go into today’s game with a chance to win the series and bring their season record to .500

April 11, 2009


Game 4: April 10, 2009
Red Sox 3 L: Tim Wakefield (0-1) 1-3, 3 game losing streak
WinAngels 6
W: Jered Weaver (1-0)
H: Jose Arredondo (3)
S: Scot Shields (1)
2-2, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: “The show must go on.” Freddie Mercury sang it, as did David Gilmour. In the aftermath of Nick Adenhart’s untimely death his team paid tribute to him by playing strong. Weaver went for 6⅔ innings, fanning 8 and permitting just a pair of walks. The Angels didn’t hit homers but rather scattered Wakefield’s knucklers across the field in a timely manner, resulting in a home win.

It was an odd evening. The Red Sox debuted their new blue road uniforms and the hanging pair of socks cap. I kept on thinking it was a spring training game or that I was watching the Brewers.

Jerry Remy was ill so a color analyst rotation of Sean McAdam, Rex Hudler, Ken Rosenthal, and Tony Massarotti accompanied Don Orsillo. Orsillo is not ready to go Vin Scully just yet. Why Hudler was talking in the second slot is beyond me; who is the idiot that put together this staff?

McAdam was something of a surprise to be the ace of staff, but his solid contributions make up for his lack of flash. Think of him as the Kevin Millwood of the team. He seasoned his monotone delivery with a few droll observations, just as Millwood breaks up his 90 MPH fastballs with sliders and curves.

The argument could be made that Rosenthal should have spoke second because of keen repertoire of general baseball insight, but I would have placed him third. He has the national profile of being Fox’s field reporter and his writing has garnered awards, but to make the leap from field-level reporting to the booth might be expecting too much of him. His short soundbite style did not play well over two innings, just as some relievers shouldn’t be stretched out to become starters. He called to mind Brandon Morrow, who is better out of the bullpen than carrying the burden of having to last as many innings as possible in a game. Rosenthal also lacks deep insight into either team’s particulars; that he wasn’t confounded by Jacoby Ellsbury grounding into a 3-6-3 double play to end the fifth revealed a lack of specifc Red Sox knowledge.

Instead of Rex “Wonder Dog” Hudler in the second spot I would have gone with Tony Massarotti. His piercing, high-pitched tone counters McAdam’s deep timbre, perplexing listeners and thereby maintaining their attention. Massarotti’s career has been on the rise ever since he left the Herald for the Globe, which can be compared to David Price rocketing through the Rays minor league system to hurl in key games in late September.

To even have Hudler in a major league broadcasting rotation is an embarrassment. That someone saw fit to fill the two hole with his yammering is a travesty. At one point he assumed the voice of a woman to add drama to his anecdote and it went over like Julian Tavarez coming off the mound and bolting to second in an attempt to get a runner out. Except not as hilarious in retrospect. He also broke the “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse” rule by bringing up a skirmish between Curt Schilling and Ricky Bottalico. I suppose his justification is that it happened in a plane, not at the ballpark. We can only be thankful that he wasn’t peckish during his stint as he has been known to eat a bug if the occasion called for it.

There is indeed a need to fear, Rex Hudler is near... a microphone.

April 9, 2009

Shi o itamu [死を悼む]

Game 3: April 9, 2009
WinRays 4 W: Matt Garza (1-0)
H: Brian Shoush (1)
H: Joe Nelson (1)
S: Troy Percival (1)
2-1, 2 game winning streak
Red Sox 3 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-1) 1-2, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: It’s just a game. I’m talking about this particular game in the context of the series, of the season, but also about the sport itself. It’s just a game. Shi o itamu means “mourn someone’s death” in Japanese.

For the past three years I have been in an intense fantasy baseball league. In it we track players from when they are drafted until they (hopefully) make the majors. Since Nick Adenhart was a high profile prospect, he had been part of our consciousness long before his gutty performance last night. He was like a distant cousin to whom you were related to but didn’t talk to every day. He was part of the extended family and following his emerging talent from afar helped us to remember what it was like to have childhood dreams. Except he had the talent and the will to make those dreams reality, battling through injury and Tommy John surgery to take his place on a major league mound.

When I read about his death this morning I was stunned. With MLB Network’s live look-ins it was just a few hours before that I had seen him pitch. He had a better outing than Daisuke Matsuzaka did today, lasting 6 innings while allowing 7 hits and 3 walks. Despite the 10 baserunners allowed, he did not surrender a single run. He was in line for his second win of his major league career until the bullpen coughed up the lead. But in the early morning hours something far more precious than a game was lost.

Thankfully, work provided a series of tasks to distract me from contemplating Adenhart’s passing. I drove home with more caution than usual and tuned into the remnants of the Red Sox game. The late inning rally captured a portion of my attention, but the improvement of Jason Varitek’s swing and his ninth inning homer were minuscule morsels of entertainment. I didn’t have the appetite to savor a game for the game’s sake.

I thought back to a conversation I had with a friend in high school. I was yammering about how I would only volunteer for high-minded causes, like Amnesty International or the World Wildlife Fund. You know, things that mattered. I made a disparaging remark about Mothers Against Drunk Driving, forgetting that she was the president of our high school’s chapter of the organization.

“It’s such an obvious cause. Of course everyone should be against drunk driving, so why does anyone need to devote time and energy to that? I want to align myself with ideals.” (Italics are meant to convey the smug tone in my voice, but to truly display the level of arrogance I had at the time imagine it about 30 more degrees slanted to the right.)

Back then I apologized when I saw that I had hurt her feelings, but sadly enough I actually believed that malarkey in those days. So, here I apologize again. Lisa Friedman, I’m sorry for trivializing your efforts. If you stopped one person from getting into a car intoxicated your work was worthwhile.

May the driver who took the lives of three people in Fullerton, California today spend at least 22 years behind bars.


Game 2: April 8, 2009
WinRays 7 W: Scott Kazmir (1-0)
S: Grant Balfour (1)
1-1, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox 2
L: Jon Lester (0-1)
1-1, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: Raving about Jon Lester, Tom Caron rhapsodized, “The ceiling for this guy is through through the roof!” This evening’s Eck-tionary offering was “salad,” which means a pitch that is easy for a batter to launch. Hurlers used to serve meatballs, but in these days of health consciousness and eating ethics, genetically unmodified, organic leafy greens are recommended. Lester complied by serving up some escarole tonight: he presented to his guests five earned runs over his five-course repast.

The new opening montage for the game is less jaunty and jumbled. Accompanying the sleek new graphics is a reinvigorated, driving score, brawnier than the previous refrain, which was laced with the whines of a simulated guitar and peppered with the electronic flourishes of a synthesizer. I rather liked the haphazard way players popped from sides of the screen in the old sequence, so this will take some getting used to.

As will talking about a Ramirez that isn’t Manny. This Ramirez, a relief pitcher named Ramon, turned heads with a breakout season last year (70 strikeouts in 71⅔ innings pitched, 21 holds). At last Terry Francona must permanently and irrevocably break his Mike Timlin addiction. Ramirez and Takashi Saito made their Boston debuts. Ramirez’s was perfect while Saito’s reminded me of Hideki Okajima’s. The first batter Saito faced, AL Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria, homered, just as John Buck did in 2007. History repeating?

Gabe Kapler, Carlos Peña, and Rocco Baldelli were all cheered for their connection to either the team or the New England area, so there was some warmth in the 45 degree weather. For Baldelli there was even a “let’s go, Rocco” chant, eliciting chills not caused by the temperature.

Baldelli propelled his lithe form to the fringes of Dustin Pedroia’s territory to make an outstanding head-first snare of Dioner Navarro’s short fly in the fourth. On the other side of the ball he notched his first hit in the bottom of the sixth on a single that glanced off of Akinori Iwamura’s glove.

Jason Bay, who looked uncomfortable at best cutting through the throngs in yesterday’s unorthodox entry onto the field, appeared more at home in left field. He played balls barehanded off the wall just like that other guy who most recently played in that position and whose name I don’t want to mention more than once in a column. Snatch of a carom in mid-arc, pivot, sling — his fluid motions should have yielded an out in the visitor’s half of the ninth but for Kapler’s adroit slide into second.

Kapler, he learned some schemes and ploys in Greenville as a manager in the Red Sox system. He led off the fifth inning and walked on five pitches, advanced to third on Iwamura’s single, and then scored on Jason Bartlett’s bunt. The last leg of his trip showed a keen sense of baserunning never previously associated with Kapler. It’s as if an employee got his tuition reimbursed by his company and then went to go work for the competition.

I hope Theo Epstein approached Kapler at some point during this series. “Gabe, someone in human resources wants to talk to you....”

April 7, 2009


Game 1: April 7, 2009
L: James Shields (0-1)
0-1, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 5
W: Josh Beckett (1-0)
H: Justin Masterson (1)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
1-0, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: Beckett is on pace for 30 wins, Masterson for 42 holds, Papelbon for 58 saves, Pedroia for 152 homers, and the Red Sox for 162 wins. It’s a typical damp and dreary New England April whose only brightness is baseball.

“Gross,” wrote my friend over IM. At that moment Jonathan Papelbon struck out Gabe Gross on a fastball caressing the outside edge of home plate.

He wasn’t talking about the Rays’ right fielder but about seeing king crabs promenaded on plates at his favorite Baltimore eatery. I chided him for being squeamish about food that too closely recalled the animals from whence they came. I had a friend who wouldn’t eat chicken with bones because they evoked the life that was so casually plucked for the sake of a snack.

And yet meat molded into unnatural cylinders enfolded in buns of bleached flour are blithely consumed. Especially today, Opening Day, which for the first time since 2002 is at Fenway. It took them seven years to forget that starting the season in Boston is a bad idea. But despite the rain and chill the mantra still rings true: baseball, hot dogs, apple pie.

Speaking of America and white bread, Keith Lockhart and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus’s rendition of “God Bless America” only lacked a bubble machine to recreate The Lawrence Welk Show on the Green Monster.

Josh Beckett had a faltering moment in the sixth but that was washed away by his ten strikeouts. He will forever be linked in my mind to Mike Lowell, whom the Marlins thought they were foisting upon the Red Sox. Lowell signifies to me the front office’s conscious effort to change the tenor of the clubhouse. Just compare 2004 to 2007: the idiots’ World Series MVP was Manny Ramirez while the most recent playoff MVP was Lowell. It’s like comparing AIG executives to Jack Welch. There was tumult and disaster surrounding Ramirez but he was still getting paid while Lowell guided his the team through that turmoil.

I can’t wait to see the Cumberland Farms area on the right field roof. Cupholders and cushions? I’m there! I always thought the space in that section was poorly utilized; there were about four seats per row, making it seem like it was mostly aisles rather than seating. I’m dubious about the wooden terrace, but like the refreshed logo and new road uniforms I’ll probably warm up to it.

Just remember: there’s no smoking in Fenway.

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