Saturday, May 31, 2003

Game 53 - Red Sox

Blue Jays 13, Red Sox 2
Record: 31-22

First three-game losing skid of the season. Guess I shouldn't have been so rosy in that 50-game checkup, eh? This one was a pretty crappy effort all the way around, led by John Burkett's abysmal 2 inning, 8 ER start. I'm hoping that the acquisition of B-H Kim signals the end of the Burkett Era in Boston, at least in the rotation. And even if Kim eventually shifts to the bullpen for the stretch run, I'd rather see Ryan Rupe or Bruce Chen get the nod at the back of the rotation than the aging-before-our-eyes Burkett. I dislike Burkett for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he sucks. But he also was a jackass last season during the strike talk, and he's slow torture to watch, nibbling to every batter, working at a brutal pace, and allowing baserunners in every inning.

Whitney will be pleased to know that I'm days away from pulling the trigger on DirecTV, a move that was finally catalyzed by my digital cable cutting out during the Sox' scintillating comeback against the Yankees on Wednesday. My wife doesn't know it yet, but we're getting the Extra Innings package. I'm gonna feed this addiction, baby.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Tiger Watch in Danger of Being Renamed

Those scrappy Bengals, fresh off 4 wins in their last 10 games, are nipping at the heels of the San Diego Padres. The Pads sport a nifty 15-39 record, while the Tigers are a spunky 13-38, giving San Diego a 1/2 game edge over our heroes from Hockeytown, and a .023 percentage point advantage. The Motor City Kitties are on pace for 41 wins, while the Fightin' Fathers extrapolate to 45. DoubleYikes.

For what it's worth, I'm a big Tiger fan this weekend, as they face the Yankees with an opportunity to spoil Roger Clemens second attempt at 300 wins.
Game 53 - Mets

Mets 5, Phillies 0
Record: 24-29

The Phillies have to be kicking themselves. The Mets' lineup is scaring nobody, except maybe Mets fans, yet they knock out 5 earned runs on 9 hits (6 of them doubles) in a game their ace started. Kevin Millwood was decent, but for a guy who threw a no-hitter a month ago, this array of non-hitters had to look like a chance for more history. And Steve Trachsel is solid, but the Phils' hitters looked helpless against him. So they drop the second series to the Mets in two weeks. And I win myself my fourth case of the good stuff. This time I'm thinking Utica Club.

So tonight is the marquee match-up of Tm Glavine vs. Greg Maddux for the first time. It's probably more marquee than competitive, in truth. Glavine is coming off a bad loss to the crappy Braves and a blister on his index finger, while Maddux is hitting his stride. More importantly, since both guys are usually gamers, is the respective batters on each club. A hitter-for-hitter comparison is something of a joke, with the Mets clearly on the butt end.

Rafael Furcal, SS ------------- Roger Cedeno, RF
Marcus Giles, 2B ------------- Rey Sanchez, SS
Gary Sheffield, RF ------------ Ty Wigginton, 3B
Chipper Jones, LF ----------- Cliff Floyd, LF
Andruw Jones, CF ----------- Jeromy Burnitz, CF
Robert Fick, 1B --------------- Jason Phillips, 1B
Javy Lopez, C ---------------- Vance Wilson, C
Vinny Castilla, 3B ------------ Marco Scutaro, 2B
Greg Maddux, P -------------- Tom Glavine, P

Yikes. Are these two teams really in the same level of professional baseball? Jae Seo goes against "The Little Bulldog" Mike Hampton on Saturday, offering little relief after Friday night's challenge. Sunday night's ESPN game features Al Leiter and Shane Reynolds (whom the Mets tried to sign early this season but low-balled). We in the Mets' faithful are praying for comments like "Well, you don't play the game on paper" or "That's why you play the games" or even "Holy crap! Who knew the Mets were capable?" to be uttered by the SportsCenter geeks come Monday.

Have I mentioned my distaste for the fargin' Braves?

Thursday, May 29, 2003

The Tradewinds, They're A-blowin'

ESPN Radio is reporting that the Sox and Diamondbacks have agreed on a deal that would send Shea Hillenbrand to the Snakes for pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim. Man, am I torn. Hillenbrand drives me batshit with his lack of plate discipline, but he smokes the ball when he hits it, and he's probably the team's best defensive firstbaseman at the moment. I hate to extrapolate value from my selective memory, but he also seems to get big hits against good pitchers - like his game-winning bomb against Mariano Rivera last year, or his clutch single against, um, Mariano Rivera last night. On the other hand, he's 28 years old, has a mediocre OPS, and average power, and BYK is a stud.

The Bunger gives the Sox a ton of flexibility, as he can start and relieve, and he can slot in right now as the Sox #2 starter. That'll take pressure off Lowe, and when Pedro comes back will give the Sox a rotation with Pedro (the best right-handed pitcher in history), Kim (a side-arming strikeout artist), Lowe (tall, lanky sinkerballer), Wakefield (knuckleballer), and Fossum (hard-throwing lefthander with a good curve). That will present opposing teams with a massively diverse set of challenges on a day-to-day basis.

Ultimately, this means Bill Mueller plays third everyday, which improves the defense at third and keeps an OBP machine in the lineup. It also means that David Ortiz and Kevin Millar share first base duties, which weakens the defense, but probably improves the offense. So, in the end, pitching better, defense the same, offense better. Daddy likee.
Idle Thoughts

A few items omitted in earlier postings that I had meant to include . . .

1. It must be evident to you by now that when I say something mildly premonitory and whatever I've "foretold" actually happens, I seem to receive great satisfaction from pointing out my prognosticative powers. Well, it happened again. I offered the two-bit wisdom "and you get the sense that the rash of injuries is not yet over" on Tuesday morning. That night, in his first at-bat, Roberto Alomar suffered a hip flexor injury in the batter's box in a mishap eerily similar to Mike Piazza's spastic groin tear. Note to the Mets: Getting plunked by a fastball seems be causing fewer injuries than jumping out of the way. Take one for the team before we run out of players. Note to Wanna-Be Seers: Predict bad things for the Mets and you're golden.

2. Keith Hernandez slays me. You have to hear him to believe him. The latest chatter that struck me was the discussion he and Fran Healy had about the #3 spot in the batting lineup. Healy noted how many different players had hit in the 3-hole for the Mets so far this season (Ty Wigginton was there that night), but it's such an integral spot and you'd like to see more continuity there. Keith expanded upon the notion, supporting Healy's point with a generally accepted (but self-serving nonetheless) sentiment about how your best hitter hits in the 3-spot, flat out. The clean-up guy has the pop, but the best pure hitter is parked third. Well, duh, Keith, we all know you hit in the 3-spot for most of your career, so why don't you go on a little bit more about what a great pure hitter you were! I had to laugh. Non-Mets/Non-Hernandez fans undoubtedly are chafed to no end by his comments, but I am amused by his constant sarcasm, biting critiques, and reflective boasting. Ultimately, he is enjoyable if only for his willingness to come down hard on those who deserve it (with a wee bit more intellect than the jackalopes over at the YES network). And there's a lot of deserving people associated with this ballclub.

3. Mo Vaughn appears to be done for good. This is sad for him and bad news for the Mets, obviously, but it's just a huge exclamation point on the disappointment his tenure in New York has been since Opening Day of last year. [Or do you put an exclamation point on disappointment? It's such mediocrity and slow-drip depression, such punctuation is far too energetic for the apathy Big Mo has induced in fans. Perhaps a career ending ellipsis . . . ] Such is the nature of most big signings -- they either pan out about as well as you'd figured and you only notice the aberrant down moments (Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina) or they're busts and sap the life out of players, coaches, and fans on a nightly basis (Vaughn, Alomar, Burnitz). As a baseball GM, you're under enormous pressure from your fans and players to land the big names before the season; on the flip side, however, you're under far less pressure during the season if you underachieved in the off-season. It's an excruciating job, waiting around to see if you're the pig who built his house of straw, wood, or brick. Steve Phillips is starting to look an awful lot like the Straw Pig, the poor guy. Mo's knee may be the last . . . well, you know.
Game 52 - Mets

Phillies 11, Mets 3
Record: 23-29

This might be a good sign. The Mets took a beating by the same lopsided score that the Sox were crushed the night before. Does this mean we are destined to follow in the first-place footsteps of our friends in Beantown? Okay, back to reality. Pedro Astacio was terrible in that "this is my first time in the majors" way, Art Howe left him in waaaay too long, and by the time that the Mighty Maids mop-up crew of Pedro Feliciano, David Cone, and Pat Strange got the kerosene ready, the fire was at blaze status. Fast fact from the "I Wish I Were Kidding" department: Pat Strange's ERA and his Year of Birth are currently identical.

I know it's the fan with zero foresight that always calls for the manager to yank the pitcher when the going gets rough. Managing a bullpen is a complex task involving intricate knowledge of your guys' current health, fatigue, success, track record, and mental condition while considering the impact on contests in the immediate future. And while casual fans perpetually holler for the hook when they think thrower needs a shower, a manager certainly will draw more fire among his peers and critics for yanking guys too early, depleting his pen, and getting himself into trouble later in games or later in the season. But Art Howe has let guys absolutely hang around far too long on the hill this year, and his overall management of relief pitching has been utterly suspect (see Rockies 9, Mets 8).

Last night may well have been a lost cause -- you're going to have those, and it's a science to detect early on whether to let the pitcher work out some early kinks or whether he just doesn't have it. But after a three-run bomb to Ricky Ledee (!) and a solo shot to Jimmy Rollins (!), plus a couple of walks, a hit batsmen, about six hits, and way too many outs to the deep outfield in the first four innings, Pedro Astacio clearly -- to everyone watching, either in the stands, one the tube, or in the dugout, I assume -- did not have it. Then he came to bat in the top of the 5th. The message to this viewer was that this game, which stood at 5-1, is over. Well, not necessarily over, but we aren't going to help the cause if it might affect tomorrow night's outcome. Astacio grounded weakly to the pitcher, the inning ended two batters later with a double play, Astacio began the 5th by giving up a homer to Jim Thome followed by a walk and a double, the Mets' 6th ended in another double play, the bullpen gave up four more runs on homers, and the game ended with yet another double play. Hindsight is 20-20, but the call made in the top of the 5th set this tone, and I really hope Art Howe isn't looking to too many tomorrows, because this team needs more than a few rallies tonight. What our manager has yet to realize is that with this young, inexperienced, somewhat crappy team, it is possible to lose Game 3 of a series in Game 2.

Meanwhile, back in New York, the Red Sox illustrate for us Met fans what a 5-1 deficit (to a top-tier pitcher on a top-tier team, no less) can mean.
Game 52 - Red Sox

Yankees 6, Red Sox 5
Record: 31-21

When they write the story of the 2003 Boston Red Sox, this game will very likely take on mythic status. The character of the myth will be dictated by the results for the rest of the season, but it will have one of two faces.

The first possibility is that this game will be remembered as a microcosm for all the Red Sox' flaws, from shaky defense, to dumb baserunning, to Derek Lowe's pouting and road woes, to inadequacy in the bullpen. The Sox got down 5-0, came back to tie the game at 5 in the top of the 9th, but lost when Brandon Lyon walked in the winning run in the bottom of the inning. (And, for what it's worth, ball 3 to Posada was a ball, though it was close.)

In the second, and in my mind (and hope) more likely scenario, this game will be portrayed as a symbol of the 2003 Sox' grit, guts, and absolute unwillingness to go down without a fight. This game will be about Derek Lowe overcoming early woes to keep his team in the game, about Shea Hillenbrand waking his team up with a laser homerun off seemingly unhittable Mike Mussina, about Varitek, Damon, Walker, Garciaparra, Millar, Hillenbrand, and Mueller reaching base and tying the game in the top of the 9th on a walk, a fielder's choice, and 5 singles, shaking vaunted Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, sending George Steinbrenner into televised fits of apoplexy and deepening the cavernous circles under Brian Cashman's eyes.

The Sox just played 6 games against the Yankees in about 10 days. Pedro pitched in none of the 6 games, Bruce Chen started twice, and the Yankees got solid starts from Clemens, Wells, Pettitte, and Mussina. And, you know what, the Sox are still in first place, and they scared the living shit out of the entire Yankee organization, from the batboys to the Boss. (And, by the way, does Springsteen know that Steinbrenner's using his name, and if so, why hasn't he hunted him down and pummelled him with the Big Man's saxophone?) Last night's loss sucked, but I would have felt much, much worse about it if the Sox had gone quietly in the 9th and faded out of the Bronx. I'm almost pumped.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Game 51 - Red Sox

Yankees 11, Red Sox 3
Record: 31-20

And the rollercoaster heads screaming down once more, courtesy of Andy Pettitte and his complete ownership of the Red Sox. You'd think a lineup with as many stud right-handed hitters as the Sox' would batter his soft-tosses. Sadly, no.

This one wasn't actually as bad as the score might indicate. Sox were down 5-2 going into the bottom of the 8th, during which Matt White, making his Red Sox debut, performed his best Ramiro Mendoza imitation. White went 2/3 of an inning, giving up 6 runs, all earned, for a tidy 81.00 ERA. Kind of a tough spot to put a new guy in, but I guess the Sox need to figure out what they've got as they continue to fling poo at the bullpen walls to see what sticks.

Last night loss means that tonight's game is a big one, if any game in May fits that description. Win and the Sox head to Toronto up 2.5 with a series victory sans Pedro, and send the Yankees to their 6th consecutive series loss. Lose and the Sox are only .5 up and 2-4 on the season against the Yanks. Derek Lowe tries to test his newfound confidence in a road tilt, and Mike Mussina tries to figure out where his stuff went. Nomar's streak ended yesterday, so it's time for Manny to start one of his own. Giddyup.

Game 51 - Mets

Mets 4, Phillies 2
Record: 23-28

I'll say this for Armando Benitez: his sense of drama is extraordinary. He has the innate ability to incorporate edge-of-your-seat, frantic tension into situations where other, less exciting pitchers would keep the tone calm, workmanlike, and downright dull. Al Leiter pitched brilliantly for six shutout innings. Not the kind of brilliant where he utterly dominates a lineup; that's not his way. He allowed only two hits and struck out 8 but walked six in a way that seemed preconceived, picking away at corners and leaving nothing in the middle of the plate. It seemed liked nearly every batter went to a full count, then either walked, struck out, or dribbled one to Ty Wigginton at third. In fact, as Keith Hernandez pointed out as he was scolding the ump for one of the worst balls/strikes calls I've seen in a while, the only time Leiter did fire one down the pike (against Jim Thome with a 2-2 count), the umpire was so stunned he didn't know what to make of it and called it a ball. [Al was majorly pissed; Thome later check-swung through strike three.]

Graeme Lloyd befuddled three batters in the seventh, but allowed a leadoff double to Thome in the eighth. David Weathers replaced him, and after two outs and a wild pitch that should have been a passed ball, he gave up a single to score Thome. Art Howe then chose to bring in Benitez, who induced a weak flyout to end the eighth. After a half-hearted, 1-2-3 attempt to procure some insurance runs, Benitez returned to the mound for the ninth. Here is the Game Log and the words it elicited in my den:

-N Punto singled to right center. [Oh, crap, here we go again.]
-N Punto to second on wild pitch by A Benitez. [Dear Lord.]
-J Rollins struck out swinging. [Atta baby, here we go!]
-P Polanco flied out to shallow right. [Nice. Two down, close it out now . . .]
-N Punto to third on fielder's indifference. [Just as well, Benitez was concentrating way too hard on a runner whose run means nothing.]
-J Thome singled to right, N Punto scored. [Tying run at the plate. Nifty. Oh, it's an overdue Pat Burrell. Who eats Benitez's lunch. I'm gonna lose my dinner.]
-P Burrell walked, J Thome to second. [Can't say I blame you, but where's the pinpoint control of last inning? Winning run at the plate. You have to be kidding me.]
-D Bell walked, J Thome to third, P Burrell to second. [For the love of God, throw a friggin' strike, you asshole!! You suck so damn much, I hope they trade you to Tampa and throw away the key. You're going to walk in the winning run, aren't you? Aren't you?! Somebody get me a gun. I hate this game.]
-M Lieberthal popped out to shallow left center. [Yes! Armando, you are the man! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mike Lieberthal, for swinging at a 1-0 pitch out of the zone from a guy who'd just walked two guys and thrown a wild pitch. I love this game. Yes!]

I laughed, I cried, it was the feelgood game of the night. The feelbad game of the night came moments later when Chipper Jones hit a 10th-inning dinger to give the dork-laden Braves a walk-off win, but it couldn't sap the glee from the Mets' hanging onto what should have been a routine victory.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

A Bit of Perspective That I'd Rather Not Acknowledge - AKA, If They Awarded Division Titles in June, the Sox Would Be Rolling in 'Em

Standings in the American League East on June 1 in each of the past 4 seasons:

June 1 2002:

BOS 36 16 - .692
NYY 37 19 1.0 .661
BAL 25 28 11.5 .472
TOR 19 33 17.0 .365
TBD 18 35 18.5 .340

June 1 2001:

BOS 30 22 - .577
NYY 29 23 1.0 .558
TOR 26 28 5.0 .481
BAL 25 28 5.5 .472
TBD 15 39 16.0 .278

June 1 2000:

BOS 29 20 - .592
NYY 28 21 1.0 .571
TOR 28 27 4.0 .509
BAL 23 28 7.0 .451
TBD 18 34 12.5 .346

June 1 1999:

BOS 32 19 - .627
NYY 30 20 1.5 .600
TOR 24 29 9.0 .453
TBD 23 29 9.5 .442
BAL 20 31 12.0 .392
Red Sox 50-Game Checkup - Stay on Target...Stay on Target

It's dangerous to do this update right on the heels of yesterday's extreme high. It's sort of like going to the grocery store to do your weekly shopping when you're really hungry. You wind up with a whole bunch of stuff that made your mouth water when you passed it in the aisle, but a 30-pack of Ramen Noodles really doesn't have a lot of utility when the next morning rolls around. With that caveat, I press on, because I'm a gamer, and it's my job.

The Sox were actually one game worse over the second 25 games (15-10) than the first 25 (16-9), but it feels a whole lot better. Much of that, I'm sure, is directly due to their position in the standings. After 50 games, the Sox sit 2.5 games up on the Yankees, while they were 4 behind after 25. 30 of the previous 48 teams that led their division on Memorial Day wound up winning the division, so history gives the Sox a 63% chance of taking the AL East, for what it's worth. Doesn't mean much, but first place by 2.5 is better than last place by 11.5, eh, Whit?

Good Things

1. The offense was number one on this list after 25 games, and there's no reason to change that after 50. With an average of 6.2, the Sox lead the majors in runs per game. The Sox lineup is smart, patient (Nomar and Shea notwithstanding, and we can forgive Nomar), and flat-out talented. It's also balanced, as evidenced by the fact that the guys who are carrying the team now - Nomar, Bill Mueller, and David Ortiz - are completely different than the guys who carried the team through the first 25 - Shea Hillenbrand, Kevin Millar, and Jason Varitek. The fact that Manny Ramirez, arguably the most fearsome right-handed bat in baseball, shows up on neither of those lists has me salivating. I'm all aquiver at the notion of Manny putting together a .375/.475/.700 (average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) month with 15 homers and 45 RBI in June or July. The show the Sox put on in dissecting Roger Clemens on Memorial Day was breathtaking to behold, and should be required viewing for the entire organization.

2. The pitching has improved - not drastically, but it has improved. The bullpen ERA, which stood at 5.95 after 25 games, is down to 5.05. Better, though not great. The massive meltdowns have certainly slowed, with the exception of Ramiro Mendoza (see below). John Burkett has posted two consecutive solid starts. Casey Fossum, though he got touched up by both New York and Cleveland, continues to show promise and guts. Brandon Lyon seems to have the makeup to be a late-inning stopper. Mike Timlin causes heart failure, but generally gets the job done, and Robert Person's addition to the 'pen gives the Sox another quality arm, though he hasn't harnessed it yet. Bottom line, though, the Sox haven't come close to pitching up to their potential - their 4.76 ERA is 21st in the league - and they're still in first place by 2.5 games.

3. There may be light at the end of the tunnel for Derek Lowe. Since he was torched by the Twins on May 11 (when he was unlucky more than anything else), the goofy sinkerballer has gone 16 1/3 innings and only given up 4 earned runs and 11 hits for a 2.20 ERA. He tossed a complete-game 4-hitter against Cleveland in his last start. Granted, his home/road splits are ridiculous - he's unhittable at home and unmissable on the road - but my hope is that he gained some confidence in his last two outings, and it'll translate against the Yankees tomorrow.

4. The Yankees suck. It's a popular chant at Fenway - which is highly annoying and doesn't cast Red Sox Nation in the greatest light - but over the last 25 games it's been true. New York is 9-16 over the last 25, and 9-18 since they blew the doors off of the rest of the league to start 18-3. Fun fact: the Tigers are 10-15 over the same 25-game span. Even more fun, the Yankees are 3-10 in games in which Derek Jeter's played since his return from injury. They are struggling with lots of injuries, bad luck, bad starts from superstars (see Giambi, Jason), and an increasingly irritated Big Stein. I fully expect them to right their ship, but it does not pain me to see them scuffle.

Bad Things

1. Ramiro Mendoza has been horrrrrible. Through 21 appearances, he's 1-1 with a 7.53 ERA, allowing 54 baserunners in 28 2/3 innings. He appears to have no stuff - his signature sliders are flat and hanging - and even worse, no confidence. Mendoza was a critical offseason acquisition, and an important component of the Sox' bullpen strategy, and today I don't want to see him doing anything but mopping up.

2. Pedro went on the Disabled List with a strain in his back. He will miss at least two starts, though he may be back next weekend. Pedro is a confounding mixture of warrior studboy and slight wisp. He's not very big, and he puts a lot of strain on his body every outing. The Sox say that this injury is unrelated to any previous trouble, and that it should not impact him in the long term. If that's true - no worries, but if it's not, the Sox odds just got much longer. Bruce Chen pitched well against the Yankees last week, but I don't have high expectations for the journeyman lefthander. Pedro being Pedro for the rest of the season flat out guarantees the Sox 15 wins. Chen being Chen, um, doesn't.

The Sox are 2.5 games better than the Yankees and 9 better than the Mets through 50 games. Lot of season left, but the sun is shining today.

Mets 50-Game Checkup - The More Things Change . . .

After 25 games, the Mets were 11-14. Over the next 25 games, the Mets were 11-14. Can I just post a link to the 25-Game Checkup and get back to work? No, not really, because it's been a very different 11-14 this time around. They won games for different reasons (Piazza catching fire, Benitez settling down, stiffs getting hurt) and lost more games for different reasons (injuries abound, middle relief blowing up, questionable managerial moves). The roster is very different right now than it was a month ago, and change during dark times brings a few rays of hope. And yet . . . the results were identical. At the very least, these 25 games have made it interesting enough to stick around for 25 more . . .


This is a streaky team. Rare is the stretch in which they compile a win-loss-win-loss sequence; rather, they piece together a few wins, then the bottom drops out and they fall apart for a few days, then they do it all over again. It's generally a win-win-loss-loss-loss progression, which would roughly account for their winning percentage.

As much as the injury bug initially gave the team a necessary shake-up, now it's getting out of hand. Today Timo Perez is headed for the DL. Since Opening Day, the roster has seen Mike Piazza, Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, Rey Sanchez, David Cone, Pedro Astacio, Scott Strickland, Jay Bell, Grant Roberts, and John Franco spend time on the disabled list, many of them for extended periods. Piazza's season may be over, Vaughn's probably is, Burnitz missed a month, and Franco hasn't pitched yet (but he may be returning soon). Players like Timo have been hobbling around on the active roster because of the number of guys hurt. Memo to Art Howe: when you consistently need to pinch-run for your speedy outfielder with off-day pitchers, something is wrong. And you get the sense that the rash of injuries is not yet over. Watch those dugout steps, people.

The team will be dismantled by the end of July. I have a few requests of Steve Phillips or his successor:
1. Trade for young pitching. The arms that have risen through the ranks of late are shabby at best. I realize this won't be easy, but package as many guys into one deal as you need.
2. Don't muck things up with Piazza by trading him to a team he'll obviously veto. The one thing that hasn't wavered with him yet is his positive attitude. We don't need him aging rapidly, firing throws into centerfield, and pissed off and distracted at the plate.
3. Try to trade Mo and move Piazza to 1st base next year. Don't tell me he's untradeable; I watched Juwan Howard get dumped a few years ago.
4. Please please please don't trade solid players to any of the following teams: (a) Any NL East teams, especially the Braves; (I thought this would go without saying until the Braves gave away Kevin Millwood to an intra-division opponent) (b) the Yankees, for obvious Evil Empire reasons, plus the fact that ex-Mets get better there, right in our face; (c) the Giants -- Barry Bonds had his chance for a title and let's not give him another; (d) the Red Sox -- I don't need the Tony Clark equalizer (it wouldn't take much) and let's face it, this bet is already going disastrously.
5. Cuándo Armando? When to trade the poseur-closer? I think sooner rather than later. Deal him to the BoSox while he's on the upswing, right after they relinquish first place right back to the Yanks.

I could go on about the status of the New York Mets, but a last-place (the Marlins have rebounded), 11.5 games out, 22-28 disappointment of a baseball team doesn't deserve further scrutiny. I'll check back when they're 33-42.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Game 50 - Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Yankees 4
Record: 31-19

See, what I meant was, that, um, you know, Clemens would, like, lose his mind and the Sox would paste him. Yeah, that's the ticket - double secret reverse mojo applied by yours truly. This was awesome, just awesome. The Sox let Clemens put pressure on himself, knowing (or at least believing) that he would be wound so tight that he couldn't see straight. They took pitches, worked the count, hit his mistakes hard, and played terrific, terrific team baseball. And they were right about Rajah. He was yelling at the umpire by the third inning, frothing and spitting when things started going south. It was the 1988 ALDS all over again. This may well have been my favorite game of the season. Every player in the lineup contributed, and Clemens was a "disaster", according to Jerry Remy.

My initial feelings of negativity began to turn around even before the game started. Clemens walked out to the mound to start the game wearing a new glove with a special "Rocket Man - Roger Clemens 300 Wins" patch on his glove. The Greeks have a word for this unmitigated gall, and Clemens' hubris was spectacular in its brazen disregard for, well, not being a dick. Only a true asshole would wear something like that before actually winning his 300th game, and only a classless organization would let a player do such a thing. The baseball gods spoke loudly and clearly today, and if Clemens isn't careful, they'll let the Tigers pound his arrogant ass on Sunday.

One highly disappointing and bitter moment from this game will stay with me for a long time. Clemens had invited some of his former Sox teammates to the game to share his moment. The cameras panned to the suite where they sat, and Marty Barrett was wearing full-on Yankee regalia. Marty Barrett, possibly my favorite all-time Sox player. Marty Barrett, the scrappy little second baseman after whom I pattern my own softball game. Marty Barrett, the traitorous Clemens sycophant. I'm physically ill thinking about it. Is it too late to cancel my sponsorship over at

Game 49 - Red Sox

Indians 6, Red Sox 4
Record: 30-19

So, let me get this straight. The day before a huge three-game series with your biggest rival, with an opportunity to take a 2.5 game lead in the division and to sweep a series to finish the season's longest homestand in style, the manager decides to rest both Manny Ramirez and Bill Mueller, the team's best hitter and the team leader in batting average and OPS, respectively. And the result, predictably, is a desultory loss to a mediocre team. Grady, guys may need rest in the dog days of June and August, but Manny was coming off a 3-3 outing, and Mueller's batting .390 and leading the league in doubles. Inspired managing by our huckleberry head man.

I will make a prediction about today's game against Roger Clemens and the Yankees, and I will be right. Clemens, historically, comes up woefully lacking in big games. The Sox were 1-8 in postseason contests that he started, for example. However, today's game is a big game because it has personal statistical significance to the Texas Con Man (so named by the legendary Will McDonough). Clemens needs the win to record his 300th major league victory. Hear me now and believe me later - Clemens will absolutely dominate the Sox, and be inundated with platitudes from coast to coast after recording the victory. I will fume and rage in the safety of my living room, secure in the knowledge that the gutless bastard cares only about himself. If there is any justice in the world, he'll pull a groin on the wet turf, and postpone his quest for 300 for several months.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Games 47 Through 50 - Mets

Mets 6, Phillies 3
Mets 6, Atlanta Braves 5
Braves 10, Mets 4
Braves 3, Mets 1
Record: 22-28

Another out of town weekend and an increasingly annoying trend. I was unable to witness any of Thursday night's win over the Phils (to win that series, surprisingly); nor could I catch any of Friday night's squeaker over the friggin' Braves. (Squaring off against them has returned that sour taste to my mouth, the one that develops with any exposure to that franchise and one that will prompt me to use epithetical prefaces when referring to said franchise in this space. In hopes of reducing the dull nature of such an exercise, I will attempt to vary the descriptors as much as possible.) Anyway, I couldn't see the wins on Thursday and Friday, but when I could tune in on Saturday and Sunday, the Metropolitans rolled over and died. Saturday Glavine got blistered in every sense of the word, and on Sunday David Weathers gave up a two-run tater to Marcus Giles in the bottom of the eighth. And so, after taking the Phillies two cases to one in the first series of this critical stretch (which we can call either the Big 12, the Dirty Dozen, or 12 Angry Mets Games), the Mets petered out against the stinkin' Braves.

Halfway through The Fortnight Till Goodnight, the boys are 3-3. They certainly need to perform at least this well for the second half to keep dwindling hopes from being full extinguished. Come on, guys, let the dreamers dream. Rip off a series or two here and let's get within 10 games of first place. . . Did I just type 10 games?! I can't believe this is what it's come to already. Freakin' Braves.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Games 47 and 48 - Red Sox

Red Sox 9, Cleveland Indians 2
Red Sox 12, Indians 3
Record: 30-18

Ladies and gentlemen, your first place Boston Red Sox. I've said all along that I don't care how the Sox make the playoffs, as long as they make the playoffs (and Pedro's healthy), but it feels damn good to look at the AL East standings and see the Sox 1.5 games up on the Yankees. Especially so given the Yankees' scorching start. (Brief digression here: where are all those people who claim that you can't measure Derek Jeter by his stats, but by how he's a winner? Interesting that the Yankees are sub-.500 since his return after setting franchise records without him. Jeter's a nice player, a really solid major league shortstop, but he's probably the most overrated player of the last 20 years.) First place on May 24 amounts to dick (in fact, the Sox were in first on May 24 last year, too), but the way they got here this year does mean something.

The offense has geared up against the pathetic Indians, scoring 11 runs in the first innings of the two games. Derek Lowe seems to have righted the ship, pitching a complete game in the 9-2 win. Nomar is mashing the ball, carrying a 24-game hitting streak during which he's slugging .650 and has raised his batting average from .248 to .310. Manny touched off a bomb in the 12-3 win, which I hope will signal an end to his dismal run. Bill Mueller is leading the AL in batting average (although he is 9 plate appearances from qualifying for the official lead), David Ortiz is hitting everything thrown to him, and Ramiro Mendoza is...well, still sucking, but if everything was sunshine and roses, where would I get my Sox angst?

One more against the Tribe, and then three in the Bronx against the reeling Yankees. That phrase, "the reeling Yankees," scares the shit out of me. Wounded animal, and all that, maybe, but more to the point, since '96 this Yankee team has shown amazing resilience and an immense capacity to just plain win games when they shouldn't. Which takes me back to my main point - I don't care how the Sox make the playoffs, as long as they do, but damn it feels good to be on top.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Game 46 - Red Sox

Yankees 4, Red Sox 2
Record: 28-18

There's a great deal of luck in baseball, where inches literally mean the difference between victory and defeat. Over the course of 162 games, the breaks generally even out, and the good teams win about as many as they should. The Sox would have won this game with a little bit of luck, and a little bit of clutch hitting, but they got neither and lost. I'm disappointed, but not wildly so, because they'll get breaks later in the season and the Yankees will run into some hard times as Fortuna's wheel runs over their toes (apologies to Ignatius J. Riley).

The Sox got 9 hits in 6 innings against Roger Clemens - including 3 extra-base jobs - but managed only 2 runs. Bad situational hitting by any measure. The most irritating thing about this, aside from the fact that it was the bastard Clemens that benefited from the Sox largesse, was the verbal fellatio performed on the Yankee pitcher by broadcaster Joe Morgan. After Clemens was pulled before the 7th inning (meaning that he didn't even complete a "quality start" based on the definitions of that stat), Morgan waxed asinine about how "dominant" Clemens had been. Yes, he struck out 7, but he allowed 10 baserunners (on the 9 hits and 1 walk) in the 6 innings. Clemens was decent, perhaps even effective, but dominant - no freaking way.

I'm predisposed to see Yankee apologists around every corner, but Morgan pisses me off more than most. He has admitted that he holds a grudge against Boston because of the Sox previously abysmal racial record, yet is allowed to broadcast Sox games to a national audience. His predilection for blatantly stating the obvious is bad enough, and I don't care for him in any telecast, but he drives me batshit during Sox games. Stick to baseball, Joe, and leave the implied social commentary to others.

Clemens posting his 299th career win was the real lowlight of this game. Suffice it to say that I despise Roger Clemens with the white-hot heat of 10,000 suns, which is saying something, because he used to be my favorite player. That was before he (a) mailed in his final 4 seasons with the Red Sox (40-39, 3.81 ERA), (b) rededicated himself to his craft after Boston declined to re-sign him, (c) won two consecutive Cy Young awards with the Blue Jays, (d) forced the Jays to trade him to New York in a blatantly illegal ploy, (e) rode the Yankees' coattails to a World Series title, and (f) won yet another (this time undeserved) Cy Young with the Yankees. And that's the mild, profanity- and emotion-free version. He will get his, and it will be magical.
Game 46 - Mets

Mets 5, Phillies 4
Record: 20-26

This stat flashed up on the screen in the 9th inning of this game: "The Phillies are 25-0 when leading after 7 innings; The Mets are 0-18 when trailing after 7 innings." Down 4-3 after 7, the Amazin'-ly un-clutch Mets got one in the 8th from Cliff Floyd's bomb to dead center, then plated the game-winner in the bottom of the 9th when former Red Sox bust Tony Clark singled home household name Marco Scutaro. [Scutaro is pronounced "Scooter-oh," at least according to Fran Healy and the boys at MSG. Methinks it might actually sound a little more Old World than that, but nicknames will come much easier this way.] So the new-look, scrappy Mets are now 1-18 when trailing after 7.

In addition to the Mets/Sox final record bet I have with Mr. Russell (and you see how well that one's going), I have another potentially costly wager in the works. I have once again made a Mets/Phillies bet wherein every win all season long nets the victor a case of winner's choice beer. And while this was a substantial pot at stake when there was a balanced schedule and there were 11 or 12 match-ups, the unbalanced schedule offers 19 New York v. Philadelphia contests this season. Yikes. I guess the question you're probably asking is: should I call Gamblers Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous first? Anyway, right now I am in the hole 24 Pabst bottles and up 24 Koch's Golden Anniversaries. At least we both have very cheap tastes in malt beverage.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Wasting Time Again . . .

After a little bit of research at the handy-dandy, I am stunned at how well the Boston Red Sox have either held onto talent or cursed their castoffs with future ineptitude, at least lately. Yes, we always hear about Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen, but I tried to compile the best (as of 2003) lineup of ex-Red Sox still in the majors. The pitchers are decent, but the hitters are horrible:

C - Scott Hatteberg, John Flaherty
1B - Mo Vaughn
2B - Terry Shumpert
SS - Rey Sanchez, Wil Cordero
3B - Chris Stynes
OF - Cliff Floyd
OF - Matt Stairs
OF - Carl Everett, Tuffy Rhodes
DH - Ellis Burks

SP - Jamie Moyer
SP - Aaron Sele
SP - Hideo Nomo
SP - Roger Clemens
SP - Jeff Suppan, Tomo Ohka
RP - Chris Hammond
RP - Mike Stanton
RP - Paul Quantrill
CL - Ugueth Urbina

Meanwhile, the mismanaged Mets have the following people filed under "former players":

C - Brent Mayne, Todd Hundley
1B - John Olerud, David Segui
2B - Jeff Kent, Fernando Vina
SS - Rey Ordonez, Mike Bordick, Melvin Mora
3B - Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura
OF - Preston Wilson
OF - Terrence Long
OF - Carl Everett, Jay Payton, Gary Matthews, Matt Lawton

SP - Mike Hampton
SP - Kevin Appier
SP - Hideo Nomo
SP - Cory Lidle
SP - Paul Byrd, Shawn Estes, Bruce Chen, Glendon Rusch, Rick Reed, Kenny Rogers
RP - Octavio Dotel
RP - Mike Remlinger
RP - Rick White, Turk Wendell, Robert Person
CL - Jason Isringhausen

I'm taking the ex-Mets over the ex-Sox in a sweep no matter how many games are played, and it wouldn't even be that close. What does that say about the gauges of talent operating in Queens? An even more pressing question this prompts: if ex-Met Carl Everett gets plunked by ex-Sox Hideo Nomo and charges the mound, does the ex-Sox Everett defend his pitcher and fight himself, defend himself and fight the ex-Met Nomo, or implode entirely? [Or does he mention that Japan isn't in the Bible so neither of the Nomos actually exist?]
Game 45 - Red Sox

Red Sox 10, Yankees 7
Record: 28-17

At the risk of eating these words later in the season, I love these Red Sox. (Said in the manner of that douchebag in the diamond commercial who yells something similar about his wife.) When I received news of Pedro's injury, I was convinced that the Sox were on the verge of a season-killing sweep at the hands of the hated Pinstripes. Then, though, as I watched the ESPN ticker in the humble, yet noble Vienna Inn, and saw that the Sox trailed 6-5 in the 7th, I knew that they would win - I just knew it in my bones. I came home, flipped on ESPN2 to catch the ticker, and the 10-7 score just confirmed what I'd already deemed done.

The Sox posted 5 in the 7th off of Jose Contreras (delicious irony) and Brandon Lyon struck out the side in the 9th to slam the door. Bruce Chen fared pretty well in his spot start, shaking off a leadoff homer by Alfonso Soriano and a mistake by Jason Varitek to give the Sox a chance. He actually outpitched the Yanks' heralded Jeff Weaver. Nomar hit safely in his 21st straight game, Bill Mueller continued to rake, David Ortiz had a big hit - hell, everyone but Ramiro Mendoza did their part. I'm starting to believe the urban legend that Mendoza is secretly still on the Yankees' payroll, frankly. He's but a small blight on this feelgood win, though.

Mercenary fat bastard Roger Clemens goes tonight, and I will not be upset with a Sox loss. They've proven in this series that they can pummel the Yankee bullpen, they've proven that they will not give up under any circumstances, and they look right now like a better overall team than the Yankees. That may change, as injuries and the Yankee pocketbook take their toll, but my view from the cheap seats right now is a highly positive one.
Game 45 - Mets

Phillies 11, Mets 7
Record: 19-26

By the time I was able to tune this one in, it was 11-4. I figured it'd been a blowout all the way, only to learn later that it had been a 4-0 Mets lead into the 6th inning. Jae Seo got into a little trouble, David Weathers threw gasoline on the fire, Graeme Lloyd faced one batter (but got the loss), and then Pat Strange did his best Mike Bacsik/Jaime Cerda impression. (Hello again, Norfolk!) Had Art Howe been blessed with more resources or less inclination to let rookie pitchers fry, he might have kept it within reason so that the three tacked on by New York in the bottom of the 9th might've meant something. Oh, well, this game was Pat Burrell's. He kills the Mets more than Preston Wilson, the injury bug, and the New York Post combined. Tonight Al Leiter goes against Randy Wolf. Must win. This is not an overstatement. This is Naked Gun Ricardo Montalban remote control: "Must . . . win . . . "

Piazza may be done for the year. Might I be soon to follow?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Now Or Never for the Mets

The New York Post has an article today about how the Mets, particularly the youngsters on the club, are being called The Bomb Squad right now. Starting tonight, they have 12 games against the Phils and Braves to keep management from blowing up the team and playing for next year. And there's a little renewed vigor on the eve of the most obvious and direct challenge for this club so far this season. Once again they're saying the right things, but that's never been the problem. These guys can talk the talk and get us all believing; they've had the P.R. -- even when they were getting swept by the Expos in P.R. But while they've said the right things, they haven't hit, pitched, or fielded the right things. And this is why I think they are doomed.

They are about to run a gauntlet between two playoff-contending teams, one who hasn't played to their potential but could get healthy on the Mets, one who is mowing down weaker teams like they aren't even there. There is certainly no limit to how many of the dozen games they might drop, but there is likely a ceiling of about eight games they might pull out. And that's probably exactly what it will take to quell the constant rumors of trading away talent and firing Steve Phillips. Good luck, lads. It's like our sergeant told us before one trip into the jungle: "Men . . . twenty-five of you are leaving on a mission. Thirteen of you ain't coming back!"
Pedro Scratched from Tonight's Start with Strained Lat, Replaced by Bruce Chen



Game 44 - Red Sox

New York Yankees 7, Red Sox 3
Record: 27-17

Really wish I had more time to deal with this game, but the day is going away quickly and I don't see any free time in my future. This game looks bad on paper, and there's no question that it sucks to lose to the Yankees, but I am not terribly upset about this game. Casey Fossum showed a ton a balls and mental toughness after giving up 5 runs in the first inning on, really, only one solid hit. Fossum stayed in the game, retiring 16 of his final 18 batters after the early implosion, which was a function of bloops, bleeders, bad defense, and bad managing. The Sox left a ton of runners on base, with only 3 runs on 12 hits. Bad luck, bad clutch hitting, and a good Yankee offense were the culprits in this game, but there was lots of reason for optimism. Pedro tonight. Game on.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Games 40 Through 44 - Mets

Rockies 6, Mets 5
San Francisco Giants 11, Mets 3
Giants 7, Mets 5
Mets 5, Giants 1
Mets 5, Giants 1
Record: 19-25

What a weekend. I spent Wednesday through Sunday in Manhattan, yet it was as little exposure to Mets games as I have had all season. I caught the last few innings of the Rockies series finale in a bar on the Lower East Side. As bro-in-law Patrick and I discussed, we knew from the outset the Mets would lose after that disaster the night before. And Art Howe should have used his "real" relievers that night because to rest them on Wednesday was to give Colorado the series. And that he did.

Between a full schedule of events, way too much booze, and apathy creeping upon my '03 season like the Red Sox creeping into AL East prominence, I pretty much waved off the Giants series, especially after the first two games. Alas, just when it was time to flush the fools from Flushing Meadows, they rattle off a pair of impressive 5-1 wins. Just when Mike Piazza's popped groin is now looking serious enough to keep him out at least until the All-Star break, just when Mo Vaughn looks to be done for the year, just when you have a lineup that features the names Raul Gonzalez, Jason Phillips, Vance Wilson, and Joe McEwing instead of Jeromy Burnitz, Vaughn, Piazza, and Rey Sanchez . . . that's when the Mets play well and finally get out of last place. [The Marlins are in a fierce, Tigerish tailspin.]

And so I get back to my comfortable spot just off the bandwagon but keeping one eye on it as it rolls along. The cynicism is still rampant, but there's one thing to consider before dropping this bunch in favor of reading dull NFL training camp headlines. This is now a vastly different team than the one that started this miserable 2003 campaign. And yes, the roster is now filled with guys supposedly not as good as the players they are replacing, but management has seemed to be wrong about pretty much every assessment of talent thus far, so perhaps they were ignorant of what this squad of youth can do. At least we don't have to endure six months of what we saw in April. This is a new group of faces, decidely younger and quicker. They can't help but field better than their predecessors. And as much as the Mets have lost some firepower at the plate, this club wasn't hitting worth a damn so far, so there's a chance for improvement there, too. I know, I know, I have no logical basis for this optimism, but at this point change is good, and as a Mr. Springsteen once said, "At the end of every hard-earned day people find some reason to believe."

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Game 43 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Angels 3
Record: 27-16

Thoughts while wondering how Whitney will react to Mike Piazza's two-month injury recovery:

This was really a hugely important win, for a number of reasons. The Sox needed to stop the bleeding after two bad losses, both to avoid a sweep and to enter the Yankee series that begins tomorrow on an up note. After the Yankees lost to Texas today - their seventh loss in the last ten games - the Sox knew that a win would earn them a tie for first in the division, and they delivered. The psychological impact of the Sox pulling even with the Yankees seems large, especially after New York burst from the gates more successfully than any team in that franchise's storied history. The Yankees have to be thinking about the Sox, at least a little.

Casey Fossum goes against the Yankees tomorrow, in, arguably, the most important game in his young career. It is still waaay too early in the season for this series to matter too much, but a really awful performance will set the tone for the next 18 meetings between the two teams. Fossum faces a veteran opponent in David Wells, who is a hardened, tough, big game pitcher. Casey doesn't need to be perfect, but he can't be intimidated. The Sox rejiggered their rotation to set him up for this start, showing a ton of confidence in him. Time for him to prove it's deserved. I think he will. So far this season, he's been a significant bright spot, trailing only the clutch, never-say-die offense.

Monday and Wednesday's games are televised. If I'm a wreck during most Sox games on TV, I'm a flat-out disaster when they play the Yankees. I despise the Yankees far more than any other team in any other sport, but I'd be an idiot if I said they didn't scare me as a Sox fan. They're good, they know it, and they play with a relentless, confident approach that requires their opponents to drive a stake through their hearts, burn them to ashes, and scatter the ashes to the winds before assuring victory. Their killer instinct is legendary, and the Sox need to appropriate some of that if they want to reach the same heights.

The next three days will tell a great deal about the Sox character this year. They've played well - not great - to date, but this is the first signficant pyschological test. Anything less than 2 of 3 will be a bitter disappointment.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Games 40 - 42 - Red Sox

Red Sox 12, Rangers 3
Angels 5, Red Sox 4
Angels 6, Red Sox 2 - in progress
Record: 26-16

I'm attempting to bring some reverse mojo to the Sox this afternoon, after a combination of awful bullpen pitching, miserable defense, and boneheaded miscues in the field and on the basepaths brought the Sox from a 2-0 lead to a 6-2 deficit. Derek Lowe pitched a very solid game, but Mike "Torch" Timlin left a 3-2 fastball up to Troy Glaus with two out in the 8th, and Brandon Lyon - with help from Bill Mueller (dropped foul pop) and Trot Nixon (freaking moronic tossing of the the second out into the stands because he thought it was the third) - handed the Angels 3 in the 9th.

This will make two crappy losses to the Angels - the Sox blew a 4-0 lead in yesterday's contest - when a win in either game would have tied the Sox with the Yankees for first in the division. Just when they seem to be ready to rip off a 12 of 14 streak, the Sox grind the gears and the party train lurches, gasps, and rattles to a stop. At the moment, I'm furious, because I'm watching this (well, leadoff single by Hillenbrand. hmmm) one on TV and it's making me crazy. After some calm reflection, which is truly not my strong suit, I'll probably (OH MY GOD does Jason Varitek suck in the clutch) realize that they remain only one game back in the division, and tied for the lead in the Wild Card. Then, I'll remember that the bullpen remains brutal, despite a brief glimmer of (oooh, first and third with 1 out after a Nixon single) success recently, and I'll go back to worrying some more.

The Red Sox last won a World Series in 1918, and some would say that the team has been "cursed" ever since by the memory of Babe Ruth's sale to the Yankees. Some, that is, that are trying to sell books and take the easy way out. The Sox were cursed by their horrible racial record, and by some awful management in the late 80s and early 90s, but now I wonder if 85 years of losing has conditioned the fandom to expect the worst, and it somehow rubs off on the team, with the media as conduit. I know this: I pity Yankee fans, because they will never, ever know joy like I will know when the Sox finally do win a World Series. That, and because they are a collective (nice effort, David Ortiz, looking at a perfect pitch for strike 3) of braying mouthbreathers who (tying run at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs) believe that the World Series championship can be bought and sold, and have no sense of shame when their team purchases another title.

Down to the last strike here, so stick a fork in the Sox. Three errors, awful clutch hitting, and a failure to gets outs from the bullpen (ballgame ends with the bases loaded - neat) make Robbie an unhappy boy.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Game 39 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Rangers 1
Record: 25-14

The real world intrudes today, as these bastards that pay my salary are actually expecting that I do some work to earn it. So, very quickly, some thoughts from last night's game:

1. Alex Rodriguez is a magnificent, spectacular athlete.
2. Casey Fossum, clap clap clapclapclap.
3. Bill Mueller, professional hitter.
4. Ramiro Mendoza, two more scoreless innings. Nice.
5. Nomaaaahhhh. Not for any reason other than I love Nomar.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Game 38 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Rangers 4
Record: 24-14

Truly, the yin and yang of baseball life is represented by these Red Sox and Mets. While Whitney spent the first part of his evening reveling in the Mets offensive outburst and Mike Piazza's thunderous bat, I spent the same period wondering why the hell the Red Sox were only managing three hits through 6 innings off John Thomson. Then, as the Rockies charged back against the thin Met relief corps, the Sox did the very same thing against the mediocre Ranger bully, plating three in the bottom of the 8th to chalk up yet another come from behind victory.

This game marks the 8th time in 37 games that the Sox have scored the winning run in their final at-bat in 2003. I daresay that they didn't have many more than that in the entire 2002 season (and I'll prove it if I have some time this afternoon - edit: they did it 12 times all season in 2002, and only 4 of those were come-from-behind wins). The 2002 Sox were as good as dead if they trailed after 6 innings. The 2003 team will not lie down in the face of a deficit - not at all. Even though it's early, I don't remember a Sox team with more heart and offensive balance than this one. They really seem to believe that no deficit is insurmountable - not 9-1 against Minnesota, and sure as hell not 4-2 against Texas. Shitfire, if they can pitch - even a little bit - for the rest of the season, well...I'm not going to say it, but it's good.
Game 39 - Mets

Rockies 9, Mets 8
Record: 17-22

I have no energy to blast the Mets for blowing an 8-1 lead in Denver. This team sucks the energy right out of you. In fact, let me shorten that last sentence to conserve energy: This team sucks. Art Howe, who once upon a time had my enthusiasm as the manager, protected the big lead with pitchers Pat "My Presence Here Is" Strange, Jason "My Favorite Part of the Plate Is the" Middlebrook, and Jaime "Thank You" Cerda "May I Have Another?", which was vaguely reminiscent of when the Stooges had to protect that princess in the castle. I know, probably a bit harsh, and the bullpen is tired thanks to the rotation's inability to go deep into a game, but these three young, unproven arms blew the lead and looked like they didn't belong out there. You can't blame the thin air, as it was predominantly singles and doubles. There were a few shaky defensive plays, including the game-winning run scoring on a wild pitch (Piazza's glove was turned the wrong way) just as the Rockies announcer was finishing a prediction/request for an off-speed pitch that'd get by the catcher. (Yeah, it was weird, and not in the fun way.) But mainly it was the crappy young pitching. On the plus side: this year is done, but we have this young "talent" to look forward to in years to come!

I head to NYC tomorrow, so while my recaps will be MIA until Sunday or Monday, I get to watch this wretched misery in the company of fellow fans. And you know what they say about misery . . .

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Game 38 - Mets

Mets 9, Colorado Rockies 6
Record: 17-21

God bless that thin air. There's nothing like a change in climate (to the tune of 5280 feet above sea level) to bring formerly dormant bats to life. And though Keith Hernandez tried to burst the bubble every time by providing us the Shea equivalent for every ball off and over the wall, it was still nice to see. Alomar and Floyd both hit Coors Field asterisked homers: Alomar was cussing himself on the way to first base for what he thought was a routine fly-out; Floyd's ball never got higher than a few feet above the top of the wall, a line drive shot that somehow carried into the bullpen. Mike Piazza collected three hits, Ty Wigginton hit a 3-run triple, and Joe McEwing took advantage of a rare start at short with a couple of hits and some great plays in the field. And just as you've got to temper your excitement about the big hitting, you can feel better about the pitching than you otherwise would. Steve Trachsel got his first win of the season, and though Stanton and Weathers looked shaky, Graeme Lloyd and round mound of rebound Armando Benitez looked sharp. Allowing six runs to Colorado sounds bad, but it's a run and a half below their home average. Actually, only five were earned -- one came when a high, softly dropping chop off the plate inexplicably eluded David Weathers' glove; Keith said he lost it in the lights (?).

The negatives from the day, beyond Weathers fielding like the T-ball league kids, included Jay Bell straining his groin two minutes into the game breaking out of the batter's box, as well as his being replaced by Tony Clark, who apparently has been reading his press here and has decided he feels sorry for Rob Russell so he'll revert to 2002 mode. Over a third of his AB's are K's, most of them ugly. And speaking of ugly, Hernandez and Fran Healy broke down the flaws in Roger Cedeno's swing nearly every time he came up. I guess for someone who has played in the professional ranks -- especially Hernandez, who prided himself on his hitting form, Cedeno has to be a train wreck to watch. He ducks out every time, he shuffles his feet in the box, he pulls his front shoulder, he sticks his butt out too much, he has a bad uppercut, and he just appears very uncomfortable. And this makes watching him equally uncomfortable. And that doesn't even get into the mental part, his bad habits, poor discipline, bad eye for pitches, etc. I do feel sorry for the guy for all the abuse he takes, but he is still playing major league baseball and being paid handsomely to do so, so there are a lot of folks in the world I feel worse for than Roger Cedeno. In his defense, he has been hitting better of late, raising his average all the way up to .242. [He's still projected to hit 4 HRs, steal 13 bases, and strike out 107 times.]

Speaking of improvement, as much as I ripped Armando Benitez earlier, he deserves a few kudos for battling back and nailing down some saves lately. On April 19, he had 5 saves, 4 blown saves, and an ERA of 6.97 (which jumped up to 7.24 a week later). Now he has 12 saves, still those 4 blown saves, and an ERA of 4.43. I have to say, though, that this is typical Benitez. Just when people have given up on him and the expectations are nil, he surges. He will continue on this track despite the naysayers for a while, just long enough to sucker a few people into once again believing in him. And then, I assure you, when not just any game, but the big game is on the line, he will melt down. This is what he does. This is who he is. Hell, just from me patting him on the back right now I can almost guarantee a little setback. But nothing major -- he'll wait until he's got the Baseball Tonight guys duped into backpedaling and saying it was just a bad spring, he's on track now, and all that crap. Then . . . (and the anticipation of it is both exciting and nauseating) . . . kablooey. You heard it here.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Games 35, 36, & 37 - Mets

San Diego Padres 5, Mets 4
Mets 4, Padres 2
Mets 3, Padres 2
Record: 16-21

While I am certainly happy about the Mets winning any series, (a) I feel like it should have been a sweep, and (b) due to the Extra Innings scheduling I was only able to see the loss (coincidence?). Friday night I watched the Mets battle back from a couple of deficits but fall short in the end. Rondell White had staked the Pad Squad to two separate leads only to see them disappear, once when Robby Alomar hit a two-run shot (literally a few seconds after they flashed back to his 1st career homer -- in a Padres uniform, also hitting right-handed, and eerily similar to the swing and result that ensued moments later), once when Rey Sanchez drove home Joe McEwing. But David Weathers, who seems to get weaker each time I watch him, gave up a two-run job to Xavier Nady (yes, that Xavier Nady) to make it 5-3, and with two on in the bottom of the ninth Met legend Messy Jesse "Met is Short for Methuselah" Orosco struck out Alomar to end it. Annoying was when, on Sanchez's RBI single, Cedeno rounded second, fell down, and was thrown out to put a serious damper on the rally. Annoying and bizarre was the play where Alomar swung at a pitch that hit him, but the ump made no call and the Mets scored as the ball rolled to the backstop. The ump then had to piece things back together, and he subsequently sent Sanchez back to second. While the ump looked like a moron, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was bewildered why Alomar would have actually swung the bat. Anyway, they didn't score again that inning, and, after a quick phone call to my brother-in-law to figure out what in the hell had happened, I was pretty much resigned to accepting this as a loss.

My quarrel Saturday and Sunday was that the Mets garnered comeback wins while I was relegated to ESPNews ticker status, much like my colleague. Indeed, it's no way to follow a game. You might as well just bite the bullet and wait for the morning paper to save yourself the angst and agitation. Anyway, on Saturday New York came back from two deficits once again and the game went into extras. In the bottom of the 10th Mike Piazza sent a rocket over the left-field wall. I saw it on SportsCenter . . . dammit. On Sunday San Diego notched a pair in the 1st but were held scoreless for the remainder of the game. In the bottom of the 8th, Cedeno tripled and scored on a wild pitch. Benitez came in and allowed two hits and three stolen bases (didn't I hear something about Piazza moving to 1st?), but closed it out for his 11th save.

Today the Mets head to Coors Field for three, then four in Pac Bell. Met trainers are rumored to be foregoing working out the pitchers' arms in favor of their necks, as they may strain something whipping their heads around in the next week. Then they head back east for 12 quick ones against the Phils and Braves which will either bring them right back into the thick of things or (more likely) have them selling off what they have like a Sunday yard sale. Stay tuned.
Game 37 - Red Sox

Twins 9, Red Sox 8
Record: 23-14

Not only are the Twins a group of limp-wristed cowards, their ballpark is a glorified pinball machine. Derek Lowe came out of this game with a horrible line - 4 IP, 10H, 8R, 6 ER - but he really pitched pretty well. He had great stuff in the first two innings, but Twin after Twin pounded the ball on the ground and scooted worm-burners across the Metrodome hardpan and through the infield. Lowe left with the Sox down, 8-1, but he deserved better. Unfortunately, his fragile psyche is right well bruised at the moment, and Lowe is notorious for curling into a ball when things don't go his way. Plain and simple, he must pitch well for the Sox to make the postseason.

On the whole, though, this was not a bad loss. The 2002 Sox would have rolled over and died after going down by 8 runs. Not this club. The Sox scrapped back, battering a series of Minny relievers until they got to 9-8 with two outs in the 9th. I was laying in bed with my eyes closed during the rally, so I dared not open them, even though I was wide awake as Bill Mueller batted with Damien Jackson on second. Mueller's groundball was nearly thrown away by Cristian Guzman, but Doug Minkalphabet kept his toe on the bag to save the game for the Twinks. Still, the Sox showed a great deal of heart, and a ton of offense, and, though they lost, I keep liking this team more and more.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Games 35 and 36 - Red Sox

Twins 5, Red Sox 0
Red Sox 6, Twins 5
Record: 23-13

I picked a bad night to give up sniffing glue. I'm sitting at the computer, following the game online, and my heart is pounding as the score pinballs from 3-2 Twins, to 4-3 Sox, to tied at 4, to 6-4 Sox, to 6-5 Sox in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on first and two out, to...Manny settling under Matt LeCroy's fly to left to end the game. I think I need to break down and get that Extra Innings package, because "watching" a game online is wicked nerve-wracking (and no, I'm not from New England, but I did see Good Will Hunting several times).

The larger question, I suppose, is why I'm online at 10:00 on a Saturday night. My 24 year-old self would be horrified. (And, if I know Whitney, he is, too.) The fact that I'm babysitting for my daughter while my wife howls at the moon at a bachelorette party is a reasonable excuse, I suppose, but it raises a larger question. There's a great song called "We Don't Do That Anymore" by the Sidewinders, an obscure band that I loved in college. The chorus goes, "Staying up all night/we don't do that anymore". The song is letter perfect in reflecting the change in attitude that just sneaks up on us as we grow older.

One of the things I cherish about baseball (sports in general, really, but baseball primarily) is that it's among the few things that let me be as immature as ever. It makes me feel at least a little young when my heart starts racing in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. I don't pretend to be a grown-up when I curse at the television when the Sox bullpen blows a lead. I can be as irrational as I want to be when I'm in the thrall of a tight Sox-Yankees game in September, and nobody can tell me otherwise. My inner 11 year-old is alive and well, and that makes me happy.

Tomorrow's game is on ESPN, so the wife should retire early and leave me to my insanity.

Friday, May 09, 2003


I'm really enjoying the ongoing saga of Tony Clark's resurrected corpse. Seriously. I must have missed the memo where we decided to include him in every post. Dick.
Game 34 - Mets

Dodgers 6, Mets 1
Record: 14-20

I realize my predictions aren't breaking any new ground -- all you have to do is keep it cynical, stupid, and you'll be able to prognosticate the Met's future -- but as I mentioned before, the pitching these Metropolitans were facing from Los Angeles were brutal. And so the series ends with them having scored 5 runs in 3 games. This game was tight, the Dodgers plated one in the 1st before Tom Glavine found his rhythm but the Mets tied it in the 6th on a Tony Clark single. Then I had to put my darling daughter to bed, and God bless her, as she spared me from watching Glavine give up a pair in the 7th and the bullpen blow up in the 8th. The Dodgers had been struggling at the plate coming in -- another team gets healthy on the Mets.

Once again Mike Piazza didn't play, but there is potentially positive news surrounding him. Apparently he is going to begin the process of moving to first base, or at least considering the move. Before he had been pretty stubborn when it was mentioned, but I think the pride that had kept him from entertaining thoughts of a move is now dinged from the spotlight on his woeful performance behind the plate. What with Mo Vaughn's knee looking worse with every opinion he gets and Tony Clark still capable of what we call "that Red Sox year," it would be nice to have this option.

The San Diego Padres come to town tonight. They are currently three games worse than the Mets. Here's hoping they aren't neck and neck by Sunday night.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Game 33 - Mets

Dodgers 2, Mets 1
Record: 14-19

Half of this game was hard to watch, the other was enjoyable. Seeing Steve Trachsel fool, jam, and cross up most of the Dodgers' hitters for seven good innings was nice. Seeing Stanton, Weathers, and the defense play largely flawless ball was very nice. But oh, the offense, or lack thereof. They managed just three hits, and Roger Cedeno got two of them! And as long as the official scorer is employing haphazard rulings (sorry, just a residual snipe from an earlier posting), he should have stricken one of those two hits from the box score. Cedeno slapped awkwardly at an eye-high 0-2 pitch to force a swinging bunt down the third-base line. It hugged the grass just inside the line and came to rest nestled 'twixt the chalk and the green like an egg, and the pitcher, catcher, and third baseman all congregated around it, as if having discovered a dyed gift from the Easter Bunny. It was really kind of cute -- not what you want out of your base hits. I think that assessment pretty much goes for the entire Mets' lineup these days. Mo is a big ol' teddy bear who wouldn't harm you or a curveball for anything; Timo's your little buddy; Ty Wigginton and Vance Wilson are the boy-next-door types; Shinjo and Tony Clark are those nattily dressed gentlemen; Mike Piazza is that nice guy who hocks long distance with Terry Bradshaw and Alf; Roger Cedeno's the slow-witted guy trying not to be noticed in the back of the class; and Robby Alomar is the little boy down the street who plays with dolls. All of these guys are cute, harmless, and nice. Isn't that so sweet? The only scary-looking guy is Cliff Floyd, who, among this bunch, seems like the mean gremlin with the mohawk.

As if there weren't enough problems with the Opening Day lineup, now Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz are on the DL and Mike Piazza sat out another game after having a mole removed (not a cute thought, thanks). If you believe what you read on those "official" online publications, every day inches closer to Steve Phillips' demise and the departure of at least one of these big names/contracts. And the Mets are still in last despite the Marlins' recent plummet. These are not the happy days, the salad days, as they say . . .

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Game 34 - Red Sox

Red Sox 9, Royals 6
Record: 22-12

I'll be taking credit for this one. After the Royals posted 6 runs in the bottom of the 6th to go ahead, 6-1, I told Mr. Lester that they were done. Game over. I neglected to tell him that the "they" to whom I referred was Kansas City. That, or it was a brilliant piece of reverse psychology on my part. I'll take either answer.

It's almost as if the Sox think they get points for degree of difficulty. Through 6 innings, they had 1 run on 2 hits against KC rookie Kyle Snyder. Then, after John Burkett self-immolated in the bottom of the 6th (and thank you very much, Grady Little, for your ineptitude in managing the ballgame - you helped my fantasy baseball cause immensely), the Sox posted 4 in the 8th and 4 in the 9th to cruise to the win. Just a rollercoaster of a ride. As Whit just pointed out to me, when the Sox are playing, no lead is safe - either their own or that of the other team. Buy stock in whoever makes Pepto, because sales in New England will skyrocket over the next 5 months.

Off-day tomorrow. Must find something to write about.
Game 33 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Royals 3
Record: 21-12

Ca-sey Foss-um, clap clap clapclapclap. Repeat until you annoy your coworkers.

The wiry lefty pitched 6 2/3 innings of really solid ball last night before tiring and giving up a couple in the 7th. Yet another promising start for young Casey. Doug Mirabelli backed him up with a 4-for-4 night at the plate, which, in combination with the Tigers note below, certainly foretells some sort of doom. Timlin and Wakefield (!) cleaned up for the win.

Tim Wakefield may be the most underrated pitcher in all of baseball. He puts up solid numbers every year, with an occasional great year (see, 2002) mixed in for flavor. He can throw a million innings, and doesn't complain about how the Sox use him, unless they decide he's best utilized as a mop-up man. And I can't really blame him for that. He's now 4th on the Sox all-time list for appearances, and shows no signs of slowing down. He's a bullpen-saver, a team player, and, by the way, a pretty damn effective pitcher. I hope he's with the team for the next 10 years (and that's not a stretch for a well-conditioned knuckleballer).

Afternoon game today, with John "Cover Your Eyes" Burkett on the hill against the Royals. Burkett isn't a bad pitcher, but it's sooo hard to watch him on the mound. He always gets into jams, he works brutally slowly, and his nibbling style is like death by paper cuts. And, we're playing him in fantasy baseball this week. Here's hoping for a 12-9 Sox win.
Stay Inside - Bad Things Portended

The Tigers won their third straight last night, despite blowing a 6-3 lead in the 8th inning. I'm staying inside today for fear of some sort of apocalyptic event.
Game 32 - Mets

Mets 3, Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Record: 14-18

Let me get this straight. You're telling me Pedro Astacio outpitched Odalis Perez, the bullpen tandem of Weathers-Stanton-Strickland and yes, Benitez threw three scoreless, one-hit, no-walk, three-K innings, Tony Clark hit another homer, Vance Wilson followed suit, Rey "A Little Off the Top" Sanchez had a pair of hits and an RBI, and no errors were committed as the Mets topped L.A.? Come on. Really? This sport is ridiculous.

By the way, every time Tony Clark does anything good, you can be assured of reading about it here. You see, Tony Clark was a BoSox signing that excited Mr. Russell last spring, and he had visions (delusions, with the benefit of hindsight) of T.C. rapping doubles off the Monster righty and sending taters into the short porch lefty. He even put his money where his mouth was, wagering on 30 HRs and 110 RBI. The final 2002 stats: .207, 3, 29. So when the Mets signed Clark to a minor-league contract this offseason, a nasty-toned good-riddance chuckle was all my cohort could muster. But now that Clark has doubled his home run output in 1/6 of last year's at-bats this year, he has added insult to Rob's injury of losing a six-pack of beer. He may not reach base again this year, and yet he has given the bird to the Squirrel. (I think it has something to do with his admitting that he sucks -- the first step in recovering your game -- and wearing #00 this year.)

As a follow-up, the not-very-clever moniker given to Rey Sanchez has to do with the recent flap about his allegedly receiving a haircut in the Mets' Clubhouse during a game. I believe it was hours, not days (maybe minutes!) after my May 5 plea for off-the-field distractions to swing things around that the story broke, and it included how Mike Stanton was "flabbergasted" about this incident. A little tension, a little bad press, an unlikely 3-2 win over the Dodgers. Am I the only one here who recognizes my genius?

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Game 32 - Red Sox

Royals 7, Red Sox 6
Record: 20-12

This was a disheartening loss, to be sure, and it makes three games in the last four that the Sox should have won and didn't. Nomar let a grounder go through his legs to let the winning run score in the bottom of the 9th, after the Sox had taken a 6-5 lead into the inning and come back from a 5-0 deficit to put themselves in position to win. Should they have won - definitely. Does it suck to lose like this - sure. But to listen to the generally level-headed denizens of SOSH, the world has ended, Nomar should be traded, or shot, or both, and the team is destined for the cellar.

People, please get off the ledge. The Sox are 20-12, on pace to win 101 games, despite really poor pitching that, by the simple law of averages, must get better. They team leads the wild card standings. But mostly, it's only May freaking 6th. There are 130 games left. Last night sucked. It pissed me off all day today to think about it. But, at the end of the day, I still love Nomar, I still believe in this team's potential, and I'm not ready to throw myself from a tall building. Deep breaths, Nation, deep breaths.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Off-Day Chatter

First, the Tigers Watch. Saturday they tied their season high by scoring six runs, then Sunday they broke it with seven in their 4th win of the season. Could this be a new trend for the woeful Tigers???

Current Record: 4-25
Winning Percentage: .138
Projected Wins: 22
Odds of Finishing Worse Than the '62 Mets: 40/60

Batting Avg: .195 Opponents: .275
Runs/game: 2.6 Opponents: 5.2
Total Bases: 257 Total Strikeouts: 192
Team HR's: 15 MLB Leader: 11 (Juan Gonzalez)

Idle Thought: Having watched an array of various teams this year, there seems to be one constant in ballparks throughout: the official scorekeeper is full of crap. Every single close play is ruled a hit or an error solely based on what will help the home team. I have seen balls go right under gloves but ruled hits; I have seen players beat the throw but be denied a hit because the pitcher was flirting with a no-no (in the 4th inning). This is cockamamie and warrants league intervention. In a sport where statistics dominate to the point of "stats gurus" now being hired in front offices (see Sox, Red), how can you let the whimsy of glorified Superfans skew the numbers of the game? It seems a minor point, but it's now so blatant it forces me to balk. For everyone helped by this apparently insignificant form of corruption, someone is negatively impacted. Sure, you save the star third baseman the humiliation of an error, but you just bumped the pitcher's stats in the wrong direction and you gave the hitter a freebie. Yes, you saved the pitcher by giving the fielder an error, but you hurt that fielder's percentage and you screwed the hitter. In an era where the stats are already in need of asteriskal (the official scorekeeper of this site rules: a real word!) addenda from the league's historical figures, this is further removal from numerical validity. It's an embarrassment to the sport. All the league has to do is scrap a few official scorekeepers for egregious home-cookin' and the problem will work itself out. But then again, this is a league who requires a nationwide mandate before it can enforce the rules of its strike zone and time limits.
Today's not an Off-Day, but It Feels Like One

Did you see Bill Parcells' blond dye-job on ESPN this weekend? Do you think he did it to fuck with his players, testing them to see if anyone laughs? Does he think he can get laid more in the Big D with platinum hair, and if so, shouldn't he have just called Michael Irvin and asked for directions to the White House? Or, did someone play a really good practical joke on him? I'm just dying to know.
Games 29-31 - Mets

Mets 9, Milwaukee Brewers 3
Brewers 3, Mets 2
Mets 5, Brewers 3
Record: 13-18

The season was only 28 games old and the Mets had two losing streaks of five or more games. But taking two out of three -- even from the hapless Brew Crew -- gives you reason to believe. The media focus this weekend was on the rumors (that the media generated, for the most part) that GM Steve Phillips is very close to being clipped. Maybe the Mets require clubhouse distractions to do well -- the team has been far too congenial off the field and, in turn, complacent on it. Across town, the Yankees seem to have controversy as a prerequisite to actually playing baseball, and they're 23-8. How about some bad blood? I believe Rickey Henderson is doing time in the Independent League -- he's got to be able to get on base as often as Roger Cedeno, plus he can infect the clubhouse with some ill will. The 1986 Mets were said to be the kind of club that took 25 separate cabs from the hotel to the ballpark. I know chemistry is something every team strives for, and this team seems to mesh pretty well. That's landed them in last place thus far. We probably won't see Timo & Art brawling a la Reggie & Billy, but maybe there will arise some more questions about the sexual preferences of Piazza & Alomar? I know, I'm grasping at straws here. I should just be glad they won a series at all.

The Dodgers come to Shea this week, followed by the Padres, then the Mets go to Coors Field. There should be a handful of wins in there, though the pitching match-ups versus L.A. aren't pretty. Between Odalis Perez, Hideo Nomo, and Kaz Ishii, I smell a no-no somewhere in the next few days.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Games 29 - 31 - Red Sox

Minnesota Twins 11, Red Sox 7
Red Sox 9, Twins 1
Twins 9, Red Sox 4
Record: 20-11

I'm irritated about the results of this series on a number of levels. The Sox led each of the games, and it's not a stretch to say that they should have swept this series. I'm irritated about that. The Sox bullpen imploded twice in this series, which was the leading cause of the two losses. That irritates me. The Sox committed 5 errors and an uncharacteristic number of mental mistakes in the series, which, well, irritates me. What really, really, chaps me the most, though, is that it was the Twins, the same Twins that served as the Yankees' prison bitches earlier in the season, that fought back and didn't collapse in the face of adversity against the Sox. The same team that conceded it was intimidated by New York, who flat out gave up before the games had begun against the Yankees,stood up in the first game of this series after giving up 6 runs in the 6th to fall behind, 6-5 and dropped 6 on the Sox bullpen. Then, the same group of candy-asses spotted the Sox a 4-run lead in the series' third game before roaring back against - guess who - the Sox bullpen to win. I used to admire that scrappy bunch, but now they're dead to me. I'll root against them against everyone they play this year, with the exception of the Yankees - which won't matter, as they've already lost those games.

As for the Sox themselves, these were bad losses, made worse by the mistakes, but they're the kinds of losses that can be quickly forgotten. They made a great comeback in the first game, followed Pedro to an easy win in the second, and just gacked the third. It is increasingly clear that the Sox have a very good offense, generally solid team defense, very good depth in the lineup, good (and potentially great) starting pitching, and an abysmal bullpen. Right now, on May 4, the Sox are that one piece from being a legitimate World Series contender, but it's a huuuge piece. No relief pitcher in the Sox pen is consistent, and none is trustworthy. The Sox don't need much - really, if Mendoza, Timlin, and Embree just approach career-average performances, the team will cruise to 95 wins - but they need it now.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Game 28 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Royals 5
Record: 19-9

I love baseball, I really do. Right now, during the Spring, it's by far my favorite sport. Sometimes football moves into the top spot, but never for very long. So I get really, really steamed by how baseball manages, day after day, year after year, to be the worst-run major sports league in the world. Two things from today illustrate my anger: the first-inning ejection of Casey Fossum from the Sox' game against the Royals, and the announcement that the winning league in the All-Star game receives home field advantage in the World Series. The first was a bad judgment call borne of excessive regulation, and the second is just plain idiocy.

Royals pitchers hit three Sox hitters in the bottom of the 9th in Wednesday's game, but all three were the result of wildness and not intent. In Thursday's game, Fossum gave up a two-run homer to Mike Sweeney with two outs in the top of the first. His next pitch was aimed squarely at Raul Ibanez' back, but missed the Royals' outfielder and skittered to the backstop. The umpire immediately ran Fossum and then tossed Sox manager Grady Little after the latter came out to argue the ejection. A warning was issued to both dugouts, but when the Royals' Jason Grimsley hit Shea Hillenbrand in the 6th inning, he wasn't ejected, despite the fact that a warning is supposed to carry with it an automatic expulsion.

This situation illustrates baseball's current lack of management and direction on two levels: 1) there was no warning for Fossum, and no carryover of ill will from the previous game, so the umpire had no reason for tossing Fossum, and 2) the umpire directly violated the league's stated policy by not running Grimsley. Poor effort.

As for the All-Star game, I'll leave it at this: As a fan of a team that has a legitimate chance to get the World Series, I don't want Aubrey Huff and Dmitri Young determining the Red Sox fate. I've got more on this issue, but it's late on a Friday afternoon, and I'm out of here. This post is disjointed, rambling, and incoherent - just like major league baseball's management.
Game 28 - Mets

Cardinals 6, Mets 5
Record: 11-17

The wheels are just about separated from the cart, and yet there was reason for optimism yesterday. After turning an early 1-0 lead into a 5-1 deficit, the Mets battled back to tie it in the 8th, thanks in part to Rey Sanchez's surprising 4-5 day. Benitez came in and pitched two good innings, giving up just a hit. Mets hitters struck out just three times, and the defense committed no errors (on the contrary, Ty Wigginton made a great play at 3rd). And then Jim Edmonds spoiled our day with a(nother) beautiful catch in center follwed by a game-ending homer to left-center. Bastard.

As is happening far too often, the entire rest of the division won their ballgames yesterday. The Expos and Braves sit atop the NL East at 18-10, and the Mets are flailing away 7 games out. Brother-in-law Patrick has officially declared the season over after one month, acknowledging this is a bad habit of NYC media and still kicking it in the gutter. I myself am still in it for the long haul, as this pseudo-journalistic endeavor has given me reason to carry on despite the woes. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Maybe this is atonement for going to bed after the Sox tacked on the second run in the top of the 10th. Whatever it is, I don't plan on abandoning my chipper colleague just yet.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Game 27 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Royals 4
Record: 18-9

Many thanks to my colleague for describing this game's relevant action in his post from this morning. Saves me the trouble, frankly. Every successful team needs a bit of luck during the course of a long season, in games, on the injury front, and just overall. The Sox seem to be getting their fair share at this point - they are 7-4 in games where the bullpen has blown a lead - and this game is yet another example. Three hit batsmen and two errors given up by the Royals in the 9th inning are a gift from the baseball deities. Luck tends to even out over time, but last year's Sox team was extremely unlucky, so maybe 2003 is payback.

Derek Lowe looked great in this one, going 7 strong innings and only allowing 2 hits. Would have been nice if the offense picked him up, but beggars can't be choosers. Nomar continues to bust out of his "slump", going 2 for 4 in this game to make it 7 of his last 15, and raising his average from .252 to .278 in three games. Casey Fossum gets the ball tonight against a young righthander making his first major league start. Here's hoping K-K-K-Kasey continues his positive mojo.