Friday, August 29, 2003

Game 132 - Mets

Mets 3, Braves 1
Record: 59-73

Al Leiter & Jose Reyes. Two peas in a pod, except that one's 37 & the other's 20, one's from N.J. & the other's from D.R., one's a lefty pitcher & the other's a righty shortstop, one makes 8 million & the other makes . . . less. Leiter told Reyes he wouldn't need much, Reyes told Leiter he'd give him more than enough. Leiter threw seven shutout innings, Reyes hit a solo shot from the right side of the plate in the 5th and a two-run shot from the left in the 9th. Finally, a win without the "agonizing 9th-inning drama," right? It is to laugh.

David Weathers had pitched a routine 8th. Well, routine for him, since the first batter reached, which is kind of his signature thing. But then a crisp DP from Reyes to Tony Clark erased the runner, and Weathers fanned old foe Mike "Dr. Johnny Fever" Hessman. Weathers returned for the 9th, and he walked the first batter (natch!). A grounder to short netted only a fielder's choice, which was good, but no DP? Greedy, Mr. Lester. Be happy with the one out, you silly sot. For the next batter was Marcus Giles, who delivered a tailor-made grounder to Reyes, who flipped it to 2nd baseman Marco Scutaro, who, in turn . . . missed it. Just missed the thing, as it dinked off his glove and went into right field. First and third, one out, tying run at the plate in the form of . . . Gary Sheffield! Well, they wouldn't have wanted to just end it on the prior play and deny the 1100 faithful Braves fans in attendance the chance to see this. [At this point, a classic battle was taking place inside me. No, not the usual ones of pepperoni vs. Tums or Budweiser vs. balance. It was instinct (hollering, cussing, kicking the air) vs. self-control (keeping the infant in my arms sleeping semi-peacefully). Self-control prevailed. For the moment.]

Skip Caray would late refer to the ensuing play as "the absolute best you could hope for with Sheffield at the plate." Despite swinging for somewhere in Buckhead, Sheffield tapped one right to David Weathers. The big pitcher made a great play to snag the baseball, then turned and spastically fired it into the grass about two feet short of Marco Scutaro. The short-hop might have been snagged by a better infielder, say White Sox 2B Roberto Alomar or Mariners SS Rey Sanchez, or maybe even Mets SS Jose Reyes, who was standing right behind Scutaro. But it was a lousy throw and Scutaro missed it again, knocking the ball so far away that when Giles came barreling through the play and overslid by a foot or two, they couldn't recover the ball and tag him out. Now 3-1 with one out and nemesis Chipper Jones representing winning run at the plate -- and having completely squandered two beautiful game-ending opportunities in a row -- self-control went the way of . . . any ball thrown to Scutaro. Trying to calm the baby back to sleep delayed my plans for punting the television just long enough for Chipper to hit a floofy little pop to third and Andruw Jones to ground out on a sharp, accurate throw from Ty Wigginton to Tony Clark. Phew. Another annoying victory.

As prefaced before the series, beating the Braves won't really mean anything in the standings, but it's always nice. And taking two of three in Atlanta was just that. Nice.
Game 131 - Mets

Braves 4, Mets 1
Record: 58-73

Aaron Heilman has had some bad-luck outings this year, but this night he made his own bad luck. He walked two guys before serving up a Swedish one to Chipper Jones, then allowed a walk and stolen base to Gary Sheffield the next inning before the Chimper singled him in. With Maddux in retro mode (allowing just a solo shot to retro-himself Mike Piazza), that was all the Braves needed. Kent Mercker subbed for the disabled John Smoltz, and he made it interesting. The tying run came to the plate with just one out, but young guns Jason Phillips and Ty Wigginton, who both seem to be hitting a wall after 120-130 grueling games, fell short.

After Chippy's homer, I was fairly sure things would turn out like they did. In the 4th inning, though, it started to drizzle, then pour. I found myself hoping for the washout. Really, really hoping that the Mets would be rained out, since there was no way they could come back from 3-0. This moment, this sentiment, probably best encapsulates the dichotomous differences in the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox this year, and it's part of why our journalistic juxtaposition has been a worthy jaunt.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Game 133 - Red Sox, or In the Old Days, They'd Prescribe Shock Therapy

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 3
Record: 77-56
AL East: 4 GB NYY
Wild Card: T1 - Sea

I wonder if psychiatrists in New England are busier this time of year than other times. And I wonder if they're busier this year than in previous years, because this team seems to me to be a leading cause (and victim) of schizophrenic outbreaks. I tuned in last night via CBS Sportsline to find my boys trailing 3-0 in the 4th inning, and the Yankees leading Chicago, 2-0 (as an aside, is it possible to have John Burkett start each game in the 2nd inning, because he's lights out after his ritual 1st inning shelling). The power went out in my neighborhood, so I spent the next hour or so lighting candles and then trying to make sure that neither my daughter nor my cat were ignited by them.

After daughter went to bed, I logged back on (couldn't watch TV because the power was still out) just in time to "watch" Todd Walker's two-run homer give the Sox a 5-3 lead on Roy Halladay and the Jays, and to learn that the ChiSox had posted 7 runs on David Wells in the top of the 4th. Manic depressives don't have wider mood swings than Sox fans. The bullpen closed it out, the Yankees got drummed, 11-2, and Seattle lost to Tampa, making it a pretty good night all the way around. I even pummelled my wife in Trivial Pursuit before the lights came back on.

Today's an off-day in preparation for a three-game weekend series against the Yankees in Fenway. New York tries to salvage the last game of their series with the White Sox this afternoon, but if they fail, they'll only lead the Sox by 3.5, and the game will be afoot. Ixnay on the Ankeesyay olday itcherspay areay owingshay eirthay ageay, but it's been a tough week for the pinstripers. Fingers crossed and re-crossed going into the final sprint.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Game 132 - Red Sox, or Don't we have a Yankee series coming up?

Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 9
Record: 76-56
AL East: 5 GB NYY
Wild Card: 1 GB Oak/Sea

Scott Sauerbeck is rapidly becoming my least favorite Red Sox player. He has been nearly uniformly dreadful since his acquisition from Pittsburgh, posting a 2.22 WHIP in 14 appearances. Only 3 times in those appearances has he failed to allow a baserunner. Last night, he allowed two of the three men he faced to reach base, contributing immensely to the Blue Jays' 5-run 8th inning.

This was yet another spine-tingling, roller-coaster, Jan and Dean around Deadman's Curve, sort of game. The Sox spotted the Jays a 7-1 lead, but came all the way back to tie the game on Kevin "Cowboy" Millar's two-out double in the bottom of the 7th. These guys simply will not let me count them out, as much as I may want the pyschic calm that such peaceful submission will bring. Even after the Jays took the big lead in the 8th, the Sox loaded the bases for Manny Ramirez, who struck out to end the rally. So close, but another game that I'll look back on and wonder if it was the one that cost the Sox the playoffs.

Sox face Toronto ace Roy Halladay tonight before an off-day and three against the Yankees. It's not a must-win, but it would sure be nice to be facing the Yankees with a modicum of momentum.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Game 130 - Mets

Mets 6, Braves 5
Record: 58-72

This was one of those weird games where I convinced myself my viewing/not viewing was actually having an impact. I turned on the game and the very first pitch I saw was Mike Piazza's three-run jack to left. An ever-so-nice way to begin my baseball watching for the evening. In the bottom of the third, though, I flipped over to watch some of that softball game in Boston, and when I quickly Previous Channeled, it was too late – Gary Sheffield had taken Jae Seo deep. 3-2. I stayed glued to the action and willed Timo Perez's two-run double that made it 5-2 (actually I was working on the hit-and-run Jedi mind trick, but this was even better). Shane "Two-Step" Reynolds tried to fool four umpires, 25 opponents, and me when he shuffled out of an almost-windup, but even I saw the balk. 6-2.

So I hop back to that T-ball game in Beantown and get so sucked into the pinball-like action (of the 7-6, 4th-inning game) that by the time I check back, Andruw "Scruw Yuw" Jones has leaked one through the left side to score one and cut it to 6-3. Javy "My Cousin Jennifer Stood In for Me for the Last 2 Years" Lopez then drooled a swinging bunt down the third-base line, scoring another run. 6-4. I actually saw this, so maybe the pattern had faded?

Bottom 9 and Mike Stanton is in to finish the job. With one out I foolishly pop back to the pitcher's duel in Fenway (then 12-8) to watch Manny Ramirez whiff, ending the Sox' best good chance. As NESN went to commercial, I hastily clicked back to MSG to learn that Stanton had given up a solo homer to a Mark Hessman. Do they even know who this guy is in Richmond? By now I was convinced that I absolutely needed to be tuned in for the Mets to have any shot. Even then, though, I was turning on this computer and not paying enough attention, because Stanton walked Marcus Giles on four pitches, bringing Gary Sheffield to the plate as the potential winning run. As a Mets fan, I know the inevitable retort to the intended rhetorical question "Is it too much to ask to beat the Braves without this agonizing 9th-inning drama?" Way, way too much.

And so I stood about five feet from my television, completely focused upon not a thing in the world except the Mets vs. Braves baseball contest. Stanton went to 3-2 and what struck me most was how disappointed I would be that a 57-74 team could make me break some of my own possessions. But then I decided not even to blink, and Sheffield tapped one back to Stanton, who threw to first for the end of the game and this madness of to tune in or not to tune in. This karma changes from game to game, but just in case, I'll need to be hunkered down tomorrow night for Game 2 of this utterly meaningless, completely gripping series.

Games 127-129 - Mets

Dodgers 2, Mets 1
Mets 4, Dodgers 0
Mets 2, Dodgers 1
Record: 57-72

The pitching has been something of late (after being something shoddy for much of the year). The Mets, more specifically Al Leiter, Steve Trachsel, Tom Glavine, and a few relievers, allowed but three runs in three games to the Dodgers. True, the Dodgers are hitting .210 in batting practice. True, the Mets only managed seven runs themselves. And true, they only took two of three. Knock it off, I'm trying to make a positive point here! [It's been a long year, and I think some psychological baggage has developed.

Before this series, the Metropolitan arms surrendered just five runs in three games to the Padres and eight runs in four games to the Rockies. Steve Trachsel was named the NL player of the week, allowing nary a run in his 16.3 IP. The Mets did nick up L.A.'s wildcard run a tad, as requested here. And Roger Cedeno's hitting .280! (His OBP is only .333, but what can you expect for a mere $4.875M?

Look for this proud roar of ferocious play to fade to a quiet whimper of exposed inexperience just as Leo the Lion fades into Virgo the Virgin. Flexing their collective muscles against the lower tiers of the NL West is one thing; if they can do it against the playoff-caliber NL East opponents, it'll be something far greater. The next two weeks are a redux of that late May fortnight against Atlanta and Philadelphia which was supposed to make or break the Mets' season. (What a bust -- New York went 7-5 and it still signaled the end of the 2003 team.) The Phillies are in the heat of the wild card race, currently tied for the lead with Florida, and they'll be fighting for every win. Meanwhile, the Braves are killing the ball, they've got the shoo-in Cy Young in John Smoltz or Russ Ortiz (though if Kevin Brown had even trace amounts of run support, he'd get the nod) and they're just running away with it. It won't be easy, by any means, but it would just be so nice to beat up on these teams. Hell, it's always gratifying to beat the stinkin' Braves. If nothing else, start a brawl with those bastards. Meanwhile, playing spoiler to the Phils would give a little meaning to this otherwise lame-duck season.

Oh, yeah, and let's not forget: there's beer on the line in them there Mets/Phillies games.
Um, are the Mets still playing?

I mean, are they?
Game 131 - Red Sox, or Pedro's Getting Angry

Red Sox 8, Mariners 1
Record: 76-55
AL East: 5 GB NYY
Wild Card: T1 - Oak/Sea

Very quickly, this game was Exhibit 248,013 for the defense in the case of Pedro vs. the Boston Media. As I've stated before, Pedro is a big-time, big-game stud. He is arrogant, macho, headstrong, sensitive, proud, and makes no bones about it. In recent days, he's blown up over media-driven insinuation that his recent illness was not as bad as reported, that he should have pitched through it. He's reported to have said, "I'm going to make my $17.5 million and get out of here" after next season.

Long story short, he was pissed off yesterday, and took it out on the Mariners - with the help of his good buddy David Ortiz. Lesson, as always, don't get Pedro fired up, or you (meaning the opposition) will pay for it.

I really don't give a damn what he said, and only care a little about what he does after his contract expires at the end of the 2004 season. More precisely, I'll worry about that day when it comes. All I want from Pedro right now is for him to take the ball every 5th day and dominate like only he can. And if it takes the idiots in the Red Sox press corps to give him the motivation to do that, then drive on, moron train.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Games 128-130 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Mariners 4
Red Sox 7, Mariners 6
Red Sox 6, Mariners 1
Record: 75-55
AL East: 5 GB NYY
Wild Card T1 - Oak

One of two possible explanations exists for the Sox recent string of victories against Seattle and Oakland: a) I'm an idiot, and wrote them off way too early, or b) I'm a genius, and my sky-is-falling, season-is-over entry provided substantial reverse psychology mojo. It has to be the latter, right? I mean, I'm a lot of things, but an idiot?

As it turns out, I also lied about the whole "losses hurt less wins aren't as great" thing, too. These wins were pretty damn great, coming as they did against the toughest teams in the league, and combining as they did great, timely, hitting and really solid pitching. Derek Lowe's given up 1 run in 13 1/3 innings against Oakland and Seattle. If that D-Lowe is back, the Sox all of a sudden have a strong rotation. Jeff Suppan finally showed why the Sox obtained him, going 6 2/3 innings with only 2 earned runs to earn the win in the first game against the M's. John Burkett wasn't great, but he kept the Sox in another game, despite not having very good stuff in the 7-6 win. In fact, the only sour note has been B.H. Kim's rough week.

The Korean sidearmer blew a save against Oaktown, and then another against Seattle. The team is writing it off to arm fatigue and claiming that all he needs is rest - which he got last night. I'd like to believe that - hell, even Mariano Rivera's had some spotty patches in the last few weeks - but I hope the naysayers are wrong about Kim's big game makeup. Twice on Saturday he had 2-strike counts with two outs, and twice he laid meatballs right over the plate, allowing first Mark McLemore and then Mike Cameron to reach base and McLemore to score on Cameron's 1-2 single. As Kevin Millar says, it's time for Kim to "cowboy up".

In other news, Pedro's angry again - this time at the Boston media and talk show fans for questioning whether he was actually sick last week when he missed a start. An angry Pedro is often an awesome Pedro, although his anger isn't usually directed at "internal" constituencies. At some point Seattle has to break its 11-game losing streak to the slender Dominican - I just hope it isn't today.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Game 127 - Red Sox, or They Played a Game Last Night?

Saugus, MA 14
Chandler, TX 13

The best baseball game - for pure emotion and excitement - I've seen in years was televised last night from Williamsport, PA. The youngsters from Saugus, MA - coincidentally, a Boston suburb - took a 10-2 lead after the bottom of the 3rd, and seemed ready to coast into the U.S. Championship game of the Little League World Series. They led, 10-4, heading into the top of the 6th, but the Texas team scratched and clawed and refused to go down without a fight. They plated 6 in their last turn to tie the game at 10, and then scored 3 more in the top of the 7th to take a 3-run lead.

I was shaking my head, full of sympathy for the kids from Saugus. The camera panned their dugout, catching shot after shot of sobbing little boys - the same kids who looked so composed and smooth in the field - and their teary-eyed manager. Suddenly, though, the Texas pitcher walked a couple of batters, then gave up a single, and hope rose again. After an out was recorded, a run came across on another hit. A flyout to shallow right left the score 13-11 with two outs and the bases loaded. Matt Muldoon, a monstrous 6'1 12 year-old, ripped a liner to right to score another run, with the tying marker crossing the plate when the eager Texas rightfielder launched his throw over the catcher's head.

Tie game, two outs, winning run on third, and 41,000 people screaming at the tops of their lungs. I can't imagine being involved with that as an adult, let alone as a 12 year-old kid. Players from both teams clasped their hands in prayer, on the verge of crying or yelling with joy, and only the bounce of a ball to choose which ending. Saugus' batter topped a grounder to third, and was slow to get out of the batter's box. The Texas thirdbaseman charged the ball and slung it to first. The umpire paused, then! Saugus' dugout exploded in celebration, while the kids from Texas slumped over in defeat. It's a cliche, but this game had it all: homeruns, big innings, terrific fielding plays, controversial calls (in fact, the batter was out on the final play of the game, so it should have gone to the 8th inning), gutty pitching, and gobs of emotion.

I don't think the Sox were watching this game, because they were in the midst of their own 14-5 win over Oakland, but maybe a little of the Saugus kids' mojo rubbed off on their more highly compensated neighbors. It's been widely documented that several Sox players, including Nomar, called the Saugus team before the Little League World Series started. Maybe...nah, that's just too Hollywood.

But they did both score 14 runs last night. I'm just saying.
Game 126 - Mets

Mets 5, Padres 1
Record: 55-71

Usually it's the kids who preclude you from catching the ballgame on the tube, but today was the opposite – having to get my daughter home early for a doctor's appointment enabled me to watch the 5:00 game against San Diego in its entirety. It was a damn good thing I was able to watch the first two innings, too. After Ty Wigginton's three-run bomb and Roger Cedeno's two-run job in the first and second innings, respectively, the Mets decided that was going to be enough. The Padres pitchers retired 20 of the final 21 New York batters. If the Padres could have mustered anything at all, it would have completed the trilogy of bullpen giveaways, but Mike Stanton and Dave Weathers decided to go ahead and do their jobs this time around, preserving the lead that Jae Seo handed them. I would say something, by the way, about Seo's return to form once I rescinded my earlier praise, but I won't. Uh . . . he sucks.

The Metropollyannas head up to Los Angeles now for three. The Dodgers are still deluding themselves a la the Red Sox that they're contenders. It sure would be nice start the spoiling here and put a damper on their wild card chances.

Tigers Watch: they've now dropped nine straight . . . again . . . and are mathematically on pace to fall short of that lofty plateau set by Casey's Clowns in '62. I have a feeling they'll put together a few and eke out 41 wins. Then again, I bet actual money . . . wait, more valuable than money, I bet beer that the Mets would win 83.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Pedro Scratched, Fossum Itching to Go

Pedro called in sick, and will miss his scheduled start tonight. Good thing this season's already over, or I might have started smashing things in my office.
Game 125 - Mets

Padres 2, Mets 1
Record: 54-71
NL East: Can't quite make out the 4th-place team
Wild Card: One-eyed Jacks

To quote Jon Lovitz as Mike Dukakis, circa 1988: "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy."

So in this NL West round-up, the Mets take two against the 73-44 Giants (with 7 runs/game) and four easy ones against the 61-62 Rockies (8 runs/game), then lie down and die against the buzz saw that is the 47-78 Pad Squad (1.5 runs/game)?? Don't fall in love with the New York Mets, because they'll always take you in; just when you think they've really changed, they stink the stadium up again. Don't fall in love with the New York Mets, because they'll break you every time; so put out the light and just hold on before we say goodbye.

To jump jurisdictions here, I got to watch the avalanche that was Byung-Hyun Kim's outing last night. I said right after the Yankee series that Kim is not the go-to guy every contender needs, and I believe it even more now. Everything he was throwing seemed mashable. The one out he got was a hideous bunted third strike; had Ramon Hernandez swung away, surely it would have been a hit. Two bullpen blow-ups in two nights for Boston. Seems like old times. In a pinch, Rob Russell should begin quoting his April diatribes in lieu of new text, maybe even lifting entire postings.
Game 126 - Red Sox, or Somewhere, Don Meredith is Softly Singing

A's 8, Red Sox 6
Record: 71-55
AL East: HAH!
Wild Card: 2 GB Oak

In every season I can remember there's been a distinct line of demarcation that defines the date when I believe the Sox season is over. Last night marks that line for this season. They're done. Toast. Fork. Etc. I can't for the life of me figure out why they can't get over the hump, but these two crushing losses to Oakland put the finishing touches on yet another disgusting August swoon. 4-9 in August. 4 and fucking 9! 16-17 since the All-Star break, while Tampa Bay (!) is 19-14.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to give up on the Sox. That would be far too painless and comfortable, and my New England Puritan hairshirt-wearing heritage won't stand for it. And who knows, maybe they'll make a run in late September to forestall their actual mathematical elimination, as they often do. Now, though, I can watch the games safe in the knowledge that they don't matter, that the Sox are not going to the playoffs. So, the losses won't be as tough, although the wins won't be as sweet, either. Sox baseball in August, it's like Prozac.

(I'm not even going to get into the 17 men they left on base last night. That simply wouldn't be safe for my heart or my office furniture.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Game 124 - Mets

Padres 3, Mets 2
Record: 54-70
NL East: 26.5 GB Atl
Wild Card: 15 GB Phil

After getting over-excited about the prospect of watching the Mets-Padres game at 10:00, I proceeded to fall alseep while putting my daughter to bed and miss the whole thing. Then again, I wouldn't say I was missin' it, Bob. Mike Stanton gives up a lead in the 8th and takes the loss while the offense musters just a pair of runs against a team who's lost 30 more than they've won? Seen it. I just hadn't seen it in a while. And again, I wasn't missing it.

Memo to Rob Russell: The Metwagon is still accepting riders. Good seats still available. Welcome to your portion of "Misery Loves Company."
Game 125 - Red Sox, or Sauerbeck is German for Stinky Beer Fart

A's 3, Red Sox 2
Record: 71-54
AL East: 6.5 GB NYY
Wild Card: 1 GB Oak

Games like this one make me long for the relative numbness of Oriole fandom. Why do I torture myself so much over a group of guys who don't even know I exist, or care really? Hell, I only really know 3 or 4 other real Sox fans, so why is it such a big deal to me? Why can't I root for a nice, comfortable group of schleps like Baltimore or Montreal? Wins would be nice, losses no big deal, beers at the ballpark cold, and the seats would all face the action. And expectations would be nil, so anything better than .500 would be a bonus. Hell, even Mets fans have it better at the moment - at least they're riding a 6-game winning streak, rather than a 4-8 skid.

Instead, I grind my teeth over this team of Red Sox, who took a huge step backward last night when they couldn't hold a 2-0 lead in the 7th inning. Scott Sauerbeck, who was brought in expressly to handle lefties, walked Eric Chavez and Erubiel Durazo in his brief stint. He was replaced by Scott Williamson, who has pitched well since coming from Cincinnati, but threw a 1-2 slider to Ramon Hernandez that didn't slide until it skidded off the roof of the stadium. Hello, 3-2, and goodbye Wild Card lead. Of course, it didn't help matters that the supposedly terrific offense couldn't scrape out a single run in 6 innings against a mediocre Oakland bullpen after chasing A's starter Mark Mulder with a hip injury in the 3rd inning.

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. today, seriously pissed off about last night's game. This Red Sox team is one of the two or three best in my lifetime from a talent perspective. If they fail to make the playoffs, it will hurt like few things short of the 1986 World Series. It will also be a clarion call for a drastic change of personality at the top. Grady Little is the classic player's manager, a laid-back, go along to get along sort of guy who is universally liked (but undoubtedly not feared) by his team. Failure in 2003 will almost certainly require the Sox management team to go out and get a fire-breathing, ball-busting, win-or-else gamer next year to try to shake this team by its collective necks.

Two more against Oakland, with pitching matchups that favor the Sox in both. It's not yet win or else time, but it's getting pretty damn close, and I'm getting tired of explaining that there's still time left. We may be looking at another blog boycott, and nobody wants that, least of all our tens of fans.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Game 123 - Mets

Mets 8, Rockies 0
Record: 54-69

Missing: One wretched collection of 25 weak-hitting, sloppy-fielding, and slow-running has-beens, haven't-yet-beens, and never-will-bes. Last seen wandering over the Triborough Bridge in blackout NYC. Previously seen dropping doubleheaders like Galileo dropped the orange, losing chunks of games three at a time, and making fans flip over to the Brewers-Padres thriller by the third inning. Should be wearing Brooklyn Dodger Blue and New York Giant Orange. Answers to "Mets," "Metropolitans," or "The best damn 54-69 ballclub there ever was." If found, please return to:

123-01 Roosevelt Ave.
Flushing, NY 11368

I don't recognize these guys. Steve Trachsel allowed one hit and nary a walk while notching two hits himself. Mike Piazza and Jason Phillips blasted homers again. The Mets outscored the Rockies 32-8 over this four-game series. I'll take what I can get in this God-forsaken season, and this is fun, but if this stretch of wins had come in April, I might've actually had glorious delusions of grandeur at some point. As it happened, I swallowed daily doses of bitter pills like salt peter at the sanitarium, except with more tantrums.

Well, I just dug up something from a dusty bottom drawer, and since it finally seems appropriate:

Let's Go Mets!

[Oops . . . I really shouldn't have reminded these guys they're the Mets.]
Hey, We're Famous!

Um, sort of. One guy on SOSH linked to our humble site in a discussion of Red Sox blogs. And he likes us, he really likes us. Guess we'll have to be on our toes to make sure we don't screw up anything factual, because those guys are as sharp as any fansite I've ever seen.
Games 120-122 - Mets

Mets 5, Rockies 0
Mets 13, Rockies 4
Mets 6, Rockies 4
Record: 53-69

Well, lookee there. A five-game winning streak to propel the New York Mets out of the depths of "utterly atrocious" and back into the refreshing realm of . . . "really mediocre." It's actually been great to watch, though there's nothing like a hot streak to usher in all of those "if only" thoughts. Unfortunately, the Mets are forced to violate the Gospel According to Crash Davis and fuck with a winning streak; today Cliff Floyd ends his long, painful season and gets his Achilles tendon operated upon. Floyd had a season to be proud of when he announced his decision to go under the knife; these past few games have elevated it to something heroic. In his final trio of ballgames, he went 10-for-11 with 5 runs scored and 5 driven in, even swiping two bases. Gimpy as he has been all year, he has toughed it out and earned the respect of teammates, coaches, fans, and even opponents. He never blamed his array of dings, pulls, and bruises when his level play dipped; hell, his level of play never really dipped. He quietly showed up every day and played his hind quarters off while Mets with significantly lower thresholds for pain visited the DL like it was their beach house. Here's to Mr. Floyd, and may he get 100% healthy by the spring.

As sadly predicted a month ago in this column, what with Floyd cashing in his chips with 18 homers, it doesn't appear that any Met will hit 20, a remarkably pathetic feat. (The Red Sox have five guys with 20+ and a couple more close.) The Expos, Indians, and Dodgers are the only other teams without a 20-HR guy already; only L.A. is as much of a long shot as the Mets. Other than the remote possibility of Mike Piazza smashing 12 dingers in his last 40 games, there is one legitimate dark horse. Your friend and mine Tony Clark now has 16 home runs. He only has 201 at-bats, and though Floyd's absence has Clark taking a few fungoes in the outfield, it likely won't spell any additional swings. Still, I like the possibility of Mr. Russell's favorite Met being the lone salvation from this ignominious rate of ineptitude. (In truth, I don't think anyone would really lose any sleep over this, but it's just one more exclamation point on this @#$%! of a season that we don't need.)

As much as this season's heaping slice of humble pie might have been good for upstart young Mets, a taste of winning is equally beneficial. Once losing becomes an everyday occurrence, there's a level of acceptance. The '03 Detroit Tigers have only the threat of out-sucking the '62 Mets to keep their minds on the job. Meanwhile, at the very least these Mets now can get used to rattling off a string of wins just as they have gotten so used to loss after loss.

Speaking of Detroit, it's time for the Tigers Watch to be resurrected, since they're this bad:

Current Record: 31-91
Winning Percentage: .254
Projected Wins: 41
Odds of Finishing Worse Than the '62 Mets: 50/50

As nice as it is to point to the Tigers to make yourself feel bad about your own awful team, this winning has been nice. Keep it up, boys.
Games 122-124 - Red Sox, or It's a Game of Inches, and Their Inches are Longer than Ours

Mariners 10, Red Sox 5
Red Sox 5, Mariners 1
Mariners 3, Red Sox 1
Record: 71-53
AL East: 5 GB NYY
Wild Card: Tie - Oak

This weekend's series was both expected and maddening. Expected, because Seattle's a good team, playing at home, and should generally take 2 of 3 from most visitors. Maddening, because I can make a plausible argument that the Sox should have easily swept the series. Equally infuriating was Baltimore's express train to 2003 Twinsville, as the O's handed the Yankees 4 games, three of which the Orioles led in the 7th inning or later. You, Baltimore, are dead to me.

The Sox handed the M's game 1 of the series through a series of godawful defense efforts. Todd Walker continues to cement his status as one of baseball's premier defensive liabilities - his failure to make a simple toss to Nomar to start a 4-6-3 double play started things rolling badly in the late innings of a tie game. Then, Willie Bloomquist's easy grounder took a wicked hop into Nomar's neck, helping the M's avoid an inning-ending twinkilling for the second time in two batters. Finally, Ichiro's foul pop glanced off of Billy Mueller's chest and glove as the Sox thirdbaseman slid to catch it. The baseball gods had seen enough, and Ichiro bowed respectfully to their presence before hammering a gift grand slam to lead the M's to victory. I only exaggerate slightly when I say that I saw better defense in the multiple Little League World Series games I saw this weekend than I did in the Sox game on Friday.

Game 2 was Pedro being Pedro. Very quietly, the Sox' stud has assumed the AL lead in both strikeouts and ERA. His 9-3 record masks the fact that he has been extremely solid all season. I saw a stat this morning that, although it's unconfirmed, is staggering: the Sox are 134-9 in games that Pedro has started and they have scored more than 3 runs. That, boys and girls, is simply otherworldly.

Freddy Garcia pitched a terrific game yesterday to shut the Sox down, but he was aided significantly by a generous third-strike call against Manny Ramirez in the first inning. Conversely, Sox starter John Burkett - who has been magnificent over the last three months, posting a 3.85 ERA over his last 13 starts, averaging 6.1 IP per start, and allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of those 13 starts - was squeezed several times in the critical 4th inning when the M's scored all three of their runs. Those calls even out over time, but they didn't help yesterday.

So, with 38 games left, it looks more and more like the Wild Card will be the Sox' only route to the postseason. As much as I don't want to believe it, making up 5 games against the Yankees - even as flawed as they look right now - is a daunting task. 7 more games this week against Oakland and Seattle - this time in Fenway. 4-3 is a must, 5-2 would be better.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Game 121 - Red Sox, or Just When I Thought I Was Out...

Red Sox 4, A's 2 (10)
Record: 70-51

Holy rollercoaster of emotions, Batman! I was a grumpy, bitchy, pissed off Sox fan when I left my office last night. The Sox were trailing, 2-1, in the 7th inning after scratching out 3 lousy hits against Ted "Human Crap Sack" Lilly (I mean that in the most affectionate way possible). I got home and turned on the TV just in time to see Johnny Damon single in the top of the 10th to put runners on 1st and 3rd.

"Sweet. They tied it up.", I said to myself, out loud, and then headed into the bathroom to, y'know, drop the brown kids off at the pool. I had turned the volume way up so I could listen while I worked, so I heard the announcers describe the collision between Terance Long and Eric Byrnes that knocked Byrnes off balance just enough to allow Gabe Kapler to beat his throw home. Significant karmic implications on that play, as it was Long who made a spectacular leaping grab to rob Manny of a game-winning homer last season - a grab that signalled the beginning of the end of the Sox' playoff run.

I watched the Sox score one more on a bad error by Eric Chavez (hey! another team has a crappy defensive effort - nice) and tried really hard to pay attention to both my wife and the game while eating dinner during the bottom of the 10th. B.H. Kim's incident-free work in the last of the 10th iced the game, and more fist pumps ensued. I even taught my daughter how to do one, though her effort looked a lot more like Popeye's uppercut than the Tiger Woods action I try to recreate.

This was a massive, huge, enormous, gigantic win, both because it put the Sox back in the lead for the Wild Card and because it was a kick in the groin for the A's. Oakland had to believe that they would do no worse than 3-1 in this series after taking the first two games, and the Sox went out and beat Mark Mulder and scrapped back to win this game. Manny Ramirez' epic 10-pitch at-bat in the top of the 9th culminated with a monster tater - his second in as many games - and broke the A's spirit. Man, I love having that guy on the team.

Now three in Seattle, where the pitching matchups actually favor the Sox after tonight. If the Sox can take 2 of 3 they'll head back to a heroes' welcome in Beantown.

Game 120 - Mets . . . Or Not

The Mets have had a shortage of power since Opening Day, but last night's game was called due to the power outages across the eastern part of the country. It's always weird when national events derail the 162-game calendar. Rain causing a re-schedule is one thing; snow in early April or late October is another, and weird things like tiles falling from the dome ceiling or the Disco Demolition Night debacle are bizarre baseball quirks. But when occurrences like earthquakes, widespread power outages, or, in the worst-possible case, terrorist attacks, disrupt the ride of a baseball season, it's like a rude awakening from a pleasant dream, being shaken and thrust into a harsh reality of life beyond the balls and strikes. Fortunately, in this case, the casualties didn't escalate, though several have perished in the aftermath.

The Mets are scheduled to open a series against the Rockies tonight, but I don't think the chances of them playing are all that good. Looks like I'll be stuck watching the Yanks/O's, Sox/M's, Jays/A's, and Braves/D-backs. A-OK by me.
This Is It

This has to be the last time I defend Pete Rose. Yes, his wagering on games may have had a deleterious effect on his team's chances, just like players in contract years padding individual stats (less of a problem in baseball than other sports) or general managers benching players to prevent them from reaching high-dollar milestones. It's all bad news, but when gambling's involved, punishments must be meted out; I am merely suggesting that it isn't really as bad as throwing games, and that 14 years of banishment is probably enough. The other major sports have tossed players for using drugs (performance-enhancing as well as . . . mood-enhancing). Not baseball. They won't even test. Gambling is their lightning rod, thanks to the '19 ChiSox, and they can come down so harshly on gamblers that they appear hard-line across the board. Case in point: Willie Aikens did three months in prison for a cocaine arrest, then did just one month of baseball suspension, though commissioner Bowie Kuhn had tried to suspend him for one year. At the same time, Kuhn banned Mickey Mantle . . . Mickey Frickin' Mantle . . . from baseball simply because he took a job as a greeter in an A.C. hotel that had a casino, and Mantle wasn't reinstated for two years.

The eradication of gambling ties to baseball has been MLB's axe to grind, for some time. Pete Rose should have known it before, but I guarantee you he knows it now. And he's taken a 14-year ass-whippin' because of his screw-up. That's enough. Ease up on Charlie Hustle and crack down on guys hustling 'roids in locker rooms. Be done with this controversy, and let us get back to the things that really matter about baseball, like my Mets/Red Sox bet with Rob Russell, my Mets/Phils bet with Rhys Lloyd, my family baseball picks pool . . .

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Here's the Thing

Wouldn't Pete Rose manage his team differently in games where he had some action, trying hard to win those games at the possible expense of his bullpen, or his starting pitcher, or a player who might need rest? And if that argument is plausible, then isn't it also true that he compromised his team's chances, even slightly, in subsequent games? And if that's true, then it's just as bad as betting on his team, because the integrity of all the games are in question.
Polite Disagreement

Without wanting to arouse the ire of Mr. Russell and thereby have him predict my falling down the stairs, I want to raise a point about the Pete Rose garbage. This is something that had bewildered me, and's Rob Neyer was the first I've seen to publicly ask the question. Betting against your own team, akin to throwing the game like the Black Sox did, is obviously the reprehensible act whose harsh punishment is clearly warranted. Why is betting on your own team held in the same light as this? I accept that it is indeed a bad thing, as gambling and sports need to be sent to their corners like church and state, but if Pete Rose really did bet on the Reds but never against them, is it the same horrendous act? If betting on baseball games is a one-year wrist-slap, isn't Rose's crime closer to that than the betting-against "death-sentence" violation? Neyer proposes a decent compromise in his article.

I do think he belongs in the Hall, and after they make him grovel and 'fess up to what he did, he should get the same treatment as everyone else, no more or less, and then we can be done talking about his baseball merits, which can only further enlarge his ego. (Anyone who signs baseballs with "Hit King 4256" instead of their real name gets their mug in Webster's nestled between "arrogant" and "ass.") He probably would be in there already if he weren't such a lying prick, and I think this penance has been many folks' equivalent of Joe Jackson & the boys' snub of Ty Cobb for being a similar son of a bitch in Field of Dreams. (Whoa, Shoeless Joe on the other side of it – eerie, huh?)
Game 119 - Mets

Mets 9, Giants 2
Record: 50-69

Cue the Ace, people . . .

Many months since I was here, on the DL I was passin' my time away
To the left and to the right, line drives towering to the sky
It's outta sight in the dead of night
Here I am, and in this city, with a fistful of ribbies
And baby, you'd better believe . . .

I'm back
Back in the New York Groove

Mike Piazza has to stay on this team. Move him to first (after letting him get the record for HRs by a catcher), but don't trade him away. Sure, on paper he may not provide as much as he does in the hearts of the fans, and it's generally not a good idea to run a team – not even a fantasy team – with your heart instead of your head. But for the last two seasons, whatever Mets' management saw working on paper turned out to be wastepaper. And since people seem to think the Mets won't be contenders for another year or two beyond this one, who would be better to inspire the youth with veteran play than Piazza? He hustles, he takes one for the team, he is clutch, he is loyal, and he is a great guy, plus, oh yeah, he can hit lights out. And he hates Roger Clemens and the Yankees, which can't be a bad thing.

Piazza's return to the majors after three months: 3-5, HR, 5 RBI. The guy is one bad motherscratcher. I say he stays.
On a Roll with Time on My Hands, or, Another Reason Why Bud Selig Sucks

If the recent Baseball Prospectus report claiming that Pete Rose will not only be allowed back in baseball, but permitted to manage by 2005 is true, then Bud Selig truly is sent from Hades to ruin the game I love. We know the following things to be true about Rose:

1. He was one of the all-time great competitors in baseball history.
2. He bet on baseball while employed as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds
3. He bet on Reds games while manager of said Reds
4. He has a really, really bad haircut

1 & 4 are really not relevant to whether he should be allowed to work in some capacity in Major League Baseball, because a) they're outweighed by 2 & 3, and b) he can wear a hat. However, 2 & 3 should disqualify him from any future employment in professional baseball - even if he admits his guilt and apologizes. Quite simply, betting on the game is the single worst thing any athlete can do, even if betting on his own team. It compromises the integrity of the competition, which is the foundation upon which professional sports is built. By permitting Rose to participate in MLB activities, Selig is telling all players that integrity is less important than name recognition and dollars in the till, and that's sickening.

The Hall of Fame is an entirely different question. I believe Rose belongs based on his merits as a player, and that his plaque should clearly stipulate that he compromised the integrity of the game after his playing career was over. I also believe that he should not be allowed to give a speech at his induction. That's just my opinion, I could be wrong, though I doubt it.
And I'll Take a Million Dollars, While I'm at It

Reports this morning from New York indicate that Jason Giambi is having an MRI to see what's wrong with his knee. He's hoping it's just tendinitis. Looks like my plea for nagging injuries from just an hour ago is already bearing fruit. I will try to use this power for good, and not evil.
Game 120 - Red Sox (or, Down the Stretch They Come)

Red Sox 7, A's 3
Record: 69-51

It's always nice to start the day with a fist pump. Because this game was a 10:05 pm start, and because I'm still catching up on my sleep from the long weekend, I awoke this morning nervous about the result. I showered, shaved, and wandered downstairs to check the ESPN Ticker. I held my breath as the scores rolled from Tennis (I mean, honestly, does anyone in North America give a flying frig about tennis?) to NFL to AL, and then waited some more as the Yankees/Royals (nicely done, KC), Twins/Indians, and Tigers/Rangers scores scrolled by at an agonizingly slow pace. Finally, Red Sox 7, A's 3 showed up, and I tore off a quick fist pump in the general direction of the cat.

'Bout goddamn time the offense reawakened and Derek Lowe kept the team in a game. The flaky hurler only went 5 innings, but he made some big pitches to Erubiel Durazo with the bases loaded in that last inning, throwing three straight nasty sinkers to get out of a 3-0 hole. Manny hit a massive homer to snap a ghastly slump, and Kevin Millar did the same. The bullpen was really good, reaffirming their status as an above-average relief corps. Whoda' thunk that two months ago?

75% of the season done, and the Sox are in a dead heat for a playoff berth. 1 more against the A's and the underacheiving Ted Lilly (an afternoon game, actually, so I'll know the result before I go to bed) before 3 at Seattle. The slumping Yankees, losers of 4 of 5, take on the Orioles. I'd like an order of the same O's team that took 3 of 4 from the Sox, with a side of nagging injuries to Jason Giambi and David Wells, please.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Game 119 - Red Sox

A's 5, Red Sox 3
Record: 68-51

I'm struggling to choose one of the following bastardized quotes from prominent NFL coaches to describe how I feel:

A) "I'm pushing my chips to the middle of the table. I guarantee this Red Sox team will make the playoffs."


B) "Playoffs!!?!?!! Playoffs?!?!?!? Are you kidding me? Playoffs?!?!?!?"

And I'm really leaning towards the second. The Sox squad that showed cast-iron balls and bats to match over the season's first 100 games or so has flat out not shown up over the past three weeks. The first two games of this series against the A's were real tone-setters, and the Sox laid a flat, listless symphony on Oakland, while the A's were tight and harmonious. (Man, that's a tortured analogy.)

I can honestly say that I haven't been more down about the Sox' chances at any point in the season than I am at this moment. They just seem to have run out of gas in - shocker - August. I really thought this team would be different than those of the past two seasons, but they've gone cold as the weather gets hot, just like their predecessors. There's time to snap out of it, but not a lot. C'mon, boys, make me Jim Fassel and not Jim Mora, dammit.
Game 118 - Mets

Mets 5, Giants 4
Record: 49-69

As Fran Healy mentioned late in the game (nearly jinxing David Weathers, of course), when Barry Bonds jacks a pair of mammoth shots and the Mets still win, the fans have gotten precisely what they paid for. (Especially when Bonds is on their rotisserie baseball team.) Bill Clinton was in the stands; he needs to come to more games if he brings this kind of spectacle & result with him.

Of note was Grant Roberts, a guy who's been a prospect for too long, and one who'd spent the entire season on the DL. He came out and, despite giving up 3 hits and a walk in two innings, didn't surrender a run. He got Bonds swinging at the high heat and fooled Benito Santiago badly. It would be nice to have another young arm to go with the golden oldies.

Speaking of young arms, the Mets touched up ex-O Sidney Ponson for 8 hits and 5 runs in 6 2/3. Nice trade, San Fran.
Games 112-117 - Mets

Mets 10, Astros 1
Astros 11, Mets 1
Mets 5, Astros 4
Mets 3, Diamondbacks 1
Diamondbacks 2, Mets 1
Diamondbacks 7, Mets 4
Record: 48-69

Much like Mr. Russell, I was neck-deep in nothing remotely connected to the New York Mets: sunny skies, warm ocean waters, and cold beers, without the sunny & warm parts. Hung over SportsCenter recaps of wins and losses (equally proportioned, for once) were the unnecessary updates to the season. Discussions with the one other Mets fan at the beach ranged from cynical to hopeful and took potshots and solace intermittently. Unfortunately, a lame duck season is only worthy when it offers something new and different, something to carry over to the next spring, and while there appears to be much to build upon for the next campaign, it's still not all that gratifying when you look across the aisle at a team in the running for this year's prize.

Of course, that team is the Red Sox, who seem to be playing as if they want no part of the pennant race. The grass is always greener, Boston batsmen, and what looks like a leisurely, relaxed August and September void of the pressure and inevitable misery of the stretch run is really a tedious, monotonous, flat-out boring two-month exercise of reading other people's box scores. Don't peer over here longingly; don't even cast a sidewards glance as you pause to catch your breath. Keep chugging ahead for fear of the doldrums that lie beneath you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Games 112 - 118 - Red Sox

Red Sox 4, Angels 2
Red Sox 9, Angels 3
Orioles 10/4, Red Sox 4/2
Red Sox 6, Orioles 4
Orioles 5, Red Sox 3
A's 4, Red Sox 0
Record: 68-50

Thank God I was drunk for the past 6 days, because I would have been one pissed off mofrackie if I had to watch the Sox self-destruct while sober. I'm beginning to get irrational, which is what happens when a really good team craps itself against a mediocre club like the Orioles. I didn't actually watch any of these games, except the 5-3 loss to Baltimore (in which the Sox raised hopes by loading the bases in the 9th before dashing them on Nomar's wild swing on strike 3). In hindsight, that was a good thing, because watching 3 losses in 4 games to the O's would likely have driven me to the destruction of something valuable.

The Sox are 5-8 in their last 13 games - roughly since the trading deadline when they ostensibly improved themselves. They blew an opportunity to gain ground in the division, as the Yankees have been a pedestrian 7-6 over the same span. As I posted earlier, management has done its job - now it's on the players to do theirs. Since I've been away from modern communication means for a while, I don't really have any objective measures of the team's failings. That said, Derek Lowe needs to get his head out of his ass, Jeff Suppan must show that his first two outings with the team are an anomaly, the offense has to wake up and regain the groove that propelled the Sox through July (this means you, Manny, Walker, and Millar), and the defense must remember what the leather things on their non-throwing hands are, and how they are to be employed.

44 games left, and a dead heat with the A's for the Wild Card, three behind the Yankees (and Mariners). The Sox are eminently capable, but they need to get their collective heads out of their collective asses and put together a solid string of games. Yesterday's was the first of 14 straight against Oakland and Seattle. Anything worse than 7-7 may well be catastrophic. And yes, I'm back on the ledge again.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Games 110 & 111 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Orioles 5
Red Sox 10, Angels 9
Record: 65-46

Too bogged to blog, preparing for the 10th Annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip while trying to finalize a proposal at work. Quick hits from the last two games:

1. Offense seems back, but the pitching needs to get better.
2. Grady moved Walker to the 8 hole. Maybe I should keep offering suggestions, as they seem to work.
3. Starting Monday, 22 of the Sox next 24 are against the A's, Mariners, Yankees, and ChiSox. Yikes. Need to go at least 11-11 in those games, preferably better.
4. On the bright side, 29 of the last 51 are at home, where the Sox are winning at a 69% clip thus far.

Here's the bottom line: I'm speculating that the Sox need 96 wins to make the playoffs. That means 31 wins in the last 51 games, against tough competition. Break out the 'Major League' cardboard cutout of George Steinbrenner and start peeling off sections. I want to see George in a Speedo by season's end. Umm, maybe we should make it Mariah Carey.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Game 109-111 - Mets

Cardinals 8, Mets 2
Cardinals 10, Mets 9
Mets 13, Cardinals 5
Record: 45-66

Friday night I was hollering at Art Howe, cursing him for the same stupid reason – his reluctance to yank a pitcher who can't get it done. When you have a 2-1 lead on the St. Louis Cardinals going into the 8th, you have to see it as a good chance for a good win, something we fans deserve after all of the bad losses to bad teams this year. After John Franco faced just one batter to close out the 7th (and was pinch-hit for), Jaime Cerda was allowed to face just one batter in the 8th before Howe went to Dan Wheeler.

Wheeler's been pretty good so far, but it was pretty obvious right away that Friday night was not his night. Kerry Robinson laced his first pitch of the night into the corner for a triple, scoring Cerda's batter and tying the game. After a couple of walks, you could see that Wheeler was struggling, but Art Howe sat stoically in the dugout with a look like, "Well, I made my bed when I brought this kid in, and now I have to lie in it." Someone please tell him he can clean up his mistakes mid-inning. After a sac fly gave the Cards the lead, an intentional walk and a pair of doubles – one a two-run ground-ruler hit by relief pitcher Steve Kline, marking the second hit and first ribbies of his career – gave the Cards the game. We were in this thing, and all of a sudden we weren't.

Saturday emphasized my point even more, though there were less obvious cases of pitchers dying out there. The Mets are capable of coming back, so long as the pitching hasn't placed them in a hole too deep. A seven-run deficit after seven proved to be just a smidgen too deep, as the Mets rallied for one in the eighth and five in the ninth before running out of gas. Of note: the Mets intentionally walked two more Cardinals, and, like Friday night's free pass issuee, both of them scored, on a subsequent grand slam and three-run double, respectively. Might want to think about holding off on those IBB's. Also of note: the Mets left 20 runners on base; Timo Perez left 7 himself. Hard to take when you lose by a run.

Sunday was the only day of the series that I saw none of the game, so naturally the Mets exploded. Thanks, boys. Tony Clark hit a pair of homers (his 12th and 13th) and the entire offense hit well enough that Dave Weathers' weak eighth didn't matter, thank goodness. After a day off, the Mets head to Houston. After giving up 23 runs in three games to St. Louis, the Metropolitans could see more fireworks in that ridiculous park.

By the way, speaking of "Metropolitans," I suggest the shortened version "Mets" be switched to "Pollys," based on the way they've played for two years now. Think it could catch on?

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Games 108 & 109 - Red Sox

Orioles 2, Red Sox 1
Orioles 9, Red Sox 2
Record: 63-46

I'm now officially on the ledge. The Sox came out of last weekend on a massive high after an inspiring series win against the Yankees, looking ahead to 6 games against the lower class of the league. 4-2 was expected, 6-0 not out of the question. Now, the Sox must win today to avoid a 1-5 stretch heading into the season's most important two-week stretch, 4 consecutive series against Oakland and Seattle. I'm panicking, I'm pissed, I'm irritated, I'm no fun to be around, and I'm destroying stuff around my house at a record clip.

The Sox have lost three games to both the Yankees and A's this week, and stand a full 4.5 behind New York and a mere 0.5 ahead of the A's. They have been utterly flat, putting together 4 straight listless games going into this afternoon's contest against Baltimore. The offense has tallied a total of 8 runs against R.A. Dickey, Colby Lewis, Pat Hentgen and Rodrigo Lopez. Not exactly Curt Shilling and Randy Johnson, but they've all made the Sox look bad. I've had the bad fortune of watching the last two games live, which has convinced me even more that I really have no business purchasing the Extra Innings package. I am difficult to be around when the Sox are going badly, moreso when I get to watch the Sox going badly. For the sake of my family, I should avoid today's game at all costs.

Grady Little's done a pretty good job this season of maintaining an even keel, but I believe the events of this week call for a chair-tossing, cooler-smashing nutty from the Sox head man. This should be followed immediately by a lineup shakeup that sees Todd Walker moved well down the order. Walker's defensive liabilities are tolerable when he hits like he did until July 1. Not so much when he has a full month of .549 OPS as he did in July. Walker needs to be batting 8th or 9th when he's in the lineup, and Bill Mueller or Trot Nixon need to be in the 2 hole, depending upon the pitcher. To steal blatantly from the Boston Sports Guy, I will not argue about this. The entire batting order's been struggling this week, but Walker's been abysmal for a month, and needs to be moved where he can't bog down the offense.

The Sox are still well in the thick of the playoff race, but this skid has to end soon - for my sanity, if for nothing else.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Game 108 - Mets

Brewers 4, Mets 3
Record: 44-64

There was a Mets game in the afternoon. I didn't realize it until I got home, and they'd already lost. I wasted my time working at work instead of following the team. Uh oh. That's not supposed to happen. Interest . . .waning . . . . . . must . . . ignore . . . reality . . .

Good news by way of comparison. Just when it was bumming me out that the Mets have dropped 20 more than they've taken, I observed the Detroit Tiger record of 28-78. Yikes. They'd have to win 50 in a row to break even. The sad news for the Tigers: they've only won up to four in a row this season, so it's probably unlikely. The sad news for the Mets: they haven't won four in a row this season.

And if you didn't see the 9th inning of the Orioles/Twins game last night, you missed the very definition of "pissing a game away;" worse, perhaps than the Benitez-led Mets ever chucked a win to the curb.

In psychiatry, I think they call this Deflection.
Games 106 & 107 - Red Sox

Rangers 9, Red Sox 2
Rangers 7, Red Sox 3 (11)
Record: 63-44

Mumble. Grrr. Murmurrumbledammitwhatthe... Teams with championship aspirations simply can't afford to drop two of three to doormats, especially after winning the first game of the series, and even moreso when Pedro Martinez starts one of the losses.

Sox management has done its part, acquiring two solid bullpen arms in Scott Sauerbeck and Scott Williamson, and adding a legitimate inning-eater for the rotation in Jeff Suppan. The Sox got these players without impacting the major league roster, so the offense remains intact. And the Sox got these important parts without sacrificing any of their real blue chip prospects, with the possible exception of Freddy Sanchez.

It's time for the players to step up, too. The two losses to the Rangers were listless efforts - the kind of doldrums that winning teams quickly snap. Tonight's game in Baltimore is huge. The A's are gaining momentum, the Yankees swept Anaheim, and Seattle is still a strong squad. Put up or shut up time for the guys in the Sox clubhouse.

On a related and bizarre note, the Sox are now 10-9 in games started by Pedro. That's stunning. Martinez himself is 7-2 with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP and 10.05 K per 9 innings. It's not his fault. He's given up more than 3 earned runs in 3 of 19 starts. Sox fans used to chalk up Pedro starts as automatic Ws. Now, through no fault of Pedro's, that's in doubt.