Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Midday Beckett

I love watching baseball on a sunny afternoon.  The only thing better would be if I sat in the park instead of in my living room to watch it.  But I’ll take NESN’s coverage of today’s game over nothing.  Sun shining, a little breeze and the Red Sox on the field at Fenway = a perfect day.

I had last night’s game on but was only paying attention to bits and pieces while doing other things.  So when Lackey left the game, I thought “Well, that could have gone worse”…little did I realize how right I was when I saw he had given up hits in the double digits.  How frustrating must it be for the Royals and their fans to know that they got 11 hits against Lackey and 16 in all and still lost the game 12-5?  Hell, the Sox even spotted them two errors and they still came out the losers.  I do not miss the days when many of our own games ended in such frustration.

1:35pm today we get to see Beckett take the mound in the sunny, summer afternoon.  That’s my idea of time well spent!

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July 28, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , | 5 Comments

Droppings

A bunch of randomness…

~ The Jerry Meals call that ended the Pirates/Braves game last night was just really God-awful.  Meals admitting he blew the call does nothing to help the Pirates and I’m getting to the point where I don’t give the umpires “credit” any more for admitting they were wrong.  It was so obvious he was wrong that I don’t understand why the rest of his umpiring crew didn’t get together and point out to him that he was wrong.  I don’t think MLB needs robot umpires or expanded instant replay…I think umpires should be held more responsible for their bad calls publicly.  We know when players and managers and coaches get reprimanded and we should know when umpires do as well.  They should know that publicly they will be taken to task for messing up.  Games should not be decided because an umpire screws up (or just wants to end a 19-inning game).  The only amusement I got from this was here…well played  Grant Brisbee.

~  I have put a block on the name “Carlos Beltran” in my Twitter feed.  I don’t care if he goes, I don’t care where he goes, I don’t care if he leaves New York and starts his own baseball team.  No one knows anything right now and the incessant tweeting about it does nothing but clutter up my feed with ridiculousness.  I save that spot in the feed for people who still joke about Dustin Pedroia’s height. (see below)

~  I’m sure I have probably been guilty of this and I apologize for it without looking back for specific examples (and knowing it’s possible I haven’t done it) because reading it now makes me apoplectic.  Dustin Pedroia is an American League MVP and Rookie of the Year and has a World Series ring to boot.  He is, to put it simply, a damn fine player and, seemingly, a leader on the team.  There is no reason to mention his height every time you write about him.  It’s hackneyed and old and a terrible way to establish yourself as a writer.

~  I don’t care  how ugly it was, last night’s game was a thing of beauty.  Sox won (without extra innings) and Dustin Pedroia was a home run away from the cycle and he and David Ortiz were both 4-5.  Jacoby Ellsbury came in as a pinch hitter and went 2-3…these are the things I want to see in my Red Sox games.  Ultimately, though, if I’m giving my heart to a player this season that player is Alfredo Aceves.  I want an Aceves shirt to wear around so I can tell people how much I adore watching this man pitch.  He gets bonus points for being part of the brought back to life bullpen band as well.

~ John Lackey is on the mound tonight.  Monday’s extra-inning loss aside, this is the Royals, fellas, and the least you can do is help Lackey get a win.  Bruce Chen will be on the mound for the Royals which could mean a third very long night ahead for both the teams and their fans with more scoring than we had last night.  Get the Red Bulls ready!

July 27, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pleasantly Surprised

One more to 200! (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor and used with permission)

I hate to sound like a stereotype, but it’s almost difficult for me to embrace the idea that the Red Sox are doing so well right now.  To call the team “injury-plagued” isn’t so crazy.  Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill are out for the season.  Bobby Jenks is on and off the DL.  Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Darnell McDonald, Dan Wheeler, Matt Albers, and Marco Scutaro have all spent time on the DL this year and Jon Lester, starting pitcher tonight, had his own stint there.  Now JD Drew joins Jed Lowrie and Clay Buchholz on the DL.

(Unless I’ve forgotten someone, which is possible…) We’ve had 13 players from the 25-man roster on the DL this season.  Couple that with how the season began for the Red Sox (being swept by both the Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers (thanks, Jere!) and Cleveland Indians and then winning the three game series against the New York Yankees only to lose the next three games…winning only two games out of the first twelve of the season before going on a 9-5 run to end the month of April) and who can be blamed for being a little stunned at the way this team has been performing?

Back in March, I was one of a handful of bloggers Gordon Edes asked to make predictions for the upcoming season.  I’m not a fan of making predictions for the team, especially before the season begins, but was honored to be asked so I joined in.  Let’s revisit what I wrote, shall we?

When the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez in December and Carl Crawford signed on two days later, I have to admit that my mind went wild with the possibilities. If this team can stay healthy, we’ll see many high-scoring wins, especially against the other AL East teams. The Sox offense will dominate the East’s pitching. As far as the Red Sox go, their rotation will surprise folks. Lackey and Beckett definitely have the talent but need to show they still can still pitch to win. This will be the year they take out their frustrations of past seasons on the rest of the league. Lester and Buchholz will tear up the league as well and I have faith Matsuzaka will be as effective as the team needs. I expect the Red Sox to make the playoffs easily this year by ending the regular season with 100 wins.

Eesh. Well I guess, so far, I got some of it right. I played it safe on Daisuke and STILL got it wrong. Around mid-May it was pointed out to me that there was no way the Red Sox would touch 100 wins and today it looks like there’s a good possibility they could do just that. Baseball, she’s a funny game.

Someone I didn’t mention in my predictions was Tim Wakefield.  Yesterday, Wake notched his 199th win and 2000th strike out (with the Red Sox.  His career K number is 2110) and in one of the most surreal happenings I’ve seen at the ball park, after receiving a standing ovation and taking a curtain call for strike out number 2000, he came back into the game and gave up a grand slam.  Upon leaving the game for good, Wakefield received yet another standing ovation and tipped his cap to the crowd as he headed into the dugout.

If anyone can find another instance where a pitcher gets taken out of the game after giving up a grand slam and exits to a (legitimate) standing ovation (not mock cheers) I’d love to hear about it.  The Red Sox were still winning after the GS so it was a lot easier to be happy for the Red Sox fans at Fenway giving the “old man” his respect.  It made me happy to be a Red Sox fan.

Of course, it made most of the local sports media folks on Twitter and Facebook lose their shit, leading them to all start posting how terrible Tim’s stats are this season in spite of his 6-3 record.  (Wake has four no-decision in his 13 starts this season.)  Here’s my thing with Wake:  Given where he is in his career, I just want him to be able to hit the milestones he’s looking to hit without doing much damage to the Red Sox.  What he’s done, regardless of his season numbers, is help the Red Sox fill a position in the rotation.  His starts aren’t automatically checked into the L column (hello John Smoltz) and when he does come out with a win (or a milestone, or, like yesterday, both) it’s a feel-good story for the team and the fans.  Where’s the harm?  Right now, I’m just happy to see him do well without tanking the team.  So far, so good.

As happy as I was for the sweep this weekend, there was still an itty bit of me feeling sorry for the Mariners.  A 15-game losing streak has to be miserable for them and for their fans. Here’s hoping they decide to take their frustrations out on the Yankees this week and start a winning streak.

Sox get right back into it tonight with Jon Lester coming off the DL to pitch against the Kansas City Royals.  Jon once no-hit the Royals on a Monday night in May.  I’m not expecting a no-hitter (honestly, I’m a little squirmy about his pitching at all right now because I would have much preferred a rehab game or two before jumping right in, but what do I know?) but a W will make me happy.

July 25, 2011 Posted by | 2011, Featured | , , , , , | 1 Comment

60 wins

I was invited to the Jason Varitek putt-putt event that took place Thursday night and sat in a spot where I had the perfect view of John Lackey interacting with the fans most of the evening.  He was really great.  Smiling, mini-golfing, taking pictures with everyone – especially the kids there – he looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself and the contrast to how he looks when he’s pitching was stark.  Upon witnessing this, I remarked “I really like John Lackey when he isn’t on the baseball field”.

Now that isn’t to say that I don’t like John Lackey.  I’ve made it clear here that I supported the team getting Lackey and I have given him a lot of leeway on the blog.  I made a conscious decision to stop writing about him because his pitching was finally getting to the point where, although I refused to be overly critical of him, I had a difficult time defending him as well.  And then, as soon as I shut up about him, he starts settling in and getting the team some W’s.

Honestly, who among us thought that, even with the Mariners’ losing streak, a John Lackey/Felix Hernandez bill would end with Lackey getting the win and Hernandez being hung with the loss?  Not a one of us, I would suspect.  It’s really enjoyable to watch a game with John Lackey pitching where the lead-off man steals second, third and then scores and Lackey and the Red Sox still win.  Well done, Mr. Lackey.

Although, I didn’t get to watch the game in its entirety, instead I followed it on the phone and then watched NESN’s 2-hour replay at midnight. The way this Red Sox team has been performing, I’m getting greedy for postseason play this year.  I’ll be much happier when July 31st passes and I can stop wading through all the trade talks and get back to just enjoying baseball for baseball.

July 23, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , | 1 Comment

All Star Slump

I have this trollish person who loves to post comments about Adrian Gonzalez being inferior to Mark Teixeira (seriously).  His comments get automatically sent to the spam folder before they can be posted here (for reasons unrelated to Adrian) and, honestly, that is where they belong.  Recently he has taken to calling Gonzalez “Adriana” (see, it’s funny because calling a man by a woman’s name implies that he’s less of a man.  Hooray misogyny!) and last night the comment he left asked me if I was worried that “Adriana”  was “another one of Theo’s busts”.

Had I not read people in other forums who are both Red Sox fans and professionals who cover baseball asking similar questions I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought.  But one loss in Baltimore coupled with Adrian’s poor showing post-All Star Game has some people freaking out.

Gonzalez went into the All Star break hitting .354.  He has 130 hits, 78 RBI, 11 intentional walks, an OBP of .400 and he’s slugging at .560.  He has gone 2 -24 in these last five games (where the Red Sox have won three out of the five games including a 16-inning game where Adrian was one of only three Red Sox players to get a hit) and some people are acting like the world is crashing down around him.  The convenient (and ridiculous) excuse is his participation in the Home Run Derby (although Gonzalez is having none of it) but is it so outrageous to think that the guy might have a cooling off period once in a while during the season?

We get an early afternoon game today (12:35) with Andrew Miller on the mound.  I want a win, not just for the standings but to give an extra little middle finger to Buck Showalter.  My middle name is spite. 🙂

July 20, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , | Leave a comment

What a Night

 

The Red Sox believe in the power of the Rally Cap! (One of the most fun screen grabs I've taken!)

I didn’t make it.  At 1am I caved.  The last thing I did before passing out was hit “record” on the dvr (and silently pray that Tito didn’t put Papelbon in there with no score).  I woke up about 3am and groggily checked the At-Bat app on my phone and was thrilled to see the final score.  This was one of those games where, had the Red Sox lost, I wouldn’t have taken it all that hard.  It’s difficult to win an extra-inning game on the road, let alone a 16-inning one.  But they held on and they won and they’re going to Baltimore weary and sleep deprived and, hopefully, ready to take on the Baltimore Orioles once again.

Josh Beckett left the game in the 8th having gotten out 22 batters in a row and giving up only one hit.  There was  nothing more he could have done to put the Red Sox in a position to win. That he didn’t set the dugout on fire when he came out of the game is downright miraculous.  It was great to see him actually enjoying himself in the dugout watching the rest of the team take over (see screen grab above.  There were rally caps and Daniel Bard seemed to be bringing the bullpen band to the dugout near the end of the game!).

Joe Maddon wins the “What the hell?” award for the night…twice over.  First, he gets himself thrown out of the game after jawing with the home plate umpire AFTER Josh Reddick strikes out (Joe thought he should have struck out on the previous pitch).  Then, after the game, Joe took to Twitter:

@RaysJoeMaddon Very proud of our guys. My take-away from tonight is that we can beat the Red Sox and the Red Sox know it.

First of all, before this weekend, the Rays were leading the season series with three wins in five games over the Red Sox and they won the first game of this series.  Going into Sunday’s game, they were leading the season series 4-3.  Leaving this season, in 2008, the Rays beat the Red Sox in a seven game ALCS.  No one will argue that the Rays can’t beat the Red Sox.  But last night’s game?  Losing a game in 16 innings does not show the opposing team that you can beat them (and where is this inferiority complex coming from?).  Maddon’s two what the hell moments last night seem to indicate an odd focus on Maddon’s part.  Don’t focus on who the opponent is, focus on doing things to win the game, Joe.  All the Red Sox know from last night is that you got yourself booted from the game for a non-issue and their bullpen outlasted yours.

Eight hits altogether in 16 innings.  The Red Sox had five of those hits and two of the Rays’ three came off of pitchers who were not Josh Beckett.  Dustin Pedroia went  3-7.  Yes, he got three out of the five Red Sox hits last night.  I’m sure he was unbearable on the flight to Baltimore.  What I take away from this game, Mr. Maddon, is that the Red Sox know how to hang in there when it doesn’t look good.  They feed off of their pitching and finally stuck it out long enough to leave an extra-innings game on the road with a “w”.  Seems to me that they showed YOU that they can beat YOU.  Not the other way around, darlin’.

Interesting to note:

It was the longest game in terms of length of time in Rays history and it ended later than any game the Rays have ever played, 2008 postseason included.

Given that information, were I a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, I’d have to agree with B.J. Upton:

“I’d probably say this was the toughest loss of the year,”

For all the men the Red Sox left on base (17?  Did they really leave 17 on base?), the Rays had plenty of opportunities to show the Red Sox they could beat them…and they didn’t.  Most amazing to me is that the Red Sox used six pitchers versus the Rays using nine and the Sox still prevailed.  Once again, I give you Alfredo Aceves as the team’s MVP.  I shudder to think of where the team would be were he not on our side.

Tim Wakefield and Carl Crawford were both in Baltimore while the Red Sox were fighting it out with the Rays…so at least we have two starters tonight who will be well-rested (or at least won’t be jet lagged!).

July 18, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

There’s no need to fear…

I’m enjoying the John Lackey who doesn’t make me want to kick him (even if Tim McCarver tried to make the country think he was a serial killer or something because he got pissy about being taken out of the game).

Saturday baseball on Fox was an interesting experience yesterday.  If you had absolutely no idea of what the standings were, the way Dick Stockton and Tim McCarver talked about the American League East, you would have come away from yesterday’s broadcast believing the Red Sox were behind both the Yankees and the Rays.  I really don’t get why they still try to sell the “The Red Sox are struggling this year” story year after year.  The Red Sox, who had a God-awful April and are, currently, without three of their starting rotation (remember Daisuke?), are a game and a half ahead in first place and twenty games over .500.  Even with injuries, this team doesn’t suck.

I am not one of those fictional Red Sox fans who longs for the old days when the Red Sox were the underdog constantly disappointing their fanbase and it annoys me when the people who cover baseball pretend that those folks exist.  This is a good team and the fans have high expectations and their being a game and a half AHEAD of the Yankees going into the second half isn’t something we should be complaining or worrying about regardless of what Tim McCarver and Dick Stockton think.

The Red Sox being in first place makes me happy.  The pitching staff we have not totally imploding game after game pleases the hell out of me.  The offense teeing off on opposing players puts a smile on my face as I drift off to sleep.  The Tampa Bay Rays are six games out of first place right now…that isn’t an insurmountable number to overcome but, right now, I’m putting my money on Boston.

July 17, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Same as it ever was

I wrote an entire blog entry yesterday and thought I published it.  Came back in today and noticed it wasn’t published and when I went to hit “publish” I deleted it.

It’s been that kind of week.

Disappointing to watch the Red Sox scratch their way back last night and know that if not for a grand slam they might have actually won the game.  Guess I’ll just have to settle for being happy that the Blue Jays beat the Yankees two games in a row and the Red Sox still sit a game and half up in first place.

Today is another day and, unfortunately, that day brings us Red Sox baseball on Fox.  So gird your loins and prepare to make heavy use of the mute button.

>For those so technically inclined, Toeing the Rubber is now on Google Plus.  I haven’t a clue, right now, what the benefit will be to having a page there but it’s fun to play around so I figured why now.  (Also, if you need an invite just shoot me an email and I’ll send you one!)

July 16, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , | Leave a comment

All Star Hangover

Some things will never change, especially in baseball.  The best example of this is how people will complain about the All Star Game.  To be fair to Bud Selig, there will never be anything that could make all baseball fans happy.  There is NOTHING he could do to “fix” the All Star Game that would make us all shut up and just enjoy the game.  So for all of us who complain (myself included), we need to remember that it doesn’t benefit Bud Selig to constantly annoy us and the players as well.  I think he’s doing the best he can (when it comes to the ASG) with the resources he has.  (I also think it might be time for him to bring some fresh blood around him so maybe some new and better ideas can be presented to him.)

So let me list the things that I enjoyed about last night’s All Star Game:

*  D’Angelo Ortiz showing off his version of various batting stances.  This was adorable.  D’Angelo is still at the age where he hasn’t started to get annoying and he holds himself in such a way that you just know he is destined for great things.  And right now, he’s still a million kinds of cute.  The segment didn’t go on too long and they didn’t beat us to death with “See how cute David Ortiz’ son is”…it was a fun, family-friendly moment and the ASG could use more of them.

*  Heath Bell talking with the fans (one being a Red Sox fan) in the stands and then giving them gifts (I’m surprised that “Yoda Backpack” wasn’t a trending topic on Twitter last night).  Between that and his slide into the pitcher’s mound, Bell showed us how a player can be quirky and fun without being overbearing and annoying (See Wilson, Brian).

*  Being a total homer, seeing Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and, especially, Adrian Gonzalez play was fun even if Youk and Adrian were the only ones to get hits.  Watching Adrian Gonzalez hitting a home run the night after he lit up the home run derby was fun (off of Cliff Lee, thank you very much).  Heck, I even enjoyed the Red Sox players being introduced pre-game.  I’ll admit it, I get a charge out of seeing our guys there even if I pretend I don’t.

*  I liked the “Stand Up to Cancer” moment and honoring the victims of the Arizona shootings before the game even if I do think that maybe the All Star Game could be a place where we don’t focus on the sad realities of life.  Even so, both were beautifully done and made me hate the ASG a little bit less.

That was pretty much it.  I never really care about who wins, regardless of it counting for home field advantage, but there wasn’t much excitement in last night’s game.  I could complain about Brian Wilson’s truly tired act, or Tim McCarver acting like he had never heard the words “Greek God of Walks” before last night (or, really, anything involving Joe Buck and Tim McCarver).  I could scoff at how when Joe Buck was taking about the shootings in Arizona the camera went right to Josh Hamilton as if now he is the MLB poster boy for tragedies and I could complain for the millionth time about how ridiculous it is to continue to sing “God Bless America” at a baseball game “to honor America” when we sing the National Anthem before the game starts to do that very thing.  But everyone will be complaining this morning (save for National League fans, I suspect) and why send out all those negative vibes, right?

We’re stuck with two more days of no Red Sox baseball but if you’re so inclined the Triple A All Star Game is being shown on the MLB Network tonight at 9 ET (pitcher Matt Fox is the lone representative from the PawSox this year).

July 13, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , | 2 Comments

All Star Stupidity

Ten years ago, on the night of the Home Run Derby, my niece Madison was born. At the HRD, Luis Gonzalez ended up being the winner and every year on the night of the Derby, I tell Madison about how Gonzalez won on the day she was born and then went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series. Last night, when I began talking about Luis Gonzalez again, she pointed out that we had our own Gonzalez in the Derby this year and wondered if, since it was her 10th birthday over the weekend, if he would win. We rooted for our Big Papi and for Adrian Gonzalez but oddly enough seeing Robinson Cano win didn’t upset either one of us.

I’m not a fan of Cano’s.  I occasionally call him Baby Jeter and when I do I don’t mean it as a compliment.  But I admitted to a few folks recently that I think my dislike of him comes more from a point of spite because of the way the fans and the media talk about him than it does a legitimate reason (short of “He’s a Yankee”).  In any event, watching him winning, with all of his teammates (his Home Run Derby teammates, not his Yankees teammates) cheering him on and his DAD pitching to him, well, that didn’t really bother me.  For the first time in a few, I enjoyed watching the Home Run Derby and saw it as the entertainment it is meant to be.  (God knows I could live without Chris Berman yelling “Back! Back! Back!”, but all in all it wasn’t the worst way to spend the evening.)

It feels like half of MLB is at this year’s All Star Game, doesn’t it?  Felix Hernandez was chosen, but because of the rule stating any starters who pitch on the Sunday before the ASG can’t be IN the ASG, he was replaced by Jon Lester.  Jon Lester who is on the disabled list and can’t pitch (and they knew this when they chose him as Hernandez’ replacement).  Lester has been replaced by Toronto Blue Jay Ricky Romero who, you know, can actually pitch.  Hernandez, Lester and Romero are all at the All Star Game this week.

David Brown over at Big League Stew covers this in more detail, revealing the idiotic rule of not letting Sunday’s pitcher in the game as well as how stupid it is to purposely choose a player that the league knows won’t be able to play.  I had no idea that CC Sabathia replaced James Shields in the ASG…Sabathia who pitched against Shields on Sunday and Shields pitching on Sunday being the only reason he wasn’t going to be in the game Tuesday night.  How does Bud Selig not see how utterly ridiculous that is?  (Yes, I will always be bitter about the freaking All Star Game “counting”.  If Bud wants to “fix” things with it, there are many other places they could work on.  Like the way the teams are chosen.  I know I’m beating a dead horse AND banging my head against a wall, but still…)

Added to that (again thanks to Brown and the link here) we have one out of every nine players in MLB being called an All Star even if they aren’t playing…and collecting their bonus money for making the All Star Team. Derek Jeter, who bowed out of the game after being chosen by fans who really shouldn’t have chosen him, will make an additional $500,000 this year for being on the team, even though he isn’t.  I mean, it’s like Selig is now going out of his way to do things to make the fans hate MLB.

That isn’t to say I don’t think CC Sabathia didn’t deserve to be chosen for the team.  You could argue he did.  But he wasn’t.  I’m going to guess the rule is however they were voted in (and didn’t make it) is how they go down the line of who replaces ineligible players or players who bail on the game.  Shouldn’t there be a rule in place that says you skip over the players who aren’t eligible if they are next in line?  This isn’t pre-school…everyone doesn’t go home with a trophy...everyone should not be chosen for the All Star Game.

I can’t remember the last time I actually looked forward to an All Star Game (1999, I suppose.  MAYBE 2005 and 2008 because Tito was the manager?) and there has been nothing to make me really look forward to this one.  That isn’t to say I’m not happy for our guys on the team, especially Jacoby Ellsbury, but I just want real baseball back and the All Star Break is usually one long bore.  At least I can thank the Home Run Derby for being entertaining this year.

July 12, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment