Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

And there's been a lot of broken dreams

Kelly O'Connor took this photo of Greg Montalbano at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner in January 2009 (Used with permission)

We lost Greg Montalbano in 2009. Kelly O'Connor took this photo of him at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner in January 2009 (Used with permission)

Just a note of warning:  This entry is long and although I want it to be all-encompassing, I’m sure I’ve missed  few things.  But this is pretty much how I remember 2009!

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2009 was a fairly eventful year for me personally in both the good and bad categories.  Sadly more bad than good which is probably why I initially avoided writing any kind of recap for the blog.  But while I was writing my recap of the Red Sox decade (and I’ll have that up as soon as I finish it!) I realized I should probably write something about the final year of the decade as well.  So here goes.

January:  I started blogging at WEEI.com.  Looking back on my entries for this month, I’m genuinely surprised I found so much to write about (it didn’t stop new readers from complaining that I was writing “drivel” though.  Should have been a sign!).  Personal highlights in January:  The ongoing Jason Varitek saga, the signing of Rocco Baldelli, Kyle Snyder getting picked up by the Mets, the beginning of the MLB Network and Jim Rice finally gets voted into the Hall of Fame!

February:  Bombshell of bombshells for MLB.  Selena Roberts exposes Alex Rodriguez as a steroid user.  The MLB Network cuts its teeth on this one and, unlike Peter Gammons and ESPN, doesn’t disappoint with their coverage.  Unafraid of losing access to the players (again, unlike Peter Gammons or ESPN), they go full throttle on this story and introduce us to their newest addition to the network:  Bob Costas.  I wrote a lot about MLBN in 2009 and a bit about Sl*ppy.  I would have written much less about the two, most likely, had this story not broken.  Personal highlights in February:  The Caribbean World Series on MLBN (I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed it!), Truck Day, pitchers and catchers reporting and Joe Torre’s book about the Yankees.

Chapter 10: The End of the Curse. When asked by Regis Philbin the other day what happened to the Yankees over the past 7 years, Joe responded “The Red Sox happened”. That will go down as possibly my favorite Red Sox/Yankee-related quote ever.

March:  I spent a lot of March writing ‘rants’ and pointing folks toward baseball-related Twitter accounts.  Must have been resting up for April!  Personal highlight in March:  The WBC.  I spent a lot of time ranting about players getting hurt and how I didn’t care who won only to be totally sucked into it by the end.

April:   The beginning of the season!  Lots of liveblogging and picking up more WEEI readers (with mixed results!).  Personal highlights in April:  Going to both Sox/Mets exhibition games at CitiField, attending Opening Day at Fenway and high-fiving JD Drew and Hideki Okajima during their introductions, being at Fenway for the walk-off win against the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home on Andy Pettitte, Tim Wakefield taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning (thus setting the table for his All Star selection), watching Jonathan Van Every pitch while Javier Lopez floundered in right field then eventually getting DFA’d (watched on television, not in person), the Patriots Day game where Luke Scott got all pissy and some idiot fan threw a ball onto  the field and “Toeing the Rubber” getting nominated for a New England Sports Blog Award in the category “Best Red Sox Blog”. Relatively speaking, a great month except for one thing that really hit the baseball world hard and made the month miserable:  the death of Nick Adenhart.

But I don’t cry because of any personal connection I have to Nick. I don’t cry because a future baseball star is dead. I cry because parents lost a son today. Many people lost a friend. And the world lost someone who could have potentially been great. Not just at baseball but at life. No drunken ass has the right to take that away from us. This doesn’t “put things into perspective” for me. I hate when people say that. I’m forty years old for God’s sake, I’ve seen enough death and tragedy in my life to have proper perspective, thank you. I don’t watch baseball and think that what goes on down on that field is life or death and more important than anything else in my life. I’d argue that most sports fans, even if they act like they have no perspective, have exactly that. Baseball is an outlet to forget about the realities of life for a few hours.

May: Getting to see Daniel Bard’s first Major League appearance (after having seen him pitch in Pawtucket) was very special.  Finding out that Jerry Remy was recovering from cancer was sad and a little frightening.  Personal highlights in May:  Seeing Kyle Snyder with the Bisons at Pawtucket, Javier Lopez signing Steve the Ferret’s “Lopez” jersey (also at Pawtucket), Aubrey Huff fistpumping to Joba Chamberlain, appearing on “The Baseball Show” on Comcast SportsNet, crying (literally crying) over Big Papi’s first home run of the season, getting to meet metsgrrl and “paloozaing” with a huge group of people I love during the Mets/Sox series at Fenway.

Yesterday was an amazing day spent with friends (most of whom I haven’t seen in quite a while or hadn’t met yet!). There are many amazing tales to tell (but not here!) – my favorite being when our friend Susan noted that we could start singing “O Canada” except no one knows the words past “O Canada!”. Standing up and singing loudly and proudly, a group of us proved her wrong. That our serenade didn’t get us thrown out still kind of surprises me.

June:  This month brought us the end of interleague play, the end of Jonathan Van Every’s season (thanks to knee surgery), Tim Wakefield hitting ten victories with his torn labrum, John Smoltz making us all wonder why we were so excited to have him on the team while Dusty Brown makes his major league debut.  Personal highlights for June:  Derek Lowe returning to Fenway with the Braves, Nick Green’s walkoff against those same Braves, sitting in Fenway during a mind-numbing rain delayed game that turned into a loss for the Sox (okay, that one is a lowlight, really) and the Sox capping off 7 wins in a row against the Yankees with an eighth.

Continue reading

January 3, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

My life…it's better left to chance

Kelly O'Connor took this photo at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner this past January  (Used with permission)

Kelly O'Connor took this photo of Greg Montalbano at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner this past January (Used with permission)

There was something strange about walking around Fenway before the game yesterday.  The Yankees fans were there but none seemed overly cocky or obnoxious.  Sox fans were there too and most seemed to be pretty subdued for a Saturday afternoon Sox/Yanks game.  There was a definite weird vibe around the park.  I actually put off going to my seat until the last possible minute I could (while still avoiding the crush of people who try to get to their seats five minutes before the game begins) because I didn’t have a good feeling about the game.  I wasn’t convinced that Tazawa would fail but I was concerned he’d struggle.  As I wrote yesterday, I really wanted this win.

Then we were hit in the face with cruel realities that will always be more important than a baseball game.  Red Sox public address announce Carl Beane asked for a moment of silence to honor Greg Montalbano who had died the night before.  I probably Google Greg’s name once a week to see if there is any news on him.  His story was sad and compelling and inspirational all at the same time and to find out that he passed away is truly heartbreaking.  I started crying right there in Fenway, so much so that the guy next to me asked if I knew him and KellyO immediately texted me because she also hadn’t heard of his passing until Carl Beane told us.  Greg and his family have been and will be in my prayers.  The next time you want to paint all ball players with the same, broad brush of being nothing but entitled, rich, spoiled babies, please think of Greg Montalbano and remember that not all of them are like that nor do they all have the support, publicity and good fortune of, say, a Jon Lester.  (A bittersweet postscript to this story:  Both Kevin Youkilis and Carlos Pena were friends of Greg’s…and both men dedicated their games to him yesterday – and both men hit two home runs a piece in their respective games to help their teams win on Saturday.)

But the Red Sox wouldn’t let me dwell on my sadness over Greg’s passing…they came out swinging in the first with three singles and a double, scoring three runs – and they never let up.  On a day when the game was being televised nationally and Red Sox fans were preparing to listen to the Fox announcers talk about how Boston’s season was finished and Friday’s thrashing was proof that the Yankees held total dominance over the Sox it was important to the fans that the Sox didn’t get humiliated on national television.  The Sox probably felt like they had something to prove, not just to the fans but to the sports writers and the Yankees as well.  They didn’t come out timidly and worried about what might happen again  – they just made A.J. Burnett look ineffective against them…and it was pretty sweet.

Two home runs for Youk (I was rocking the Youk jersey yesterday which was cause for people to randomly slap me on the back whenever he got a hit), one for Papi and even Alex Gonzalez got into the act with one of his own.  Jacoby and Tek were the only starters without a hit but among the rest they garnered 15 hits altogether.  Tazawa pitched like he had totally forgotten about the 15th inning, walk-off home run at Yankee Stadium and hadn’t listened to any of the critics who had already written off Saturday’s game.  The team came together and got the job done.  Thank you, Red Sox.  It was a great game to be at and a wonderful tribute to Greg as well.

Still not convinced that the Boston sports media would rather focus on the negative?  Beginning of the fourth inning, Sox have scored 7 runs, Tazawa has given up 3 hits in the first 3 innings (one hit in each inning) and no runs and this is what Joe Haggerty tweets:

Last 2 inning with leads, Tazawa has fallen behind 3-1 to both leadoff hitters. Not what you’re looking for

Pardon my language but, is he shitting me?   How do you pull something like that out of your ass in the middle of a game like we were watching?  How is this not purposely looking for something negative to write about?  In the FOURTH inning when the kid has only given up 3 hits and no runs you’re complaining that he fell behind the last two leadoff hitters?  In the second inning, the leadoff hitter he fell behind (Posada) walked and got stranded at third.  In the third inning the leadoff hitter he fell behind was Jeter and he grounded out.  In the fourth inning, Matsui popped out on a 1-1 count, in the fifth inning Jeter flied out after Tazawa fell behind and in the sixth inning Posada popped out on a 1-0 count.  In the six innings Tazawa pitched, the only leadoff hitter to reach base was Posada in the second inning.  Yes, this is pretty much exactly what I’d like to see in a rookie pitcher (hell in ANY pitcher) thank you.

So we get a rubber game tonight on ESPN.  Beckett v Sabathia.  Given that Beckett’s last outing was poor I’m willing to believe that he won’t be struggling tonight.  After two blow-out games, I imagine it isn’t so crazy to think we’re going to get a pitching duel tonight.

August 23, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , , | 9 Comments

I’m just going to ramble for a few minutes

Work is absolutely insane and I’m just worn out.  But the news about Jim Rice, the John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli signings, and an opportunity to meet Bronson again have kept me happy throughout the insanity.

Sadly, it all hasn’t helped my brain much so I’m still struggling to be coherent.  🙂  Given that my EEI gig probably begins some time late Wednesday or Thursday this week, the timing couldn’t be worse – BUT I’m out of work from Thursday through Monday, so that should give me plenty of time to get focused and start pumping out the entries again.

In the meantime, I’m taking the easy way out.

*  It was pointed out to me in comments on the previous post that I didn’t make any mention of Rickey Henderson making the  Hall of Fame.  I like Rickey and I’m happy he was elected into the Hall.  But the story there would have been if he WASNT picked to make the Hall this year.  My focus was on the man who deserved to be elected in many years ago but had to wait until his last year of eligibility before he got bumped over to the Veterans Committee.  I make no apologies for that.

*  Raise your hand if back in 2001 you thought in 2009 Derek Lowe would get a four year, $60 million contract.  If your hand is up, you’re a liar.

Rob Bradford is reporting that Alex Cora has agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with the New York Mets.  Cora is one of those “average” players that I have a strong affection for.  It saddens me that he won’t be with the Red Sox, but I’m happy that the New York team he landed with doesn’t play in the Bronx.

*  Seriously.  How is it January and I haven’t heard ANYTHING about Kyle Snyder’s status?  There’s no one out there who can hook me up with some information?  Goal for 2009:  Score an interview with Kyle.  Hey, it could happen!

Greg Montalbano was at the Lowell Spinners Alumni dinner last night.  It was inspiring to see him there, looking so well and speaking so fondly of his time playing baseball.  We need more Greg Montalbano stories.  We need to hear more about the unsung heroes in baseball and not just the superstars.

*  Unrelated to baseball:  Watching Bill Hicks tonight and then catching about 5 minutes of Dane Cook made me miss Bill Hicks (and good comedy in general) immensely.  Really, people, stop lining Cook’s pockets.

*  Kelly O’Connor took some fabulous photos at the Boston Baseball Writer’s dinner AND the New Stars for Young Stars event.  Go see her amazing photos here.

Finally, by popular demand:  (This is from last year, not this year’s show, but it serves its purpose!)

January 14, 2009 Posted by | Boston Sports Media, Housekeeping, Players, Randomness | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

I'm just going to ramble for a few minutes

Work is absolutely insane and I’m just worn out.  But the news about Jim Rice, the John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli signings, and an opportunity to meet Bronson again have kept me happy throughout the insanity.

Sadly, it all hasn’t helped my brain much so I’m still struggling to be coherent.  🙂  Given that my EEI gig probably begins some time late Wednesday or Thursday this week, the timing couldn’t be worse – BUT I’m out of work from Thursday through Monday, so that should give me plenty of time to get focused and start pumping out the entries again.

In the meantime, I’m taking the easy way out.

*  It was pointed out to me in comments on the previous post that I didn’t make any mention of Rickey Henderson making the  Hall of Fame.  I like Rickey and I’m happy he was elected into the Hall.  But the story there would have been if he WASNT picked to make the Hall this year.  My focus was on the man who deserved to be elected in many years ago but had to wait until his last year of eligibility before he got bumped over to the Veterans Committee.  I make no apologies for that.

*  Raise your hand if back in 2001 you thought in 2009 Derek Lowe would get a four year, $60 million contract.  If your hand is up, you’re a liar.

Rob Bradford is reporting that Alex Cora has agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with the New York Mets.  Cora is one of those “average” players that I have a strong affection for.  It saddens me that he won’t be with the Red Sox, but I’m happy that the New York team he landed with doesn’t play in the Bronx.

*  Seriously.  How is it January and I haven’t heard ANYTHING about Kyle Snyder’s status?  There’s no one out there who can hook me up with some information?  Goal for 2009:  Score an interview with Kyle.  Hey, it could happen!

Greg Montalbano was at the Lowell Spinners Alumni dinner last night.  It was inspiring to see him there, looking so well and speaking so fondly of his time playing baseball.  We need more Greg Montalbano stories.  We need to hear more about the unsung heroes in baseball and not just the superstars.

*  Unrelated to baseball:  Watching Bill Hicks tonight and then catching about 5 minutes of Dane Cook made me miss Bill Hicks (and good comedy in general) immensely.  Really, people, stop lining Cook’s pockets.

*  Kelly O’Connor took some fabulous photos at the Boston Baseball Writer’s dinner AND the New Stars for Young Stars event.  Go see her amazing photos here.

Finally, by popular demand:  (This is from last year, not this year’s show, but it serves its purpose!)

January 14, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

They aren’t all famous

Greg Montalbano Photo by Stan Grossfeld

Greg Montalbano Photo by Stan Grossfeld

When I met Stan Grossfeld in August, it was immediately apparent that he was a special person.  If you read the Globe on any kind of regular basis, you’ll find his photos are the most touching and his stories the most gut-wrenching and inspiring.  Today at Boston.com, you’ll find he, once again, doesn’t disappoint.

With his story about and photos of Greg Montalbano, Grossfeld reminds us that not ever story ends the way Jon Lester’s did.  Not everyone has the luck and notoriety that Jon was blessed with.  I remember Kelly Jefferson telling me about Greg when it became public.  (KellyJ is a big supporter of the Worcester Tornadoes.)  There weren’t many stories back then.  No one selling bracelets or t-shirts in his name.  But this kid suffered through and is still fighting with playing baseball just being a distant memory for him.

So check out Stan’s story today.  You won’t be sorry you did.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Stories of Interest | , , | 2 Comments