Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Did I throw this out of focus?

It was fun in the moment but I could live without seeing Nick Green (or any other position player!) pitch again.  Photo taken by me last year.

It was fun in the moment but I could live without seeing Nick Green (or any other position player!) pitch again. Photo taken by me last year.

Well that wasn’t much fun.

You know, we can say or write a thousand times that it doesn’t matter if they win or lose because the games don’t count but it’s never fun to watch them lose (unless Nick Green eventually takes the mound).

No Sox fan wants to watch Jon Lester (not as crabby in his post-game interview as I expected) give up four runs on three hits in the first inning.  Wake pitching two innings and only giving up one hit was sweet, though.   So we got some good, got some bad, and the Mayor’s Cup series is tied at one a piece.  Today John Lackey takes the mound against the Twins at 1:05pm at City of Palms Park but it’s a split squad day so the Sox will also be playing the Rays  at the same time in Port Charlotte (in a game Rays reporters were Tweeting as being sold out).  The Rays game you can listen to with the Rays feed on Gameday Audio and the Twins game, also on Gameday Audio, you get your choice of feeds.  So at 1:05pm you’ll be silly with baseball if you want!

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March 6, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

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

The sight of you with your head hung low

Joe Mauer at Fenway in 2008 (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission)

Joe Mauer at Fenway in 2008 (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission)

Over the weekend I uttered a phrase that many have spoken when they feel a player is overrated, especially if that player is being considered for the MVP award.  “He isn’t even the MVP on his own team!”

Doesn’t take a psychic to guess that I was referring to Derek Jeter.  I was thoroughly convinced that somehow the writers getting the AL Cy Young and Manager of the Year awards right meant that the MVP was absolutely going to Jeter.  The idea of Mark Teixeira getting it had, honestly, never crossed my mind.  So I was doubly surprised when not only did the writers get it right by giving the award to Joe Mauer, but that they got it even more right by voting for Mark Teixeira over Jeter.

According to Kelly Thesier at mlb.com:

Mauer finished with 327 points, well ahead of Teixeira, who had 225, and Jeter, who had 193. Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who received the only other first-place vote, was fourth with 171 points.

Special shout-out to Keizo Konishi, the writer from the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA who had the temerity to give Miguel Cabrera his one first-place vote.  Every group needs their renegade, Keizo, and this year the BBWAA can look to you to keep the well-held belief that some members of the BBWAA barely follow the sport they cover.  Well done.

Mind you, I’m not saying that Mauer HAD to get the vote unanimously, but voting for Cabrera over any of the top three vote-getters is absolutely baffling to me.  Cabrera had a really good season, but not first-place MVP voting good (given his competition – yes, even I have to admit that Teixeira and Jeter were pretty damned impressive).   Going 0-11 at the end of the season in the White Sox series when the division was on the line…well I’m not sure that’s MVP-worthy right there.  You judge a player on his entire season but to be MVP of the league…well isn’t part of that coming up big when your team needs you?

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November 24, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I'm restless for the open water

Wake at "Hot Stove, Cool Music" in 2005 (Taken by me)

Wake at "Hot Stove, Cool Music" in 2005 (Taken by me)

Generally speaking, it shouldn’t be difficult to find something to write about on a baseball-themed blog during the playoffs, right?  I mean, sure, I’m a Red Sox fan and the majority of my blog writing is dedicated to them but it’s the PLAYOFFS, I should get some joy out of them since I’m also just a straight-out baseball fan.  I should be writing about game 2 of the NLCS and game 1 of the ALCS.

But, see, both games annoyed the crap out of me so what would I write about?  I’d love to write about Pedro’s dominance (and, make no mistake, he DID dominate, just ask Manny Ramirez) but since it was capped by a Phillies meltdown it’s a bit bittersweet.  (Shout out to Phillies fans who have had to deal with Charlie Manuel all this time.  I’m sure he’s a wonderful manager – hell he got the team the World Series last year  – but could he be MORE trigger happy when it comes to pulling pitchers?  Chan Ho Park was a victim of bad defense and weird hops not his own pitching.  He should have left him in.  Speaking of Chan Ho, how is it that I never noticed how pretty his face is?  Even with all that hair.  The man is quite a handsome fella. )

There is some news out of Red Sox country…according to various sources, Tim Wakefield’s back surgery is set for next Wednesday at Mass General.  Nick Green will also be evaluated next week with surgery being a possible option and the word on Jed Lowrie is that his wrist is doing well and he should be ready to play when Spring Training arrives.  If Wake’s surgery goes well, the Red Sox plan on bringing him back for another season.  So not only for his health but for the team I’m sending out positive vibes for Wake’s surgery next week.  I want him back in the red socks.  Ditto for Jed Lowrie.  (Nick Green?  Well, I wish him good health but will be okay if his road doesn’t lead to Ft Myers next year.)

Only one MLB game tonight and it comes from the Bronx.  Let’s hope Saunders fares better than Lackey did!

October 17, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This is what is going to separate us from them.

Paws is about to begin his fall/winter vacation.  Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Paws is about to begin his fall/winter vacation. Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

So I decided to enjoy the day instead of locking myself up in a hotel room and I missed the majority of the game.  Game stories tell me Wake struggled early and then settled down and that Gavin Floyd was perfect through five (The Baseball Project thanks you, Nick Green!).   Not really much you can do with this game but keep it in the rear-view mirror.

Crabcakes is on the mound Sunday afternoon and then Josh Beckett pitches on Labor Day afternoon, so the team still has a good chance at leaving Chicago with a split for this series.  I’ll be good with that.  Let’s hope Crabby and Beckett cooperate.

Tonight was the final home game for the PawSox.  I had planned to go but like so many of my McCoy plans this year, that ended up not happening.  I went north, not south, this weekend.  KellyO made it down for the last game and the PawSox didn’t disappoint, beating the Syracuse Chiefs 8-2.  The PawSox have three more games in Syracuse and their season is over Tuesday night.  It’s a sad reminder that fall is coming quickly and with it no more baseball.  I enjoy Triple A and MLB on different levels and given how much exposure the MLB teams have, even in the off-season, I miss the Triple-A team just a little bit more when they aren’t playing.  With any luck, the BoSox are going to give us baseball throughout October but for now I’ll wallow in a little sadness over the Triple-A season ending this week.

My math could be off but I believe Sunday afternoon at Lehigh Valley will be Kyle Snyder’s last start of his season (I think it should be Sunday but it could be for the last game on Monday).  He has done an awful lot for the Bisons, regardless of the struggles of the team as a whole, and I hope that it translates into a call-up after their season ends.   He’s earned it.

A reminder that both Sunday’s and Monday’s games are at 2:05pm EST.  The chances are good that I might, once again,  miss the majority of Sunday’s game but I’ll definitely be in a place to watch all of Monday’s.  Small steps, right?

September 5, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , | 3 Comments

Brace yourself with the grace of ease

Of of the better photos I took last night.  Way to take one for the team, Nick!

One of the better photos I took last night. Way to take one for the team, Nick!

So much to cover on this Friday morning:

First I have to give a special thanks to KellyO for sharing her good fortune of offered tickets and bringing me along to sit in field box seats behind the Red Sox dugout last night.  The seats were amazing, we had a pretty good crowd around us and we had the perfect view of Nick Green’s triumphant pitching debut!  As we left the game and walked down Yawkey Way we both realized that we were leaving a Red Sox loss with smiles on our faces and laughing.  Looking around, the folks who stuck it out for the entire game seemed to have the same attitude.  No one ever wants to watch their team lose a game but given that the Red Sox soundly won this series 3 games to 1, it felt fine to revel in the visual of Nick Green on the mound.  Guy did all right too – after two innings pitched, his ERA is zero and he only walked 3.  Not a bad night on the mound for a relief pitcher, huh?  (MLB.com tells us that Green is the first position player since 1944 to pitch 2 or more innings for the Red Sox and not allow a hit.  Billy Wagner should watch his back!)

Meanwhile in Pawtucket, my man Kyle Snyder pitched himself quite the game only to end up with a no-decision (the PawSox took the series, winning both games).  In spite of seeing the glory of Nick Green’s pitching, I’m still a bit disappointed I didn’t get to see Kyle.  Heck, maybe he’ll get a September call up and I’ll make a day trip to CitiField before the season is over?  In any event, Kyle’s doing well with Buffalo regardless of the season they’re having and for that I’m very happy.

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August 28, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

So Let Love Take Us Through The Hours

Jason Varitek in Washington this week. Photo taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

4pm Sox games on Saturdays mess me up. I’m a late sleeper on the weekend so between getting up late and wanting to be around for the game, I have to cram a lot into a short period of time before the game starts. No complaints, though! It opens up the evening and gives me a chance to get right back into baseball mode.

Beckett was great last night. The Braves must just hate him, huh? Reports of his pitching from the third inning on with stomach cramps just makes his performance that much more impressive. I’d like to give Jonathan Papelbon a kick for blowing the shutout by giving up a home run to David freaking Ross. But, aside from that, it was all good last night.

Nick Green continues to impress. Sure I know he’s playing over his head right now and we should all be worried that we don’t have a solid shortstop but I really don’t feel that way so I’m just enjoying what we have in the moment. So far it all looks good.

The beautiful day outside coupled with my late sleeping has left me eager to get out from under the laptop and go enjoy a couple of hours of the nice weather before I hunker down for a ball game. So I’m off.

Tim Wakefield goes for win number 10 today against Javier Vasquez. Let’s do it for Wake, fellas!

June 27, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , | Leave a comment

He thought it was an ivory boat

Nick Green after the Braves walked off! Photo taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

An off-day after a successful series (or in this case, TWO) is a lot more enjoyable than an off-day coming off of a loss. Granted, Jonathan Papelbon tried to do everything he could to ensure we had to endure an off-day after a loss, but Nick Green would have none of it.

Why is it so hard for a closer to come into a tie game and just get outs? Ben Collins at boston.com writes:

…it seems Papelbon struggles only when he feels he can get away with it.

Which is something many have noticed. It’s a mystery to me, although Paps blows it off. As much as I like Papelbon, I hope he focuses more on his pitching and less on talking about how much money he wants when this contract it up.

With Daisuke going back on the dl it has finally hit me how fortunate we, as fans, are this year. We have no reason to even blink. Let him go on the dl, get his strength back or figure out whatever the heck is wrong with him (there IS a nagging worry in the back of my mind that this is a Matt Clement thing where they’re missing the diagnosis but I’m not going to worry about that just yet) and bring him back when he’s ready. Meanwhile, the team has John Smoltz waiting to pitch on Thursday and if he turns out to be a bust, Clay Buchholz is waiting in Pawtucket for his next shot. Depth…it’s a good thing.

A walk-off win coupled with a Yankees loss to the Marlins puts the Sox four games ahead in the American League East. Sure it’s only June 22, but every game counts.

It’ll be nice to spend the off-day basking in the glow of a successful homestand.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , | Leave a comment

It's me, baby, with your wake up call.

Thanks for coming through, fellas. Photos taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net in April 2009 and used with permission.

Okay, let me get the obligatory “These 8 games won’t mean anything if the Red Sox don’t make the playoffs” line out of the way.

But, honestly? In this moment I’m not thinking about the playoffs. Hell, I’m not even thinking about the Phillies series yet. I choose to bask in the glow of a three-game sweep and an 8-game series sweep against the Yankees. Any Yankees fans out there who think they wouldn’t be gloating today if the roles of the teams were reversed is a big, fat, liar. This is certainly gloat-worthy, folks.

Most importantly, Brad Penny deserves all the credit we can give him. No one had high expectations. The Yankees Ace against the Red Sox number 5? The guy who got millions of dollars showered upon him to win big games against the guy who could possibly be getting traded next week? If you had money on this game and chose the Sox folks would have thought you a fool…and you would have made a boatload of money because Brad Penny chose to not only show up but kick ass. In six innings, he gave up six hits, one walk and struck out five. He shut out the Yankees for six innings on 117 pitches.

It was pointed out to me more than once last night (before and after Manny Delcarmen choked up the lead) that the Red Sox WANTED this game but the Yankees NEEDED it. Even if that need was only to boost their sagging egos and make the fans feel like all was not lost. Knowing this, Penny showed up firing on all cylinders. CC Sabathia made a good run of it but still gave up all four of the runs the Sox needed to win. It didn’t help that his offense was, pretty much, shut down by the Boston pitching and the defense behind him was practically non-existent. (Will Johnny Damon be eligible for an acting Emmy this year? That “MY EYE” move when he dropped Papi’s pop up was classic!)

And Papi. How can the Yankees fans keep talking about how great their team is and how “done” Papi is when he’s hit TWO home runs off of their pitching? I’m hoping this Yankee visit was exactly what David Ortiz needed. In any event, he’s certainly entertained the Fenway Faithful this week and I hope he savors each curtain call the fans demand! (And for those of you who insist that the steroids chant toward A*Rod is hypocritical because it’s “obvious” Papi has been chemically enhanced, even some supposed professional sports writers, you can bit me…hard. The rest of you who point to Manny Ramirez? I say check the roster, baby.)

I have been skeptical of Nick Green being the savior at SS all season. I still am but less so. Green is another one who has come up huge when he needed to. There’s little faith in Julio Lugo right now and Jed Lowrie is about 30 rehab at-bats away from being near the Fenway infield…so Green gets the gig by default and answers the call. Maybe he isn’t an All-Star but, for the time being, I’ll take him. What I could live without is his chatting and laughing with A*Rod at second base after Slappy knocked in the go-ahead run last night. I know you guys are BFF, Nick, but moments after MDC gives up the lead and kicks Brad Penny in the nuts, you could have been less chummy. Shoot your boy a text when the game is over, dude.

In a few hours our focus will be on inter-league play and hoping the Sox can keep this going against the Phillies. I’m not intimidated by the pitching match-ups (Lester v Blanton, Matsuzaka v Bastardo and Beckett v Happ)…so, to me, this weekend is totally workable. I could see another sweep ahead. Of course, I also can see a series win but a loss on Saturday. I won’t get my hopes up too high. There’s no denying, though, that there already up to a good level. What’s not to be hopeful about right now?

I humbly request a win tonight, Mr. Lester.

Screw rational thinking. 🙂

Win, Crabby. Just win. (And some runs would be nice too, fellas!) <–As KellyO says, don’t mess with the streak.

June 12, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , | Leave a comment

Let's put aside our foolish pride

Tim Wakefield: Ready for action. Photo taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Today marks the beginning of a week of much baseball and fun for me. I have tickets to four games (one being a Pawtucket/Buffalo game – Javier Lopez and Kyle Snyder together again – sort of!) this week and Friday starts a weekend of “paloozaing” with no less than 35 of my closest friends. We have people coming in from Tennessee, California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, all over New England and even New Zealand for what promises to be a wild weekend!

So I’m having a little trouble sustaining my disappointment over the way the Boston road trip ended yesterday.

I could write about Nick Green’s errors or how many men were left on base. I could complain that two guys who have been coming up big for us (Bay and Lowell) left the bases loaded in an inning that would have won the game. I could talk about Rocco Baldelli taking his DH role so seriously that he mirrored the way Papi has been hitting lately. But what’s the point? I was encouraged by the pitching. Masterson, in probably his last start for a while, gave up nine hits and two earned runs in six innings. Maybe not poetry but he also struck out six so I’ll take it. He pitched well enough to win which is good enough for me these days. Delcarmen and Okajima were perfect in their appearances and Ramon Ramirez, who has been perfect all season, was just a victim of circumstances. So I have two ways to go, focus on the bad (the Blue Jays and Yankees both won again and the Sox are now three games behind Toronto and only a game and a half ahead of New York) or focus on the positives. I’m going with the latter.

Sox get a much needed (for all of us, I think!) day off today and start up again at Fenway tomorrow night against the Blue Jays. I’ve been telling people that I’ll start being impressed with the Jays when they start playing the AL East and winning. They didn’t face one AL East team in April and in May have played the last place Orioles (sweeping them in a three-game series) and the Yankees (losing that series two games to one with their only win against New York coming behind a Roy Halladay complete game). I don’t mean to insult the current division leader but I have high hopes for the Red Sox this week. The Sox miss having to hit against Halladay by one game. I have confidence that they’ll be able to take advantage of this.

Tim Wakefield on the mound tomorrow night. Since I’ll be up and out of the house much earlier Tuesday than on days when I’m working (road trip to Pawtucket!) and then heading to Fenway I really am hoping for one of his patented short games (culminating in a win for the Sox!). Tomorrow promises to be a long (but fun) day!

May 18, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , | Leave a comment