Subscribe: Hardball Heaven
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
back  baseball  beckett  big  game  games  good  night  playing  rays  red sox  red  run  season  sox  team  time  year 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Hardball Heaven

Hardball Heaven

Observing and opining on the daily soap opera known as the Boston Red Sox (and maybe a few other things)

Updated: 2015-09-16T12:56:26.856-04:00


Another Big Spawts Night in Bawstin


(image) ESPN Breaking News flash
Stu Scott: We are live on site at a Texaco station in Murfreesboro, Mississippi. As we understand it, from multiple sources there at the scene, Brett Favre is currently in the mens' room talking on his cell phone to somebody in the state of Minnesota...

Let's go to Michelle Candaya for a live report. Michelle, thank you girl for staying on the scent of the great Brett Favre. From the vibe you're getting there, anything you may have seen or heard, do you think Brett is seriously contemplating coming back to play again in 2009?

Michelle: Stu, I think he's doing exactly what he did last year... talking it over with people... assessing his opportunities, trying to make a smart decision... he's also got his shoulder to think about and whether he can withstand the rigors of an NFL season. If the warrior can't be a warrior, you know, it's not going to work.

Stu: Mish, thank you for withstanding the rigors of staking out a mens' room in Murfreesboro, Mississippi. We're all hoping that Brett comes back and continues to prove his doubters wrong.


Okay, got that off my chest. It's truly sad what ESPN has become with its constant, fawning coverage of Favre, who last I checked still pretty much sucked.

It's another huge sporting night here in the Hub, with the Celtics and Bruins both playing in - say it together - pivotal playoff games; and the Red Sox playing the Angels later out on the West Coast.

As of this very moment, there's a little more than 2 minutes left in the B's game and they've got a 4-2 lead over Carolina. The 'Canes just emptied their net and added another skater. Strap yourself in...

Chara just took a huge slapshot in the ankle and looks like he's wounded, but he's staying on.... over a minute... Canes can't get it going... one minute...

Recchi picks it off... kills time. 45 seconds. A little bit of pressure but B's clear it. 14 seconds... and the Bruins force a Game 7 after being down 3-1.

Now over to the Celtics-Magic, Game 5 at the Garden. It's 55-46 Magic in the third, and the C's look pretty lethargic. Rondo just picked up his fourth foul on a charge, and Stephon Marbury (gulp) is manning the point. He's already launched and missed two straight shots. (Big Baby's mohawk is killing me. For me, he's been the most fun part of these playoffs, the way he's become such a valuable player almost overnight. His last-second, game-winning shot in Game 4 - and his reaction - will be remembered for a long time).

Ray Allen just made a beautiful behind-the-back dribble and drive for a lay-up, the Celtics can't seem to stop Rashard Lewis. Celts are down 62-54 now with a minute left in the third quarter. (There just doesn't seem to be a buzz in the arena tonight). Celts can't seem to get closer than 5 points... last possession of the quarter... and they can't score. They're down by 8 heading into the fourth...I must say, I don't feel good about this one. More later after the Sox get going in Annyheim.

Manny the Mental Midget


(image) It was uncanny regarding Manny. When I heard the news today that Manny Ramirez had been suspended for 50 games for violating MLB's steroid policy, I was stunned and I thought about how the guys they usually catch are the ones with the least gray matter up there. Clemens, for instance. Then I'm driving home, and my old college roommate calls me up and says in a phone message, "It's always the mental midgets... I'm telling you... track, baseball, football... just look for the stupidest guys who love looking at themselves in the mirror."

Yes, it's true, and the ramifications for us as Boston Red Sox fans could be troubling, but believe me, we're nowhere near "there" yet. Supposedly, he took some type of fertility drug that steroid users often take. Manny's written statement said that he was prescribed a medication by his doctor and he had no idea it was a banned substance. As Bob Ryan points out, if anyone is capable of such a goofy oversight, it's this clown. I also wanted to see what the Manny-loving LA Times' take was, and to my surprise, they had a story with a great quote from convicted 'roid dealer Victor Conte:

HCG is one of dozens of substances prohibited under baseball's drug policy. Players can call a hotline to check on the legality of any substances, and they can obtain a therapeutic use exemption for any legitimate medical use of a banned substance.

"This is failing more than a drug test," Conte said. "This is failing an IQ test. He can call an 800 number to ask about any product that he's taking. To think that a player who's making $45 million didn't do that, or have any agent or any of his numerous advisors check out what he said was a prescribed medication defies belief."

Manny has a way of defying belief, doesn't he? We'll see what happens from here on out, but if it's proven that Manny was juicing during 2004 and 2007, we're now officially dragged into this mess. And that won't be fun.

House of Blues


(image) So I'm sure you've heard by now that the Yankees are having trouble filling some of the pricier premium seats in their new, taxpayer-funded mausoleum. Boo hoo. The blue backs of the empty seats actually go well with the whole new decor, Hank. You have to feel a little bit bad - a teensy weensy bit - for the true Yankee fans. Not only does their team stink, but check out the prices they're being asked to pay in the new, taxpayer-funded mausoleum.

Quick update: Celtics and Bulls are engaged in yet another instant classic. First overtime, Celts up by 3 with 2:30 to go. Rondo again magnificent, and Perkins has been a beast. I'm starting to dislike Brad Miller's antics. The late, great Johnny Most would have a field day with this guy. In Cleveland, the Sox blew a 7-3 lead and were tied at 7 with the Indians at last check. Brad Penny is not getting it done.

We're Streaking, Honey... Everyone's Doing It


(image) Actually, not everyone has won 11 games in a row. That would be the unique domain of the Boston Red Sox, who since starting out the season with only 2 wins in their first 8 games, have rattled off 11 straight victories since, with the wins coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In a span of just four days, Jason Bay has taken two of the game's elite closers - Rivera of the Yanks and last night Kerry Wood of the Indians - deep late in ballgames to either tie or put his team ahead. During the streak, the one thing that has stood out to me is the amazing depth on this team. Dice-K has been on the DL for a few weeks, our top two shortstops have both been hurt, and our best power hitter - David Ortiz - doesn't have a dinger yet. No worries, though. We've got Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden down on the farm - and oh, yeah, Clay Buchholz too. Nick Green is a more than adequate fill-in at short. And the way Youk and Bay have been hitting, Papi can take his time finding that groove (but he better find it!). The Sox effectively stuck their tongues out at the Yankees Sunday night when they closed out the game with two Pawtucket call-ups, Bowden and Hunter Jones. After doing his job in the heat of the game's best rivalry, Bowden made the drive down 95 South again to Rhode Island to rejoin his minor league mates. The Yanks' brass, meanwhile, had to be wondering why they can't get guys like that.

Sox go for an even dozen tonight in Cleveland. Weather has been iffy, but is saying they'll have a window of time to get it in. Pitching thumbnails: Brad Penny (2-0, 7.80 ERA) vs. Anthony Reyes (1-0, 4.76).

PS: Go Celts!

The Season is Officially Underway


(image) Does it get any better? Eighty degrees, a Friday night, Fenway buzzing, the Yankees in town, and a rousing comeback off one of the greatest closers the game has ever seen. Nice way to start this three-game series. Jason Bay tied it at 4 in the ninth with a blast to dead-center off Mariano Rivera, and two innings later Kevin Youkilis sent everyone home happy with a homer to left that surely bounced off a few cars on the Landsdowne Street parking garage roof. Sox win 5-4 to draw first blood. Today's game is at 4:15 and should be another good one. Old Marlin pals Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett will go at each other.

Lucky Seven


(image) Your Boston Red Sox are officially on a roll. Yesterday's two-game sweep over Minnesota makes it seven in a row. Day off today, and then it's time to rev up the engines for the first Yankees series, which starts Friday night. Some enticing pitching matchups:

Friday: Joba Chamberlain vs. Jon Lester; Saturday: Josh Beckett vs. A.J. Burnett; Sunday: Justin Masterson vs. Andy Pettitte

Big Papi's already circulating word that if young Joba decides once again that Kevin Youkilis' head is part of the strike zone, he will be sorry. With warm temps expected here for the weekend, this series could be very, very interesting. Buckle up.

Also, congrats to the Bruins for their first playoff series win in a decade. They certainly did it in style, overwhelming the Canadiens in a four-game whitewashing. Now it's the Celts' turn tonight.

Good times here in the Hub right now. Good times.

I'd Like to Buy a Vowel


You know, it really all comes down to time. Work-wise, I had a first quarter from hell. Early mornings, late nights, weekends, and it still wasn't enough. I could have worked 24 hours a day for three months straight and there'd still be more to do. Now don't get me wrong - I've got a good work ethic, and I understand extra hours come with the territory when you're pulling down seven figures like I am. But when you start to dream about work every night, that's when you really need a vacation.So I took one. And a really long one at that. Between the quick post about Jim Rice finally getting his due and the short 2009 opening day recap, 85 days went by. Now I'm back from a real family vacation, and I'm raring to post away. I hope I haven't lost any of my three readers during the hiatus. Just know that it was part of an overall mind cleansing effort.So what to cover? Obviously lots going on in Boston pro sports right now. The Bruins are steamrolling their hated nemesis in round 1 of the playoffs, the injury-riddled Celtics are in a battle for their playoff lives with the upstart Bulls, the NFL draft is this weekend, and the Red Sox have shaken off their early-season doldrums and are starting to hit the ball around the yard. They dispatched with the Orioles pretty easily during a four-game sweep, and at this very moment, mere blocks from where my ample arse sits, they're holding a 10-1 lead in the seventh inning over the Twins. The game is in a rain delay, which is weird because it's not raining in the Back Bay. But I digress... the big problem early on was that the 1-2-3 hitters in the order - Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Big Papi - weren't doing much. That's changed a little over the past few days and now the wins are starting to pile up.The Sox are actually playing two games today to make up last night's rainout. Tim Wakefield has pitched another gem so far today (best thing about Wake - he can sit in the clubhouse for a two-hour rain delay and come right back in and throw that devilish knuckler). Tonight's game at Fenway has Francisco Liriano going against Brad Penny.Some of the more interesting early-season story lines around MLB:Homer-happyThe new Yankee Stadium got a lot of ink over the past week or so because of the number of home runs that were hit to right field during the first series at the park against the Indians. A whopping 20 homers were hit in four games, and 14 of them went to right. All sorts of theories are flying around, and the only reason the Yanks are concerned is because more of those homers came off Indians' bats than their own. I was initially worried that the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira had shifted the balance of power in the AL East, and they still might - but so far, they've played pretty uninspiring ball. And consider this - even when A-Fraud comes back, their starting outfield is still Johnny "Pop-Gun Arm" Damon, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher. Not exactly Lynn, Rice and Evans.Enjoy it while it lastsSome of the best early-season records belong to some surprise teams for sure. The Marlins, Blue Jays, Mariners and Padres are a combined 39-19 as I write this, while several of last year's playoff teams - including the Rays, Angels, champion Phillies, Mets and Brewers are a collective 26-39. Something's gotta give eventually.How bad are the Nationals?So bad that they actually wore uniforms in one game this year that had their team name misspelled as "Natinals", as displayed by slugger Adam Dunn above. That's bad. Really bad.Check out Joe Torre's bookIf you want to pick up a good read, I highly recommend the Joe Torre/Tom Verducci book. Some good revelations in there, even if it is written out of spite. For Red Sox fans, there's also some good color on the epic 2004 ALCS comeback, and additional details on the Aaron Bleeping Boone game the year before. Yes, even after five-plus years and two[...]

Back in Business


(image) What? You thought we'd never be back? Oh ye of little faith. We were just waiting for Opening Day, and after one rain-soaked attempt, the Red Sox and Rays finally kick-started the 2009 season yesterday at Fenway.

The top story lines - Beckett dominant, offense clicking, Pedroia picks up where he left off, Beckett dominant, bullpen good except for Okajima, Papi looks skinny, Lowell looks pretty good, Beckett dominant.

Our angry ace from Texas was at his surliest best yesterday, going seven full innings and whiffing 10 Rays in his debut. The Sox jumped out to the early lead on Pedroia's first-inning homer, and then held on late to win it 5-3.

Combine the Sox' good start with the Yankees' horrific start - both CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira threw up on themselves in their opener - and things are feeling pretty good here in the hub.

Tonight's Game 2 features two of the best young lefties in the game, with Jon Lester going against Scott Kazmir.

The Hall Calls (Finally) for Jim Ed


(image) Congrats to one of the most feared sluggers who ever played. Jim Rice was the classic borderline case for enshrinement, but his ridiculous dominance in the late 1970s and early 1980s punched his pass to Cooperstown. From 1975 to 1986, he drove in 1,276 runs, the most in baseball during that time. The theory is that he was held back from the Hall in prior years because he was a complete jerk with the media, which unfortunately comprise the voters for said enshrinement. Time heals all wounds, evidently. That, and the fact that Rice accomplished what he did sans the juice.

It's Been Such a Long Time...


It's been so long since my last post that the guy pictured on the right in the photo below is no longer coaching the Jets and is now coaching the Browns. What kind of dirt does Eric Mangini have on Browns owner Randy Lerner?Lots to catch up on, obviously, but let's hit the high notes.It sucks that the Patriots aren't playing a playoff game today, and maybe getting a chance to exact some revenge on the Steelers, who whupped us good in Week 13. The path to the Super Bowl this year is wide open - two of the best teams all year, the Titans and Panthers, lost yesterday - and it's a shittin' shame that we don't get a chance to see if Cassel and Welker could have kept it rolling. So far, we know that the Ravens and Cardinals are heading to the final four. Today, we've got Eagles-Giants in the early game, and Steelers-Chargers in the night game. I'm thinking the home favorites roll, but then again...Baseball. Our reason for living. Man, where do we start? Yes, the Yankees got supremely better by signing the best hitter and the best pitcher on the market. Yes, the Rays are better with Pat Burrell in their lineup and more David Price (remember that beast?). Are the Sox - as currently consituted - a 3rd place team? Maybe, but if we've learned anything over the years, it's that we truly know nothing. The Yanks' ridiculous spending spree, as it so often has done in the past, could backfire on them. Think about the pressure that team is under right now to win it all. Pressure, New York, the Steinbrenner boys, an underwhelming manager, and the possibility that maybe this little economic problem we're having could come back to haunt their free-spending ways. It's got all the ingredients for lots and lots of fun. The Rays will be better, which is a scary thought, but we also need to remember that since we took them to a Game 7 in last year's ALCS, we've gotten better too. The bullpen, in particular, will be much improved with Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito added to the mix. Frees up Masterson to be a full-time starter, which I think he should be. Theo also took fliers on Brad Penny and John Smoltz, both of whom may pan out to be great deals if they can stay relatively healthy. Obviously a very large 'if.' The other notable addition was Rocco Baldelli as a fourth outfielder. (Busy offseason, too, for the Sox medical staff, which no doubt spent a lot of time looking over records for Penny, Smoltz, and Rocco, who suffers from sort of fatigue syndrome.) Of course, the thing that worries you the most when you look at the current Sox' roster is this: Catchers: Josh Bard, Dusty Brown, George Kottaras, Mark Wagner. It's been quiet on the Jason Varitek front, but while there's still a chance he comes back here I think the Sox may be eyeing a move for a talented young catcher who can step in and start. Maybe they'll use their new bullpen depth to move someone like Manny Delcarmen for a young catcher. On the surface, the Yanks went shopping in the high-end district, and we went to the local flea market. Yes, we were in on Teixeira, and we know the Sox made an inquiry about Hanley Ramirez (be still my heart). But I kind of like how Theo and his guys adjusted after being strung along by Boras. They went the low-risk, high reward route, and that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise some the July trading deadline.[...]

Here's the Deal


(image) No, not the Teixeira deal. The whole world remains in suspense over what uniform this guy will decide to wear in 2009. In fact, it's looking more and more like he's going to be a Red Sox and that it's just going to take a little bit of time. I say they need him, I'm happy if they get him, but don't bid against yourselves and dole out even more money to Boras. I think John Henry - a man who knows all about financial risk - gets it this time around. If they can't get Tex signed at $175-180 million over eight years, move on. That's an outrageous contract in these times. (See, I just go on and on about baseball... back to my original intent...)

No, the deal we're talking about here is the first question I asked my buddy Bobby yesterday after the Patriots had eviscerated a gutless Arizona Cardinals team in the snow at Gillette, to the nice little tune of 47-7. "Are the Jets incented to beat the Dolphins next week? I need to know that a win matters to them." See, the Pats and Dolphins both won their games yesterday, making them each 10-5. The Jets, predictably, lost in Seattle, making them 9-6 and on the far outer edges of the playoffs. The Jets' loss gives the Pats two possible pathways in: if the Ravens lose and the Pats win, we're a wild card team. And if the Pats win and the J-E-T-S win next Sunday, we're AFC East division champs again and we're hosting a home playoff game. Just like that. So I needed to know that Ratboy Mangini and his overpaid team of choke artists would at least show up. I even wanted to know what time the two games were scheduled for, taking the conspiracy theory a level deeper that one team could see that the other lost or won, and simply not care anymore.

But not to worry, I feel better that the Jets will play to win, even if I have to peg my playoff hopes to Brett Favre. (Imagine saying that five years ago?) The NFL got smart and moved both the Jets-Dolphins and Ravens-Jaguars games to 4:00 starts, while keeping Pats-Bills at 1:00. Why is this smart? Because if the Ravens lose and the Jets win, the Jets are in. And you have to think Ratboy is kinda coaching for his livelihood here too, the way they've played down the stretch. So that satisfies me in the incentive department.

It would be a shame if the Pats didn't get a shot in the postseason this year, a statement that was unthinkable just a few minutes into Game 1 this year, when someone named Bernard Pollard seemingly ruined our season before it even began. But the Pats very well could become the first 11-5 team in NFL history to not make the playoffs, all while having to stomach watching the likes of the Cardinals and Broncos make it in.

I hate to say it, but here we go J-E-T-S! We love ya Brett. You too (holding my nose, crossing my fingers) Ratboy. Coach 'em up! And remember who made you what you are today, you ungrateful little piece of ... like I said, coach 'em up.

Not So Fast


(image) Less than an hour after the post below, I heard the news that Sox owner John Henry had e-mailed the media late Thursday night, saying that the Sox were bowing out of the Teixeira talks because of "other offers" that the team couldn't compete with. It was a stunning turn of events, but we should all know better how these things with Boras tend to work. They take time. There's maneuvering on both sides. Most baseball people think that Henry's message was a negotiating ploy, and that the Red Sox are still Teixeira's top suitors.

Not much new news yesterday, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Sox Getting Close on Teixeira?


(image) Please let this happen. Various reports are saying that Sox reps are in Texas tonight talking with Scott Boras about a mega-deal for Mark Teixeira. Something in the neighborhood of 8 years and $184 million. Very nice neighborhood. And then after this happens, please God, please, let the Hankees sign Manny for big bucks. That'll make for a very nice Christmas, indeed.

Spending Spree


(image) So, do you think the Yankees were pleased about missing the playoffs last year for the first time in forever? Their master plan to build a scouting and player development machine has fallen by the wayside and the Steinbrenner wallet is back out. That didn't take too long, but it's certainly not surprising. They're opening up a new ballpark this year, and George is in failing health so he doesn't want to watch the likes of Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy develop.

And it certainly didn't take them long to figure out that their starting rotation absolutely sucked. In the past week, the Spanks have responded by shelling out more than $240 million to CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Similar to when the Yanks didn't go hard after Johan Santana - and later regretted it - they needed Sabathia and they got their man, signing him to a 7-year, $161 million contract with an opt-out clause after three years. Yesterday, news broke that they had also signed Burnett, a guy with immense talent whose body is unfortunately made out of papier mache, to a ridiculous 5-year, $82 million deal. That one has Carl Pavano written all over it. Or maybe Kevin Brown. Or Randy Johnson. You get the point - they suck at judging free agent pitching talent. I am hoping and praying that they go after Manny Ramirez, just for pure entertainment reasons.

As for the Sox, most everyone thinks they're in on the Mark Texeira sweepstakes along with the Angels. I think he'd be a great sign - a young player in the prime of his career who desperately wants to be on a winner. They'd have to move Youkilis to third and figure out what to do with Mike Lowell, but like the Yanks' money grab for CC, I think this is a case of the Red Sox needing Texeira. Big Papi needs someone to ride sidecar with him.(image)

The other big story hook has been what the Sox will do about Varitek and their lack of catching depth. Despite what you hear out of Scott Bore-ass' mouth, it doesn't appear that 'Tek got any other substantial offers from other teams. I think he'll be back, maybe for 2 years at between $15 and $18 million. I know you're supposed to keep emotion out of it, but I'd have no problem giving Varitek an extra million or so for what he's done. He's earned a little bit of legacy pay, in my book.

Pedroia Wins AL MVP; Coco Traded to the Royals


The Hot Stove hasn't really heated up yet, but there's plenty of news and more than a few rumors floating around.First things first: Dustin Pedroia capped off an incredible season by winning the AL MVP this week. All he's done in his first two years is win the Rookie of the Year award, a World Series title, a Gold Glove, and now the MVP. The naysayers - and he's had them all his life - will say that nobody stuck out in the MVP race, and there is a kernel of truth in that. But as somebody who watches entirely too much baseball, take it from me: this kid is as deserving as anybody. Consider the numbers, courtesy of WEEI's Rob Bradford:Games: 157.Runs: 118 (1st).Hits: 213 (Tied for 1st).Doubles: 54 (1st).Batting average: .326 (2nd)Stolen base percentage: 20 steals, one caught stealing (1st)Total bases: 322 (4th)Percentage of swings and misses on pitches faced: 8.1 (1st)Multi-hit games: 61 (1st)Games with 3 or more hits: 23 (1st)Games with 4 or more hits: 7 (1st)Pedroia beat out Twins 1B Justin Morneau and his own teammate, Kevin Youkilis, for the award.Believe it or not, this numbskull (there's always one, isn't there? Remember the Pedro fiasco after his sick 1999 season?) inexplicably left Pedroia off his ballot completely. Hard to figure what he was thinking, but at least he admitted he screwed up.Anyway, congrats to Pedey.As far as the Hot Stove, we got a little kindling wood on the fire today as the Sox traded Coco Crisp to the Kansas City Royals for Ramon Ramirez, a pretty solid 8th inning set-up man type. Incredibly, the Sox actually unloaded payroll on the Royals, who were desperate for speed. Coco's Boston career got off to a rough start when he broke his finger sliding into a base early in the 2006 season, but I will always remember the amazing catches (none better than the theft he pulled on the Mets' David Wright (above) in 2007) he made throughout his time here. He also kept his mouth shut down the stretch, not whining about playing time, and in the end I think he's happy that he'll be playing every day. Hey Manny, that's how you work your way out of town. As for the Ramirez that we got, he had a 2.50 ERA in 70-plus innings last year and only gave up two home runs. Some are speculating that his arrival could mean the team is thinking about putting Justin Masterson back into the starting rotation (yes, please).Other odds and ends: Lots of respected writers are saying the Sox will make a huge offer to try to get Mark Teixeira, and news broke today on most of the major sites that they have engaged in talks with free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett, who John Henry loves from his days running the Florida Marlins. Strap on your seat belts, boys and girls. We're going for a ride over the next couple of months.[...]

Going Shopping


(image) Ask and ye shall receive. A little Hot Stove baseball talk for your Sunday morning. First, I read a rumor this morning that the Tigers may deal either Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis to the Sox for Julio Lugo, a deal in which Boston would undoubtedly have to eat a lot of cash. Anything to get Julio out of town, but that also says that Theo is content to go with Jed Lowrie as his everyday shortstop. I'm not sold on Lowrie yet, but I'd be okay with that - he needs to cut down on the whiffs. The Sox are also rumored to be talking with Scott Bore-Ass about stud 1B Mark Teixeira and Derek Lowe. Personally, I think Texeira should be their No. 1 priority. Move Youk to third, trade Mike Lowell, and you've got a 30-homer, Gold Glove first baseman to plug into that lineup. Then sign Varitek for reasonable money, get a decent bullpen arm or two and that's all they need to do.

Here's a look at the some of the better-known names available by position, with guys I think the Sox should pursue in bold:

C: Brad Ausmus, Rod Barajas, Michael Barrett, Johnny Estrada, Jason Kendall, Paul LoDuca, Pudge Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, Greg Zaun

1B: Carlos Delgado, Jason Giambi, Kevin Millar, Mark Teixeira

2B: Orlando Hudson

SS: Orlando Cabrera, Rafael Furcal, Edgar Renteria, Omar Vizquel

3B: Troy Glaus, Chipper Jones

OF: Bobby Abreu, Garret Anderson, Casey Blake, Milton Bradley, Pat Burrell, Mike Cameron, Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Vladimir Guerrero, Raul Ibanez, Jacque Jones, Mark Kotsay, Manny Ramirez

DH: Frank Thomas, Jim Thome

SP: A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Randy Johnson, John Lackey, Kyle Lohse, Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Matt Morris, Jamie Moyer, Mike Mussina, Brad Penny, Oliver Perez, Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Randy Wolf

RP: Brian Fuentes, Todd Jones, Jorge Julio, Brad Lidge, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez, Dan Wheeler, Kerry Wood

Here's the full list, with agents, service time, ages, etc.

Some very big names available, and of course, leave it to the Yankees to turn their noses at the biggest economic meltdown we've seen in our lifetimes. Reports say they've made a huge offer to Sabathia, and are also pursuing both Burnett and Lowe. Think they want to improve their pitching?

Throw in your thoughts...

Hello Again, Hello...


(image) 22 days, now that's a hiatus. Not much has happened since we last spoke. The Philadelphia Phillies won a World Series that will always be remembered for a suspended game - a clincher, no less - that took several days to complete. The World Champion Boston Celtics (f-you Gregg Pop-a-zit)opened up their quest for back-to-back banners. The Bruins - Boston, not UCLA - are off to a great start. And the NFL season is entering week 10, and would you believe that the Tom Brady-less Patriots are tied for first entering tomorrow night's big tilt against the hated Jets in Foxborough. Oh yeah, we Americans also got together last Tuesday to say in unision: "Hey, George, you're fired!!" Barack Obama will be the 44th president of these United States, and let's hope they're a little more united when he's through.

But enough about politics - what do you want to talk about? How about the amazing fact that I'm eager to watch both the Celtics (vs. the Hawks) and the Bruins (against Chicago) tonight? I honestly can't remember the last time I looked forward to watching both of our winter sports teams play. They're both off to good starts, and it will be intriguing to watch them the rest of the year. But we're in the midst of Patriots season, so let's dissect and analyze what the Pats have been able to do through nine games.

We know the franchise QB went down in the first week, but what we didn't know was that this team would rise to the occasion, and bond together to show the world that they're about much more than one superstar. If I added this in for good measure - that the Pats along the way would also lose their top three running backs, their veteran safety, a couple of offensive linemen, and one of their best linebackers - you'd surely have written off 2008 and started looking ahead to 2009.

But a funny thing has happened. All those media wiseguys who were wondering if Bill Belichick would be exposed without his binky at QB have been awfully quiet the last few weeks as the Pats have simply changed their formula for winning. Kind of like a golfer who can win with a 350-yard drive or an accurate short game, the Pats have found a way to get it done differently than last year. They're not demolishing teams by halftime. Instead, they're winning close games on the D-line, on the O-line, with good special teams, with everyone seemingly making a key contribution here or there. Backup QB Matt Cassel, all but left for dead after the pre-season, has grown steadily each week and has won some fans. And you know what? After getting past our morbid depression about Tom Brady, all of this has been pretty damn entertaining.

And now we have another chapter in the blood rivalry between the Pats and the Jets, as the two teams get ready to face each other tomorrow night in Foxborough. They're both 6-3 and in first place in the AFC East, and they're both playing good football right now. It should be a hell of a game - on a Thursday night no less - but I'll take Bill over Brett and Napoleon Mangini anytime.

Writing is Therapeutic, Writing is Therapeutic...


So many thoughts, so many directions I could go... first, I guess I'm slowly coming to grips with the fact that we're not going to have any more meaningful baseball games to watch. The Patriots being on Monday Night Football last night sort of took the mind away from the Sox for awhile, but it certainly doesn't take long to come back does it? That's the affliction we all have. And we wouldn't have it any other way.Yes, the 2004 and 2007 teams accomplished more, but I think I'm always going to remember the 2008 team. How can you not be proud of what these guys just did? I've said it a million times before, but name me a team that's been through the type of adversity this team had to go through this year, beginning with the ridiculous early travel schedule. I'll list 'em again. Schilling out for the year. Lugo (thankfully) out. Big Papi's wrist. Mike Lowell's hip. J.D. Drew's everything. A less-than-100% Josh Beckett at the most critical time of the year. The Manny debacle of course. When the season ended in Sunday night's Game 7 loss to the Rays, we had our regular first baseman playing third, a kid who began the year in Triple-A Pawtucket playing short, a veteran outfielder playing first, a backup who wanted to be traded playing center, a former Pittsburgh Pirate playing left and a tall, rangy kid who was in Single-A ball as recently as last year playing a pivotal role in the bullpen. Think about it. It's ludicrous. And yet this team battled back and at least made the Rays work for it. It didn't end with the result we wanted, but these guys did us proud. Youk and Pedroia should be voted co-MVP's for what they did this year.As the players scatter, there are already decisions hanging in the air. What happens with Jason Varitek, who's been the heart and soul of this team since Dan Duquette pilfered him from the Mariners (with Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb!)? He was atrocious at the plate, but I say we try to keep him and give Kevin Cash some more playing time. I like the way that kid throws out baserunners. Mike Timlin is most likely retiring. Tim Wakefield was quoted today saying he definitely wants to come back, which he should. Just don't let him near the mound when the leaves turn. Mark Kotsay is probably going elsewhere to trade in his first baseman's mitt and be an everyday center fielder. There will be changes, as there always are.And before we know it, Hot Stove will soon heat up and we'll be talking about rumors involving Mark Teixeira, Jake Peavy, CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe (why not?), and more. We'll eventually start thinking about next year, but not quite yet.Some random thoughts:- I'm having the hardest time deciding which team to root for in the World Series. I feel like the yahoo Rays' fans - it's not all, but a huge chunk - don't deserve it. I went down to St. Pete last April and went to a game, and the morons were out in full force. One guy kept running back and forth in front of our section every half-inning, verbally abusing Sox fans old and young. Another "fan" - filled to the gills before the game even started - bumped into my 65-year old father-in-law in a beer line and challenged him to a fight. Their stadium is an abomination and I hate Jonny Gomes. There are so many reasons to go Phillies.But then I think about Philly fans. Think about the most idiotic Red Sox fan you've ever seen and multiply by 10. Famously douchey. Booed Santa Claus. Arlen Specter is probably one. Just flat out miserable all the time. The Eagles were sore losers to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Phillies starter Brett Myers was arres[...]

Varitek - Yes, Varitek - Comes Up Big for Sox


The Red Sox continued their comeback against the shell-shocked Rays last night in Tampa, taking Game 6 by a score of 4-2, and forcing a winner-take-all seventh game tonight at the Trop. Man, this has been one hell of a ride. Everything from late-game heroics to long home runs to TV power outages (we'll get to this atrocity in a moment).Most of the questions heading into Game 6 revolved around the health of Josh Beckett. A strained oblique has resulted in decreased velocity, and while he clearly wasn't himself last night, he willed himself through five innings, allowing only two runs - both of which came on home runs (one by the red-hot B.J. Upton and one by Jason Bartlett). Of course, we didn't get to see the Upton home run in the first inning, which in some ways is fine by me.TBS - which is broadcasting the AL playoff games this year - suffered some sort of power outage just before gametime, and there was no live feed of the game when it started. People were apoplectic. Instead of the start of a much-anticipated Game 6 at 8:07 p.m. last night, we got something called the Steve Harvey Show. Not a good time to be a bartender in a sports bar, or a Verizon TV service operator.A buddy called me at 8:12 or so wondering what was up, then another friend said there was some sort of blackout in Atlanta, where TBS is based. The game had started, and there was no national broadcast. Embarrassing for TBS. Not only did someone bleep up, they also did a horrible job of letting viewers know what was going on, and when it might be resolved. I resorted to getting updates online, thinking it would be a quick fix... Coco Crisp got on with a bunt single in the top of the first, then got picked off... Upton hit another friggin' home run off Beckett... after a few more interminable, frustrating minutes with no picture or sound, I got up and put the radio broadcast on. A few minutes later, the game was finally on TBS. So that's how we started. A few hours later, the Red Sox had forced Game 7 thanks to a gutsy performance from Beckett, an improbable, tie-breaking home run from Jason Varitek (who was 0-for-15 or something) in the 6th inning, and some good relief work by Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon.The Rays are reeling, and the Sox have them right where they want them. Boston is 9-0 in elimination games since the Aaron Boone gut-punch in 2003. 9 and stinking 0. How's that for clutch? And now we have another seventh game to look forward to. They're all memorable, good and bad I s'pose. Joe Morgan's bloop single off Jim Burton in the 1975 World Series. Bruce Hurst and a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning in 1986. The aforementioned Boone game in 2003. Johnny Damon's curse-breaking grand slam in Yankee Stadium in the 2004 ALCS. And I have to admit, last year's Game 7 against the Indians in the ALCS is overshadowed in my mind by J.D. Drew's huge Game 6 grand slam. But a quick look at shows that it was the Youkilis/Pedroia show, as both combined to go 6 for 10 with 2 homers, 5 runs, and 7 RBI's. Some things never change.Tonight, a chance for more history. Who will the heroes be? Can the taxed bullpen give us a little bit more? Will the Sox get to Matt Garza for more than one run, which was all they could muster off him in Game 3? Will Lester find his groove? Who will hit the big home run? The way this series has gone, I'm thinking a Sean Casey walkoff inside-the-parker.Lots of questions, lots of anticipation. Let's just hope and pray TBS has its you know what together for first pitch.(Boston Glo[...]

Another One for the Scrapbook


Some 35 hours later, people are still buzzing in Boston about the newest chapter in Red Sox postseason lore. (Who would have thunk four years ago that we've already have 'Red Sox postseason lore?)You know the story. Sevens were wild. Seven runs down, seventh inning, one of the best bullpens in the game called upon to get seven outs and send the Rays - an improbable story unto themselves - into the World Series. But just as the TBS announcers were analyzing Rays-Phillies matchups, it all began to beautifully unravel. Jed Lowrie spanked what looked like a harmless double to get on in the seventh, and then both Jason Varitek and Mark Kotsay flied out. With 2 outs, Coco Crisp - one of the big heroes in this one - singled, moving Lowrie to third. Pedroia then singled to right, scoring Lowrie and at least avoiding the insult of being shut out at home in an elimination game. And then Big Papi, our human mood ring, got everyone in the place jumping with a three-run moon shot off Grant Balfour, who inexplicably gave the slumping Ortiz a cookie right in his wheelhouse. The big man took his sweet time rounding the bases - kind of reminded me of Manny trying to break up a double play - as the volume at Fenway multiplied by several decibels. Watching at home, this was when I knew something good was happening. Momentum. A buddy texted me from Fenway saying that the crowd felt like it did back during those '04 games against the Yankees. A good sign.When your hitters get you going, you need your pitchers to shut the opposition down and that's exactly what Jonathan Papelbon did in the eighth. Three up, three down for the Rays and the Sox were quickly back up, this time facing Dan Wheeler. Wheeler, who's been shaky lately, proceeded to give Joe Maddon agita by walking leadoff man Jason Bay on four straight pitches. If you thought Fenway was deafening, it went to a whole new level after J.D. Drew - heretofore known as Mr. June and Mr. October - launched a two-run homer to right to make it 7-6. Wheeler then got two quick outs, Lowrie on a flyball and pinch-hitter Sean Casey on strikes. And again, two-out magic. Kotsay doubled over centerfielder B.J. Upton's head - he should have had it - which brought Crisp up to the plate. Coco fought off pitch after pitch and then singled to right, driving in Kotsay with the tying run. Coco got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, but the run scored before the tag. Best at-bat by far of Coco's Red Sox career.For the top of the 9th, Terry Francona summoned his new, 6'6" binky Justin Masterson. The Rays got two men on, and then Masterson did what he does best - he got Rays' slugger Carlos Pena to hit into an inning-ending double play. The kid's got a Derek Lowe-like sinker.Then came the bottom of the ninth and, you guessed it, the Rays and reliever J.P. Howell got two quick outs as Pedroia grounded out and Papi K'd. Fortunately, we had the Greek God of Walks up next, and you just knew Kevin Youkilis was going to make Howell work. He fouled off tough pitch after tough pitch, barely making contact on a couple, and then hit a sharp groundball to third which Evan Longoria stabbed but then threw past Pena at first. Youk on second with Bay up, and Maddon decided to intentionally walk Bay. I understand the reasoning - force out at any base. But at the time, I was thinking that the next batter, Drew, is much more of a flyball hitter. On cue, Drew slammed one to right field which sailed over Gabe Gross' head (he could have made a better play too) and Youk motored around[...]

I Don't Believe What I Just Saw


More tomorrow on tonight's amazing Red Sox come-from-behind victory over the Rays, but wanted to get a quick post up in the afterglow of yet another memorable baseball night.

The Sox were trailing 7-0 in the seventh inning tonight, their season all but over, when suddenly Big Papi awoke and smashed a three-run bomb to right to make it 7-4 and get the fans back in it. Then J.D. Drew came up and hit a two-run shot to right to narrow the Rays' lead to 7-6. Now, keep in mind - the crack TBS crew, particularly that loser Chip Caray - was already looking forward to a Rays-Phillies World Series, analyzing potential matchups, talking about how the Rays had champagne on ice in their locker room. The camera kept showing Jonny Gomes pumping his fist, and his teammates all smiling and laughing. And then Ortiz - this team's human mood ring - put everyone in a good mood when he finally broke through with that big smash. Coco Crisp, leading off in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, singled in the tying run in the 8th inning, and then Drew won it in the bottom of the 9th with a run-scoring double.

Absolutely unbelievable. As damaging as the Game 2 loss was to the Red Sox, this one has to hurt the Rays, who thought they had this one in the bag. More tomorrow, but the Sox live another day. Baseball at the Trop Saturday night, baby! Right now, it's scheduled to be Josh Beckett vs. James Shields. As T.O. would say, bring your popcorn.

Deja U(pton)


(image) Game 5 is underway and it's already more of the same. B.J. Upton just hit his 6th home run of the postseason and third against the Red Sox. The guy hit 9 all year in 531 at-bats. Do they stop testing after September?

Anyway, Iwamura - who must drive Dice-K batty (get it? batty. I kill me) - led off the game with a single, and then Upton hit another shot into the Monster seats, just over the yellow line. Fenway is silent once again as the Rays have staked Scott Kazmir to a two-run lead. The Sox bats really need to plate one or two soon to get the fans revved up. They've sat through too many hours of depressing baseball.

Couple of random thoughts:

Do you think TBS' Craig Sager actually lays out all his clothes on the bed before a big road trip, mapping out which ridiculous outfit he's going to wear each day? He's baseball's milder version of Don Cherry.

I don't want these guys celebrating in our ballpark tonight.

The crowd seems to be a lot more into it right now, as Dice-K is settling into one of his grooves.

Manny lost first. Na, nah, nah, nah. The greedy, lazy, contract-breaking Ramirez is now headed directly for his favorite place in the world: Free agency. Money quote, literally, in today's LA Times following last night's season-ending defeat to the Phillies:

"I just want to go home [to Florida] and spend some time with my family," Ramirez says, while adding with a grin, "I want to see who is the highest bidder. Gas is up and so am I."

Do the Sox consider making a play for fellow free-agent-to-be Derek Lowe? That would be a hell of a rotation.

Lots of debate around here on what the Sox will do with Jason Varitek next year. Hard to see them giving 'Tek anything long-term, so this could very well be his last game ever in a Red Sox uniform if he decides to chase money and years. I'm hoping they can sign him to a one- or two-year deal and keep him around so he can help groom the next catcher. It's clear, though, that his at-bats need to be fewer.

If I'm Theo, I'm looking to get a high-upside catcher, a shortstop and a first baseman in the off-season. That's all. I think you have to be worried about Mike Lowell's hip surgery, and the jury's out on Jed Lowrie. Lowrie should be in the Alex Cora role. That, or maybe look at a third baseman so Kevin Youkilis can go back to first. The sure-handed Youk should be touching the ball on defense as much as possible. Oh, and make sure Clay Buccholz makes progress this off-season. We could use that scrawny bastard right about now.

Who'da thunk a backup outfielder would be our starting first baseman when the games counted the most? Mark Kotsay has done a pretty damn good job, and he's been one of the few guys swinging the lumber.

A Wake at Fenway


(image) Carnage. Noun. 1. The slaughter of a great number of people, as in battle; butchery; massacre.

I'd say that about sums it up, don'tcha think? Of course, baseball is not war and there were no dead bodies strewn across the Fenway lawn last night.

But you can equate 'great number of people' with Red Sox Nation, which this morning has to be coming around to the reality - despite the incredible comebacking ways of our Sox in recent years - that this particular team is just too wounded to carry on. In some ways, this team is like a champion thoroughbred who's still very talented but has been surpassed by other younger, feistier horses.

Make no mistake, folks: the Rays are very, very good, and they're playing great baseball when it matters the most. In addition to the artillery shells (sticking with the military theme) they've been sending into the Green Monster seats the last two nights, they've been pitching very well, playing their typical good defense, their grounders are finding their way through the infield and their pop-ups are landing. Last night, they humiliated Tim Wakefield and the Sox on national TV, bashing their way to a 13-4 win to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. A buddy and I exchanged text messages right after Wake was pulled, both wondering if we had just seen the last of him in a Sox uniform. Another topic for another day, but worth a debate.

The Rays have clearly been the superior team in every aspect of the game, but I'd like our chances a whole lot better with a healthy Mike Lowell playing third and batting fifth or sixth, and if we knew Josh Beckett and David Ortiz would be their normal selves. You can't underestimate the loss of Lowell, not only for his glove and his bat, but also for what his absence does to the lineup. It moves Youkilis to third and makes Tito have to insert Mark Kotsay at first. Kotsay has done a fine job defensively, but has been a little soft with the bat. And while they continue to deny it, both Beckett and Ortiz have to be hurting. I tip my hat to the Rays (except Jonny Gomes) - and will root for them heartily if they advance - but I still would have liked to have seen our best vs. their best.

Things are gloomy here - this feels a lot different than '04 or '07; the Rays seem destined - but nobody knows better than us that cold bats can get hot in a hurry, and hot bats can cool down. Anything can happen. For now, we lick our collective wounds as a Nation and turn our eyes to tomorrow - when the guy who gave us our best pitching performance in this series (Dice-K) can hopefully come up aces again. The Rays, interestingly, will move James Shields back and go with Scott Kazmir for Game 5, a guy we know we can handle. If we can get this one, and then if Beckett can revert to his dominant self for Game 6, and then, hey, we've got Lester going again... and... stop. Just stop. Don't do it. This is over.

Ah well. Cheer up - the Celtics start playing for real in 13 days.

Game 3 Preview: Young Guns


(image) (image)
Tonight's Game 3 starters - Jon Lester for the Sox and Matt Garza for the Rays - share more than a few things in common. They both made their major-league debuts in the summer of 2006, and they were both born on the West Coast, less than two months apart from each other - Garza in Selma, California on November 11, 1983; Lester in Tacoma, Washington on January 7, 1984.

They're alike in stature, too, both tall and lanky - and bigger than they seem on TV. If you look at career big-league numbers, though, that's where the similarities end. Lester has made 59 starts and has a 27-8 won-loss record, a 3.81 ERA, and a 262 to 140 K over walks. Lester has also been tough to homer off - giving up only an average of 10 per season.

Garza has made 54 starts, and has a career mark of 19-22 with a 4.02 ERA. His K to walk is 233 to 114. He's been stingy with homers too, giving up just a couple more than Lester.

On paper, and the way he's been going lately, Lester is clearly the favorite to pitch another great game and deliver the Sox a clutch win. But as all good Sox fans, I worry - and in this case, I'm worried about the old law of averages. Lester hasn't allowed an earned run in 14 postseason innings so far, while Garza - a better pitcher than his overall record shows - hasn't won a game since August 27. Can Lester keep it up? Will luck finally find Garza? These are the questions we need answers to.

Some quick, random thoughts:

* Everyone thinks Josh Beckett is hurt but if he is, he ain't letting on. Beckett continues to adamantly say that he's okay, that it's more of a question about rustiness and mechanics. We'll see. All I know is when he's only able to push it up to about 92, something is wrong.

* David Ortiz needs to hit. Big Papi has no hits and no RBI's in this series, and is hitting .174 in October.

* Youk continues to show why he's the American League MVP. Evan Longoria's not far behind.

* How 'bout that Jason Bay, huh? I think I heard this right, that he's got 9 two-out ribbies in the playoffs? Clutch.

* Why can't we have an outfielder that can throw? I know Perez is fast, but that play at the plate to end the game should have been much closer.

* Another stunning stat from Saturday night, courtesy of Tony Mazz - Beckett threw 93 pitches and got only 4 swings and misses. Unheard of.

* The walks are killing me. Let's add 'em up. 21 walks between the two teams in 2 games.

* Papi's not the only one that needs to come alive tonight - so does Ellsbury. I see a bunt or two in his future.