April 9, 2008
Forgive ... and forget
Love is in the air at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are world champs, Neil Diamond will sing on a Hot August Night, and Sox Appeal is back for a second season of flirtations and libations. Yet nothing aimed more for the heart than the Bill Buckner love-fest.
The former Red Sox first baseman - and object of baseball lore - returned to Fenway yesterday for the 2008 home opener, his first trip to the Fens since 1986 ... no, actually '87 ... er, '90 ...
... his first trip to the Fens since 1997 and received a warm welcome from the Fenway fans, who apparently have "forgiven" Buckner for his gaffe in the '86 World Series. It all struck me as a little odd, especially considering those who actually remember the whole incident will instead forever place blame on John McNamara's shoulders. But I guess Buckner is easier to blame because his error was dramatic and tangible evidence of the choke while McNamara's buffoonery at Shea Stadium was largely ignored.
However, flash forward to 2003, and only a small percentage of the population holds Pedro Martinez liable for what happened a few miles to the north of Queens, directing their venom instead at Grady Little. Little never managed another game in a Red Sox uniform after Game 7. McNamara was on the bench for another 1 1/2 seasons, helped largely by the fact that Buckner's error snowballed into an almost mythical sign of consistent failure. It was easier to blame "curses" rather than stupid managerial decisions.Continued...
Time: 10:39:25 AM | Any thoughts on this blog entry? Sound off here
April 8, 2008
The mystery guest is...
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner predicted that the surprise individual throwing out today’s ceremonial first pitch would give everyone goosebumps, which I suppose rules out the likes of Roger Clemens or Eric Gagne.
Thirty-Seven Feet Up takes a few guesses as to whom it could be:
Diamond would be the surprise, but goosebumps? Eh. Joe Andruzzi might make a fine candidate. Bill Buckner remains a hot rumor.
Jeff Goldberg of the Hartford Courant has a guess, and we hope he’s right: Jordan Leandre.
“Jordan is the courageous young Jimmy Fund patient who has had Fenway Park cheering for four years by singing the National Anthem 10 times,” Goldberg writes. “In 2007, Jordan took the good feelings to a whole new level. Just months after being free of braces on his legs, Jordan celebrated Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon day by running the bases at Fenway Aug. 18, between games of a day-night doubleheader against the Angels (Clay Buchholz's major league debut, incidentally). Who could possibly give goosebumps more than this young hero, whose dash around the bases was a signature moment of the 2007 season?”
Perfect. Of course, now if it isn’t Leandre, we’re probably going to be disappointed.
Give us your own guesses in the comments section.
April 7, 2008
The Big Lead points us in the direction of yet another perfectly awful commercial from old friend Bronson Arroyo.
Not sure about you, but it's the locks blowing in the wind that does it for me.
Not that Dustin Pedroia has anything to crow about, of course.
April 7, 2008
Cause and reaction
Through a whopping 4.3 percent of their 2008 schedule, the Red Sox find themselves in last place for the first time in three years after getting swept in Toronto over the weekend by the AL East darling Blue Jays.
Like the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Blair writes today, so what?
The Red Sox are just 3-4 to start their campaign, and finally play a home game tomorrow after their long, strange trip (had you heard?) took them from Florida to Chicago to Japan to Los Angeles to the Bay Area to Toronto to Boston. But they’re not using a two-week case of jet lag and dirty laundry as an excuse for their start. Not yet.Continued...
Time: 10:56:24 AM | Any thoughts on this blog entry? Sound off here
April 4, 2008
Division isn't for the Birds
So, this is the Blue Jays' year, eh?
Such annual hope for these Canadian birds has become a sort of measuring stick among preseason prognosticators. Once again, there are those who think Toronto can beat out the Yankees and the Red Sox this season for the American League East crown.
Then there are those who live in real world.
That's not to say it's impossible. Heck, if last season taught us anything it's that even one of the most bumbling franchises in recent memory can make a stunning run to the World Series. But go ahead and tell me how many of those picking the Jays to win the division did not do so with the caveat, "if they stay healthy," or as we like to call it, the out clause.Continued...
Time: 11:21:29 AM | Any thoughts on this blog entry? Sound off here
April 1, 2008
It is impossible to label it an imperative evening -- there isn’t really anything that amounts to an important start in April -- but tonight is sort of the beginning of figuring out Daisuke Matsuzaka’s American baseball fate.
Is he really the pitcher the Red Sox felt confident enough to dump $100 million worth of confidence into? Or is he little better than a No. 3 starter, more valuable to the franchise in terms of overseas marketing and development?
Is he really a Cy Young Award contender, as some have opined? Or is he destined for simply a nice, healthy career like that of fellow Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo?
Is he willing to adapt his arsenal for the American game? Or will he continue to nibble at corners and frustrate those who think he has the stuff to go after hitters more?Continued...
Time: 09:56:38 AM | Any thoughts on this blog entry? Sound off here
March 31, 2008
It’s one thing to forecast the 2008 season as the start of something good for the Tampa Bay Rays. Duly noted.
It’s another thing entirely to label their starting rotation as possibly the “class of the AL East.” Say, what?
Yet, that’s what The Sporting News’ David Pinto forecasts, using PECOTA and eqERA to claim the Rays’ starting five of Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and Jason Hammel is better than that of Boston’s Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.
Although Boston has an overall better five-man rotation in terms of eqERA, Toronto's rotation has more experience in the No. 4 and No. 5 slots, leading to a higher prediction of innings pitched. That keeps poor starters out of a job, and boosts the Blue Jays over the Red Sox. In a way, the Blue Jays are the Baby Bear of the AL East. The backend of the Blue Jays' rotation isn't too old, too young, but just right age to provide plenty of innings.
I really don’t know whether I can believe any of this or not, but I do know that I continue to be fascinated by the prospects of the Rays this season.
Of course, they actually play today so that’s subject to change.
March 31, 2008
The odds couple
If you caught the Bill James piece on “60 Minutes” last night and came away as confused as Morley Safer looked when discussing the benefits of sabermetrics, maybe this isn’t the best time to bring this up.
But anyway, that 56-game hitting streak by Joe DiMaggio? Not that big a deal.
No, really. Common occurrence. So say Cornell grad student Samuel Arbesman and professor of applied mathematics Steven Strogatzin an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times.
In a fit of scientific skepticism, we decided to calculate how unlikely Joltin’ Joe’s achievement really was. Using a comprehensive collection of baseball statistics from 1871 to 2005, we simulated the entire history of baseball 10,000 times in a computer. In essence, we programmed the computer to construct an enormous set of parallel baseball universes, all with the same players but subject to the vagaries of chance in each one….
I'm too confused to even comment.
As for the James piece, if you missed it thanks to an NCAA-related DVR mishap, here you go:
March 31, 2008
I’m not sure I get the part that explains why exactly if the Dodgers were expecting 115,000 fans to show up for Saturday night’s exhibition at the Los Angeles Coliseum, they figured only 5,000 would take advantage of the free shuttle service from Chavez Ravine.
As it turned out, the 40 buses on hand weren’t exactly conducive for the 35,000 or so that arrived at Dodger Stadium, forcing a late addition of 60 more buses. Some fans reportedly waited more than two hours. The last buses arrived at the Coliseum around 8:30 p.m., 90 minutes after first pitch.
Among the comments posted on the Los Angeles Times’ LA Now blog: “Mr. McCourt, great idea, poor execution. You have some some good ideas on how to improve the fan experience, but each one, the Coliseum game, zone parking, tiered seating prices, Grady Little, have all been undone by the lack of proper planning and follow-through. You may also be losing legitimate fans in the process.”
Grady Little, undone by the lack of proper planning and follow-through. Who knew?
I’ll bet the fans who waited in line for buses all day though really appreciated it when “Sweet Caroline” boomed through the Coliseum’s loudspeakers. How’s that for proper planning?
Fox’s Bryan Biederman was at the game and captures some of the sights (Fred Dryer!) and sounds of the historic event.
TV comedy writer Ken Levine notes the certain testy atmosphere at the Coliseum (“There were isolated fights but if you jam 115,000 people into a Barbra Streisand concert you’re going to have violence.”) but really, it’s the following picture that screams…well, something.
March 28, 2008
The feat of the repeat
Over the past 31 Major League Baseball seasons, only three teams have managed to repeat the following year as World Series champions (the 1977-78 New York Yankees, 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays, and the 1998-2000 Yankees, who won a trio of titles). No team since the 2000-01 Yankees has even managed to make a return visit to the Fall Classic the following October.
In fact, only once in the past five years has a defending World Series champion even managed to make the playoffs; the 2005 Red Sox, who were quickly ousted by the eventual champion White Sox in an ALDS sweep.
These are the challenges that await the 2008 Red Sox if they are indeed the team to beat, returning the majority of their roster from 2007, the same that tasted World Series glory for the second time in four seasons last October at the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains.Continued...
Time: 12:44:59 PM | Any thoughts on this blog entry? Sound off here
March 28, 2008
'Sweet' Sweet 16
It seems Davidson College has adapted “Sweet Caroline” as its theme song during its surprising run to the NCAA Sweet 16. Apparently the Oakland A’s have too since it boomed over the loudspeakers at the Tokyo Dome this past week, when the "home team" A’s “hosted” the Red Sox in the first two games of the regular season.
According to the Charlotte Observer:
Indeed, the song has been at the center of turning points in Davidson's first two tournament games.
It’s our gift to you. Feel free to keep it. No, really. Please.