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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Empire Respect and A Warning

Even though the Red Sox won tonight, and Pedro's concession speech yesterday aside, it is not being a disloyal member of RSN to say that you have to admire the job Torre and the Empire have done this year. No, I am not a Yankee fan, but, really folks, consider the following:
- Jason Giambi, former MVP, essentially out for the season (where would we be without our 1B, Ortiz?)
- Pitching Staff: Brown (good when able, often disabled), Mussina (like Wakefield - up and down this year), Contreras (gone due to terrible inconsistency), Loiaza (a complete No Show after arriving), Etc. (Fill In the Blank - Lieber, .....) Torre has had to do some creative juggling at the most critical position folks, and he is still ahead. Francona has had much healthier arms on the mound this year, all year.
- Sheffield: Wounded, but a Gamer, and possible MVP.

Even with what amounts to a AAA pitching staff on occasion the last two months, the Yanks have withstood a pretty good charge from the Sox and stayed ahead. So, a warning to those who have been thinking that it is a foregone conclusion that this time we will beat them decisively in October (if we and they are lucky enough to get to the ALCS): Unlike Pedro, they won't concede out of frustration. We are going to have to rip it out of their cold, dead, hands.

Concession Speech?

This is disturbing. From Pedro Martinez after the game last night (in Dan Shaughnessy's Boston.com column today):

"What can I say? I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy," said a frustrated Pedro after manager Terry Francona left him in too long in the eighth inning (sound like anyone you remember?). "I can't find a way to beat them at this point. You just have to give them credit and say, `Hey, you guys beat me, not my team.' I wish they would [expletive] disappear and never come back. I'd like to face any other team right now. To pitch a good game, make good pitches and still can't beat them. It's frustrating."
This was a night when the Sox were unofficially eliminated in the AL East (they trail by 5 1/2 games with nine to play), and it marked the latest in a series of disappointments for Martinez against the Yankees. Losing for the third straight game for the first time since 1998, he blew a 3-2 lead, then blew a 4-3 lead in the eighth. It was the 1918th regular-season game between these teams and the Red Sox are now 11-19 (including postseason) in games Martinez starts against the Bombers.
"How many times am I going to have a lead and let it go?" he asked. "It's all me. It's all me. You work so hard and you continue to lose and give it up. It's stupid. It's frustrating."

What does this mean? What does he mean? What the hell is going on here?
I won't pretend to try to analyze this or make any sense of this. I hope Pedro can at some future date. Looks really bad right now.

Re: other concessions.
B.Y. Kim -- after hearing on the radio that the players did not want him in the clubhouse, why is he here? Could be Theo's dumbest move. And he sucked, so, if they were bringing him up to "showcase" him, that was a good idea, right?
Terry Francoma -- must have been overseas last year during the ALCS. What the hell was he (not) thinking last night? Groundhog Day at Fenway.
Kevin Millar -- shut up.
And just to piss some people off, "Go, Nomar!"
Dan Shaughnessy -- needs a voodoo priestess to get him over the 1918 thing. He actually keeps track of how many games the Yankees and Sox have played and works it into a column? Must be another curse book on the way.

Quick Thought on Baseball Commentators

Perhaps we in the Boston market are spoiled by having Jerry Remy as commentator and expect everyone to be that interesting and that knowleldgeable. I think he's in a special situation, having been a player with the Sox and knowing so much about their history and organization. He also has Wally -- maybe that's his advantage.
In general, there should be no shortage of good commentators, despite the proliferation of networks and coverage. There's no shortage of blogs or bloggers (not talking here about us) who love the game, know the game, so maybe the networks should stop looking at former players (Remy excepted but Joe Morgan, Master Repeater of the Obvious, included) for color commentary, or start picking players who have something interesting to say and who have brains not just names.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Painful Commentary

A reader-comment asked us our opinion on the generally sad state of TV baseball play-by-play and color commentators. It is sad indeed, and yet possibly explainable. Here are a few points to consider:
- unlike baseball fans of earlier generations, today's TV watchers have a wealth of games to view, BBTN and many other sources of information and analysis. Fair to speculate that today's baseball fan is much better informed and more knowledgeable than generations past. Why is that important? Because today's knowledgeable fan demands more from play-by-play and color commentators.
- Play-by-play and color commentators actually have a tough assignment: satisfying two audiences - the casual baseball fan who may happen to tune in, and, the rabid, die-hard team fans who follow things like pitch selection, outfielder placements, and situational hitting decisions. Casual viewers can be easily bored or turned-off by the constant outpouring of baseball minutiae while the knowledgeable fan demands ever more analysis. Tough balancing act folks.
- Unfortunately for announcing crews, baseball is a pastoral game often played at a snails pace. In TV production talk baseball has a lot of "dead spots." Many announcers apparently feel compelled to "fill in" the slow spots with commentary, or their producers are telling them to do so. The best of them, like Jerry Remy, use the time to explore the situation from the point of view of both the casual and knowledgeable fan.

Also unfortunately, the state of announcing is not likely to improve anytime soon. The explosion in overall sports programming, ( number of sports and events - and total programming hours) means announcing talent is spread pretty thin - its is watered down by expansion folks, just like baseball pitching. Further, becoming a baseball announcer means committing to a 170+ game, eight month schedule - not a choice many are willing to make. But it is those with the long and grinding seasons of rich baseball experience who generally make the best commentators. A tough match of skills, experience, sacrifices, and enthusiasm to put together.

Fall - Leaves and Teams Turning

- What is it that makes the perennial sub-.500 Baltimore Orioles so tough for the Local Nine to handle? There is always, it seems, some mediocre club out there that "has your number." For years through the 1990s, it was the KC Royals, a team which would find some mysterious way to Sink The Sox. Now, it is the O's. ( Are you concerned that the Sox could get close to overtaking the Empire at the end of the season but blow it in the final weekend at Camden Yards?)

- B.Y. Kim? Pls B. Gone. Thnx Theo.

- North Shore Spirit? Lose Championship round second year in a row. I suppose that is good (better than Bangor folks), and attendance grew substantially this year. This Northeast League franchise is developing a good local following - and deservedly so; a good, affordable time for families and baseball nerds alike. Congratulations on a strong second season Spirit - on the field and in the stands.

- Are you worried about Keith Foulke in the playoffs? He did go through a rough stretch earlier in the season, remember? He'll be OK I think.

- Big Congratulations go out to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, AA Eastern League Champions in their first year in Manchester. They'll open a brand new stadium next year, an opening that can now include a Banner Raising ceremony as well. Looks like AA is in NH to stay, we hope.

Monday, September 20, 2004

What baseball teaches kids and their parents (cont'd)

One thing more than all others: Team is more important than the individuals are.
As soon as kids (or adults) forget that, as soon as how your kid is (or more than likely is not doing) becomes more important to him (or to you as a parent) than the game itself, you have two choices: lay down the law about how your kid is part of the team and not greater than or more important than the team, and make it stick, or get him out of team sports altogether.
The understanding of how each player supports the team and the team supports each player is sometimes a matter of maturity, sometimes a matter of character, but most often a matter of both. When a kid "decides" -- intentionally or unintentionally -- that how he is doing is more important than how the team is doing, the fundamental purity of the game is corrupted. That's a hard lesson to teach and a hard lesson to learn.

Some ways to look at it

1. They suck (reference: any Boston Globe columnist).
2. It is two losses, regardless of the score. If you were talking about the Yankees, and they lost, by, say, a score of 22-0, you'd say it is just another loss, so why not say the same thing about the Sox losses?
3. We are cursed (reference: Dan Shaughnessy, Jansenist).
4. The Yankees are better (reference: Charlie Steiner and his broadcast buddy on WCBS).
5. We cannot play any worse (for Varitek, and others, this is probably true).
6. We still get to play them at home three more times.
7. It's Francona's fault.
8. Pedro (16-7) sucks. (He did, but that record for virtually any other pitcher on any other team and the radio/media/fan meatheads would be seeking to trade for him).
9. Lowe sucks. (He did.)
10. Who cares? The Pats kick ass.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Chase, and Other Scoreboard Tickers

I for one am not that fired up about the Red Sox beating out the Yankees for the AL East crown. Why not? For starters, I would rather face an Oakland club we have beat the crap out of in the first round while the Yanks have to deal with the tough Twins. If the Yanks beat the Twins, so what - we thought we were going to have to face them anyway. If the Twins win, hopefully the Yankees will take some of the steam out of them in the process, and we won't have to go to the Bronx in October at all. Home vs. Away? I don't think that is a big deal for this team.

Millar? I was very down on him, I admit. Yes, he is streaky - just stay hot for another four weeks. Looks better at 1B lately also.

Arroyo? Could be The Difference this year in a seven game series. The kid has confidence and can win.

Wake? I am not worried. Remember which Red Sox player stepped up more than any other last October? Wake is the kind of guy you want on your team going into a World Series.

Damon? Most improved Sox player this year from last.

Manny? AL MVP, Period. Sheffield was more impressive, playing through pain and with a screwed up team, but Manny was simply better. Even better "D" this year as well, all things considered.

Unsung Heroes: Gabe Kapler and Doug Mirabelli.

A Player Never To be Named Who is Not Missed One Bit: No. 5.

Best Red Sox Off-Season Move: Schilling. Any questions?

Guys We Have To Re-sign: 'Tek, Cabrerra. Any questions?

Team We Fear Most in the Post Season: Cardinals (Time to avenge the '67 squad and put LaRussa in his place.)

Sadness: End of the AAA, AA, A, and NE league seasons. Sigh.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

East vs. West: "fundamental restructuring is necessary"

See this Time Asia piece on Japan's professional baseball woes and then think about the NHL strike ("fundamental restructuring is necessary" is something NHL Czar Gary Betteman has been saying). In Japan, the fans are siding with the players, and finding other sports to become interested in - including football.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

PawSox Bail on Buddy

Buddy Bailey has been fired as manager of the PawSox - a puzzling move when one considers how the team played, especially last year. A Boston Herald story by Jeff Horrigan says that behind the scenes, a strong-willed Buddy frayed some nerves with some of the more experienced PawSox players - though none were specifically named.
Bailey brought the PSox to the final game of the IL Championship last season, losing to a strong Durham team. This year, Bailey had to deal with a lineup that was jockeyed endlessly as the parent club continually shifted bodies around to compensate for a spate of injuries - and also try to rehab folks like Mendoza (a success), Nixon, and Mueller - and he was saddled with trying to fix a largely ineffective (and seemingly indifferent) B. Y. Kim most of the year.
Still, the Paw Sox were in in IL playoff hunt until about the last 10 days of the season - and always played hard in the games I saw (25+) with the talent they had.
The Herald story also pointed to other changes in Pawtucket - such as the departure of Earl Snyder and other solid players.
It's OK, we are rebuilding you say?
Well, if you have seen much of the Sea Dogs and the Spinners, you know the Sox don't have that many strong prospects coming along.
Next year in Pawtucket may be, shall we say, challenging?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

How Good is your Stuff?

While the Wed Sox beat the stuffing out of the rest of the AL West, check out what baseball "stuff" is really all about.
Got Stuff?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Minors Sag but Parent's Time to Shine?

The Red Sox farm system is coming off a tough year - Lowell and Portland both had losing records and Pawtucket failed to make the playoffs this year in the IL. So the fields named Hadlock, LeLacheur, and McCoy have gone silent and dark for the long winter season.

But at Fenway - or the current road address - the lights are bright and getting brighter. Though on a tough West Coast road trip, good things are happening for the Fens locals as for once at this time of year, it seems that the Evil Empire is the cursed nine this time. First, Lou Pinella's tardiness means the already pitching-starved Yanks will have to make up a doubleheader this week. The Call? Hello Triple A for pitching help. And don't you just love Kevin Brown? Without any apparent injury to keep him on the DL through the end of the year, Brown's punching dramatics may have punched a mega-hole through Joe Torre's AL East title march. And Estaban Loiaza? How's that working out for you Georgie?

Yeah I know - no gloating this soon; not good for business. But it does seem that the stars are aligning in a different order this year.