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Friday, July 29, 2005

It Is Tough to Visit A Dying Friend.....

The Nashua Pride of the independent Atlantic League are dying, quietly by all accounts. The team's attendance numbers are down quite a bit this year (averaging about 1,500 per game), after the team was sold to a league-connected ownership group over the off-season, with part ownership given to popular Manager Butch Hobson as an incentive to return as manager for another season.

When the team re-negotiated its lease agreement with the City of Nashua (meaning the team got better lease terms and other concessions from the city) the talk was that the team was essentially going to revenue-share with the city as future attendance improved. Yeah. I doubt that anyone connected with the city administration believes that any of the million-plus dollars invested in refurbishing Holman Stadium will ever pay dividends for Nashua taxpayers.

An insightful and on-point piece was printed several weeks ago by Jim Fenell in the Union Leader, in part pointing to the success of the nearby Manchester Fisher Cats (averaging about 4,500 fans per game) as part of the reason for Nashua's decline. That is no doubt true, but let's be honest - the Pride never drew well even when they were new in town, had no direct competition, and were winning. I haven't been to Nashua this year, for the reason Jim points out: there was no life there the last time I visited - it is a tough place to go, one actually feels self-concious sitting in the stands there (Why am I here when no one else is?....and yes, it does feel a bit like a wake now that you mention it.....)

I have no interest in dumping on the Pride; the team has tried repeatedly to make a real go of it in Nashua, an effort I admire and they should be congratulated for bringing baseball back to New Hampshire. You never want to see a local team re-locate; that's a sacrilige and a terrible way to repay the few Pride fans that have stayed with the team all along. But somehow it seems that the team needs to find a new home where they will be more successful in capturing the lifeblood of the game - fans. Congratulations are nice, fans in the stands are better though.
See Jim's article here:

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Going Overboard

I just heard on the EEI sports flash that Lucchino says Manny has asked for a trade and that the Sox will try to accommodate him before August 1.
1: They will not be able to get fair value for a player of his stature and salary in the next three days.
2: This, if accurate, is patently stupid. Manny does not need to be traded, he needs to be taken aside and privately reminded of his responsibilities as a team member. He could have taken two days off some other time rather than just leave the Sox relatively punchless last night. It all turned out well, fortunately for the Sox.
Trading Manny now is an act of frustration and pique, not smart baseball management.
If he goes, then I expect someone with comparable stats and a better attitude to show up in left field or the Sox management will be diminished in my eyes.
Tim

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Bonfire of the Vain and Navel Gazing Sports Scribes

Tim and I don't disagree often, but on "MannyGate," we do.

First, why is this passing situation getting any attention at all? Why aren't talk radio hosts and writer-analysts more interested and concerned with the fact that the team's No. 1 Starter almost got his head taken off and killed last night? Or that "Shaky" Schilling limped his way to another save, courtesy of Johnny Damon and a quirk in the layout of the Tampa Bay outfield wall?

Manny asked for and was given a day off. Francona did ask him to re-consider and play. Manny said, respectfully I am sure, no, he wanted the day off. Francona could have ordered him to play, fine him, or suspend him, or cook up some other punishment. He chose to do nothing.....Because nothing was called for. If this was a big deal, his teammates would have called him on it - so far they haven't. Manny needed a day off. Don't you need one once in a while? If his manager and teammates understand, then what business is it of ours? (and PLEASE don't mention Manny salary unless you also want to talk about his production stats in the same breath; Wouldn't YOU have taken the $160 million if someone offered it to you?)

Manny is leading the AL in home runs and RBI despite having a down year in average. His outfield play, occasional gaffes aside, has steadily improved during his time in Boston (and he leads the league in OF assists folks). He is the second part of the best one-two lineup punch in the AL with Pappi Ortiz. How many game-winning hits has he had?

Manny doesn't whine to the media like some players we know. Manny doesn't fawn over every microphone or pose for every camera he sees like some players we know. Yes, Manny is a "man child," as one scribe called him. But he produces at the plate when it counts, more than any Red Sox player in recent memory since perhaps Jim Rice - another player the media couldn't get warm to and whipped unnecessarily.

This team is without its No. 1 Starter (Schilling), without its Closer (Foulke), is going into the Stretch Run - and has had assorted nagging injuries to position and bullpen players - and now Nixon and Clement are ailing. Don't the baseball writers, Talk Show hosts, and other "learned," and "esteemed," observers have any more pertinent and insightful issues to pay attention to these days other than Manny takes a day off? If they don't, then it is they who all need some time off to assess what the hell they are really doing with the public airwaves, the public trust, and the grey matter so generously given to them by same force that made Manny, Manny..

Manny Being Manny? Not This Time

Opting out of today's game, even after Tito specifically asked him to play in light of the Clement incident and Nixon going on the DL, specifically saying that the team needs him to play today, is inexcusable. This is not Manny being Manny - that is reserved for his Green Monster-type behavior. Refusing to play, insisting on taking today off, is a breach of loyalty to the other 24 members of the Red Sox.
The good thing is that Tito made the entire situation public, putting Manny in a bad light for everyone to see.
I hope some player - Millar, Ortiz, someone - gets him in the locker room and reams him out. The man needs to grow up and stop thinking like a 15-year-old, being embarrassed easily when anything is said or written about him. That's the real world of a public figure. Manny seems to think that he can be a star and be ignored. Dream on, Manny - or ask for a trade to Kansas City.
It is too bad that he is a) the best hitter on this or any other team and b) so highly paid that no one can afford him. Absent those two very big circumstances, the man is playing left field or DH-ing in KC, or Arizona or Tampa Bay, where the interest is minimal and the press and fans don't pay attention.
Tim

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Smart Catchers, Shipping Mom, Etc.

Jason Varitek - he can come to my kid's school anytime. Makes perfect sense to me that a classy player like that would be promoting a cause like this.
http://www.massteacher.org/news/headlines/news_2005-07-14a.cfm

Ship Mom to Thailand - if you want to win. Can we ship Kevin Millar's mom?

Monday, July 25, 2005

It's Not Mill(ar) Time

Which of the following is guaranteed to make you twist in pain and churl?
- Kevin Millar at the plate...
- Kevin Millar at the plate with RISP...
- Kevin Millar at the plate with RISP, in late innings...
- Kevin Millar at the plate, with RISP, in late innings, in a close ball game...
- Kevin Millar at the plate, with RISP, in late innings, in a close ball game, with the Sox behind....
- Kevin Millar at First Base, at any time...
- Kevin Millar at First Base, after the fifth inning
- Kevin Millar at First Base, after the fifth inning, in a close ball game...
- Kevin Millar at First Base, after the fifth inning, in a close ball game, with the Sox behind....
- Kevin Millar with a microphone in front of him, anytime....
- The mere mention of "Cowboy.....[You Know What]"

- Kevin Millar, Period.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Power Rankings - Another Kind of Hits

Forbes looks st The Most Powerful Players in Baseball. From the Forbes point of view, it is still about stats - stats such as Google Hits, salary, endorsements, and influence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Boston Somethings, c. 1874 - LF



It's
Andy Leonard, Boston Red Stockings (or Braves - the Library is unclear on this point), left fielder from 1874. There are lots of these photos at The A.G. Spalding Baseball Collection [Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs] at the New York Public Library. Enjoy!

Lowell Gets Twisted and Chubby

Catcher Mark Wagner swings.............
Chubby's style is unmistakable.......................
Strike!!!!!!!
(Click on the photos for a full-size view.)

Besides an interesting 7-6 win over the Batavia Muck Dogs, Lowell Spinner fans also had a rare glimpse of a true American legend: The Great Chubby Checker.
The Chubby One (he really is too!) threw out the first pitch in tonight's game, revealing a form reminiscent of El Guapo in his prime. In Chubby's honor, the Spinners arranged for a number of kids to do The Twist and have Chubby judge their style. You 'shoulda been there.

Players to Watch: Blake Maxwell, the Spinners closer; 1-1 with three saves, 1.06 ERA in 10G and 18 IP, 12Ks, 1BB.

Chip, Alan, and Tony

The Red Sox traded arguably their best overall player, and certainly their best outfielder, at Pawtucket this season - Chip Ambres. Chip was at or near the top of the IL in many categories, has speed, and is a good glove. He will be missed - I hope he does well in KC. I would have preferred him to Adam Hydzu as the fourth outfielder in Fenway, but Theo thinks otherwise and his vote counts more than mine. I have seen a lot of Hydzu at Pawtucket; he is a good, solid player and has potential.
Alan Embree: Good Luck and Thanks to Alan......it was obvious that he could not be given the ball in a crucial lefty situation this season, unlike last year, that made him expendable. He was there for us in the post season last year, and for that we are grateful.
Tony Graffanino: Mark Bellhorn is hitting .216 with 7 HRs and 28 RBI in 85 games. Graffanino, is hitting .298 with 3 homers and 18 RBIs in 59 games. I feel better about Graffanino at 2B than Cora, but still think the Sox should have given a shot to versatile and speedy PawSox IF Machado.

Net: Better IF and OF depth, and thinning out the weeds in the Bullpen. Thanks Theo......getting everything ready for the stretch run.

Next: Paging Kevin Millar and John Halama........you have a call from the Front Office.....and Wade Miller report to the bullpen, for middle relief please.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tim McCarver - Liar

I am old enough to remember Tim McCarver, Cardinals catcher, working with the great Bob Gibson in the '67 Series. McCarver was a good player.
He is, however, a terrible baseball announcer - the latest example that drives me absolutely NUTS is that he either a) lies, or b) makes stuff up. Neither should be accepted by a national network in its baseball broadcasts.
Last Saturday, during the Fox-McCarver telecast of the Sox-Yankees from Fenway, at about mid-game McCarver noted that there was a Red Sox pitcher warming up in the bullpen (he was right about that part.) He went on to say that wasn't it an intelligent consideration of the designers of Fenway Park to build it so the current pitcher on the mound could not hear relievers warming up (the 'ol pop in the catcher's mitt) and thus become even more unsettled.

What an idiot, or what a liar - or just plain stupid - your pick.

First, the designer's of Fenway Park never thought of that in placing the bullpens where they are - Tom Yawkey put the bullpens where they are in the 1940s, in part to make the right field porch more friendly to his batting star, No. 9. [McCarver's wrong on both aspects here - either made it up, or he doesn't know and made it up.]
Second, any pitcher standing on the mound at Fenway can easily see a reliever warming in the bullpen - so McCarver's point is moot. Dumb, very dumb.

Fans, we should not allow a major national network to keep an announcer on-the-air who blatantly makes up anecdotes, simply to hear himself speak or fill air time.

Monday, July 18, 2005

No Hall Call for This Mays

Carl Mays, that is, a pitcher who threw the pitch that caused the only fatality in MLB history. More at:

Thursday, July 14, 2005

It Is Up To Clement, Miller

Schilling isn't Schilling, and isn't going to be for this season it appears. We know what we are likely to get from Arroyo and Wakefield. Wells is a wild card in more ways than one.

But if the Sox are going to win, and go deep into the playoffs, Clement and Miller are going to have to have strong stretch runs. Reality Check Folks: Clement IS The Ace of the staff, The Man at the moment. If he is ready for that role, and all that comes with it in a pressure town like Boston, then the Sox have a good shot. I am not sure he is up to that.

Wade Miller needs to step it up, starting soon. So far, he has been a bust really - but we knew he was a risk from the start. Can he go to the bullpen and do middle relief? If so, let's send him there and see who's available, even in the farm system, to start.

Last year, in the end, it was about pitching. Still is. Otherwise, this 2005 Sox team again will look like the power-laden but bridesmaid Cleveland Indians teams of the 1990s.

Facing Ruth, Sizing Up Bonds

What was it like to pitch against The Bambino............??? And how to pitch Barry?

The Rooftops of Wrigleyville

The Chicago Tribune climbs the stairs to see what the view is like from Chicago's equivalent of the Monster Seats: The Rooftops of Wrigleyville.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Must Read....Page 2/Simmons

Bill Simmons is very much on his game in this wonderful first half perspective - ESPN.com's Page 2.
Read it! You'll be glad you did!

More Views of Lowell



(Click on the photos for a full-size view.)

Remembering Tony C. in Lowell


If you have never seen it, here's the foul line corner in right field in Lowell, home of the Single A Red Sox affiliate Spinners.
(Click on the photo for a full-size view.)

Comings and Goings at The Break

If your life, like mine, is ruled by the rhythms of baseball then it is just about Break Time, and time to take stock of a few items:
- Kevin Millar: I hope you did ask for a trade and that Theo works something out. You have had a good deal here and if you don't appreciate it, then take your sweet and sour streaky hitting and go elsewhere, likely someplace where nobody will notice anything you do - and that will really piss you off.
- Jay Payton: Would rather play than win. Your choice. Glad to see Theo backed Francona and by doing so sent a message to the rest of the clubhouse. Yup, Terry's a "player's manager," but he is still the boss.
- A. Cora: Theo, (we love you, but.....) what's this guy about? You had better choices at Pawtucket (Machado and Figuroa) if you were looking for a glove and a mighty .235BA. So how's Cora different from Belhorn exactly? (fewer Ks?)
-Schilling: The club is obviously making the best of an indeterminate situation. If it works, it will be John Smoltz-like in effectiveness. I think a major reason Closers are effective is a combination of reputation and demeanor (think Rivera, Eckersley....) as well as good stuff. Would you like to face Curt Schilling, bearing down on you, coming in as the other team's Closer? I wouldn't and neither would anyone else - which is why this might just work until he can rejoin the rotation (which may be in '06).
- Red Sox: The AL East First Place team at the Break without their Number 1 starter and now without their Closer. Congrats to Francona, who is convincing more people that he was the right choice for managing this manic on-field franchise and its fan base.
- Yankees: Someone needs to drive a stake into these guys before they re-appear and bite us in the ass. Money can buy talent, but I am not sure George will have his way this year - too many teams still in contention reduces the number of fire sales and talent available.
- PawSox: mediocre so far this year, with weak pitching and shuffling players up and down. Don't expect much.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fidel's Sons in MLB

Nice piece in USAToday by Tom Weir on the state of Cuban players in MLB, and how they adjust to life in the U.S.

Manny The Great

It is too bad that we often don't appreciate the greatness of some athletes in our midst because they might not fit our idealized vision of what the "perfect"persona for that role should be (not everybody looks and talks like Ted Williams). I am afraid that is the case with Manny Ramirez, perhaps the best right-handed power hitter of his era. While many focus mostly on Manny's gaffes and goofiness, he is - without doubt - a Hall Of Famer, and a player starting to reach some impressive career milestones. His second-place ranking in Grand Slams is a great case in point.
Yes, you do have to be on teams that get on base in front of you, and you have to have some protection behind you in the batting order, but you still have to hit it out when the bases are loaded. Manny does this better than any modern-day player (including Williams and Aaron), and often he drives it out to the opposite field because most pitchers pitch him outside in that situation to avoid the HR. He hits it out anyway, with relative ease.
And yes, Manny is leading the league in Outfield Assists. Believe it. Why? Short left field, lots of chances, or maybe other team coaches underestimate Manny's arm and hustle. Still, you have to make the throw, and he does.

Manny's power numbers are consistent year in and out - while the rest of baseball was boosting numbers with syringes. Manny's RBI numbers are the best in the league this year so far, despite a down year in batting average. Productive, without steroids.

No, Manny won't ever be in the broadcast booth; he doesn't have the spit and polish for that job, nor does he care I suspect. Word is he may retire early when the current contract expires and he doesn't need anymore money. Too bad. You wonder what Manny could do if he played until he was 40. Yes his errors are ugly, he is not a graceful runner or fielder, and he does seem out-to-lunch sometimes. But you have to recognize and respect his production, in almost any situation, and under pressure.

Sox fans should be happy every day that Manny is Manny.

Ambres Hacking

Pawtucket Outlook: Help Is Available


While the Red Sox struggle to find a solution to the enigma that is Keith Foulke, there is currency in the form of mid-season talent ready at Pawtucket;
- A. Machado: mentioned in this column before, this speedy middle infielder is hitting over .300, plays very strong defense, plays hard, is a switch hitter, and can steal a base. Downside: absolutely no power - but we have 8 other guys who can hit HRs. Replace Belhorn NOW.
- Chip Ambres: one of the best outfielders - hitting and defense - in the IL. Speed, great OBP, hits for both power and average. Trade Payton to someplace where he can play, get a decent middle reliever, and let Chip play right when lefties are pitching against Boston.

Photos:
- Roberto Petagine fouls one off.
- Machado hacks.
- Look at this sequence as Chip Ambres breaks his bat.

- Trade Kelly Shoppach: after a promising start this year, Kelly is back down to .250. With Varitek signed long term for big $$, and Mirabelli the best backup in MLB, time to trade Shoppach to a NL club (where a .250 BA catcher still is acceptable) while he has some value and we need some relief pitching.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Keystone State Field of Dreams

Baseball in Fegely Stadium, built in 1933, is a real 'field of dreams,' say its fans. See this piece by By Joe McDermott of the The Morning Call.

Where's Piersall? In The Shrine of the Eternals

Take a quirky trip with Paul Oberjuerge, Staff Writer for the San Bernardino Sun to see where legends such as Jimmy Piersall, Curt Flood, Marvin Miller, Bill "Spaceman" Lee, and even Shoeless Joe Jackson are enshrined and honored - it ain't Cooperstown folks.