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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lineup Change - See 'Ya

I have been involved with this blog since late 2003; it has been fun and a learning experience. It always has been a two-man affair - Tim and I - two baseball-oriented minds commenting on the game, its men, its warts, and its glories.

While Baseball Zeitgeist will live on, my name - and posts - are being scratched from the lineup. It is time to move on for me - I haven't posted much the last month or so; the energy isn't there and neither is the need to be heard.

The number of voices commenting about the Boston Red Sox, in print, on the Web, on radio, and in other mediums is well beyond the saturation or entertainment point, and beyond the point where anything new needs adding from me. On the subject of the minors and independent leagues, my specialty really, there appears to be little interest in fandom overall, and the general attitude is often revealed in a condescending view of the minor league experience compared to Fenway such as "isn't Hadlock Field cute," "Nice place for the kids," or "Yes I went there once..."

For my time (and money) places like Hadlock, McCoy, and the others are a much better place to see a game, watch for the nuances, and watch players who are playing hard. You should go.
I was fortunate enough to be involved with this blog while the Red Sox did finally win it - and called it in fact.
I thank my good friend and baseball mate Tim for helping me establish and populate this site. Tim has always been a better writer than me, and knows more about the game too I suspect. You are in good hands.

Some parting comments:
- Red Sox: won't win it all with the pitching they have right now. Time to use the kids available from the system; they can't really be worse than what you have now. And they are probably better.
- Best Minor League venue: McCoy - hands down.
- Red Sox MVP, 2005: Manny Ramirez - try to imagine life without him.
- Theo: Best GM in the Game right now. Yup.
- Graffinino: this year's Orlando Cabrera/Dave Roberts
- Millar: Designate for Assignment, Now please.
- Francona: better than people think he is, better than most of his peers. Theo was right.
- Fenway: a charmer and hallowed ground - but way too expensive, lousy seating, and terrible access. Not worth it - take the tour, it is better and cheaper.
- Jerry Remy: best color analyst working in baseball.
- Best Baseball Experience: long drives during summer nights listening to Joe and Jerry with the top down, nothing better!
- Best baseball venue for kids: Lowell

Adios amigos, thanks for the visits - see 'ya at the hot dog stand, and bring your scorecard.

Friday, August 19, 2005

But it is not by players alone . . .

They still have to play.
The team went 2-2 over the weekend - 14-0 win, 11-1 loss, 9-1 loss, 8-4 win.
Tournament conditions were tough: 100 degrees on the fields themselves, dirt infields, but the overall field conditions were good. Fake mounds, however, in the complex of 5 fields so that they can be converted to softball and little league; the mounds are small and not sloped so pitchers step onto a flat surface with their post legs - did not seem to bother most of the pitchers.
When we scored, we won, that's about it. Game 1 drained everyone on the team - we probably spent about $75 - $100 on day 1 on drinks (you were not allowed to bring any in, and they checked bags but not players' bags, so dumped drinks in them after game 1, although they were not cold). Game 2, the players on our team simply stopped sweating no matter how much they drank and they were just beaten by a pretty good pitcher - 3 hits total.
Game 3 on Sunday morning was the only really bad one - errors that let in key runs and one very bad call at home against us that took us out of an inning where we were doing some damage. We also lost our shortstop on the play when the catcher fell on him and turned his ankle. He was a really terrific player and an intense, fiery competitor and his loss hurt. My son pitched 5 and 6 and struggled with a new catcher calling a limited selection of pitchers - he has still not learned to shake anyone off, and got 0-2, 1-2, 2-2 counts and gave up hits. The final insult and the game-ender came when he walked a kid, who then ran to second without stopping and caught us off-guard and my son threw the ball over second into center field, giving them the 8-run lead after 5. Ugly end.
My son hit well, drove in 3-4 runs, and played well at first, but the end of game 2 changed his mood, I think, and his attitude. He has come around some since then but that kind of embarrassment does not just melt away but lingers. We'll see how he does in a small wood-bat tournament this week.
Wood bats are great, they definitely change the game but the sound is authentically baseball and there are lots more opportunities for plays at the bases with more ground balls. Metal bats should be confined to Little League and Cal Ripken.

Friday, August 12, 2005

What a difference having players makes

Well, I did not post this year anything about my son's summer baseball experience, partly because I knew it would be painful (and it was) and partly because I am not sure it is interesting to anyone but me. He played American Legion, the team went 2-17, playing largely much older teams and losing several by the 10-run rule in 7 innings. They were one of the youngest teams in the league, had only a few pitchers, who did learn the importance of changing speeds and staying away from the strike zone when they got ahead.
But (and there is a But, of course), we (some coaches) have formed a new team for August tournaments and the fall, made up of guys from three or four different Legion teams, all of which struggled, and, boy, what a difference having good players at every position, especially in the infield, makes. They played last night, pitched six different guys, won 5-3, in a wood bat game and made excellent plays at all positions. We head to CT for a weekend wood bat tournament this weekend against teams from all over New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, so we will see how good they really are. Next week another wood bat tournament then onto the fall.
The boys are excited and seem to have gelled quickly, as we hoped would happen, and are looking forward to the fall.
The bottom line, for me at this point, is that losing to better teams that play well does not, in the long run, hurt young players as much as playing and beating up on weaker teams does. The pitchers learned the most, I think, competing against college players. I hope they take what they learned this summer to this weekend's 16U tournament, where they will be playing against teams the same age.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Scott Boras Would Never Go for This..........

Wait until you get to the end of this story for the surprise......................

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Spend Your Baseball Dollars Wisely - See Belhorn K at Pawtucket

Same "Action" as Fenway, Only Cheaper

Abe Alvarez Stumps the SkyChiefs

While Abe Alvarez blanked the SkyChiefs, retiring the first 16 hitters he faced and ultimately allowing 2 hits in 7 innings, as the PawSox blanked Syracuse 7-0, re-habbing Mark Belhorn also blanked, going 0-3 with 2Ks. The night before, Belhorn went 0-5, with 2Ks.

The lesson here is obvious to the value-minded fan: if Belhorn is simply going to strikeout, then save yourself a ton of dough and watch him do it in Pawtucket for either $6 or $9 - instead of $45, $55, or more $$ at Fenway. Parking is free as well.

Ghost Visits Lowell but Spinners Win Anyway

Mr. Wilson

Lowell starter Ryan Phillips

The Spinners and Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) put their best on the line Monday night - the result was, for a while anyway, a pitching duel until the late innings. Lowell starter Ryan Phillips (5-1, 1.85 ERA in 9 starts, allowing only 1 HR in 43 innings with 38Ks) was almost completely lights out in 6-innings picking up the win in the 8-1 victory. Watch this kid folks.

There was, however, a ghostly presence about Edward A. LeLacheur Park - that of the Cyclones manager Mookie Wilson - standing on the top step of the dugout or patrolling at the third base coaching box.

No comment.

A Game of Their Own

While baseball is really my game, for a change of pace I traveled to Lowell and watched the New England Riptide, a member of the women's National Pro Fastpitch League (NPF), played at Martin Softball Field. While the crowd was small compared to most AA or AAA baseball games (about 1,000), but those that were there were enthusiastic, interested, and attentive. And, no surprise here, there were lots of females there - women as well as girls.
The NPF game is a brisk affair with a few different rules than baseball, and of course a mascot - Swoopy the Seagull. Many of the Riptide players have played on either the U.S. National or college-level teams.
Leigh Ann Ellis pitched for the 'Tide, allowing two runs on seven hits, all singles. Ellis pitched the complete game, striking out five as the 'Tide beat the Akron Racers 6-2.

Looking for a way to connect with your teenage daughter? If your daughter likes to play softball (or even T-ball), give the Riptide a try. She will have a good time, and you might too.

Tom Boswell on Palmeiro

Tom Boswell of The Washington Post on Palmeiro:

A Big Star Plays A Bad Hand
By Thomas BoswellTuesday, August 2, 2005; E01
BALTIMORE -- The benefit of the doubt is a terrible thing to lose.
Just five months ago, Rafael Palmeiro banked on that benefit of the doubt, a gift that America grants with universal and often indiscriminate generosity to anyone who requests it, when he testified before a Congressional committee.
"Let me start by telling you this, I have never used steroids. Period," said the Baltimore Orioles slugger who is one of four men in history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits.
Palmeiro pointed his finger for emphasis, a gesture that was universally understood. He was pushing all his chips, accumulated over a career, into the center of the table. All his well-known civic and charitable good deeds, his reputation as a clean player, were shoved into the pot to counterbalance the charge, made by Jose Canseco, that Canseco had injected Palmeiro with steroids on many occasions when they were teammates. Canseco wrote the accusation in a book. Then he swore to it before Congress. And Palmeiro denied it utterly, sitting just a few feet from Canseco.
There was no gray. Somebody was lying.
Of all the players in baseball, the least likely man to be caught cheating with steroids this season would be Palmeiro, right? Even if he had used them every day of his career, he would stop now, because anyone in their right mind would cease and desist.
Yet, in one of the most unexpected announcements ever made in baseball, Palmeiro has been caught, suspended and has actually admitted to using steroids this season. Palmeiro simply claims that he has no idea how they got in his body.
Abducted by aliens? Sat too close to Canseco at the hearing? Got a package in the mail that was intended for Jason Giambi?
Add Palmeiro to the list of those who did not "knowingly" cheat. Just 17 days ago, he was being celebrated for his 3,000th hit. Now, in one day, he's the tag line to every cynical wisecrack. The quip circulating among writers who vote on the Hall of Fame is that, someday, Palmeiro may be left out of Cooperstown, but not "knowingly," just by collective accident.
Palmeiro is now America's stock joke, its villain of the week, its symbol of hypocrisy or stupidity. In this culture, everybody gets a second chance, provided they come clean about their sins and take their punishment. And everybody also gets the benefit of the doubt. But heaven help you if, after playing that once-per-lifetime, I-swear-on-a-stack-of-Bibles card, you get nailed.
On ESPN radio on Monday, a tape was played over and over of former president Bill Clinton, saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," followed by Palmeiro saying, "I have never used steroids, period." In the background, banjos from "Deliverance."
For those of us who have known Palmeiro for years and like him -- which is not the same as believing him -- this is a bitter day. Palmeiro may have the most logical line of self-defense ever uttered by someone who will be believed by very few.
"Why would I do that in a year when I went in front of Congress and I testified and I told the truth?" Palmeiro said. "Why would I do this in a season when I was going to get to 3,000 hits? It makes no sense. I would not put my career on the line. I would not put my reputation on the line and everything I have accomplished throughout my career. I would not do that. . . . It was an accident. I'm paying the price. . . .
"This is the toughest time that I've gone through in my life with anything."
All this makes sense -- of a sort. President Bush, who owned the Rangers when Palmeiro was a star for them, said: "Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him. . . . Still do."
However, personal friends aside, Palmeiro may be surprised at how few people will give him a second benefit of the doubt, especially on such a large scale. The Oriole is now asking the public to ignore both a direct accusation by Canseco, which he has not challenged in court, and a laboratory test result that he does not even contest.
Also, in the manner of other non-confession confessions, Palmeiro sounded contrite Monday when he said: "I made a mistake and I am facing it. I hope that people learn from my mistake and that the fans can forgive me."
Forgive, certainly, in time. But forget the link now forged between Palmeiro and steroids? Not likely. According to one industry source, the steroid in Palmeiro's system was a "serious" one. That would seem a forgone conclusion. Would baseball take action against so famous a player unless the facts were damning enough that nobody could contradict their seriousness?
Palmeiro and his agent, as well as the Orioles, repeated many times that they could not go into details about Palmeiro's steroid blunder because of some "confidentiality" issues. "I would love to tell what happened to me so that everyone would understand," said Palmeiro, "but under this confidentiality agreement, I cannot get specific."
Unfortunately, what we may have here is a Stupidity Test. As in: How stupid are we? Whose "confidentiality" is being protected? Palmeiro's, of course. If he wanted to explain more, who could stop him from defending his good name? The union and baseball have a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from releasing information. But that doesn't put masking tape over the player's mouth. If Palmeiro had a compelling story, who could force him to stay silent?
When Raffy comes back in 10 days, maybe he'll have a tale to tell. But by then, it will probably be far too late. The damage is done. Those in Camden Yards on Monday could only shake their heads when they looked at the huge sign on the B&O Warehouse -- two stories high and three windows wide -- that said, "Congratulations, Raffy! 3,000."
As Palmeiro was chasing his 3,000th hit, he surely knew what was chasing him. This wasn't a short process. A drug test was positive. A 10-day suspension was given. The union filed a grievance on Palmeiro's behalf. Ultimately, an arbitration panel rejected that grievance on Monday. As Palmeiro listened to cheers, he probably suspected that even more jeers were on the way.
Since the late '80s, many in baseball have taken steroids. Recently, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said that, if he'd played in the current era, he thought he would have succumbed to temptation and taken steroids. Couldn't have resisted the peer pressure. Would have wanted to compete, be the top dog. Would have probably accepted the risk to health and reputation.
There but for the grace of God go I, said Schmitty. But he also said taking steroids was cheating. No way around it.
For two years our sports culture, right up to Congress, has been building a huge Steroid Trap, just waiting for a famous star to get caught inside. Somebody was going to get nailed, become the symbol and carry the weight. All the more fitting if the culprit was a shocker, perhaps somebody who shook his finger in the face of Congress and demanded his right to the benefit of the doubt. Too bad it turned out to be Rafael Palmeiro. It could have been so many bigger rats.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Moving Forward

It's over. Manny is back to being Manny, on and off the field.
Looks like Theo could not part with Manny for the offered players and looks like Manny came out of his sulking mood to realize how good he really has it here, even with the incessant criticism and inability of the talk radio cynics to let it go.
Value, it seems, still speaks loudly in the Sox organization, at least for this season.
Let's move on toward the fall . . . leave the past behind.