Monday, November 9, 2009

Two centaurs walk into a bar and get into a fight

This will tie together...promise!
So tonight I was at a Wellesley Club dinner, and the guest speaker was Mike Dowling, sportscaster for Channel 5 in Boston. The last time I saw him at a non-sports event was as MC of the Wellesley Spelling Bee. It's an annual bee where teams of three from companies, community organizations, college alumni groups, neighborhoods or schools compete. It's a fundraiser for the Wellesley Education Fund. A good cause, a fun night.

We be in the bee
A couple of years ago I got together with my two brothers, Hugh and Peter, and we formed a team for the spelling bee. We were The Kelley Brothers. Pretty clever name. Both of them went to Harvard. I didn't, but I won a Hunnewell School spelling bee in 5th grade and I'm an excellent parallel parker.

We almost won
We were indeed a formidable team, making it to the final round. It had gone from 40 teams down to the final two: some guys from a law firm in town, and the Kelley Brothers. We went through seven ridiculous words that no one would ever use, and both teams were still standing. Then Mike Dowling gave us the next word...centauromacchia. Okay, Mike - use it in a a sentence. "A centaur is a mythical half-man, half-horse. When two of them are having a fight - In Latin - it's a centauromacchia." Really. Well, we got it wrong. To be honest, it was not I who blew it. One of my very smart brothers thought that "macchia" had only one c.
So we lost, but at least it was on a word that would never come up in conversation.

Until the 2009 World Series
While the media was fawning all over A Rod during the World Series you may have heard some talk about his centaurs. A Rod has two of them painted on the wall above his bed, facing each other in ready-to-attack position. The heads on both of the centaurs are likenesses of A Rod. Seriously. Word of this got out when Kate Hudson let it spill that she thought they were a bit much and he should lose them.

So do you think A Rod knows how to spell centauromacchia?
I'm guessing no. It could be that he calls himself A because can't remember how to spell Alex.

Exonerating footnote
If you look up centauromacchia in it isn't there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

There's no Dick

It's Wednesday night.
I was wearing my Phillies warmup jacket and watching Game 6 of the 2009 World Series, but when it got to be 7-1 Yankees I gave up. I have no need to watch the Yankees jump all over themselves at the end of the game. Seen it too many times before. I think of those poor folks in Milwaukee. When I went to a game at Miller Park in 2006 people talked about how the Brew Crew had been there in 1982. But lost. Their one trip to the Fall Classic. How about the Cleveland Indians fans? "Remember when we won it in 1948?"

So I flipped to CSI
They had an autopsy scene that grossed my wife out, so I hit the off button on the clicka. Then I decided, for no particular reason, to look up Dick in Baseball Almanac.

Actually, there was a reason.
I rarely do anything for no reason. Here's this one. On many occasions I have used a joke I stole from an old Dick Van Dyke Show. Dick, who played Rob on the show, and his wife Laura, played by Mary Tyler Moore, have a son named Robby. Robby wants to know why his middle name is Rosebud. It's goofy. They flash back to the day the name decision was made. It has nothing to do with the sled in "Citizen Kane." All the relatives are there, each with his or her own idea of the perfect moniker. One says it should be Robert, after the Dad. Another wants Oscar. Aunt Somebody pitches for Sam. Uncle Somebody likes Edward - a strong name. He keeps spelling it out. E-D-W-A-R-D. Other offerings are Benjamin, Ulysses and David. They finally decide to name the kid Robby, but for a middle name they take the first letter of each suggestion and come up with Rosebud.

So where's the joke?
When the Sam suggestion is voiced, Uncle Somebody says, "That's no good. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named Sam." (My friend Mike Kinosian, Special Fetaures editor for Inside Radio, tipped me off that Samuel Goldwyn came up with the line.) I thought it was funny, and as I mentioned above, I have used the line over the years on every possible occasion.

But who is actually named Dick these days?
In Baseball Almanac there are lots of Dicks. Dick Radatz, Dick Trazewski, Dick Drago, Dick Stuart, Dick Schofield, Dick Groat, Dick Tidwell, Dick Bartell, Dick Bertel, Dick Pole, Dick Allen, Dick Howser, Dick McAuliffe, Dick Gernert, and many more. But today? I looked at the 40-man rosters of all 30 teams. That's 1200 players. There's a guy named Don Kelly who spells his name wrong. There's one guy named Tom. Another guy is named Jhonny (was that intentional, or a typo on the birth certificate?). There are lots of Justins. There's Jason and Jayson. There's John and Jon, Jered and Jarrod, Clay and Cla, Curt and Kurt, Eric and Erik, Sean, Shawn and Chone, Trevor and Trever, Vladimir and Wladimir, Zach and Zack. There's Asdrubel, Anibal, Esmerling, Huston, Jai, Jhulys, Ubaldo, Yadier, Yashuhiko, Yonder, Yorman, Yordany, Yorvani, Yorvit, Yuniesky and Yusmeiro. But there isn't even one major league player named Dick. Or, for that matter, Harry.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Snow on October 18th

It's not the Blizzard of '78
No, but we actually have snow falling on October 18th. Just enough to accumulate a little on a parked car. Maybe a shrub here or there. Enough to obliterate the lines at the Patriots game in Foxborough. That's not bothering the Pats, who are wearing their old Boston Patriots uniforms as they trounce the Tennessee Titans, 59-0. The Titans, meanwhile, are wearing Houston Oilers uniforms because they have no throwback stuff. The referees are wearing ugly throwback shirts that are orange and white striped that they apparently wore when the AFL started 50 years ago. Most likely most people didn't know they were orange back then because all the TV's were black and white.

Earliest snow in Boston
The earliest date we've had 1" of snow is November 10th. That was in 1976. We had an ice storm, of all things, on November 11, 1967. No one expected it, of course, and there were traffic jams all over the place even though it was a holiday.

Earliest snow I've seen
September 24th, 2000. It was in Denver. I was going to a Rockies-Marlins game on the way home from San Francisco. The snow came overnight and melted by game time at 1PM, but it was still snow in September. People at the game weren't talking about it, so maybe it's not unusual there. But here everyone is talking about it today.

Watch the news tonight
The TV meteorologists will be out of their minds. Weather people, in case you didn't know, hate nice days. Nice days make for a boring "weather show" as they like to call it. Give them something out of the ordinary - even a few early flakes - and they can whip out all those neat graphics. If Shelby Scott hadn't retired you just know Channel 4 would have her doing a standup with in Scituate with the wind whipping her hair and flakes flying around her. Maybe MSNBC wil have Michelle Kosinski do a standup.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Who am I rooting for?

Following the "Papelbomb" on Sunday...
A buddy asked me who I'm rooting for now. "Obviously you wanted the Red Sox to win the World Series, but now who are you voting for?"

Of course I would like the Red Sox to win the World Series, but that's actually not my first choice.

My first choice is....


Why the grudge?
From the time I was three weeks old until I was a Freshman in college there was a New York team (or former New York team) in the World Series every single year. That's 18 seasons. 1949, Yankees and Dodgers. 1950, Yankees and Phillies. 1951, Yankees and Giants. 1952, Yankees and Dodgers. 1953, Yankees and Dodgers. 1954, Giants and Indians. 1955, Yankees and Dodgers. 1956, Yankees and Dodgers. 1957, Yankees and Braves. 1958, Yankees and Braves. (There was a reason they had a book called, "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant" and a Broadway play and movie called, "Damn Yankees.") 1959, LA Dodgers and White Sox. 1960, Yankees and Pirates. 1961, Yankees and Reds. 1962, Yankees and SF Giants. 1963, Yankees and Dodgers. 1964, Yankees and Cardinals. 1965, Dodgers and Twins. 1966, Dodgers and Orioles.

Ball game over. Thuuuh...Yyyaaankeeees....lloooose!!
1966 was the final year of the streak. That was the year that the Yankees finished in.....(drum roll, please)....last place. In those 18 seasons a New York team (present or former) won the World Series 14 times. Half of those 18 were Yankees wins. Can you imagine the thrill when 1967 happened? Not only were there no Yankees or other former New York team involved, but the Red Sox actually got there...facing St. Louis.

So,my choices for 2009 are, in order...
1. The Yankees don't make it to the World Series.
2. They get there, but get swept. Hey, it happened in 1963 and again in 1976.
3. They get there, but lose.
4. Someone else - anyone but the Yankees - wins.

The Phillies are my first choice.
Philly has a really nice ballpark, and the city has a lot of-lot of character. They boo Santa and cheer bad landings at the airport. The Phils are the defending champions. Only five teams other than the Yankees have won back-to-back championships: The Blue Jays (92 and 93), the Reds (75 and 76), the A's (72,73,74), the Red Sox (15 and 16) and, believe it or not, the Cubs (1907 and 1908). The Phillies won game 1 against the Red Sox in 1915, then proceeded to go 65 years before winning another postseason game. Also, I have a Phillies jacket that I got when working in Philly in 2004. One more thing: before moving to Philadelphia in 1882, the team played in Worcester. That's where my daughter Caitlin was born. They were the Worcester Ruby Legs.

Go Phils

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Don Kelley almost wins it

Where is the game?

I'm watching the Tigers-Twins playoff game on my computer. If it's on TV I can't find it. In the 11th inning Detroit puts in a pinch runner named....Don Kelley. Okay, he spells it Kelly. But I can pretend. Don Kelley winds up scoring the go-ahead run in the 10th. The Twins, however, answer in the bottom of the 10th, then Don Kelley winds up on 3rd in the 11th, bases loaded, full count. A ball four to Rayburn would force in the go-ahead run for Detroit in the person of Don Kelley. Except if Rayburn swings at ball four and misses. Which he does. So it's on to the 12th, where the Twins just won it.

Who was I rooting for?

Whoever would have the better chance of beating the Yankees, of course. The Twins faced the Yankees only 7 times this year in the regular season, going 0 for 7. That's right, uh-huh. 0 for 4 at Yankee Stadium, 0 for 2 in the don't-knock-it-down-quite-yet Metrodome.

Twins in the playoffs

Well, the Angels usually beat the Red Sox in the regular season season series, but always lose in the playoffs (12 of the last 13 games, and all four postseason series). Maybe the Twins fortune will change over the next few days. This is Minnesota's fifth time in the playoffs this decade. Their track record isn't great - they lost in the second round to Anaheim in 2002, lost in the first round to New York in 2003 and 2004, and lost in the first round to Oakland in 2006.

I have my fingers and eyes crossed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Catch a wave and you're sittin' on top of the world

This isn't the best Fenway wave I've ever seen, but I happened to be in the State Street Pavilion last week and recorded it. Then I felt like writing about waves. Why do people try to start a wave when the other team is up? It usually makes no sense, but this past Saturday night it did.

I was watching the Red Sox game in Baltimore in my mini sports bar setup downstairs. Three HD TV's with Surround Sound with the Sox game filling the room, plus a laptop with MLBTV showing the Angels-Rangers game. My wife was in the family room watching Lonesome Dove for what seemed like 8 hours.

The game was tied 3-3 at the time, and over the TV's I could hear a nice loud "Yooouuuuuuk" from the crowd of 39,000 as #20 stepped into the batter's box. Okay, he stepped halfway into the batter's box. I have a great view of home plate from Section 29 at Fenway, and in the first or second inning - before the chalk lines are obliterated - it's easy to see that Youk's back foot is well out of the box. He never gets called on it, though.

Back to the game. Youk has a chance to put the Sox ahead, and the crowd starts up a very decent wave. The best I've ever seen outside of Fenway. I should point out that in my ballgame experience, which includes seeing games at 35 Major League parks, you hardly ever see a wave anywhere but at Fenway. I saw a half-baked one last year in Seattle, but other than that nothing would qualify as even quarter-baked. This one in Baltimore was completely baked (see footnote below), and the reason was that probably 70% of the fans were Red Sox fans.

Why not? It's a great ballpark, you can fly on AirTran or Southwest for very little money if you book a couple of weeks out, and you can get great tickets directly from the Orioles web site. No need to pay the scalper rates they charge at Stub Hub.

Youk got a hit and drove in a run that put the Sox up 4-3. It eventually turned into what looked like a laugher, with Boston leading 11-3 in the 9th. Things did get a little squeaky in the bottom of the 9th, as the Manny-Ramirez combo (Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez) proceeded to give up back-to-back home runs and then load the bases on walks. Suddenly it's 11-5, and the tying run is in the hole. Remember, these Orioles were down 10-1 to the Red Sox in the 7th inning back on June 30th and wound up winning the game. Not to worry, though, a double-play ended it and the Sox Magic Number to make the playoffs dropped to 9.

Footnote: The "completely baked" line was lifted from "The Graduate." When Ben tells his father that he's going to Berkeley to marry Elaine, his father says, "That's fantastic. When did you two decide this?" Ben says that Elaine doesn't actually know yet, and his father responds that the idea sounds half-baked." Ben's comeback: "No, it's completely baked.".

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

They jinxed it

The other night I was watching the Red Sox on NESN and simultaneously checking in on the Yankees game on Great picture, by the way. Andy Pettitte has gotten into the 7th inning with a perfect game. Two outs. On YES, the Yankee network, they go to a clip of David Wells being picked up and carried off the field (no easy task with Boomer) when he had a perfect game. Don't they know that's a guaranteed jinx? You don't mention it until it has actually happened. So what did happen? The very next batter hits a grounder to Jerry Hairston, Jr. at 3rd and he boots it. There goes the perfect game. The next batter hits a clean single to left, and the no-hitter bid is history. The final score was 5-1, Yankees, so it wasn't even a shutout.

Andy wasn't particularly gracious about it, as you can see from the photo.

In contrast, let's look at June 7, 2007. I was in Oakland with my daughter Kara. Curt Schilling was on the mound for the Red Sox for an afternoon game. The A's had won three straight from the Red Sox, and Curt was intent on being a stopper. In the top of the first David Ortiz homered, and that was the only scoring of the game. Kara and I were, as usual, scoring the game, and Schilling was putting up nothing but zeros. We noted it with a gesture of the pencil, but said nothing. In the 7th inning, with a perfect game going, there was a room-service grounder to Julio Lugo at short, and Lugo booted it. There went Schill's perfect game. In typical Schilling fashion, he just soldiered on. It went to the bottom of the 9th. Two outs, no-hitter still intact. Varitek puts down a sign and Curt shakes him off. On the next pitch Stewart singles to right and ruins the no-hit bid. The next guy is retired and the Red Sox win, 1-0. A complete-game one-hit shutout for Curt Schilling.

Unlike Andy Pettitte, Curt lay no blame anywhere but at his own feet. "With two outs I was sure I had it. I shook off Jason Varitek and now I'll have to deal with a 'what-if' the rest of my life. Obviously I made a mistake when I shook off 'Tek." He should have been angry about Lugo's sloppy error. If Lugo had fielded that grounder, and if everything else happened exactly as it did, Shannon Stewart would not have stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the 9th and Schill would have a perfect game.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This was painful...

But necessary, in the interest of thorough research.
I had been to Red Sox-Yankees games at Fenway Park many times, dating back (believe it or not) to when Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle were playing. Seriously. I probably still had diapers on, but I was there. I've also been to Red Sox-Yankees games at both the old and the new Yankee Stadium. I had observed how fans of either team behave at both places, but I had never been in the position of looking like a Yankee fan at Fenway.

Size doesn't matter.
On Sunday night Kara and I went to the final regular season Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway...wearing - gulp -Yankees caps. I tried five places before I found any. I wound up buying two at the small souvenir shop across the street from the Cask & Flagon. They had a gazillion Sox hats and two Yankee hats down on the bottom shelf. I cleared my throat and told the guy I wanted two Yankees caps, said that adjustable was fine and size didn't really matter. He handed me the caps and said, "Enjoy the game." No big deal. We put them on and headed across the crowded street to Gate E. One guy with a Yankee hat gave me thumbs up, and I heard a few guys singing, "Boo Yankees" but only for a moment and not very loudly. I bought a couple of the $2 scorebooks they sell on the sidewalk. The guy said, "Enjoy the game." The ticket taker booped the bar code on our tickets and said, "Enjoy the game." Part of the format, evidently. Note: nobody said that to us at Yankee Stadium.
We walked upstairs to the 3rd base pavilion, waited in line and got some food. Then waited in line and got a couple of beers. No one called us out, no one gave us hostile looks. We walked around some more, and then headed to our seats. Nothing. Josh Beckett delivered the first pitch of the game and Derek Jeter hit it into the bullpen. Numerous Yankee fans in the stands jumped up a cheered, and Kara said to me, "We should cheer so we're actually believable." I agreed, but told her I couldn't really do that. Just wearing the hat was giving me a headache and I started seeing floaters in front of my eyes.
On it went. At the end of the 5th, we got up and walked around some more to see if anything happened. We got two more beers and returned to our seats.

That's when we got outed.
By three different people. Nikki, who sometimes sits in seat #10 (we have 11 and 12) had been told by her boyfriend Jason, a Boston cop, that he'd spotted us wearing enemy headgear. When we got back to the seats Nikki turned and said, "Jason saw you guys walking around and said to me, "I'm sure that's Don and Kara, but they're wearing Yankees hats." A guy in the row behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Okay, I have to ask. I've seen you and your daughter here scoring the game at least 29 times and you always have Red Sox hats on. What with the Yankees hats?" At that point the game was official, so we took off our Yankee caps and put on the Red Sox caps that Kara had hidden in her bag. Another guy in the row behind said, "Hey, did you guys change your hats?" I came clean, and told them that I have a blog and I'm doing research to see if Yankee fans at Fenway are treated the same way, better, or worse than Red Sox fans at Yankee Stadium.
The three measures.
Based on the three measures I use...1) how you treat visitors when they are guests in your house, 2) how you act when you're a guest in someone else's house, 3) how you act in general when the subject of the rivalry comes up at a party or dinner or something like that.
Extra, extra! Yankee fans are rude.
Yankee fans are noticeably more rude to visitors than Red Sox fans. Not a surprise, really. As "Yankee fans" at Fenway we endured no abuse whatsoever. It was like, okay there's a Yankee fan, but I don't care.
It's a different experience as Red Sox fans at Yankee Stadium.
Two years age the guys behind us were so bad we almost left, but they got thrown out. Not for for the disgusting stuff they were yelling, but for sneaking beers into the alcohol-free bleachers. This year we were in field level seats by the right field foul pole. Much more expensive, and presumably drawing a better class of clientele. These are big, comfortable padded seats. You get waitress service. You can order a Ketel One with lime. But you're still surrounded by Yankee fans. On the way in the security guy tried to take my camera away. New Yankee Stadium was the 35th major league ballpark where I've seen a game, and I've never had a camera problem before. Another Red Sox fan saw me and said, "Just go to a different gate."' I did, and it worked. Inside a guy said to me, "Hey, pal...Baws-tin ain't playin' here ta-night..they're over at Citi Field." Yuck, yuck. At the seats someone said, "Hey we got some chowda-heads." One guy passing Kara in the concourse said, "Why don't you just kill yourself?" It wasn't just us, of course. Several Red Sox fans scattered throughout the stadium were subjected to various degrees of razzing.

Who really sucks?
The "Yankees suck" chants at Fenway are fewer and farther between than in years past, but they're still there - usually when the Yankees score. At Yankee Stadium they chant "Boston sucks"...but their chants aren't as well orchestrated. More importantly, we chant about their team. They chant about our city. It's never "Red Sox suck," it's "Boston sucks." Outside the parks the t-shirts follow that pattern. In Boston you can get t-shirts saying funny but rude things about Jeter or A Rod. In New York the t-shirts just say "Buck Foston."

Yankee fans are more likely to be loud and obnoxious.
Too many of them wear loud, garish Yankee gear. When a Yankee player does something at Fenway you can count on a bunch of Yankee fans jumping up and making a big deal out of it. "CC...way to throw a strike!" or "Hip hip Hor-HAY" or "The Melk-man dee-livvers." This is more than cheering, it's loud. They stand up to do it, and stay standing way too long, blocking your view. It's probably intentional. Shut up and sit down.

Red Sox fans are more likely to behave.
On the other hand, Red Sox fans at Yankee Stadium are more likely to wear a simple blue cap with a red B. Maybe a Mike Lowell shirt. They'll sit there and enjoy the game quietly. Of course, this might well be caused by fear of getting their ass kicked.

At a party.
Yankee fans love to talk about The Babe, Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone. They love to flaunt their 26 World Championships and laugh about how we waited 86 years. Do they have a decent response if you point out that 18 of those 26 happened over 50 years ago? That 22 of those 26 were over 30 years ago? That the last three Yankee wins happened in the steroid era? No, they don't.

Ah, yes...the steroid era.
During the game in New York, one week after the news about David Ortiz broke, he got the expected hoots, although nothing worse than A Rod, Damon or Gary Sheffield have gotten at Fenway. One guy kept calling him "Big Popup." Of course, Ortiz did nothing to shut the guy up, popping up three times. He also grounded out and hit into an inning-ending double-play.

Here's what got me. When Ortiz would come up they'd hold up signs that said 1918, 2004*, 2007*. Really? You want to talk asterisks? Let's look at the last ten years...1998 through 2008, including the last two times the Yankees won the World Series and the two most recent Red Sox wins. On the Red Sox side of the ledger you've got Papi and Manny on the list. What about Yankees during that period? Got your pen ready? There's Ricky Bones, Rondell White, Jason Grimsley, Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Jose Canseco, Glenallen Hill, Jim Leyritz, Randy Velarde, Denny Neagle, Mike Stanton, Kevin Brown, Aaron Boone, Matt Lawton, Ron Villone, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and A Rod. That's 20-2, bad guys.

Yankee fans are worse. Your witness.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Who is worse?

Yankee fans or Red Sox fans?
The Red Sox-Yankees matchups this year have been truly bizarre. The Sox won the first eight, sweeping the Yankees twice at Fenway and once in the Bronx. Then came the August bashing in New York, where the Yankees took four straight.

Think about for a second. A game at Fenway where New York was leading 6-0 and Boston winds up winning, 16-11. Another where the Yankees are leading with two outs in the 9th and Jason Bay ties it with a homer, then Youk hits a walkoff in the 11th. In New York two aces faced each other and gave up no runs. The game got to the 15th inning tied at 0-0. A couple of weeks later the Yankees pound the Red Sox, 20-11 at Fenway, only to get a return pounding the next day by the Red Sox, 14-1.

So which team has the worst fans? Meaning most obnoxious. Almost anyone in Boston will say that Yankee fans are more obnoxious. Any Yankee fan you may know will argue that Boston fans are much worse.

So where does the truth lie? I use three measures to determine the OF (obnoxious factor) of fans of either team. 1) How do you behave when you're a visitor in the other team's ballaprk? 2) How do you treat fans of the other team when they visit your ballpark? 3) How generally obnoxious are you when there's a discussion - wherever it may, bar, whatever - of your team versus the other one?

A couple of weeks ago I went to the new Yankee Stadium with my two daughters. When I got back to work and discussed it, I said it was a really nice ballpark - and it is. Too bad it's full of obnoxious Yankee fans. One co-worker, a Yankee fan, said that Boston fans were much worse, and I wouldn't know because I've never seen what it's like to be a Yankee fan at Fenway. True, sort of. I've witnessed Yankee fans at Fenway many times, but to really get it I figure I have to walk the walk at least once.

Walk a mile in my hat.
Tomorrow, August 23rd, is the final regular season meeting at Fenway of the two teams. So far The Red Sox lead the season series, 9-5. The Sox are 7 and 1 at home, the Yankees are 4 and 2 at home. I'm going to the game with my daughter Kara, and we're going to wear Yankees hats. Let's see how we're treated compared to the way we were treated wearing Red Sox hats at Yankee Stadium. That's apples-to-apples.

I'll report either tomorrow night or Monday, depending on how late the game goes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Top Ten Sitcom Characters of All Ttime

These are supporting roles, in chronological order.

1. Ed Norton, The Honeymooners. First, address the ball. "Hello, ball!"
2. Eddie Haskell, Leave It To Beaver. "My, that's a beautiful dress you have on, Mrs. Cleaver!"
3. Barney Fife, The Andy Griffith Show. Goober Pyle is a runner-up.
4. Ted Baxter, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The ultimate anchorman.
5. Herb Tarlek, WKRP in Cincinnati. What you always imagined the Sales Manager would look like. Big Guy and Les Nessman are runners-up.
6. Norm, Cheers. "Norm!"
7. Wayne Arnold, The Wonder Years. The perfect jerk older brother.
8. George Costanza, Seinfeld. His parents are runners-up.
9. Joey Tribbiani, Friends. "How you doooin?"
10. Jake Harper, Two and a Half Men. You have to admit, the kid is funny.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Enough of this experiment

Future Hall of Famer
Almost every time someone mentions John Smoltz, they add "future Hall of Famer" to his name. The same thing used to happen with Roger Clemens. But when you hang around one year too many, your stats can drop below the unofficial line of demarcation between Hall members and those who don't make it in. Jim Rice was inducted today, making the cut in his final year of eligibility. Jim's career batting average was .298. In his final year he was a DH in 56 games and batted only .234, meaning if he had skipped 1989 he would have had a career batting average of .300. If Jim had played 15 years with a career BA of .300 instead of 16 with a career BA of .298 would he have been voted in earlier?

So let's look at John Smoltz.
Through 2008 he had a winning percentage of .588, ERA of 3.26 over 20 seasons. He had an ERA under 3.50 in 15 of those 20 seasons. After 6 starts in 2009 his ERA is 7.04, more than double that. His record is 1-4, meaning a 2009 winning percentage of .200. The team record is 1-5. He's had two good starts, although one of them was the game where the bullpen blew a 10-1 lead and they lost, 11-10. He's had four bad starts. In 30 innings he's given up 42 hits and 24 runs and been charged with 4 losses. Compare that with Eric Gagne's record in Boston: 18 innings pitched, 26 hits, 14 runs and 3 blown saves. Hits per inning, runs per inning, and winning percentage - or more accurately, losing percentage - are comparable.

There's a stage leaving town at 5.
They say that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. But is it? Eric Gagne was lights out as a closer for the Dodgers and won the Cy Young Award in 2003. Of course, that was when he was on The Juice. To get Gagne they gave up pitcher Kason Gabbard, who was 4-0 at the time, and outfielder David Murphy, who is presently batting about 50 points higher than JD Drew. I'd much rather see Murphy in right field for the Red Sox right now than Drew. He's a better player and much less expensive. Gagne blew three saves in the same weekend, and was so bad they couldn't wait to put him on the next stagecoach out of Dodge.

So what about Smoltz?
He won a Cy Young with the Braves in 2006, and they didn't have to give up any hot prospects to get him. But his numbers in Boston are as bad as
Gagne's. Smoltz, who is as well-spoken as any ballplayer, says that he's happy with the way he has pitched, but not happy with the results, and he'd like to have couple of pitches back. He needs more than a couple back.

Seriously, how long does this experiment last?
We have Michael
Bowden and Hunter Jones in Pawtucket, both with better numbers than Smoltz. We have Wakefield back in a week and a half or so, and we have Dice-K coming back sometime in August.

Boston is 2-1/2 games behind the Yankees, and they need to put a winning streak together just to keep pace. On August 4th the Sox open a four-game series in the Bronx. Yes, Boston is 8-0 against New York in 2009, and that home run-friendly short porch at Yankee Stadium can work nicely for both teams. But it's a scary scenario. The Red Sox could go in there down 2-1/2 games and leave down by 6-1/2. Or they could come out up by 1-1/2. If John Smoltz gets one of the starts there, I'm officially worried.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The opening of Big Papi's Grille

David Otriz is now a restaurateur. (Note, by the way, that the word restaurateur has no N in it.) Big Papi's Grille is on Route 9 eastbound in Framingham, across from Shopper's World.

Tonight was the press opening, by invite only. Ming Tsai was there to check out the competition. But the free food and drink were only the icing on the cake. The real fun was mingling with the Red Sox
players who were there. The team got home from their horrible road trip last night, and tonight was an off night.

Big Papi was in full bling, with a white coat that had black western-style piping, lapels and elbow patches. He worked the room, chatting with guys and hugging girls. I told him it the place looked great and it was an excellent opening and he thanked me and said he appreciated us coming.

Had a nice chat with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Bay about their days playing in the Cape Cod League. Jacoby mentioned that the Cape League all-star game that was scheduled for Fenway
that night was probably rained out. They both told me they worked at summer camps on the Cape, and I mentioned that my daughter worked at a Yarmouth camp and two YD pitchers worked there as well. One is in the White Sox system. Jacoby guessed a name, but it was wrong. I told them about the 2003 YD-Wareham stat sheet with all those players now in the majors that I wrote about in an earlier blog, and they both knew them. Both of them - Jacoby in particular - were very good at friendly chat and looking you in the eye when they answered.

I met Nick Green, who sat with Kathy while he ate a slider, and told him he had to be the surprise of the year. He definitely enjoyed hearing that. I said, "Welcome back" to Jed Lowrie and he responded, "Thanks, it's good to be back." I told Jonathan Papelbon that I was the one who suggested to Tom Bergeron after the 2007 victory parade that they should have him on "Dancing with the Stars." Tom said they'd love to have Papelbon, and the producer contacted the Sox front office, but it didn't work out because they rehearse and shoot during the season.

I went up Mike Lowell and introduced myself, saying that my daughter is his favorite. He said, "Oh, yeah?" and I realized I'd said it backward. He's her favorite. He chuckled and said he appreciated it. On the way out we were handed a bottle of Big Papi En Fuego Hot Sauce (1st base version, meaning mild).

A fun night. They were all nice, and it was only ten minutes from home.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Department of Corrections Department

It was a fun night at the old ballyard last night.
My daughter Caitlin and I drove up from the Cape and were in our seats for the first pitch. There was no scoring on either side until the bottom of the 8th, when Dustin Pedroia doubled in recent call-up Aaron Bates, who notched his first run in the majors. Click on the picture and you can see the view from Section 29 of the ball coming off of Pedroia's bat. The game lasted less than 2-1/2 hours, and Tim Wakefield wasn't pitching. It was John Lester, who no-hit these same Royals in May of last year. This time he threw 8 shutout innings.

Now the correction portion of our program.
When I wrote about the Red Sox blowing a huge lead (10-1) and losing to the Orioles, 11-10 a couple of weeks ago, I said that the last time they had blown a 10-run lead was in 1989 against the Blue Jays. My brother Hugh pointed out that the blown lead against the Orioles was 9 runs, not 10. Point taken. He also noted that he and I watched the Red Sox blow a 10-run lead just last year. That's true.

It was a hot August night.
The 12th, to be exact. Texas in town. Knuckleballer Charlie Zink was called up from Pawtucket for his 1st major league start. Boston jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the 1st. 5 of the 10 runs came on two Big Papi homers in the same inning. It was 12-2 after four, and looking like both a laugher and a quality start for Zink. It turned out to be neither. In the 5th the Rangers put up an 8 on the left-field scoreboard. Youk hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 5th, but Texas came back with 5 more in the 6th, making it 15-14. The 10-run lead of just 2 innings ago was now history.

Each team added a run in the 7th. Right after "Sweet CarolIne" played the Red Sox scored 4 times...3 coming on Youk's second homer of the game. Papelbon gave up a run in the 9th, but got the save as Boston won, 19-17.

They won, so it doesn't count.
I didn't include this game in the earlier post because they won it. In the 1989 Blue Jays game and 2009 Orioles game they lost. Or maybe I forgot.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nomah returns

July 6, 2009...Nomar is playing in a game at Fenway for the first time in almost five years.
The last time was July 25, 2004. It was a 9-6 victory over the Yankees. The day after the big brawl that started when Jason Varitek and A Rod got into it and ended after the benches cleared and Pedro had shoved Don Zimmer to the ground. Nomar, batting 5th behind Manny, went 1 for 5.

A major ovation.
Monday night Nomar lead off the second inning and got what must be the biggest ovation ever for a returning former player. A prolonged standing ovation that required multiple tips of the helmet. Then he stepped into the box, fiddled with his batting gloves, of course, and then did not swing at the first pitch. Probably due to the emotion of the moment.

But after that...
He came up three more times and swung at the first pitch each time. He wound up with two hits. Rocco Baldelli was in right field wearing Nomar's old #5. On Tuesday night Nomar wasn't in the lineup, and in the 7th the crowd was chanting "We want No-mar." He did come out to pinch hit in the 9th, but the guy ahead of him struck out to end the game. On Wednesday he pinch hit and again swung at the first pitch, popping up to Mark Kotsay.

A pitching matchup for the ages.
The other part of the story was the pitching. A's 22-year-old rookie Brett Anderson, making his major league debut, faced 42-year-old John Smoltz, who was making his Fenway debut as a member of the Red Sox. The A's shut out the Sox, 6-0. I suspect that by August the "...oltz" in the Sox rotation will start with "Buchh" instead of "Sm"

Blowing a 10-run lead.
Smoltz has had three starts and is 0 and 2, with an ERA of 6.60. The first and third starts were not good. The middle one was the game against the Orioles where Smoltz left after four innings with a 9-1 lead. It was 10-1 Boston in the 7th when the sky opened up, and Baltimore mounted a post-rain delay comeback to win the game, 11-10. The last time the Red Sox had blown a 10-run lead was 20 years ago...June 4, 1989 against the Blue Jays. Boston lead 5-0 after one inning, 8-0 after four, and 10-0 after 6. Toronto came up with 2 in the 7th, 4 more in the 8th and another one in the 9th when closer Lee Smith was summoned with the score 10-7. It was now a save situation. Smith, however, gave up a grand slam to catcher Ernie Whitt and suddenly the 10-run lead was history. Boston tied it in the bottom of the 9th, and it went to the 12th when Junior Felix hit a 2-run homer to put the Jays ahead for good.

How to empty the park in 12 seconds.
Two nights earlier, on Friday June 2nd, I had been at the game with my brother Hugh. Toronto was leading Boston 3-2 in the 9th when Bob Stanley loaded the bases and Junior Felix hit a ball into the triangle in center that turned into an inside-the-park grand slam. It only took Felix 12 seconds to round the bases. The place emptied quickly after that

But back to the future.
NESN showed a montage of former players being welcomed back. When Dwight Evans, after 19 years as #24 for the Red
Sox, returned to Fenway as an Oriole in 1991, he got a very warm reception - worthy of a tip of the cap. Johnny Damon, who left as a traitor defecting to the Evil Empire, got a major wag of the finger in 2006 (credit Stephen Colbert for the tip/wag lines). The wag of the finger actually it was a loud round of booing followed by a louder "Johnny sucks" chant when Carl Beane announced Damon over the PA. Even today, in every at bat when the Yankees are at Fenway, Damon still gets a booing that rivals A Rod's. Pedro returned as a Met and was so overwhelmed with emotion he didn't make it to the 3rd. Derek Lowe got an impressive reception. Bill Buckner came back to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day and got a long, standing O. Trot Nixon returned as a Cleveland Indian and got a very respectable ovation. Same for Kevin Millar and Derek Lowe. Todd Walker and Mark Bellhorn returned as pinch-hitters and each got a nice applause. Every former player - as long as they didn't go to the Yankees - has been warmly welcomed back...but Nomar got the biggest and longest welcome of all. It was a great Fenway moment.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This time it's Section 217
Club Level at Nationals Park in DC. I went here twice last summer. Saw the Nats lose badly to the Phillies and lose badly to the Mets.

This year it was the Red Sox. My friend Charlie Sislen invited me to see the Sox first appearance in DC since 1971. Boston had already won the series, taking the first two games. Game 3 was in Thursday night, and John Smoltz was making his Red Sox debut after 20 seasons with the Braves.

First in war....
The Nationals, firmly holding on to the worst record in the majors, have been doing their best to live up to the legend of the old Washington Senators - both the first edition (1901-1960, now the Minnesota Twins) and the second (1961-1971, now the Texas Rangers). The oft-repeated slogan, "Washington...first in war, first in peace, last in the Amercan League" was all too true. The last time Washingtion had a team without a losing record was 40 years ago...the 1969 Senators. Before that it was 1952, the original Senators. 1st baseman Mickey Vernon, as nice a guy as you'd ever want to meet, won his second AL Batting Championship that year.

Back to the Future
Last Thursday. When I went to Nationals Park last summer there were billboards and signs galore about a new development -Half Street - directly across from the main ballpark entrance. Offices, shops, was to be like Patriot Place. Opening Spring 2009. Eleven months later, June 2009, ground had yet to be broken.

Inside it looked as great as any new ballpark. As we walked in I couldn't help noticing that about half of the fans had Red Sox hats, shirts or other apparrel. Myself included. I had on my well-worn traditional blue cap and a tasteful blue polo with the red hanging sox logo. None of the loud obnoxious stuff that Yankee fans tend to wear on the road. All three games were sellouts, with Thursday as the biggest crowd ever at Nationals Park...41,900. Average attendance there is about 21,000.

In the club level there are many cuisine choices, but we went directly to the Ben's Chili Bowl stand. Ben's is a DC tradition, and I'm a big believer in ordering local cusisine.

Smoltz debut.
Top of the 1st is a 1-2-3 inning for Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. Bottom one, John Smoltz starts it off with a grounder to Ortiz at 1st. 3U. Then he hits Nick Johnson on the foot (Johnson's back foot was practically on home plate), gives up a double to Ryan Zimmerman, walks Adam Dunn (a big home run threat but also a huge strikeout threat) to load the bases. Josh Willingham singles in a run. 1-0 Nats. Former Sox backup catcher Josh Bard (two stints trying to catch Tim Wakefield - neither one successful) singles down the 1st base line. The ball eludes Ortiz' glove by about two inches. Youk would have had it without breaking a sweat, even in the 90-degree DC heat. Probably could have turned an inning-ending 3-2-3 double-play. But no, it goes into right field and the score is 2-0. Bases re-loaded. Line drive to right, caught by Drew, two outs, then a single to left scoring two more runs. End of one, it's 4-0 Nationals, and John Smoltz, with a career ERA around 3.10, sits at 54.00.

After a 1-2-3- second, Washington gets a fifth run in the 3rd with a double followed by another grounder to first that Ortiz can't handle. Smoltz has a 1-2-3- fourth and a 1-2-3 fifth, then yielded to Daniel Bard. Bard gives up a two-run single that goes right down the first base line and Ortiz again can't get to it. Two runs score. and it's 7-1. Two batters later there's a Josh Bard homer and it's 9-1. Final was 9-3 after Rocco Baldelli homered in the 9th with one on. Too little, too late.

The 54.00 dropped to 9.00.
My point is that Smoltz was nowhere near as bad as the line score makes it look (the ERA did drop from 54.00 to 9.00 by the fifth inning), and that four (possibly five) of those nine runs wouldn't have scored if Youk had been playing 1st base. We all love Big Papi, but why sit Youk? He has more home runs, more RBI, is batting about a hundred points higher than Ortiz, and is a Gold Glove 1st baseman. Papi went 0 for 4 in that game and, while not horrible, is certainly no Yoooouk as a 1st baseman.

Despite the score, it was a fun time, and Washington fans have suffered much more then we ever did pre-2004. A home-field win against Boston - especially after taking 2 of 3 from both Toronto and the Yankees - gave them a glimmer of hope...despite being 17 games out in the NL East with 50 losses already.