Sunday, October 24, 2010

Red Sox catcher in the World Series

110 seasons.
That's the combined timeline of the Giants and Rangers wait for a World Series win. It's the second-longest in Major League history and the current record-holder. Only the 2005 combination of the White Sox and Astros (131 years) was longer. Both involved teams from Texas with their first Series appearance.

Pure pleasure.
It was pre pleasure seeing the Rangers knock off the Yankees. It's a pleasure seeing anyone knock them off. Despite the disappointing injury-laden season for the Red Sox, it was nice seeing them bump the Yankees out of first place on the final weekend.

I think I'm rooting for the Giants at this point.
Nothing against the Rangers, but the Giants fans have waited longer. They last won as the New York Giants in 1954. They play in a great city, they have a great ballpark, Barry Bonds is no longer on the team, and they have a couple of players who I enjoyed watching play in the Cape Cod League only a few years ago. Tim Lincecum pitched for the Harwich Mariners, and Buster Posey played on back-to-back championship teams for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (see photo above). The PA guy at Red Wilson field in Yarmouth always announced him as "Bustah" Posey.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ball game over!

The Yankees lose. THE....YANKEEEEESSSS....LOOOOSE!!!

How much oomph did John Sterling put into that call?
Sterling, the annoying Yankees play-by-play guy, says the reverse of that after every game they win. Shut the bleep up.

It's Friday night, 11:13.
The Texas Rangers have knocked off New York in 6 games. I wasn't really rooting for the Texas Rangers, of course, I was rooting for the Yankees to lose. And, thankfully, they did. It's pretty cool, though, watching the Texas fans enjoying their first-ever American League pennant.

Quick history lesson.
For those too young to know. In 1961 the American League had its first expansion. The Washington Senators, who had gone 36 years without a World Series win and with ten last-place finishes ("Washington: First in war, first in peace, last in the American League") gave it up and moved to Minneapolis to become the Minnesota Twins. They were immediately replaced by a "new" Washington Senators, managed by Mickey Vernon, who was as nice a guy as you'd ever want to meet. Despite that, the new Senators fared no better than the old ones, and in 1972 they moved to Arlington, Texas and changed their name to the Rangers.

Success continued to be elusive.
Until a week ago they had never won a postseason game at home. The Yankees had knocked them off in Round One three times in the 90's. Not now. Not this night. (Okay, I stole that from "Titanic.") Good for them.

So for whom am I rooting in the Series?
It actually doesn't matter. It won't be the Yankees who win .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Listening Tour

Tonight I went to an event at Fenway Park that was by invitation-only for Red Sox season ticket holders. The Listening Tour.

Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, Ben Charrington and Sam Kennedy presented a video showing the physical improvements under way for 2011 at Fenway and held an extended Q&A session with season ticket holders.

The most notable improvement will be replacing the outdated diamondvision video board under the John Hancock sign in center field with a much bigger and brighter 100'x38' HD video board. As Larry Lucchino said, "You'll be able to see the sweat beads on Kevin Youkilis' face." There will also be two other new HD video boards, one replacing the Bank of America scoreboard above the wall in left center, the other above the "Dunkin' Dugout" at the top of the right field bleachers. For those who are old enough to remember it, this is where there used to be a Buck Printing sign.

Being someone who always wants to get up and ask a question or make a comment - especially in a situation like this - I raised my hand high when they started taking questions. I was #2. First I made a suggestion, then asked a question. The comment is one I've previously made in this blog. If you're interested, go to older blogs, May 2009, "A Free upgrade." In a sentence or two, it's this: When the Legend players are featured on the video board, why don't you include the audio of their highlight clips? Why not announce them? A good three-quarters of the crowd doesn't even know that they're there. Lucchino responded that it was an excellent idea. Then I asked whether the new video boards would mean they'll add stupid graphics like, "It's a hit" or "Let's make some noise" with a picture of two hands clapping (in case you forgot how to do that). Larry answered, "Absolutely not!" That answer alone was worth the trip.

Other questions ranged from, "Are you going to sign Cliff Lee?" to "What will the pitching rotation be like in 2011?" Theo's answer was (hmmm) pretty much what it was in 2010.

Oh, and they asked who might be a good group for a Fenway concert next year. Answer: Pearl Jam or U2. And a big deal is being planned for Opening Day in 2012, the 100th anniversary of Fenway.

There was a possibility that this could have turned out to be a Yankee Elimination party as well, but it didn't happen. There's still Friday night in Texas for that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Down to the last one

Over the weekend the Phillies swept the Reds; as expected, the Yankees put the Twins away; the Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant (repeat 13 times).

So now it's the Phillies and Giants in the NLCS. Giant fans have waited a long time. That famous "the Giants win the pennant" call was back in 1951 and they did not wind up winning the World Series. The Yankess did. It was the third of the Yankees record five in a row. The streak was finally broken in 1954 when the Giants did win. Since then they've been waiting on both coasts for another championship.

The Phillies hardly have a tradition of winning, but this could be their third straight World Series appearance. In the last 50 years only two teams (other than the Yankees) have appeared three straight times: The Orioles (69-71) and the A's (72-74 - all wins) and (88-90).

Then there's the ALCS. The deciding game is tonight between the Rays and Rangers. I'll go with either one - whoever has the best chance to beat New York. This year Texas went 4 and 4 with them, but did win 4 of the last 6 meetings. Tampa Bay won 10 of 18. Of the last 13 The Rays took 7. It's a toss-up.

Teams in the same division see each other so much that there aren't many mysteries. I think that means I'm going with Texas.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My take on the Playoffs

The first round of the Playoffs is well under way and may well wrap up this weekend. Three of the four series have one of the teams up 2 games to none in the best-of-five.

The Twins historically do poorly against the Yankees - epecially in the playoffs. This year is no exception, as Minnesota dropped the first two at home. The Rays also dropped the first two at home to Texas. The Phillies won the first two at home. The Giants and Braves are the only exception.

So here are some tidbits about the playoff teams. (I'm not going to bother with the Yankees.)

~The Rays have never won the World Series, but they got there in 2008 and lost to the Phillies. In their first ten years they finished in last place 9 times. They lost 100 games or more 3 times. The big change in 2008 that supposedly turned their fortunes around was dropping the word "Devil" from their name.

~The state of Texas has never had a World Series champion. The Astros are 0 for 1 in 48 seasons. The Rangers have never won a pennant. The franchise dates back to 1961 and prior to this year they've had only one playoff win (1996).

~The Twins won in 1987 and again in 1991. Before that the last championship for the franchise was in 1924.

~The Rangers and Twins share a uinque history: both teams used to be the Washington Senators. The famous line was, "Washington: first in war, first in peace, last in the American League." It was equally true for both versions of the Senators.

~The Reds last won in 1990. They won back-to-back championships in the 70's, beating the Red Sox in 7 games in '75 and sweeping the Yankees the following year. Prior to that they hadn't won since 1940. In the 1950's the Reds changed their name to the Redlegs because they thought Reds made them sound like Commies. Originally they were known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings, but the team folded for several years in the 1870's. What happened? In 1871 the very first professional league, the National Association of Base Ball Teams, was founded. The Red Stockings were a charter team, but the manager and half of the players decided they'd rather play in Boston, so they took off and moved the franchise in time for Opening Day. The team originally known as the Boston Red Stockings is the longest continuously-running franchise in all of pro sports. So what happened to them?

~The Braves is what happened to them. In 1876 the National Association gave way to the National League as we know it today. The Boston Red Stockings were a charter team, but Cincinnati put a new team on the field, using the old name Red Stockings. The Boston folks decided that the name duplication wasn't a good idea, and since Cincy had used it first they changed their name to the Beaneaters. Then to the Doves (that really threw some fear into the opposing teams), then to the Braves, then the Bees, then back to the Braves. The American League came along in 1901 and one of the charter teams was the Red Sox, who wound up outdrawing the Braves every single year. In 1953 the Braves finally gave up and moved to Milwaukee, where their AAA team played. That move was good for a while, but attendance dropped off and in 1966 they moved again, this time to Atlanta. In the 90's they suddenly became a good team and they've won their division almost every year for the last couple of decades. They're the only team to win the World Series playing in three different cities: Boston (1914), Milwaukee (1957) and Atlanta (1995). They also lost it playing in three cities: Boston (1948), Milwaukee (1958), and Atlanta (1991,1992,1996,1999).

~The Giants have been to the World Series three times in San Francisco: 1962, 1989 and 2002, and lost all three. In the '62 Series a guy named Jack Sanford, from my hometown of Wellesley, Massachusetts, one-hit the Yankees. The franchise last won as the New York Giants in 1954. Fifty-six years ago. They beat the Cleveland Indians, who last won in 1948. The only team to go longer than the Giants and Indians without winning is, of course, the Cubs, now at 65 years without a World Series appearance and 102 years and counting without a win.

~The Phillies. (I'm rooting for them.) The Phillies, originally known as the Worcester Rubylegs, moved to the City of Brotherly Love in 1882 and took 99 years to win their first championship. They won game 1 of the 1915 Series, then went 65 years before winning another playoff game. They finally won in 1980 and again in 2008. A couple of years ago they set a professional sports all-time record by losing their 10,000th game. Philly, a city with a lotta-lotta culture, is where they boo Santa Claus and cheer bad landings at the airport. They have terriffic fans and a great ballpark. How can you not root for them?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

132 days

That's when pitchers and catchers show up at Spring Training 2011. I didn't add up that number myself, I got it from a "Thank you Red Sox Nation" e-mail that came on Monday.

So what do I think about 2010? Considering that the Sox lost their starting left fielder, center fielder, catcher, 1st baseman, second baseman and two starters, had nine broken ribs (all thanks to Adrian Beltre), two broken feet and two broken thumbs and three of the five starting pitchers turning in seasons that ranged from mediocre to horrible, they did okay. No playoff berth, of course, but by winning four of six from the Yankees (could have been 6 of 6 if Papelbomb had been on his game) they knocked the Yankees out of first place on the final day.

There were certainly some bright spots. Darnell McDonald was announced in the 8th inning back in June and we thought he was a new pitcher for the Rangers. No, he was a pinch hitter for Boston and no one had heard of him. What was that? Dar-who? Then he hit a game-tying homer in his first at bat, and hit a walkoff double in his second at bat. And there was Daniel Nava, just up from Pawtucket. Joe Castiglione had interviewed Nava before the game and told him to swing at the first pitch he saw because you'll never get your first pitch in the majors again. He did, and hit a grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen. He's the only player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit a grand slam on the very first pitch he saw.

We saw Manny return twice, once as a Dodger and once as a White Sock. (Is that the way to write that?) Both times he got mostly boos, but I must say an impressive number of Dodger fans showed up and made it sound like two-thirds booing instead about the 75-80% booing we heard when he came back with Chicago.

We saw Mike Lowell day on the final Saturday. Big cheers, and well deserved. In the first at bat he doubled in two runs. In his final at bat he hit a ball off the top of the monster that missed going out by only a foot. A homer in your final at bat before retiring would be pretty ccol, but I think that Ted Williams is the only one who ever did it.

The bright side? Maybe some people won't renew and I can upgrade my season tickets to the red seats with more legroom and cupholders.