Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yikes. I hit the 6-month mark.

The writer's strike, just like the NBA lockout, is over.  I'm finally able to update my blog, which has been silent for exactly 6 months. 

So much has happened.  When last I blogged, the Red Sox had just made it to first place, despite the 0-and-6 start.  We all know how it turned out, so let's look forward to 2012.

Predictions for 2012:

My seats
The day after Tito was fired I called the Red Sox season ticket office and asked if anyone had called up mad and canceled their season tickets.  If so, I'd like to move up a few rows.  Still in Section 29, which has a great view, but enough to get to the bigger, more comfortable red seats and still be just under the roof overhang.  When it rains during a game I don't even know it until they haul out the tarp.  They told me no one had called in to cancel yet, and they probably wouldn't know until January anyway.  It's in my tickler file.  I'll bet that I don't get to upgrade.

No thoughts really on whether Bobby Valentine or Gene Lamont would be the right choice.  They do need a guy who can kick some butt in the locker room like Billy Beane did wth Jeremy Giambi and David Justice in Moneyball.  Great scene:  David Justice is in the batting cage, dripping with attitude, and Beane says to him, "You think you're a pretty big deal, huh?"  Justice says, "Yeah.  You're paying me 7 million dollars a year, so I guess that makes me a big deal."   Beane responds, "No, we're paying you 3-and-a-half million.  The Yankees are paying us 3-and-a-half million for you to play against them.  Still think you're a big deal?"

Ellsbury and Pedroia will once again have great seasons.  Youk will be less beat up and have more of a normal season, hitting just over .300 with 100 rbi's.  In 2011 Carl Crawford was overwhelmed.  He was used to playing in a half-empty stadium with a crappy field in St. Petersburg, where the few fans who were there would be 80 years old and would only think to ring their cowbell when the scoreboard told them to.  In contrast, the nightly rock show at sold-out Fenway - especially playing the legendary left field - required a major adjustment. With a year to get used to it under his belt, he will have a substantially better season (he sure couldn't have a much worse one) and he'll be motivated to show that he's worth the money.  Papi will be re-signed to a two-year deal and he'll hit around .290 with 30 homers and 95 rbi's.  Adrian Gonzalez will be about the same - maybe slightly better toward the end of the season with a less tender shoulder.  Ryan Lavarnway will see some decent playing time and will be a very good hitter.  Marco Scutaro will be mediocre at short, and Jed Lowrie will get one last shot and the job.  Varitek?  They should make him the pitching coach and activate him if they get into a pinch.

Starters will be an issue.  Beckett and Lester have to play nicely in the sandbox and show us that they've still got their good stuff.  Buchholz will be okay.  They need two more, but John Henry won't open up the checkbook after getting burned over the past few years by the Matt Clement, Dice-K, John Smoltz, Brad Penny and John Lackey signings.  Wakefield will be back for insurance purposes.  He's inexpensive, reliable and eats up a lot of innings.  Unlike much of the pitching staff, he has a great reputation.  Aceves will be the setup guy.  (I still distrust anyone that the Yankees let go.)  Michael Bowden will see more action and he'll be allright.  Daniel Bard will be the closer and have a better season than Papelbon has in Philly.

So that's what I think?  Any thoughts?  I'd love to hear them.   

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Worst to first in four weeks

This afternoon Magic 106.7 will be playing the special mashup of "Dirty Water" by the Standells - complete with the crowd cheering and singing along - for two reasons.

One, the Bruins won Game 7 last night and move on to the Stanley Cup Finals.   

Two, the Red Sox beat the Tigers again last night, and on the left coast the Mariners beat the Yankees. Meaning that the Sox, who began the season with the worst record in baseball and were in last place on May 1st, are now in first place.  How do you like them big apples?  We'll also be playing our exclusive Fenway crowd mashup of "Sweet Caroline."  A couple of years ago Tom Werner heard it on the air and called me asking for a copy. That was pretty cool.

My daughter, who lives in New York and works at MTV Networks (but is definitely not a Yankee fan) just got a promotion.  Looking out the window on Bass River, I see that Memorial Day Weekend is sunny on Cape Cod and all is well..  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Throwback night

This weekend the Chicago Cubs made their first appearance at Fenway Park since 9/11/1918.

They made a pretty big deal out of it, which is a good thing.  That hasn't always been the case.  Back in 2003 the Red Sox went to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates in Interleague play.  It was the first time the two teams had met since the 1903 World Series.  That's 100 years without playing each other, and it hardly got a mention.  Same thing when the Giants played the Sox for the first time since the 1912 World Series.  All the talk was about Barry Bonds and his steroids.

This was very different.  On Friday night. the Red Sox proceeded to pound the Cubs, 15-5.  On Saturday night they planned Throwback Night, with both teams wearing 1918 uniforms.  I have a replica 1918 Red Sox shirt that I've had for at least 15 years, so I wore it on Saturday.  It still fits (although a year ago it wouldn't have), but being a gray road shirt it looks nothing like what the Sox wore.  The home white uniforms were just that:  white.  White cap (no B on it), white shirt (no lettering at all), white pants, high red socks.

There were tons of Cubs fans there, none of whom acted like Yankee fans.  They all seemed to be friendly and having a fun time.  They were treated nicely by Sox fans, just as my daughter Kara and I were when we went to see the Sox play the Cubbies at Wrigley back in 2005.  That's the Midwest attitude for you.

Friday night, Dennis Eckersley, one of only four Hall-of-Famers who played for both the Red Sox and Cubs, threw out the first pitch.  (Note that it wasn't his performance with either team that got Eck into the Hall).   On Saturday it was Babe Ruth's daughter.  That can't be right.  Must have been his granddaughter.

The whole throwback thing was fun for the most part.  One thing they did was interesting, but weird.  At the beginning of the 3rd inning they announced that the clocks were being turned back to 1918.  No videos on the new HD jumbotrons, no Carl Beane announcing the batters.  The scoreboards were turned off except for the big manually-operated one in the left field wall.  No music except from the organ, and there wasn't much of that.  The only announcements were from guys on top of the dugouts using megaphones.  It was cute for a batter or two, but if you weren't scoring the game on a scorecard you'd have no idea what was going on.  No idea of the count or who was at bat.  Was that an infield hit or an error?

The megaphone idea, as I said, was cute, but didn't work.  You could tell the guy was yelling into it, but you could barely make out anything he said.  I might have caught the middle syllable of Jacoby at one point, but that was it.  Did they really do that back during games back in 1918?  The crowd would have been smaller, but they also must have talked to each other a lot less.  Nick Cafardo wrote in today's Boston Globe that he liked the idea that you could have a "quiet" experience that would let you concentrate on the game itself, but he's a writer.  I'm a fan, and I disagree.  I, and everyone sitting near me in Section 29, groaned a little when the megaphone guys came back out for the 4th inning.  We were hoping it would be a one-inning diversion.  In the 4th, David Oritz hit his 300th home run as a member of the Red Sox and no one in the ballpark knew it.  They all knew he hit one into the Monster Seats,  but not that it was momentous number.

Things went back to normal for the 5th, and the crowd cheered.  The music, the videos, the PA announcements and all that make the experience more entertaining.

My daughter was going to a friend's birthday party, so we had to leave after the 7th.  As I got in the car, the top of the 8th was under way,  and Dave O'Brien was saying that if the Sox were to hold on to the 3-1 lead they'd be in 1st place.  Pretty amazing after the 0 and 6, 2 and 12 start.  It was not to be.  The Red Sox pitching and defense turned into the Bad News Bears and they gave up 8 runs on four hits, three walks and three errors.  It was actually worse than that.  The Bad New Bears would have had the standard Little League 6-run-per-inning limit.  It was the worst Red Sox inning I can remember, and I've seen a lot of them.  But I was in the car at that point.  When all the fun stuff happened, i was in the park, sitting in Section 29.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remarkable Monday Night

Monday night, May 2nd was quite a night at Fenway. Close to midnight the night before we learned that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by Navy Seals. The Monday night game was the first public gathering in Boston since the news broke, and the display of patriotism was truly remarkable.

Prior to the National Anthem they dropped that huge American flag over the left field wall - the one they use for Opening Day and the World Series. There was a moment of silence for all those who perished in the 9/11 attacks and the years of subsequent war. Soldiers who had returned from five tours of duty were honored, and the crowd chanted, "U-S-A...U-S-A...U-S-A!!!!" They did it again after "God Bless America" (usually only sung during Sunday games) during the 7th inning stretch.

It was also a fun game. The Sox opened the season with the worst record in the majors. Now, a month later, there are 9 teams that have a worse record than the Red Sox. And they're tied for 4th place in the AL East - meaning they're not last. Tonight, if they win and Toronto loses, the Sox will have sole possession of 4th place. We're #4, we're #4!

Simultaneously, the Bruins played Game 2 of their playoff series in Philadelphia.  The crowd at Fenway was kept up to speed with the score posted on the hand-operated left-field scoreboard and highlights were shown on the huge new HD video screen. Many fans were wearing the color clash of red-and-blue Sox shirts and black-and-gold B's hats. The B's won in OT just as Okajima recorded the final out in the 9th for the Red Sox win.

A fun night all around, but the most remarkable thing was the overwhelming display of patriotism. The biggest I've seen in almost a decade.

Tuesday  night update: Not only did the Red Sox win again, but both Toronto and Baltimore lost.   So Boston is now in sole possession of 3rd place, only four games out, and there are 10 teams with worse records.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

0 and 5

0 and 5 is a pretty depressing opening  for the Red Sox. I've seen it before,  We lived in Baltimore in the late 80's when I was the Program Director of Mix 106.5.  I went to a lot of Orioles games and always rooted for them except when the Red Sox were in town.

On Opening Day in 1988 the O's, who had won the World Series only 5 years before, had a tough day at the old ballyard. The Milwaukee Brewers pounded them, 12-0.  They also lost game 2 to Milwaukee, then went to Cleveland and dropped three straight, making it 0 and 5.  At that point a friend of mine named Bob Rivers, who worked at a competing radio station named 98 Rock, announced that he was going to stay on the air until the Orioles won.  Excellent promotion, made even better by the O's dropping that night's game, making it 0 and 6.  The manager was fired.  Not just any manager, either.  His mame was Cal Ripken, Sr.  Father of the star shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Billy Ripken, who played 2nd base. 

People drove around with their headlights on during the day to show support for Bob Rivers. At the ballpark it was depressing. Everyone on the team slumped simultaneously.  They didn't even post batting averages on the scoreboard because they were all below .100.  First baseman Eddie Murray, who had just signed a big contract extension, insisted on being the DH at home to minimize his exposuere to booing. 

And on it went.  After that fourth loss to Cleveland they went to Kansas City and dropped three, then came home and lost three more to Cleveland.  Back on the road they dropped three in Milwaukee, another three in Kansas City and three more in Minnesota. That made it 0 and 21.  The all-time worst season-opening record in the history of Major League Baseball.  And they weren't even playing the tough teams. 

On April 29, a windy night at the old Comiskey Park in Chicago, the Orioles finally put up a W, beating the White Sox, 9-0 in front of 14,000 fans.  Bob Rivers took a long nap after being on the air for some 425 straight hours.  The O's dropped the next two in Chicago, then came home with a record of 1 and 23.

On May 2 it was Fantastic Fans night at Memorial Stadium.  Bob Rivers was given a full Orioles unform - his name and the number 98 on the back - and threw out the first pitch from the mound (a very unathletic throw) to the cheers of over 50,000 fantasic fans.  The 1 and 23 Orioles took the field and made it a night by beating Texas, 9-4. 

The fans in Baltimore are really great.  Despite that horrible season they stuck with the team. Five years later the Orioles moved into Camden Yards - my choice for the best new ballpark in America.

So let's not get worked up about 0 and 5.  Even if the Red Sox lose tomorrow and are 0 and 6 when the Bronx Bombers come in for the Home Opener, it will mean the Sox have the Yankees the way they want them.  Overconfident

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I think I picked every one

It's been a few months since I blogged.  Winter hibernation.

It was in December or January that the Red Sox e-mailed their season ticket holders and asked for votes on which present or former players' photos should grace the 2011 tickets.

I voted for a bunch of my favorites, and with one exception they all made it.   I picked up the season ticket package today at the Post Office (they tried to deliver last Thursday but a sig is required and both my wife and I were at work), ripped open the package, and they are:  Ted Williams, Pedro, Jimmy Foxx, Papi (Big, not Stan), Joe Cronin, Jim Rice, Dick "Monster" Radatz, Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Rico Petrocelli, Pudge Fisk, Terry Francona, Bill Lee and Yaz.

All the retired numbers:  1, Doerr; 4, Cronin; 6 Pesky (also worn by Petrocelli);  8,Yaz;  9 Teddy Ballgame; 14 Rice;  27 Fisk.  Also a few that probably should be at some point:  3 Foxx; 17 Radatz;  34 Ortiz; 37 Lee;  45 Pedro;  47 Francona (did you know that's his number?). The only one I voted for who isn't there is #24.  No, not Manny...Dwight Evans.

It's a trivia question today, but the reference above to "Big, not Stan" is to a trade made in 1979.  Bill Lee called Manager Don Zimmer a gerbil, and Zimmer responded by trading Lee to the no-man's land known as the Montreal Expos.  In return the Sox picked up a backup infielder named Stan Papi, who amounted to very little but it taught Bill Lee a lesson about who's the boss.  

Papi (#12, pictured above) hit .188 in 1979, and a whopping .000 in 1980.   So his pic didn't make it onto the 2011 tickets.