Tuesday, December 17, 2013

No more collisions at home

MLB is banning collisions at home.
As people head home slowly on a snowy December night…hoping to avoid those whoops-type sliding collisions (remember to steer into the skid) we're looking at another type of collision. Runner crashing into catcher at home plate hoping to knock the ball loose and score. Catcher trying to hang on to ball, get an out and not get concussed.

Taking a cue from the NFL.
The NFL made a settlement with retired players who suffered numerous concussions during their playing days and are feeling the effects, often devastating, years later. It has certainly been an issue in the NHL as well. Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins effectively ending the career of Boston Bruins center Marc Savard when he concussed him with a whack in the head being one of the foremost examples. Sean Thornton's current 15-game suspension being another.

Now it's baseball's turn.
Red Sox backup catcher David Ross was concussed twice during the 2013 Championship Season. He was able to return and and take over the starting catcher job for the last three games of the World Series (following Jarrod Saltalamacchia's .188 batting postseason average and ill-advised throw to 3rd that cost the Sox a loss in Game 3. And the lack of a qualifying offer when he filed for free agency).

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, a Rookie of the Year and NL Batting Champion missed an entire season when his leg was broken in a home plate collision. Did that affect the Giants fortunes? Let's look at the numbers. Buster was also the catcher for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League when they were champions in both 2006 and 2007 (the PA announcer always called him "Busta"). In his rookie year the Giants won the World Series for the first time since 1954 when they were the New York Giants (in case you've wondered why you hear people refer to the New York Football Giants, that's why. The baseball Giants preceded the football Giants by decades before moving to SF in 1958). He missed the entire 2011 season, but was back in 2012 and the Giants won it all again.

It's not a new rule.
Girls Fastpitch Softball has had the rule for several years. The catcher cannot block the plate awaiting a throw. She can stand just to the side of the plate and make a sweep tag for the out.

Three examples of it working well.
Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek splitting the uprights (okay, sliding into home safely, just ahead of a sweep tag). Sorry, Mr. Mayuh. Kara Kelley (my daughter) as a Wellesley High School Raider sliding home safely against the Needham High School Rockets and Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers stealing home against the New York Yankees in he 1955 World Series.

All three were safe.
But the plays were close, and no one got concussed. It's a good rule and I applaud MLB for adopting it. Let's hope the Players' Association doesn't try to block it at the plate.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jacoby Update

Two new things about Ellsbury:

1) Yesterday the Red Sox held their 11th annual Christmas at Fenway event. I was at the first one in 2003 when they introduced Curt Schilling. This year it also included a yard sale. They did that for the first time in 2011, skipped last year, but brought it back for 2013. At the yard sale you can buy game-used bats. $50 for a bat used by Creighton Gubanich. Who?

You could buy signed baseballs. Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard (if you drop it you have no idea were it will wind up). Even Bobby Valentine signed balls. A good joke gift.

You could also buy game-worn uniform shirts. $100 for a signed #13 Carl Crawford. Or $100 for a signed Mike Lowell #25 (I got one for my daughter Kara who was a huge Lowell fan-I'm not blowing a surprise here, she was with me). Lugo shirts were only $75. But Ellsbury shirts...#2 signed and authenticated...the asking price was $200. I didn't see anyone fighting for them like it was a Filene's Basement wedding dress sale.

2) Ellsbury was officially announced as a Yankee. As previously mentioned in this blog, he wouldn't get his #2 because Jeter has it. So what's his New York number? 22. Guess who was the last Yankee of any note to wear #22? Why, it was Rogg-uhh. When Clemens signed with the Evil Empire he couldn't get his traditional #21 (U of Texas, Paw Sox, Red Sox, Blue Jays) because Paul O'Neill had it. So as a Yankee he was #22. Full disclosure here…since Roger wore 22 three others Yankees did: LaTroy Hawkins, Xavier Nady and Vernon Wells, but none were standouts. And, as my father liked to say, never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

A double-boo.
So when Ellsbury shows up at Fenway on April 22nd, there will be boos. The question is whether people are booing Jacoby or Yankees #22 or a bit of both. But the boos will flow.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ellsbury Will Not Come to Fenway Wearing Pinstripes

Jacoby at Fenway wearing pinstripes? Won't happen.
Ever since the news broke on Monday night that Jacoby Ellsbury signed a $153 million contract with the Yankees every sports writer, TV reporter, Sports Talk radio host has said something about April 22nd, when "Ellsbury will show up at Fenway Park wearing pinstripes." Maria Stephanos on Fox 25, both Walt Perkins and Tom Cuddy on WBZ, Mut, Michael Holley and Mike Salk on WEEI, Rob Bradford on weei.com, Tony Massarotti on 98.5 The Sports Hub. The latest is Peter Abraham in today's Boston Globe. Have you seen, heard or read anything about the story that didn't include that line?

Why it won't happen.
You're thinking that's because he'll be on the disabled list? Maybe he will be, but that's not the reason he won't be wearing pinstripes. And I've heard no talk of MLB voiding the contract on some technicality. The reason it won't happen is the same reason that it didn't happen with Babe Ruth, Luis Tiant, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon or Kevin Youkilis.

One shade of grey.
We've all seen too many pictures of the Yankees home uniform. White shirt and pants with pinstripes and the interwoven NY on the chest. However, the road uniform - the one Ellsbury would wear at Fenway on April 22nd - is grey with a dark blue New York on the chest. And no pinstripes. They've never had pinstripes on the road uniform.

One more thing.
Ells won't get his #2 because Jeter has it. When Jeter retires, #2 will retire with him.

No-name trivia tidbit.
Question: What is the only major pro sporting event you can go to…anywhere in the world…where none of the players has a name on the back of the shirt?

Answer: When the Red Sox and Yankees play at Fenway Park. The Red Sox only have names on the uni on the road. The Yankees never have names. (The obnoxious assumption is that if you're a Yankee everyone everywhere knows who you are).

If you do want a chance to boo Ellsbury in pinstripes…
…you'll have to go to the new Yankee Stadium. A spectacular ballpark. But buyer beware - especially if you boo him - the place is loaded with Yankee fans.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

World Series Game 6…the beginning and end. What you may not have seen on Fox.

I was at the game with my daughter, Kara, so I'm not sure how much they showed on Fox. Here's my videographer's view of the beginning and end of Game 6…when the Red Sox won the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 9/11/1918…95 years, one month,m two weeks and five days.

2013 Word Series Game 6--the beginning and the end. What you might not have seen on Fox. from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Who Will Be the GWRBI Surprise on Wednesday?

What was the GWRBI stat?
Major League Baseball used to have a stat called GWRBI. Game-winning run batted in. The honor went to the guy who batted in the run that gave the winning team a lead they never lost. In my view they computed it incorrectly. For example, on August 11th the Red Sox lost to Kansas City, 4-3. KC went up, 2-1 in the 2nd and they never trailed after that, so Jarrod Dyson, who knocked in the second run for KC, would have gotten the GWRBI. Alex Gordon homered in the 3rd to make it 4-1, KC...but Boston crawled back with two runs in the 6th. So the Gordon homer made the difference and would have been the true GWRBI. If they still had it.

For some reason MLB dumped it.
Major League Baseball officially dropped the GWRBI stat in 1989. But with stats today including OBP, OPS, XBH, WHIP and several more, why not bring back GWRBI? If we look at the Red Sox GWRBI's in this year's Postseason we'd see several different heroes who otherwise seem to be doing little at the plate other than striking out.

What if we had it now?
Drew actually had the GWRBI in Game 1 against Tampa Bay. His 4th inning single plated Gomes, breaking a 2-2 tie. The Red Sox went on to score 9 more unanswered runs, but Drew put them ahead for good. He also tripled to left in the 4th inning of Game 2 with Gomes scoring on the play. The final score was 7-4, but Drew had the RBI that stood up. The GWRBI in deciding Game 4 was from Shane Victorino.

ALCS Game 1 was a 1-0 loss, Game 2 was sure looking like more of the same until the bottom of the 8th when the Ortiz grand slam sent Torii Hunter tumbling into the Sox bullpen. Who had the GWRBI? Saltalamacchia. Tuesday in Detroit Napoli launched one for the only run of the game. Thursday they won when Napooli scored on a wild pitch with Drew at bat (no RBI on that). Game 6 on Saturday was the Victorino grand slam in the 7th that sent the Red Sox to the World Series. World Series Game 1 saw Napoli get the GWRBI when he hit a bases-clearing triple to the 379 sign. In Game 4 it was the Gomes 3-run homer that got the honors. Game 5 was the ground-rule double by David Ross.

Red Sox GWRBI's this Postseason?
So far they go to Drew (2), Victorino (2), Napoli (2), Salty, Gomes and Ross. Collectively they're batting about .100. And you thought all they were doing was striking out.

Maybe this week we'll have a WSWRBI.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Umpire's View of Last Night's Obstruction Call

Did they get it right?

In case you missed it, here's the play:

Most players, coaches and fans are saying that last night's game-ending Obstruction call was unusual - even weird - but the umpires got the call right. But did they?

Maybe. As a certified ASA Umpire I attend Rules Interpretation Clinics every year. We analyze and are quizzed on situations that practically never come up...but they might. Like last night.

First, let me explain something that many people - even Joe Buck and Tim McCarver - find confusing. The difference between Interference and Obstruction.  Interference is caused by the offense. For example, when there's a runner on 1st and a ground ball is hit toward the 2nd baseman, the runner cannot interfere with the 2nd baseman trying to field the ball. Obstruction, on the other hand, is caused by the defense. A fielder blocking the baseline and impeding a runner from advancing. Like last night.

Here is the actual rule:
Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered in the act of fielding a ball. It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the act of fielding the ball. For example: If an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
What would have been the third out at home on the Nava throw to home was negated.
Rule 7.06 (Effect) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner … the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, if there had been no obstruction.
Allen Craig was awarded home - the winning run - because "in the umpire's judgement" he would have reached home if he hadn't tripped over Middlebrooks. But would he have reached home? Craig is a gimpy runner and Nava's throw was in plenty of time, so the notion that he would have definitely scored is subjective. He might have, he might not have. 
My call?

Craig would have been awarded 3rd base, not home, the game would continue with a tie score, two outs in the bottom of the 9th and a runner on 3rd. Game on, and may the best team win.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

We Didn't Have To Win on Thursday. We Don't Have to Win Tonight.

Sure, it would have been nice to win on Thursday.  After the Ortiz blast into the Monster Seats the Red Sox were leading, 2-1. Of course, a one-run lead is only as good as the next pitch, and as we saw many times this year, Lackey left with a lead and did not get a win.

Yalie Craig Breslow has been pretty effective most of the time, but Thursday was not his night. He walked the bases loaded, gave up the tying run on a sac fly, gave up the lead run on a Little League-style airball throw to third, then gave up another RBI single for good measure. 4-2 Cards. Koji came in with a typical 1-2-3 ninth that would have been a great save if the score had still been 2-1. But we had Strikeout Street coming up in the 9th...Gomes, Salty, Drew, Bogaerts. Nava pinch hit but joined the crowd with a K. Instead of "Dirty Water" we had organ music as we filed out.

But we didn't need that win. St. Louis did. If the Red Sox had prevailed it would have looked like we were already halfway to another World Series sweep. After all, the Sox had not lost a World Series game since October 1986.  My 28 year-old daughter was only 1 year and 8 months old. My 26 year-old daughter was not born yet. The Road to Redemption shouldn't look too easy.  

So we go to St. Louis tonight with the Series tied, 1-1. Now it's a best of five. True, 3 of the 5 are in St. Louis where we have no DH, but we'll have Papi playing 1st and Jake Peavy can strike out in place of Napoli striking out.

All the Red Sox need to do is win one of the three in St. Louis. Two would be better, obviously. But if they win one...and Sunday night is the best one to win...Game 5 will be a Best-of-3 with two of the three played in the Friendly Confines.

One more thing. We probably want the Sox to lose at least one game in St. Louis. That way we can have a World Series Championship clinch at home.  And that hasn't happened since 9/11/1918.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Top Ten Red Sox Color Analysts

I had planned to post this during the summer, but decided to delay because of the unfortunate turn of events in the Remy family.  It has nothing to do with this ranking, but I felt that a little separation was in order.  Now, on the eve of the ALDS, it seems like the time is right. That said, on with the Countdown:

10. DALE ARNOLD. Knows his stuff. He’s done a lot of hosting on sports talk, teamed with Eddie Andelman (The A Team), Bob Neumeier (Dale and Numie), Michael Holley (Dale and Holley), Bruins pre-game and play-by-play on TV, and Red Sox color fill-in. A very knowledgable guy, but completely stiff on the air. Ever hear him say anything clever or amusing? Me neither.

9. JIM WOODS. He did games with Ned Martin from 1974 to 1978. Ned was excellent. I never quite got why Jim Woods was even there. He sounded old. His nickname, which they used a lot, was Possum. How many people from these here parts have you ever met who are called Possum? I did do my research and found that Jim Woods did Yankee games on TV (or Tee Vee as they called it then) in the early 50‘s and one of the guys in the booth thought he looked like a possum and gave him the nickname. Still...who cares?

8. JON RISH. He was the #3 guy on WEEI for about five years and filled in whenever Dave O’Brien was away doing ESPN stuff. WEEI cut his salary by 30% this year and he said sayonara. I don’t blame him. WEEI’s parent company Entercom is notoriously cheap. He has done fill-in for Remy on NESN since then. Rish has a good voice and clearly knows his stuff, but he has absolutely no on-air personality. He might be a great guy in person, but on the air he’s as dull as they come.

7. SEAN GRANDE. He was a Sports Flash guy on WEEI’s Big Show with Glenn Ordway, then went to Minnesota to do Timberwolves games. He came back to Boston several years ago to do Celtics games with Cedric Maxwell. He’s done some Red Sox fill-in for Dave O’Brien and is very knowledgable. But man, does he talk fast. That’s a requirement when you’re doing basketball play-by-play, but it doesn’t match the leisurely pace of baseball.

6. BOB MONTGOMERY. The former backup catcher for Carlton Fisk did games with Ned Martin from 1982 to 1995. He was okay, but as a former player didn’t bring the aura to the air of a Jerry Remy or a Dennis Eckersley. He also had a southern drawl that could be annoying to New Englanders. “That’s the fuurst ruun of the gaayyme.”

5. BOB KURTZ. He was with NESN for about 10 years and did play-by-play from 1993 to 2000. Kurtz is from Minnesota, where he did a fair amount of play-by-play for the Twins and now does Minnesota Wild hockey games. I don’t remember anything special about him other than the occasional mis-pronouncing of local names.

4. BOB MURPHY. He was the middle-innings guy in the days of Curt Gowdy. As a kid who loved listening to play-by-play, I thought he had a better voice than Gowdy.  He was known for his upbeat persona. “The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day for baseball.” He went to New York and did Mets games for quite a while, and when I heard him in New York in 2000 he just sounded old. He was actually only 76, much younger than Vin Scully is now. But he sounded old.  My Red Sox recollection of him - also old - is very positive.

3. LOU MERLONI. This may be a surprise, and Lou has only filled in as color analyst a few times. But he’s very good. Not as funny as Eckersley, and despite hailing from Framingham, does not have a strong local accent. As a former Red Sox player and a regular host on WEEI, he has remarkably good insight into the whys and hows of pitch selection, player positioning, the science of matchups, the manager’s thought process and the psyche of players who are brought up from AAA, sent back down, brought back up, sent back down and finally make the Big Show for good. When you listen to Lou you learn something.

2. JERRY REMY. After a successful career as a Red Sox 2nd baseman and the club’s #1 base-stealer, Remy’s playing days were cut short by knee injuries. But think of the guys he played with: Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Wade Boggs (all in the Hall of Fame), Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Roger Clemens, George Scott, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd. The list goes on. He has great stories about all those guys. Within a few years he became the Red Sox color analyst, working with Ned Martin, Sean McDonough and Don Orsillo. It was McDonough who came up with the nickname Rem Dawg. Regionalisms, as noted above, can be annoying to the audience. In Remy’s case it’s a big advantage, because he’s a local guy who played for the home team. When he says, "aahsk" (ask) or “the Ty-gizz” (Tigers) or talks about the “Amicer pitch zone” it adds local color...just what a color guy is supposed to do. His rapport with Don Orsillo is legendary. It’s especially entertaining during slow moments.

1. DENNIS ECKERSLEY. As a Hall of Fame pitcher The Eck has an excellent perspective on the ins and outs of the game, saying things that the Red Sox probably don’t want said on the air but that people need to hear.  He’s also very funny and has some great lines. “That guy’s about to get his lunch” or "That was some high-test gas" or “That pitch...that was cheese with hair on it!”

Eck is also the one who coined the term "walkoff."  Many think that walkoff refers to someone who hits a home run or has an RBI that wins the game in the bottom of the 9th. That’s not the original meaning. In the 1988 World Series Eck was the closer for the A’s and he faced Kirk Gibson in the 9th inning of game 2. Gibson had a bad ankle and couldn’t run the bases well, so Manager Tommy Lasorda sent him up to pinch hit, saying, “You’ll have to hit a home run.” Gibson did, and the video of him hobbling around the bases pumping his fist is the second most famous World Series home run ever (the most famous, of course, is Carlton Fisk in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway, but that preceded the term by 13 years). After the game in 1988 Eckersley was interviewed by NBC and he was asked for his thoughts about throwing that pitch to Gibson. Eck responded, “When something like that happens there’s nothing for you to do but walk off.” Meaning the pitcher walking off the mound, not the hitter jumping up and down in a pigpile at home plate.

It’s unfortunate that Eckersley's job doing color on NESN is a result of Jerry Remy’s health and family issues, but Eck is really good at it.  He's been filling in for Remy on most games for the last few months, and it's disappointing when he's not there.  I hope Eck takes the gig permanently.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Good News and a Note of Caution

The Good News

After the 9th inning 3-run homer from Stephen Drew on Wednesday night the Red Sox had a total of 70 wins. No team in Major League Baseball had more, and 70 wins is more then the Sox had for the entire season in 2012. And we're still in the single digits of August. A year ago at this time they had only 55 wins and were in 4th place 11 games out.

The Note of Caution

Go back another year. On this date in 2011 the Red Sox had 72 wins and were in 1st place by 2-1/2 games. Remember, the big chicken-and-beer collapse didn't start until September.

Let's look at some big years of the past on this date:

2007 World Series Champions. 69 wins, 1st place.

2004 World Series Champions. 60 wins, 2nd place and 10-1/2 games out. Can you believe it?

2003 Went to the ALCS and lost to the Yankees in 7 games (the Aaron Boone walk off). 68 wins, 2nd place, 6 games out.

1999 Went to the ALCS and lost to the Yankees. 61 wins, 3rd place, 8-1/2 games out.

1995 Won the AL East but were swept by Cleveland in the playoffs. 56 wins (but the season started late due to the 1994 strike), 1st place by 7 games.

1990 Won the AL East but were swept by the A's in the playoffs - that was when Roger Clemens was tossed for mouthing "vaccuum" (so he claimed) at the umpire. 60 wins, 1st place by 2 games.

1988 Won the AL East but were swept by the A's. 64 wins, 2nd place, 3 games out.

1986 AL Champions, lost the World Series in 7 games to the Mets (the Bill Buckner year). 64 wins, 1st place by 5 games.

1978 Blew an 11-1/2 game lead but tied the Yankees on the final day. Lost the one-game playoff when Bucky Bleeping Dent homered. No Wild Card back then. 70 wins on this date. Hmmmph. 1st place by 7-1/2 games.

1975 AL Champions, lost the World Series to Cincinnati in 7 games. 69 wins, 1st place by 6 games.

1967 The Impossible Dream Year. Lost the World Series to St. Louis in 7 games. 60 wins, 2nd place, 1-1/2 games out.

1948 Ended the season tied for 1st with Cleveland. Lost a one-game playoff. If they'd won, it would have been a Boston Red Sox v. Boston Braves World Series. The Braves also lost. 4th place, 3 games out.

1946 American League Champions, lost the World Series to St. Louis in 7 games when Johnny Pesky was slow making a relay throw. 76 wins (wow!) in 1st place by 14 games.

1918 World Series Champions, beating the Cubs. 63 wins, 1st place by 3-1/2 games.

They've been better off, they've been worse off.

Worse off much more frequently over the years, but right now they're better off than in any World Series year since 1946. And much much better off than anyone predicted.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Who's the best ever Red Sox Play-by-Play announcer?

Fred Hoey
It started in 1926. Fred Hoey did games for about 15 years but all I know is his name and the stations that carried the games (usually WNAC, which is now WRKO).

Jim Britt
Jim did play-by-play for both the Red Sox and the Boston Braves from 1942 until the early 50's. He only did home games, but the Red Sox and Braves were never scheduled at home on the same day so it worked out. Britt did the first-ever televised game in 1948 - Braves vs. Cubs at Braves Field, which is now Nickerson Field at BU. This preceded my time, so I don't know how good he was or know any of his special calls. I asked my father-in-law and he couldn't remember anything special. I'm on the Board of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame and Jim Britt is being inducted in September, so he was at least that good. In 1951 both the Red Sox and Braves decided to broadcast all of their games, so each team needed their own play-by-play Talent. Britt chose to stay with the Braves, which was the wrong choice as they left town in 1953 in moved to Milwaukee. By the way, the "Yankee" you see on his microphone is not for the Yankees, it's for the Yankee Network, which was based in Boston.

Curt Gowdy
He did Sox games from 1951-1965 and had classic lines like, "It's a seat squirmer", "3 and 2, the big one due" and "Going...going...gone!" As a kid, when I realized that I probably would not be replacing Ted Williams in left field, I decided that I wanted to be like Curt Gowdy and do play-by-play. Gowdy was an A.

Ken Coleman
He replaced Cowdy in 1966 and lasted until 1974, then was back from 1979-1989. He had a mediocre voice and I always thought he sounded bored - even in 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski came to bat during his Triple Crown season and people would pull over rather than drive under a bridge and miss what Yaz did. The classic call of the 1967 Impossible Dream Season wasn't by Ken Coleman. Ken was a C.

Ned Martin
Ned was the #2 guy for Curt Gowdy in 1965 and took over the lead role in 1966. He had a nice voice, and his enthusiasm made Ken sound even more bored. On a long home run Ned would say, "He's just gonna look up and admire that one" or simply say, "Mercy" or "That's over everything." On TV, when a pitch that looked like it was right down the pipe was called a ball, Ned would just mutter, "Hmmph." His most famous line was in 1967 when the Red Sox won the pennant for the first time in 21 years: "Petrocelli's under it...the Red Sox WIN...and there's pandemonium on the field!" At the end of the 1978 season Ned and partner Jim Woods were fired for "not following sponsor dictates" and switched to TV where he lasted until 1992. Ned Martin was an A+.

Jon Miller
My favorite. He was the #2 guy for three seasons starting in 1980. Jon made exciting moments more exciting and slow moments - even rain delays - entertaining. He did great impressions of Vin Scully, long-time Fenway PA announcer Sherm Feller and many others. I was disappointed when he was gone for the 1983 season, but excited once again when I moved to Baltimore and he was the #1 guy for the Orioles. One time at Memorial Stadium when it was UMass Alumni of Baltimore-Washington night he did a Sherm Feller impression over the PA that was very funny for anyone from Boston. Miller was the first one, when referring to the on-deck batter when there are two outs, by saying, "He would be next." He subsequently went to the Giants and did ESPN Sunday Night Baseball on TV for many years. Jon Miller is an A+.

Joe Castiglione
1983 was a disappointing year. The ream wasn't very good, finishing in 6th place 20 games behind Baltimore. The play-by-play flagship station became WPLM in Plymouth, which had a bad signal and horrible small-town production. Even worse, Jon Miller was replaced by Castiglione, who is still around 30 years later. Compared to Miller's superb pipes, Castiglione has a voice that's mediocre at best. He sounds uninspired doing ads like Shaw's "from the deli-to-the-dugout sweepstakes" and can sound bored when bad things happen in the game. He also will go up a full octave when something exciting happens.

Joe has certainly put his time in and everyone is used to him. He's very knowledgeable...sometimes too much so, such as when he tells us the name of a visiting player's 3rd grade teacher. It was fitting that in his 22nd season doing Sox games he got to make the "Can you believe it?" radio call when they finally won it in 2004.

My only real complaint with Joe is that he mispronounces player's names. Even Red Sox players. There are three members of the 2013 Red Sox who's names Joe seemingly can't say correctly. Jacoby Ellsbury (he says it like Ells-BERRY), Jose Iglesias (he sticks an N in there making it IN-glesias) and Koji Uehara. Admittedly that's a tough one, and many people have trouble with it, but he's our closer and the play-by-play guy should get the name right. Joe says "YOU-ee-har-a" when it should be "WAY-har-a" (the opening U and e being a dipthong). So Joe Castiglione gets a B.

Sean McDonough
From 1987 until 2004 Sean did the over-the-air broadcasts while Ned Martin and later Bob Kurtz did the NESN games. It was Sean who came up with the nickname Rem-Dawg for his partner Jerry Remy. Sean was very good...so good that a guy doing the Pawtucket Red Sox games practiced trying to sound like Sean. That guy was Don Orsillo. Sean's Red Sox job eventually went to Orsillo, who sounded just as good for a lot less money. A new sports radio station called 1510/The Zone (the old WMEX frequency) was trying to compete with WEEI and spent a ton of money hiring Talent like Sean, Eddie Andelman and Mike Adams but the horrible signal doomed it to failure. Sean was an A+.

Bob Starr
Bob was Joe Castiglione's partner for three seasons, 1990-1992, but for some reason I draw almost a complete blank on him, so there's no rating. I do recall that he did Patriots games with Gil Santos for a few years.

Jerry Trupiano
Jerry was Joe's partner from 1993 to 2006. I never liked him. HIs voice was gruff and I kept wanting him to clear his throat. He is most famous for giving fans false hope with his "Way back, WAAAY back!" calls on fly balls that wound up being caught on the warning track. A legit complaint, but that wasn't the biggest problem. During slow moments he was tedious. "That brings up so-and-so...he's looking to get on base." Jeez, ya think so? How many batters aren't? He'd also say the same thing three times during a slow at bat, and made stupid jokes about song lyrics. Songs by Perry Como or someone else that no one cares about. And he used to work in Houston and talked about Houston a lot. Who cares? Jerry was a D.

Dave O'Brien
He joined the Red Sox radio team in 2006 as Joe's #2 guy, and became the lead announcer in 2011. Excellent. Great voice, colorful lines like, "Goodness, gracious" or "He really hit a rope...you could hang your wash on that one." He also has ESPN duties, so he's not always there and the fill-ins are never as good. Dave is an A. The only thing keeping him from being an A+ is missing a couple of games each week.

Don Orsillo
Excellent. Pleasant guy, great voice, very descriptive. "Well-hit toward left, high in the air, and when it comes down this game will be tied." His rapport with Jerry Remy is as good as it gets...entertaining with a lot of local color. He's definitely an A. The only thing that keeps him from being an A+ is that he can't pronounce W. And for W.B. Mason alone he has to say it about fifty times a night. It comes out as "du-bee-Mason." Surprising for an otherwise excellent Voice Talent as they call it in the business.

So here's the top 10 countdown
10. Jim Britt. Not rated because he preceded my time, but he's going into the Hall of Fame.
9. Jerry Trupiano
8. Ken Coleman
7. Joe Castiglione
6. Curt Gowdy
5. Dave O'Brien
4. Don Orsillo
3. Sean McDonough
2. Jon Miller
1. Ned Martin

Note: 3, 2 and 1 are all A+...Ned Martin wins overall on tenure.

What about the color analysts like Remy?
There are too many to do all in one blog. We'll rank them in the next episode.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Red Sox hit 50 in June

June 30th, and the Red Sox have 50 wins.

It's a pretty impressive benchmark. They've only been at 50 wins on June 30th three times in the 113 years of the franchise.

The Red Sox and Rays both had 50 wins, but Boston trailed Tampa Bay by 1-1/2 games because of three more losses. The Rays wound up winning the AL East, the Red Sox won the Wild Card, and the Rays won the ALCS when JD Drew took a season ending bases loaded called third strike in Game 7. The Phillies wound up beating Tampa Bay in the World Series.

The year of the epic collapse. On June 30th 1978, the Red Sox had a record 52 wins and a 9-game lead over the 3rd-place Yankees, but faded in August and were caught by the New York in mid-September. After a weekend series known as the Boston Massacre, where the Yankees outscored the Red Sox 42-9, they fell back by 3-1/2 games, but wound up in an even tie on the last day of the season. The one-game playoff was the infamous Bucky "bleeping" Dent game. The Yankees went on to beat the Dodgers and win their first World Series in 16 years.

All the stars were back from WWII...Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, etc...and the Red Sox won 104 games...the most by far since 1912, when they won 105 and beat the Giants in the World Series. They wound up losing the 1946 World Series to St. Louis. The revered Pesky was blamed for not making a relay throw in the 9th inning of Game 7 while Enos Slaughter scored the winning run from 1st base. Is it rarely mentioned when the legacy of Johnny Pesky is discussed, but the Red Sox actually traded him away to Detroit a few years later.

The Red Sox are on pace on twin 98 games...that's a 29-game improvement over 2012. As far as I know, no MLB team has ever made that big a year-to-year improvement. So I, for one, am feeling very good about this.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Classy Move By the Yankees

Forget about them being the Evil Empire.

This was a classy move by the Yankees.

In the middle of the 3rd at Yankee Stadium they played "Sweet Caroline" to show support for Boston. Fans in Yankee hats even tried to sing along. As a native Bostonian, I've disliked the Yankees my entire life...which dates back to the days of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, but this was a very classy move. Thank you, New York.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

He Scares Me

Joel Hanrahan, the new closer for the Red Sox, scares me.

Before I forget.
Huh? Forget what? Actually, that's the title of the song that Hanrahan chooses as his intro. In case you don't know it, don't worry. Most fans at Fenway don't. It's by Slipknot. Came out in 2004 and named by AOL (AOL??) as one of the top ten metal songs of the 00's. For what that's worth.

As we hit the top of the 9th it comes on the Jumbotron, nice and loud, as we see a black-and-white shot of Hanrahan that morphs into a graphic that says, "The Hammer." Yeah, he puts the hammer down, man. You can't touch this. Except that they seem to touch it a lot.

It's supposed to make us forget the crowd singing along with "Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkicks while Papelbon high-fives the cop in the bullpen and sprints to the edge of the infield dirt.

Here's the problem.
It's overdone for a guy who has yet to pitch well at Fenway. Hanrahan has had three appearances in the Friendly Confines, and yes, the Red Sox have won two of those three despite the shaky performance of Hanrahan.

He's gone a total of 1.2+ innings, meaning he didn't get through his one inning of duty in two of the three games (he got 3 outs on Monday, only two on Wednesday, and none today). In that time he's given up six runs on three home runs (two solos and a 3-run), a double, a single, four walks and a run-scoring save-blowing wild pitch. Fourteen batters, nine base runners, six of them scoring, while retiring only five. That's not The Hammer, that's the guy getting hammered.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Streak Is Over

Sellout ends
from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

The Sellout Streak is Over.
The consecutive game sellout streak at Fenway Park ended last night - to no one's surprise. Sox brass predicted it in early February when they admitted that season ticket sales were off by 10%.

It's official.
Whether you believed it or not, it's in the record books. 820 consecutive games - that includes playoffs which were obviously sellouts - that's a record in all of professional sports. They'd send season ticket holders souvenir baseballs commemorating the 500th, 600th and 700th sellouts.

So what was it like last night?
Raining. Pretty hard at times. The tarp was on the field for 43-minutes. You can see in the video that two ticket windows on Lansdowne Street were getting little or no action. On a typical night the line for the Day-of-Game tickets would stretch down the sidewalk under the Monster Seats all the way to Gate C. Not last night.

The bad news.
Joel Hanrahan imploded in the 9th, blowing a 5-3 lead and leaving us with an 8-5 loss, but I'll spout off on him in another blog.

The good news.
Opening Day always sells out, but the second home game of the season is a notoriously tough sell everywhere. Despite that, the Red Sox had 31,800 people there on a cold, rainy night. Only four teams in Major League Baseball drew more than that, and they all had gametime temperatures in the mid-70's. The Red Sox drew more than 25 other teams and had more fans last night than Kansas City, Miami and Seattle combined (and two of those even have a roof).

Ryan Dempster had a quality start (5 innings, 3 hits, only 1 earned run). Lester and Buchholz look teriffic. They're in 1st place, and after the strong start season tickets are only off by 8%. We could see a new streak start sometime in May.

Monday, April 8, 2013

We Got Punk'd on "Sweet Caroline"

Opening Day 2013 from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

Opening Day at Fenway
What a great day. Sunny and 65, not a cloud in the sky. My new seats in the red section have substantially better legroom.

The players, new and old, line up on the foul line. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia get the expected huge applause, as do Lester and Buchholz. Very big applause for John Farrell. Jackie Bradley Jr., who is not in the starting lineup, gets an impressive applause. The Jimmy Fund Chorus sings the National Anthem...perfectly. No improvisation, no taking five notes and three octaves to sing "brave."

The game is great.
The Red Sox are in 1st place, the Yankees are in last place. Clay Buchholz throws 7 innings of shutout ball, only 3 hits and 8 K's. Andrew Bailey has a 1-2-3- 8th.

Then what?
A week ago today, Opening Day in New York, the Boston Globe ran a story saying that the Red Sox were dropping "Sweet Caroline" and replacing it with "At Fenway" (what?) by Brian Evans (who? huh?). There was a quote from Neil Diamond who was very upset about this. I blogged about it. Got numerous comments, most saying that it was a Fenway tradition and didn't like the change. One comment came from my daughter Caitlin Kelley, who lives in NYC but would never root for the Yankees. She said, "That's weird. What do you think about the date?" It was last Monday, which was April 1st.

Middle of the 8th.
Nick Markakis flies out to Ellsbury for the 3rd out and we immediately hear..."Sweet Caroline." Here's the clip:

Sweet Caroline on Opening Day 2013

from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

So it turns out that we all got punk'd on April Fool's Day. But today was a great day at the old ballpark.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wellesley is back in the Majors

My hometown of Wellesley, MA is once again represented in Major League Baseball.
We've had many ballplayers who lived here while they played for the Red Sox: Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Mickey Vernon, Mike Torrez (the day after Torrez threw the home run pitch to Bucky Dent in the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees playoff the Wellesley Board of Assessors met and decided to raise the assessment on his house just to teach him a lesson - at least that's what I heard), Bruce Hurst, Bill Mueller, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carl Crawford among many others. But now we once again have someone who grew up here playing in the majors. Nate Freiman.

Nate played in Wellesley Little League and at Wellesley High School. He was in the same class as my daughter Kara Kelley (2005). He was 17-1 as a pitcher and hit .500 his last two years. In the shot above he's playing for the Orleans Cardinals in the Cape Cod League. He played his college ball at Duke and spent time in the Padres farm system.

In December Major League Baseball held the Rule 5 draft. That's where teams get to draft players from other organization's minor league teams and it's done in reverse order of that team's MLB record the previous year. The Astros, who were much worse than the Red Sox in 2012, got to go first in the draft and picked Nate.

In March the Oakland A's claimed him off waivers and last night he made his Major League debut playing first base. Went 2-for-3 with an RBI so the stats have him batting an impressive .667.
Nate is the first MLB player from my home town since Jack Sanford.

Jack pitched for the Phillies, the Angels (the year they changed their name from LA Angels to California Angels) and the A's (during their final year as the Kansas City A's), but he's best known for his seven seasons pitching for the San Francisco Giants - the biggest highlight being his complete game shutout of the Yankees in Game 2 of the 1962 World Series.
Just for the fun of it, here they both are wearing A's uniforms:

On Monday, April 23rd the A's come to Boston for a series and we'll be cheering Nate when he steps to the plate at Fenway.

Monday, April 1, 2013

No More Sweet Caroline at Fenway?? Really?

Sweet Caroline Fenway Mix from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

It's been a tradition in the middle of the 8th inning for years. They play "Sweet Caroline" and the crowd has a great time singing along. A few years ago I made a special mix...crowd noise I had recorded over the years mixed in with Neil singing. We'd play it on the radio on Magic 106.7 every time the Red Sox won. (In 2008 I had to rush in on a Friday night and edit out the "Man-ny, Man-ny" chant.)

One Saturday a couple of years ago Tom Werner was on the way to Fenway and he heard it on the air. When the song ended the DJ, Candy O'Terry, said, "This special Fenway version of 'Sweet Caroline' was put together by our Program Director, Don Kelley." On Monday Tom Werner called me at the radio station and said he really enjoyed it and can he have a copy? Sure thing.

Last year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway, I put together a video of Fenway shots accompanied by my "Sweet Caroline" mix. I picked a poor year to do it, and today it was announced that they're dropping the song and replacing it with "At Fenway" by Brian Evans as of next Monday's home opener. I think I get the reasoning, but nobody will sing along to Brian Evans because nobody knows him or the song. Not yet, anyway.

So if you think you'll miss hearing the crowd singing to Neil Diamond in the middle of the 8th, click on the video above to remember how much fun it was.

The Most Common First Names in Baseball

Here it is...my annual Opening Day listing of the most common first names in Major League Baseball.This is based on the 25-man roster of all 30 teams. When I ask people to guess they typically come up with Jose and Carlos as likely candidates. Neither makes the top five.

#5 (tie): Jason. Castro, Frasor, Grilli, Hammel, Kipnis, Kubel, Marquis, Vargas. There are also two Jaysons...Nix and Werth.

#5 (tie): Justin. Masterson, Maxwell, Morneau, Ruggiano, Sellers, Turner. Upton, Verlander, Wilson. (Note that none of them have a last name starting with A through L.)

#4: Josh. Beckett, Collmenter, Donaldson, Edgin, Fields, Harrison, Johnson, Reddick, Rutledge, Wilson. All spelled the same way.

#2 (tie): Matt and Ryan. So Matt wins on an alphabetical tiebreaker...unless you do it in reverse order. The Matts are Adams, Albers, Belisle, Cain, Carpenter, Dominguez, Guerrier, Harrison, Kemp, Latos, Reynolds, Thornton, Tuiasosopo (does he have a fake girlfriend?) and Wieters. Ryan (last year's winner) includes Braun, Cook, Dempster, Doumit, Flaherty, Hanigan, Howard, Jackson, Ludwick, Mattheus, Pressly, Vogelsong, Webb and Zimmerman.

#1: Chris. Capuano, Carter, Coghlan, Davis, Denforia, Getz, Iannetta, Johnson, Leroux, Medlen, Nelson, Parmalee, Perez, Resop, Sale, Stewart, Valaika, Volstad, Young.

John would have been 3rd if you counted all the variations (John, Jon, Jonny, Johnny, Jhonny). There are also 20 players who use initials: AJ Burnett, AJ Ellis, AJ Pierzynski, AJ Ramos, AJ Griffin, AJ Pollock, BJ Upton, CC Sabathia, CJ Wilson, JC Gutierrez, JD Martinez, JP Arrencibia, JJ Hardy, JJ Hoover, JJ Putz, JP Howell, RA Dickey, TJ McFarland. AJ is clearly the most popular combo. 18 of the 20 have J as at least one of the initials.

Apropos of nothing (stolen from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe)...Homer Bailey is not a good name for a pitcher. JJ Hoover, also a pitcher, should be a 3rd baseman with that name. JB Shuck makes it sound like he doesn't care. Jake Peavy sounds like someone who's always in a bad mood. Aaron Harangue sounds like someone who just won't shut up. Mike Leake sounds like he needs to excuse himself for a moment. Justin Turner sounds like someone who needs to wait in line. Doug Fister? Make up your own punch line.

Oh, on the Tom, Dick and Harry front...there is one Tom, but no Dicks and no Harrys.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Back from Spring Training...How Do They Look?

Just got back from Florida.
It felt much more like Spring than what I hear happened in Boston, but if you scroll back a few posts on my blog you'll see that I picked March as my least favorite month because it is not trustworthy. It was a great time down there. I took in four spring training games...three in Ft. Myers and another in Dunedin. All were sellouts and it was 82 and sunny every day. Everyone at every game seems to be having fun. I rented a convertible and had a blast tooling around wearing sunglasses.

So how are things looking?
The Red Sox look better than people projected. Especially the pitching. Team ERA is the lowest of all teams. I saw John Lackey face Cole Hamels and the Phillies and he looked very good. Went 5-1/3 innings giving up only one run. The next day I saw Alfredo Aceves as a starter. I have very little faith in him, but he did okay, especially considering that he was facing R.A. Dickey and a regular Blue Jays lineup and his offense was all minor league guys.

Jonny Gomes will not be part of the Legacy in Left at Fenway. He might be DH for a few weeks, but when David Ortiz is healthy (fingers and eyes crossed) Gomes will be expendable and Nava will fill that role. Shane Victorino hit a game-winning bases-clearing triple on Thursday night, but that might be his only hit this whole spring. No one is going to confuse him with Dwight Evans. Lyle Overbay was famous as a rookie for never getting a single. Every hit was for extra bases. But that was then. The Red Sox already released him and the Yankees picked him up as a potential spare part because they have major injury problems.

Ryan Lavarnway was sent to Pawtucket because he only hit .150 in spring training. Not great, but it's three times what David Ross hit (.050). Ross, who was briefly with the team a few years ago but was cut because he couldn't catch Tim Wakefield, is the backup for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I doubt that will last the year. Pedro Ciriaco seems to be a forgotten person.

Pedroia looks great as always, Middlebrooks looks good, Iglesias (everyone wants to pronounce it Inglesias but there is no n in the name) is very capable in the field and, while still a long way from being your cleanup guy, at .250 is hitting about 100 points higher than last year.
.250 is also what Ellsbury is hitting. Ells has made some nice catches in center as we expected, but in his one attempt at stealing a base he twisted an ankle. It's a contract year for him and if he wants that big payday in the fall he needs to play like he did in 2011. Especially considering who's breathing down his neck. Jackie Bradley, Jr. is for real. Speed, great defense, hitting something like .450. If he doesn't start the season In Boston, he'll get a callup within about two weeks. He's still wearing #74, but his favorite number, 19, is available since Josh Beckett is history.

Come September you will not see Gomes in left or Victorino in right. Stephen Drew will be like his brother JD and miss more games than he plays. Iglesias will get the most starts at short. If Iglesias doesn't hit you might well see Xander Boegarts playing short. I'm worried about Daniel Bard. He was such a great 8th inning guy, an obvious successor to Papelbon. The heinous attempt to make him a starter ruined him and he's having a tough time getting it back. They sent him to AA Portland. I'm rooting for him.

Bottom line:
When the real games start next week the Red Sox will look better than everyone expected, and by May they will be very hot.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why I Love Daylight Saving

First, let me note...
The correct term is Daylight Saving, not savings. Daylight is singular, so saving should also be singular. I've always been annoyed by commercials that say, "That's a 20% savings!" A is singular. Same thing: saving should also be singular. "That's a 20% saving" would be the correct way to say it. I realize that "a savings" is used in commercials all the time, but it's wrong 100% of the time.

Back to Daylight Saving.
It's one of my favorite days of the year...right up there with the 4th of July and Christmas.

Why? We lose an hour of sleep.
Sure, but it's on a Sunday morning, and these days most of the clocks advance themselves. iPhone, iPad, cable, etc. Okay, you still have to do the oven, the microwave, the cars, and any old mantel clocks you might have. But in the 90's it was way worse. One year back then I counted 27 clocks I had to re-set...that included both our house and my mother's.

So what's so great about it?
It signals the end of the long, dreary winter. Even with March snowstorms, you know that daffodils will be popping up within days. Spring officially begins in just over a week (before they moved Daylight Saving it would have actually been spring), the feel and smell of melting snow is one of the top 5 sensory experiences. Even with March snowstorms, you know that daffodils will be popping up within days. You start thinking about pouring some aluminum sulphate around the hydrangeas so they'll be a spectacular blue in July. Opening Day, when Hope Springs Eternal and the world is new again, is only three weeks away. You can head home from work without turning on the headlights. Maybe even sport your Wayfarer sunglasses.

Appropriate songs on the radio.
There aren't any. When we "Fall Back" there are several: "Turn Back the Hands of Time" by Tyrone Davis, "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper, "If I could Turn Back Time" by Cher and several more. No one has done a Spring Ahead song that was a hit.

But you have to admit it's a great feeling when we Spring Ahead.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

BC's Terry Doyle is the winning pitcher

On Monday the Boston Red Sox played the Tampa Bay Rays in spring training and won, 5-1. The winning pitcher was one Terry Doyle.

If you're wondering about the hat he's wearing, the shot is from the Cape Cod Baseball League, where Terry pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in 2006 and 2007. Y-D won the CCBL Championship both years.

Terry, a BC guy, was the ace starter for Yarmouth-Dennis. Their closer was David Robertson, who was the CCBL Playoff MVP and has been the 8th inning guy for the "Evil Empire" New York Yankees the last few years.

The catcher was one Buster Posey (the local PA guy always announced him as "Bustah"), who was the National League Rookie of the Year for the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and National League MVP and Batting Champion in 2012.


And to think that we saw them - along with many other future Major Leaguers - in the pleasant late afternoon post-beach setting of Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why is Ordway Out and Who's to Blame?

Today is Glenn Ordway's last Big Show.
The PM Drive host of WEEI does his last show this afternoon. Ordway has been on the air in the Boston area since the mid-70's: on the old WMEX, on WRKO, broadcasting Celtics games with Johnny Most, and on WEEI since it was at 590 AM - that was before 850 AM and later 93.7 FM.
The program was originally called The Big Show with the Big O, with Glenn as the main host surrounded by rotating co-hosts: former BC and NFL players Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie during football season, Mike Felger, former Red Sox player Lou Merloni, and Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti during baseball season. Pete Sheppard was the Sports Flash guy, constantly derided because he pronounced it like "Sptfsh." Everyone was always fighting to get a word in edgewise. During the Magical season of 2004 WEEI was #1 25-54 for the entire year. With adults, not just men. Ordway was honored with an NAB Marconi Award nomination for Personality of the Year.

So what happened?
In January 2009 Ordway was signed to a new contract for a million dollars per year. This was 2009, remember. Big contracts for radio Talent typically come with ratings incentives, because the correlation between ratings and revenue is very clear. The beginning of that contract coincided with the Red Sox not winning any more playoff games, the economy hitting the bottom and parent company Entercom nearly being delisted from the NYSE because the shares fell to under a dollar, and a new FM sports talk competitor, WBZ-FM, going on the air that summer. Two-and a half years into the contract Ordway's salary was cut in half because ratings incentives were not being met. Still, he was making five large.

And then...
WBZ-FM, known as "98.5 the Sports Hub," surpassed WEEI quickly. They had a younger sound - especially in morning drive. In afternoon drive Ordway's Big Show was competing with WBZ-FM's Felger and Mazz, (Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti, both former co-hosts of Ordway's). In the summer of 2010 WBZ-FM was #1 with Men 25-54 in afternoon drive and WEEI was a close #3, but WEEI was still slightly ahead with all adults. By September of 2011, when the Red Sox fell apart, WBZ-FM was #3 with adults and WEEI had dropped to 14th. Entercom responded by cutting Ordway's salary in half, firing Pete Sheppard, and moving WEEI from 850 AM to 93.7 FM.

Hope springs eternal.
It does, every year. By Opening Day last year Ordway was #6 in afternoon and Felger and Mazz were 8th. We all know what happened in 2012, and by year's end Ordway came in 12th 25-54 and Felger and Mazz were 4th, and #1 with Men.

Who's to blame?
WEEI is the flagship of the Red Sox and Celtics, and WBZ-FM is the flagship of the Patriots and Bruins. Certainly the fortunes of the flagship teams affect ratings, but the primary blame here goes to Entercom. Poor management, poor decisions when it came to teaming co-hosts with Ordway. They should have moved to FM much earlier. They should never have given Ordway that huge contract in the depths of a recession. They should never made made the 50% salary cut public because it made them look scared and Ordway look like a loser.

One good thing I'll say for Entercom.
The announcement of Ordway's firing was made on Tuesday evening, and he has been allowed to stay on the air through this afternoon. That is unheard of in radio. When they decide you're gone, you're gone immediately, like you never existed. Ordway has handled it on the air like a true gentleman. Glenn may be out, but he is not gone.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal
Pitchers and catchers open camp today in Fort Myers, and hope springs eternal for a better season in 2013. I mean, could it get any worse than 2012?

Sure it could.
I lived in Baltimore in the late 80's. In 1988 the Orioles were only five years separated from their last World Series win, in 1983. That's the exact same gap as the Red Sox had last year, 2007-2012. The '88 Orioles opened the season by dropping the first 21 games. After the 3rd loss, Bob Rivers, new morning show host on 98 Rock, announced that he'd stay on the air round-the-clock until the team won. And he did. The manager, Cal Ripken, Sr. (father of star shortstop Cal, Jr.) was fired after loss #6. Everyone slumped simultaneously. It was so bad they didn't put batting averages on the scoreboard because they all started with a zero.

The O's finally won a game in Chicago on April 29th, then dropped two more, and returned home for "Fantastic Fans Night" (this was already on the books before the season started) on May 2nd to a sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium. Bob Rivers was given a full Orioles uniform, name on the back and all, and got a standing ovation when he threw out the first pitch, like a girl, as they used to say. (An outdated phrase. I happen to know from experience that girls can throw really well if you show them how.) Baltimore went on to win that game, 9-4. They finished last that year, with a record of 54-107. That's fifteen games worse than the 2012 Red Sox.

So what happened the next year?
In 1989 they improved to 87-75 and finished 2nd, two games behind Toronto and four ahead of the 3rd-place Red Sox. That's a 33-game improvement. If the Red Sox do the same thing in 2013...win 33 more games than last year...they'll win 102 games, win the AL East and go on to win the World Series. Hopefully, the National League will win the All-Star game, so the Red Sox clinching win in the World Series will come at Fenway Park.

Hope springs eternal.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Movin' on down...

...to the Red Seats!
As soon as the 2012 Red Sox season mercifully ended, I called the Red Sox office and asked of they were getting a barrage of angry STH calls saying they would not renew for 2013. (STH is Sox-speak for season ticket holder.) I said that I'm an STH in Section 29. Great view but the seats themselves are old, small and uncomfortable. Legroom is non-existant. These are the wooden blue ones built after the 1934 fire at Fenway. They're the only wooden seats left in any Major League Baseball park. I told them I'd like to upgrade to the red seats. I'd actually made this same request after the September 2011 meltdown and the year before after the playoff Papelbomb against the Angels. And two years before that when JD Drew took a season-ending bases-loaded called third strike against Tampa Bay in the ALCS. They replied, "We really won't know if anything is available until February, but we'll put you on a waiting list. Send us an email saying what you're looking for." That was more encouraging than the 2008, 2010 and 2011 calls.

Why are the blue seats still there?
When the Henry group took over the Red Sox eleven years ago they did an excellent job of upgrading and modernizing the ballpark. They added the Monster Seats, the right field roof deck, took the glass off of the .406 Club, re-added the National League to the left-field scoreboard, put in high-def video boards, improved access, concourses, concessions, food, you name it. They also replaced a lot of the seats. But not the wooden blue grandstand seats. It was decided that they should remain because they are part of the aesthetic charm of Fenway. Clearly this idea came from someone who is 5' 9" or shorter, skinny and has not spent three or four hours at a time sitting in these seats. Also, the Red Sox have had no problem squeezing people into them.

Fast forward to late January.
I get an email from the Red Sox saying that there are a very few seats that have opened up...full season only, in the EMC Club. $348 each. Minimum of two seats, and it's a multi-year deal. Do the math and that's $56,376 per year, not including parking and food. For three years (isn't "multi" more than two?) it's $169,128. No, thanks. They did say that taking a pass on this offer would not affect my position on the upgrade waiting list.

Then came last Friday.
It's February 1st, and there's story in the Boston Globe - page one, above the fold - saying that Red Sox ticket sales are off by 10%. I called about the upgrade. They said I was definitely on the list, they had my email saying that I like my view from Section 29, but something lower down in the red seats would be ideal, and I would get a callback for sure. And I did. They offered me Loge Box seats one section closer to home with an even better view. The new red seats, sculpted for all your butt comfort needs. Cupholders, more legroom. At the end of the row, next to a railing, so there will be exactly no excuse-me's from other fans heading to concessions. That was an easy yes.

But I'm not changing the name of my blog.
View From Loge Box 155 just doesn't have the regular-guy-at-the-ballgame ring that View From Section 29 has.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A mere 7:28 from Beyonce to a kickoff return

The Superbowl (Pepsi) Half-time Show
We see Beyonce on stage with a gaggle of backup singers and dancers, looking great and sounding great. Who cares if she's singing to track? The Who obviously did in 2010, and this year's theme was actually called "Lipsync." We have huge I-Mag screens, a ring of fire, thousands of fans with All-Access passes on the field surrounding the stage. No wardrobe mishaps (although we didn't miss by much).

In case you missed it, click here.

The show ends, we cut to commercials and get ready for the second half.

How long does that take?
Unlike most normal people, I actually ran a stopwatch on the time it took to take down the concert stage, the I-Mag screens and the backline equipment, clear everyone off the field and get ready for the second-half kickoff. (That may sound anal, but there's a stopwatch on the iPhone, so it's really easy to do.) From the time they cut away from the concert stage to the time they went to live action for the kickoff, it took a total of 7:28. Seven minutes and twenty-eight seconds to clear all that stuff and all those people off the field, get the teams back on the field and lined up for the kickoff, which resulted in a 109-yard return for a touchdown by the Ravens' Jacoby Jones.

That is amazing.
How many people does it take to pull that off?

The ironic asterisk
One play after the huge kickoff return, the New Orleans Superdome experienced a power surge that knocked out the juice to major parts of the stadium and resulted in a 32-minute delay in the game. That's four times as long as it took to clear the stage off the field.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Baseball Writers Association of America Dinner

Great time at the Baseball Writers Association of America awards dinner in Boston.

It was my first time, but my father, Hubert Kelley, had been to it way back, because his cousin, Joe Kelley, was a sports writer for several Boston papers. Dad got several autographs on the program, including Joe Cronin (the retired #4 at Fenway Park) who wrote, "God bless you, Hubert." Autographs these days are reserved for 18-and-under only, and that's fine.

I did have a great time talking with Dan Shaughnessy about the new Terry Francona book. Dan told me that he'd been working on since 2008 and Tito read it seven times before approving it. One of the funnier stories is about Manny Ramirez. During Game 4 of the 2004 World Series Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina accused Manny of stealing the Cardinals signs. Francona came out of the dugout to straighten things out with the home plate umpire and said. "There is no way Manny is stealing the Cardinals signs. In fact, he probably doesn't even know our signs." Tito then turned to Manny and asked if he knew the Red Sox signs. Manny replied, "No."

I had a nice chat with Joe Morgan about "Morgan Magic" in 1988, when he took over as manager in July and the team was 10-1/2 game out. Morgan reeled off 12 straight wins and the Red Sox wound up winning the AL East.

I also had a lengthy conversation with Red Sox PR guru Dr. Charles Steinberg and with Larry Lucchino. Both of them were very interested in my World Ballpark tour. I told Larry that I've been to games at 39 Major League ballparks. His response surprised me. (If, say, a neighbor said this I would understand.) He asked me how it was possible to see games at 39 Major League ballparks when there are only 30 teams? I pointed out that some of the ballparks are no longer around, like Memorial Stadium in Baltimore that he helped replace with Camden Yards. When he asked me if I'd been to Fenway I responded that I'm a Season Ticket Holder and he gave me a big hug and said, "Thanks - we love you guys."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oh Say, Can You Sync? Did Beyonce Sing Live or to Track?

Did Beyonce lip-sync the Star Spangled Banner?

It's the big buzz the last 24 hours or so. Personally, I have no problem with it if she did. It always bugs me when people mess up the National Anthem. I'm not talking about people who can't sing - I'm talking about people who can sing very well but feel the need to put their own mark on the anthem and screw it up by changing notes, sometimes changing words and generally over-singing. It happens at baseball games all the time. The worst example I can think of was Patti LaBelle at the World Series game in Philadelphia in 2008. Just unlistenable.

Beyonce did nothing like that. She looked great and sounded great. Really killed it. Okay, she did change a couple of notes, but nothing annoying.

So what about the lip-sync business? It has been revealed that the US Marine Band was a recorded track. They admit that. That's fine. Band instruments don't always work correctly in cold weather, so they use tracks to make sure it sounds right for the millions watching around the world. It's also been revealed that Beyonce had no opportunity to rehearse with the US Marine Band. You just know that the Marines are not about to change any notes or do unnecessary extra flourishes when they play the anthem. They are, after all, Marines.

So what about Beyonce? I think she did lip-sync. She does a great job of it (admittedly, for most of the song her mouth is hidden by the mic, and she's not on camera the whole time anyway), but if you watch carefully...at the very end she sings "the brave" a second time. Watch her mouth (at 2:20 on the video below) and notice that she opens her mouth a nanosecond too late on "brave." That can only happen if you're not doing it live.

Who cares? She did a great job on a song that's very tough to sing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pitching, Defense and the 3-Run Homer

Earl Weaver, long-time manager of the Baltimore Orioles, passed away at the age of 82. Anyone who ever lived the Baltimore or Washington area or followed baseball anytime from the late 60's well into the 80's knows about the Duke of Earl, who believe the key to winning was "pitching, defense and the 3-run homer." He was the first big stats guy. At one point he tracked the Orioles won-loss record when they wore orange shirts (not good) and decided to ban them. He was also famous for going nose-to-nose with umpires and frequently getting tossed.

Here's today's writeup from Orioles.com.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Upon review...

...the ruling on the field is overturned.

One of the comments on my last blog about ranking months was that December should be #1. As I'm taking down the lights I threw the red flag and the ranking went under review in the booth.

With all the seasonal lights, the parties, the smiling faces, the decorations and the good will...I'm moving December up to #4. August drops to 7th. April and September stay at #5 and #6.

Unless we're facing a tough lefty.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Favorite Months

My friend Robyn Bradley suggested we do a "faveology" list of favorite months. I did this once before on FB but it disappeared. Or I can't find it. So here it goes again:

#1 July. Love it. Especially on the Cape. The 4th is my favorite day of the year. There is no such thing as a bad 4th of July on Cape Cod. The whole month has the nicest weather of the year. Everyone smiles at you when you say, "hey."

#2 June. Summer begins, school gets out, weddings happen. Also a great month. Many of the best songs of the year debut in June.

#3 May. How can you not like May? All the leaves are out, there are graduations, the April rain is gone, you sing songs about flowers and Mary.

#4 August. Still summer, still great, but it's starting to wind down and the lawn and gardens need extra watering.

#5 April. Opening Day, Daylight Saving, buds on trees, croci bloom, you put aluminum sulfate on the hydrangeas so they'll be a spectacular blue in July. The world wakes up.

#6 September. My birthday. Also my daughter Kara's. New TV season, new school year, new all sorts of things. The seasonal change gives you a charge.

#7 December. Christmas needs no explanation. I feel like Clark Griswold with the lights but I enjoy it. I also do a decent Santa for the little guys.

#8 October. My wife's birthday. The World Series is fun (if the Yankees aren't in it). Foliage looks great, especially in Wellesley. We have a landscape guy come to do the raking.

#9 November. Things start looking stark, but Thanksgiving is always good. It's a great family time.

#10 February. Cold, but at least it's short. My daughter Caitlin's birthday. Also my brother, a couple of nephews, several sisters in law. Just goes to show how good a month May is.

#11 January. You take down all the Christmas stuff and everything looks bleak. Coldest month of the year. It drags on.

#12 March. I've never trusted March. Yes, Spring supposedly begins but it really doesn't. You're sick of winter but even if it hasn't snowed yet you can't be sure. Your car looks like shit all month. There are no holidays. At least not any day-off ones. Yes, Spring Training gets under way, but it's cold and raw and the snow is filthy.

So there it is. We're in early #11 right now.