Friday, December 12, 2014

The Numbers Game

The Red Sox have a rotation.

With the signings yesterday of Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson to add to incumbents Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly there's a 5-man rotation with MLB experience. In the shadows we see Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes, all of whom got a cup of coffee in the Big Show late in the 2014 lost season. Plus, we keep hearing about Henry Owens as the Ace of the Future. That's a pretty good front five and backup.

So what do they get for numbers?

We already know that Pablo Sandoval will get his #48 that he wore in San Francisco, and Hanley Ramirez will get #13 that he wore in LA.

Porcello has spent his entire career in Detroit, wearing #48, then #21. We've already eliminated #48, and #21 was worn by Roger Clemens and, despite Clemens' defection to Toronto (to be "closer to home"), then New York, then Houston, then New York again, the Red Sox have not given anyone #21 since Roger last wore it in 1996. He wore 21 for 451 of his 709 MLB games.

Justin Masterson wore #63 as a Red Sox pitcher in 2008 and 2009, and also wore 63 playing for the Indians and Cardinals. A total of 240 games. Ranaudo has only worn 63 for 7 games, so let's give it to Justin and have Anthony pick something else.

Wade Miley has worn #36 for the Diamonbacks but Junichi Tazawa wore 63 for his first three years, taking the number when Masterson was traded, then flipped the digits and became #36. So Miley needs to do a search.

What's available?

The choice is surprising. Let's just look at the top 50. David Ross is unsigned, so #3 may be available. Allen Craig is the 8th outfielder and had a horrible 2014, so #5 might be on the table (I'm surprised that Craig got a great number like 5). 7 was Jemile Weeks, who was just dispatched, so the Trot Nixon/JD Drew/Stephen Drew number is up for grabs. Jonathan Herrera is history, so someone can get 10. Will Middlebrooks has 16, but with Sandoval, who batted 80 points higher, signed to patrol the hot corner, who knows whether Will will still be around. Tory Lovullo has 17, but coaches' numbers are easy to grab - like Hanley taking 13 from Brian Butterfield.

Gone are Ryan Lavarnway,, Felix DuBront and Brandon Snyder, so 20, 22 and 23 are up for grabs. Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn, pitcher Alex Wilson, Jon Lester, of course, and Craig Breslow are gone, so add 28, 30, 31 and 32 to the pile.

Also gone are Burke Badenhop, Corey Brown, AJ Pierzynski, John lackey, Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster, so 35, 39, 40, 41, 44 and 46 can be had for the asking.

Not available?

No one will get 24, they are keeping that under wraps. Not for Manny, but for Dewey, who wore the number for 19 seasons. They won't give anyone Varitek's 33, Pedro's 45 or Wakefield's 49.

I know what you're thinking...

...Did he fire 6 shots or only 5? Sorry, I meant to say what number does Cole Hamels wear? Why, 35, which is on the available list.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How Did Lester Wind Up Being a Cubbie?

I'm not sure what the logo on his hat is...

...but it was probably a safe one to wear while he was weighing offers.

Why did the Cubs win the Lester sweepstakes?

First, we won't know if they actually did win until he gets to the sixth year of his huge deal. But, for the sake of discussion, let's assume he performs well for at least several more years. During his World Tour all the media shots of Lester showed him wearing an A's uniform. Even Oakland GM Billy Bean knew he was just getting a rental for a couple of months.

So why the charade?

Lester met with the Braves because he has a house just outside of Atlanta. Well, he also had a house in Newton, MA, right on the Charles River. Lester put that house on the market when he filed for free agency and the sale closed in November. Did that mean he really had no interest in coming back to Boston? Or that his winter home in Georgia, where his wife is from, is there, and he's there, so what's the harm in seeing what the Braves have to say for themselves? And if he got a gigantic contract, he could always buy a bigger house in a fabulous Boston suburb like Wellesley. (If you're interested, call Kathy Kelley at 781-710-1035 or go to

What about San Francisco and LA?

Anytime you hear from the World Series Champion that they're interested in talking to you, you talk to them. Why not? How many teams have won three World Series in this century? Just two: the Giants and the Red Sox. The Giants even got Buster Posey to meet Lester and talk up how great things are at AT&T Park. Which they are.

Then there were the other rumors.

The Dodgers, with seemingly unlimited money, were interested, and everyone suspected the Yankees were ready to pounce. But Brer Rabbit, he lay low.

So what tipped the scale?

Last spring Jon Lester said he'd take a "hometown discount" if it made his family more comfortable. He also values friendship and loyalty. Red Sox brass took this way too much to heart and offered him a $70 million/4-year deal. This was a horrible misread of the market for a top starting pitcher, and Lester wound up with a six-year, 155 million dollar deal with a vesting option that would total $170 million. Let's do the math. The Cubs offer would be, um, 100 million more than the Red Sox deal. What about the friendship part? The Cubs have Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who drafted Jon back in 2002. The Red Sox have John Farrell, who Lester likes a lot. And a fan base that he truly enjoys.

As one who has been to games at every Major League Ballpark (41 in all, including 11 that are gone or no longer used for baseball), I can state with authority that, while they're all great, no place has a crowd reaction that can come close to matching the Fenway Park experience. Including Wrigley.

Then there's the loyalty thing.

That $70 million offer last spring was ridiculously low, especially coming off a World Series win where Lester was 4-1 in the postseason. Really low offer, then they trade him to the A's. Back in the 50's the Yankees made a habit of getting rid of players by trading them to the A's. because they could. When Sox owner John Henry gave Lester a parking lot hug last July 31st as Lester was leaving for Oakland, Dan Shaughnessey of The Boston Globe (also owned by Henry) referred to it as a "Fredo, I know it was you-you broke my heart!" moment. He was right.

That was the biggie.

Lester never wanted to leave, but he was give a crappy offer because Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were overpaid and underperformed, then he was sent away to the A's because other people on the team couldn't perform. And we got Yoenis Cespedes in return, who is mentioned as trade bait on a daily basis. So basically, whoever we get for Cespedes will be what we got for Lester.

And the starting rotation is...

Let's see...we have Clay Buchholz, who's like a #3 guy when he's healthy, and Joe Kelly, who's a #4 guy. And um...

Is "Let's Make a Deal" still on the air?

If it is, I never watch it, but if Jon Lester winds up being the ace who brings a World Series Championship to the Cubs after a drought of at least 107 years...good for him.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kung Fu and Hanley. Good First Step?

This is not Pablo Sandoval.

Remember who wore #34 for the Red Sox before Big Papi? It was Rich Garces, known as "El Guapo"...meaning The Handsome One. He and Kung Fu Panda are both from Venezuela and share a similar shape - not that tall and pretty fat for an athlete. Garces was an effective setup guy for six of his seven years with the Red Sox (1996-2002). That's also longer than the Sandoval contract.

In the picture above Garces was listed at a generous 215 lbs. Sandoval is currently listed at 246 lbs. Believe what you will. But both also have a likable manner and a catchy nickname. Pokey Reese, while not an impact player and not around that long, also enjoyed more popularity than his play deserved because of the nickname. Fans like personality as long as it's positive.

So what do we think about the signing?

Just like the winter following the horrible 2012 season, the Red Sox can't sit around and do nothing. Here's an impact 3rd baseman with fabulous postseason stats and three World Series rings, and after bouncing Yoouuuk out of the hot corner job Will Middlebrooks has spent the last two seasons hitting below the Mendoza line. A team can get away with one great defensive player who can't hit (National League teams do that in every game when the pitcher bats), but not with three or four, which is what we had in 2014. Sandoval has a decent glove and is surprisingly quick for his size. He'll wear number 48, his Giants number. In the View From Section 29 it's a good move.

The shortstop of the future.

What name came to mind when you read that? Jose Iglesias? Xander Bogaerts? Or Hanley Ramirez? All three have worn that crown while playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox and no one has lived up to the advance billing. Ramirez, of course, lost it when he was traded to the Marlins for Josh Beckett with Mike Lowell thrown in for good measure. Do we really want to give up the Shortstop of the Future? He'll be Fenway-ready by next year.

In retrospect, of course, the trade was really for Lowell with Beckett thrown in. Hanley has been National League Rookie of the Year (2006) and Batting Champion (2009), but has also had some issues with attitude (early on) and injury (more recently - he's played fewer than 100 games every year since 2010). The Sox believe that the attitude issues are behind him and putting him in left field will make him less injury-prone. When healthy he is a force in the lineup. His Dodgers number was 13, and he'll get that from 3rd base coach Brian Butterfield. From Section 29 this also looks like a good move.

Why didn't they sign a pitcher or two instead?

They will. During Hot Stove time hitters typically are signed before pitchers are - especially candidates to be #1 or #2 starters. Uber-especially if they're clients of Scott Boras, who likes to wait a while and play a couple of teams against each other to drive up the price. Sure, it's annoying when you see photos of unsigned free agents and they show Jon Lester as an A. After all, he has started 252 Major League games: 241 of them for Boston, 11 for Oakland. His record is 110-63 for the Red Sox, 6-4 for the A's.

What I'd like to see.

Sign Lester. Trade Cespedes and Will Middlebrooks to Philadelphia for Cole Hamels. Go ahead, throw in Bogaerts if you have to. As the #2 prospect in all of baseball just a year ago I was pretty disappointed with his performance. Not just the 138 strikeouts, but the .910 fielding % when he's playing 3rd (he was ranked 122nd among MLB 3rd baseman...remember there are only 30 starters). Still, he may still have enough up-side to float the Philly boat.

If they do that, who's at short?

Why not Brock Holt? He was a .300 hitter for most of the season..until he was concussed in a collision with Dustin Pedroia. He played through that and still finished up at .281. He was such a force they had to put him in the lineup, and his OBP was so good he hit lead-off for last five months of the season. He played every position but the battery, but his natural place is in the middle infield. Seriously, why is this a hard decision?

Good first step. Now...

Let's just not forget that the Sox dumped all of their pitchers except Buchholz. Never mind the money or the fear of long-term deals. Get us a #1 and a #2.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

KC Should Have Sent Gordon

Congrats to the Giants!
The TV ratings may have been down, but that was a fun World Series. Back-to-back shutouts by different teams. Has that ever happened before? Yes. In 1905 the New York Giants played the Philadelphia Athletics in a 5-game series. All five were shutouts. Game 1 by the Giants, Game 2 by the A's, Games 3, 4 and 5 by the Giants. In 1906 the White Sox and Cubs exchanged shutouts. In 1908 the Cubs and Tigers did it. In the 1919 "Black Sox" series the White Sox had a shutout in Game 3 followed by Reds shutouts in Games 4 and 5. In 1940 the Tigers and Reds exchanged shutouts in Games 5 and 6. In 1946 the Cardinals shut out the Red Sox in Game 3 and Boston returned the favor in Game 4. In 1949 the Yankees and Dodgers had back-to-back shutouts in Games 1 and 2 and in 1956 they swapped shutouts in Games 5, 6 and 7. In 1958 the Yankees and Milwaukee Braves swapped shutouts in Games 3, 4 and 5. But it hadn't happen for the last 56 years.

What would have been even more exciting?
It's Game 7, bottom of the 9th, two outs, Giants leading by one run. Madison Bumgarner has set down 14 straight in an incredible 5 innings of relief. Alex Gordon represents the last chance for Kansas City. He hits a single to left-center that gets bobbled by both Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez and he winds up on 3rd, representing the tying run. That's as far as he gets. KC's Salvador Perez pops up to Kung Fu Panda for the 3rd out. That's the game and the Series.

It probably wouldn't have changed the outcome, but...
If instead of holding Gordon at 3rd, Kansas City 3rd base coach Mike Jirschele had given him the big arm wave and sent him home it would have tied the game if he slid in safe. Even if Gordon had been out...what an exciting finish...the World Series ends with the tying run thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the 9th. That would have been right up there with Bill Mazeroski (1960), Carlton Fisk (1975), Kirk Gibson (1988) and Joe Carter (1993) as a highlight for the ages.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Most Exciting Games I've Ever Seen

That was a fast decade.
It was ten years ago that I took my daughter Caitlin Kelley to the Red Sox-Yankees playoff game at Fenway Park. It was a Sunday night, October 17th.

The night before I had taken my other daughter, Kara Kelley, to Game 3 in the series. The Sox were already down two games to none after Curt Schilling (Ace #1) and Pedro Martinez (Ace #1A) had both lost in the Bronx on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday night was a rainout, and in Game 3 the Sox were pounded. We actually left during the 7th inning stretch when we were losing, 17-6. We got home in time for the opening of Saturday Night Live where they were making fun of the Red Sox being down 3 games to none and they might as well give up now and go golfing. I think that was the night Ashlee Simpson was caught doing a bad job of lip-synching.

Sunday night the place was buzzing.
A packed house, of course, with a ton of police presence. Every surrounding town was called in for backup. We bumped into Larry David on the way in, and I decided that I should say something to him. "Hey, you're Larry David" would be way too lame, so I decided to say, "Larry - who are you rooting for...the Padres?" He looked at me with his WTF expression and said, "Why would you ask me that?" I had no reply, and we went to our seats in Section 29. I had been thinking of an episode in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" where Larry is invited to a Padres-Yankees game but doesn't show up.

Then came the 9th.
The Yankees were leading in the game, 4-3, and leading in the ALCS, 3 games to none. No team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and it's the bottom of the 9th, and we're facing the best closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera.

We all know what happened.
Kevin Millar works a leadoff walk, Dave Roberts goes in to pinch run. Everyone in the ballpark knows that Roberts is going at attempt a steal, and Rivera throws over four or five times so Roberts doesn't get too good a lead. On the fifth throw over, Dave Roberts slides back to the base, then gets up and starts walking toward the dugout. From our vantage point in Section 29 it absolutely looked like Roberts was picked off. Oh, well...there goes the season. We'll wait till next year...again. But wait...Dave Roberts was not picked off. He was just brushing the dirt off his pants. They were pretty dirty after five straight slides back to first.

My favorite Jeter moment.
During the year-long Derek Jeter farewell tour in 2014 writers and fans talked about their favorite Jeter moments. Here's mine:

Jeter fails to make the tag.

Bill Mueller singles, Dave Roberts scores to tie the game, we go on to the 12th, when Big Papi hit a 2-run walkoff to send everyone home tired but happy. Joe Castiglione said, "We'll see you for Game 5 later today." (I was there, not listening to the radio, so I didn't hear that line until later.) When we got home at 2:30 AM...Caitlin had a class at 9AM at Providence College...I went online to figure out which episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" I had been thinking of. Turned out it was actually a "Sopranos" episode, where Finn, the boyfriend of Meadow, is invited to Yankees game by Vito but is afraid and doesn't show up. That's why Larry David had no idea what I was talking about.

Then the 14-inning marathon.
I went with my brother Hugh Kelley. It was a 5PM start. A mere 15 hours after the previous night's game ended. We were both scoring the game, as we usually do. The Red Sox took 2-0 lead, but New York went up 4-2 in the 6th, and the Red Sox tied it in the 8th (Mariano Rivera again giving up the tying run). As we flipped our scorecards over after each half-inning it seemed like the Yankees had jerks like Jeter and A Rod and Matsui and Bernie Williams and Hor-hay Posada leading off every inning. Tim Wakefield pitched the final three innings, and even though Jason Varitek was having a tough time catching Wake's knuckleballs, the Yankees got only one hit and no runs. In the bottom of the 14th Papi delivered again with an RBI single that scored Johnny Damon.

The rest is history.
Game 6 was the Schilling "bloody sock" game, Game 7 was all Red Sox. Then the sweep of the Cardinals to finally end the curse.

The most exciting games I've ever seen.
I've been going to games at Fenway since 1957. I've been to games at every Major League Ballpark (a total of 41), I've been to the All-Star game and seven World Series games...even saw the Red Sox clinch at Fenway last October, which was a very memorable game, but those two nights in 2004 were the most exciting games I've ever seen. Hard to believe it's been a decade.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

O's Are Out. Now What?

The Baltimore Orioles were swept.
It was the first time in the history of the franchise. Only 7 teams have never been swept in the playoffs, and that's mostly because they aren't in the playoffs that much. Those 7 are the Blue Jays, Rays, and Mariners in the American League, and the Mets, Nationals, Marlins and Brewers in the National League. I should note that four those those seven have never won the World Series, and with the exception of the 2000 Mariners (they swept the White Sox in the 2000 Division Series), none have ever swept anyone.

Most have multiple instances of sweeping and getting swept.
That basically means that the playoff system is pretty good, as there are few blowouts. Of 119 World Series to date, only 18 have been sweeps: Eight by the Yankees (6 of those were more than 60 years ago), two each by the Red Sox, Reds and Giants, and one each by the Braves, Dodgers, Orioles and A's. Of those eight teams, 6 have also been swept in the World Series. The Red Sox and Orioles are the only exceptions. And they're my two favorite teams.

So now...
It's the Royals against the Giants or Cardinals. In the NLCS I'll root for the Giants because of Buster Posey, former All-Star catcher for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League. But in the World Series, it has to be the Royals so that only the Red Sox have three championships in this century. Makes sense to me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No Beltway Series. For Whom Do We Root Now?

The Nationals are out.
The long wait continues for our nation's capital. 81 years since a World Series appearance, 90 years since a championship. That's the longest drought ever for any team in any major sport in America. The winning run for San Francisco came in the bottom of the 7th in a tie game. With the bases loaded and Kung Fu Panda at bat, Nats reliever Aaron Barrett uncorks a wild pitch and Joe Panik (an excellent baseball name-right up there with Brock Holt) scores the winning run for the Giants.

So it's Giants-Cardinals in the NLCS.
I like both teams, and both have excellent ballparks. The Giants star catcher, Buster Posey, played for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League in 2006 and 2007. "Now batting for Yah-mith Dennis, the catcha, Bustah Posey." YD won the Championship both times, and again this year, so in the NLCS I'll go for the Giants.

No question here. Orioles. My second favorite team. We lived in Baltimore when I was Program Director at Mix 106.5. My daughter Kara was born there. I took my daughter Caitlin to her first game at Memorial Stadium. I started my Major League Ballpark World Tour when my wife Kathy got me tickets to the very first game at Camden Yards as a Father's Day present in 1992. Note: I had already been to four ballparks at that point, but it was at Camden Yards that I decided to hit 'em all. The World Tour of every major league ballpark was completed this summer in Cincinnati.

World Series matchups.
Even if the Orioles don't make it to the Big Dance (I realize that's a basketball term, but I'm using it anyway) I'm not rooting for the National League. Why? The Cardinals won in 2006 and 2011, the Giants in 2010 and 2012. Twice each in this century. The only team to win three times this century is the Red Sox, and it should stay that way so we can hold our heads high for another year.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dodgers are out.

So much for Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez.
The former Red Sox will not be in the Big Show. The LA-LA Series won't happen this year. Neither will the redux of the Giants-A's Earthquake Series or the 2002 Wild West Series between the Angels and Giants or a replay of the 1971 and 1979 Orioles-Pirates match ups.

Still on:
A 1985 rematch of the Cardinals-Royals All-Missouri Series. Or Misseries, if you will. Other than that, it's all new. Cardinals-Orioles (new, unless you count 1944, when the Orioles were the St. Louis browns and lost to the Cardinals), Giants-Royals (never met), Giants-Orioles (never met), Nationals-Royals (never met) and Nationals-Orioles in a Parkway Series, which would be my favorite.

We might have another update tonight.
I hope not, because that would mean Washington, a city waiting for a World Series Championship for 90 years, would be out. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What We Won't See..What We Might See

The Wild Card is in the books.
The A's are out, the Pirates are out. So we won't have a redux of the 1909 Pirates - Tigers matchup or the Orioles - Pirates from 1971 and 1979. The Pirates won all three of them.

The Giants and A's have met three times...1911 and 1913 as the New York Giants and Philadelphia A's and again in 1989 as the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's. The A's have won all three. The Philadelphia A's and the Cardinals went back-to-back in 1930 and 1931 and split the pair. The Oakland A's faced the Dodgers in 1974 and 1988, each team winning one.

What could still happen?
The St. Louis Browns, who became the Orioles in 1954, played the Cardinals in the first all-Missouri series in 1944. It was actually all-St. Louis. Not a subway series, as they don't have a subway there. All the home games were played at Sportsman's Park, the home field for both teams. Same place that Johnny Pesky held on to the cutoff throw while Enos Slaughter scored the winning run for the Cards in the 1946, beating the Red Sox in their first post-Babe Ruth series appearance. They'd wait another 58 years to sip the champagne. But we could have an Orioles-Cardinals series. The Cardinals and Royals could reprise 1985 with a third all-Missouri series.

What other repeats might happen?
Well, the Angels and Giants could do 2002 again...LA of Anaheim, known simply as Anaheim back then, won it. And then there's the potential Cardinals-Tigers matchup. They've faced each other three times in the World Series: St. Louis won in 1934, Detroit in 1968 and St. Louis in 2006.

16 possibilities, 4 potential repeats.
Not sure how that averages compared to other years...but at least the Yankees are not part of the fun.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

As the Playoffs begin...

For whom are we rooting?
First, let's think of the possibilities. We could have the Dodgers and Angels in the LA Series. Maybe The I-5 Series (the word The gets a capital letter because in LA you always include it before the number of a freeway). The Angels won their only Series in 2002. The Dodgers last won in 1988 the year Kirk Gibson hit his fist-pumping, limping walkoff. That was the moment that Dennis Eckersley, the pitcher who gave up that home run, coined the term walkoff. It originally referred not to the hitter but to the pitcher who threw the pitch. As Eck said, "At that point there's nothing for you to do but walk off."

We could have an All-Missouri Series (a Misseries?) between the Cardinals and the Royals. A 1985 redux. The Cardinals got screwed by a bad call at 1st base that turned the series in KC's favor. That was KC's only win ever.

The A's and Giants could meet in a Bay Area Series. A repeat of the Earthquake Series of 1989. They could call it the Wild West Series, as both teams are Wild Card playoff entries, but that name was used in 2002 when the Angels and Giants, both Wild Card winners, faced each other in the Classic. That could happen again this year. Maybe it would be Wild West II, or Return to the Wild West.

My favorite, as noted in an earlier blog, would be the Orioles and the Nationals. The Parkway Series. Someone on ABC News called the possibility a Beltway Series, and both Baltimore and Washington have Beltways (I-695 and I-495 respectively), but they don't connect and neither actually goes near a ballpark. However, the B-W Parkway, Route 295, goes directly from Camden Yards past BWI Airport to the Anacostia River in DC, which abuts Nationals Park. The O's haven't won since 1983, and Washington has waited 90 years for a World Series championship.

We could have the Orioles and Pirates for the 3rd time. They faced each other in 1971 and 1979, with the Pirates winning both. When I was Program Director at Mix 106.5 in Baltimore we were warned to never play "We Are Family" because it was the Pirates theme song in 1979.

We could have the Orioles and the Dodgers in a redux of 1966, when the Orioles won the first championship in franchise history by defeating the defending champion Dodgers. LA ace Sandy Koufax refused to pitch during the Jewish holidays.

Let's see...Detroit and St. Louis? A repeat of 1968. The Cardinals did what the Red Sox couldn't do the year before...solve Bob Gibson.

What else?
Combos we've never seen: The Angels versus anybody but the Giants, the Royals facing anybody but the Cardinals, the Pirates facing anyone but the Orioles, the Nationals facing anybody at all. The Tigers have the distinction of being the last team to face the Cubs in the World Series (1945 - the Tigers won, of course).

A's and Royals tonight.
Jon Lester v. James Shields. Naturally, I'm rooting for Lester, but this is a one-and-done and if the A's lose it might increase the Red Sox chances of re-signing Lester for 2015. I'd like that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Might we have a Parkway Series?

Traffic on the Parkway could be busier than usual in October.
Last night the Baltimore Orioles, my second-favorite team, clinched the AL East for the first time since 1997. That year the Cleveland Indians knocked them off in the ALCS and subsequently lost to the upstart Florida Marlins, who wound up winning the World Series in only their fifth year of play. That was the second-fastest franchise to win the World Series. Four years later they lost that honor to the Arizona Diamondbacks who won it all in their fourth year.

Okay you're wondering which team won it the fastest, right?
Why, it was the current (but not for long) defending World Champions from Boston. The Red Sox,, then known as the Americans, won the very first World Series in only their third year of play, in 1903.

But back to Balmer.
The last time they clinched the East was 1997, as noted above. The year before that they won the AL Wild Card and advanced to the ALCS. That was the year they got screwed by a kid in New York named Jeffrey Maier who reached over the short right field fence at old Yankee Stadium and interfered with a fly ball that was hit by Derek Jeter and most likely could have been caught by right fielder Tony Tarasco. It was the 8th inning and the Orioles were leading 4-3. The ball deflected into the stands and was ruled a home run rather than fan interference. The Orioles wound up losing the game and the series.

And that had been a 15-year wait.
Had Baltimore won that ALCS (or the one the next year) and then gone on to win the World Series they would have been the only team to win it all in the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. Their previous win was back in 1983 when they knocked off the Phillies. People were calling it the I-95 Series as it's only a 90-minute drive up the highway.

Meanwhile, a half-hour south on I-95...
Or on the B-W Parkway, which is a much nicer drive, we have the Washington Nationals who also just clinched their division last tonight. The last time a team from Washington DC won the pennant was...(drum roll)...1933. The Senators lost the series that year to the New York Giants four games to one. The last time (and only time) a team from DC has won the World Series was in 1924 when the Senators beat those same Giants. That's 90 years ago. Way worse than the Red Sox 86-year drought and even the White Sox 88-year drought that no one paid any attention to. That old expression "Washington...first in war, first in peace, last in the American League" wasn't born from nothing.

Yeah, but they didn't have a team for a big chunk of that time.
True. The original Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1961 and were replaced by a new Washington Senators who were worse than the originals. They gave up and moved to Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers. The Nationals of today were the Montreal Expos from 1969-2004 when they moved to DC. So you can count either the team that left DC without baseball...or the one that brought it back...but either way there were no championships connected to our nation's capital. So it's 90 years and counting.

A Parkway Series?
That would be a good name for a Baltimore-Washington series. The Baltimore-Washington Parkway (no trucks allowed), also known as Route 295, actually goes almost directly from Camden Yards at the Inner Harbor right past BWI Airport to Nationals Park on the Anacostia River.

2013 was so much fun...
...The Red Sox going worst-to-first and winning the World Series at will last me through 2015, when they might go worst-to-first a second time. So this year I'm hoping for a Parkway Series and I'd be happy with either team winning, but my heart would be with the O's.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bucket List Complete!

My daughter Kara Kelley and I flew to Cincinnati to see the Red Sox play the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark.

That completed the World Tour.
The Red Sox won, 5-4. As of that game I have now been to Every Major League Ballpark.

Not just visits.
I'm talking actual games. At 41 places. There are 30 Major League Ballparks, and I've seen games at all of them. Also at 11 parks that are no longer around or no longer used for baseball.

In order.
1957: Fenway Park, Boston.
1958: Griffith Stadium, Washington DC.
1987: Memorial Stadium, Baltimore. Angels Stadium, Anaheim CA.
1992: Camden Yards, Baltimore.
1993: Veteran's Stadium, Philadelphia; Arlington Stadium, Arlington TX.
1994: Ballpark at Arlington, Arlington, TX.
1997: Turner Field, Atlanta.
1998: Wrigley Field, Chicago.
2000: Olympic Stadium, Montreal; Shea Stadium, NYC; Yankee Stadium, NYC; Pac Bell Park, San Francisco; Coors Field, Denver.
2001: Dodger Stadium, LA; QualComm Stadium, San Diego; PNC Park, Pittsburgh.
2002: Minute Maid Park, Houston; Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City; Comerica Park, Detroit.
2003: US Cellular Field, Chicago.
2004: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia; Skydome, Toronto.
2005: Jacobs Field, Cleveland; RFK Stadium, Washington DC.
2006: Miller Park, Milwaukee.
2007: McAfee Coliseum, Oakland CA; Chase Field Phoenix.
2008: Safeco Field, Seattle; Petco Park, San Diego.
2009: Metrodome, Minneapolis; Nationals Park, Washington DC.
2010: Citi Field, NYC, New Yankee Stadium, NYC; Target Field, Minneapolis.
2011: Sun Life Financial Field, Miami; Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg FL.
2012: Marlins Park, Miami.
2014: Busch Stadium, St. Louis; Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati.

But wait, there's more.
I've also been inside old Busch Stadium in St. Louis, which was set up for soccer, and The Kingdome in Seattle. That was in October 1998, and the Mariners don't play in October, so it was set up for football. I've also peered through the closed gates at Tiger Stadium and Candlestick Park, sat in the old right field grandstand at Braves Field in Boston and stood where home plate used to be at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston, where the Red Sox played from 1901-1911. There's a statue of Cy Young where the mound used to be.

So which one is best?
I'll have a ranking by topic (best fans, best food, worst park, most local color, etc.) shortly. Then a weekly one-by-one writeup on each park. That will take almost a year to post. Don't touch that dial.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Off to Cincy...

Early morning flight to Cincinnati.
My daughter Kara Kelley and I will hop a 6:30 flight in the morning to Cincinnati. We'll actually land in Coventry, Kentucky, where the CVG Airport is. We'll head over the bridge they used on the titles of WKRP in Cincinnati and go to Great American Ballpark to see the Red Sox play the Reds.

Why this matters.
First, the team names Red Sox and Reds come from the same origin. The Cincinnati Red Stockings were the first professional baseball team. (Stockings was the common term for men's socks back in the 1800's.) In 1869 and 1870 they played exhibition games against various teams representing companies in the area. Much like today's Men's Slowpitch Softball leagues.

Going pro.
The game was becoming very popular, so in 1871 a professional league was formed: The National Association of Base Ball Teams. The player/manager of the Cincinnati team and half of the roster decided that they'd rather be in Boston, so they moved there and took the team name with them. When league began play in 1871 with 9 teams, one of them was the Boston Red Stockings. Cincinnati did not have a team. Several teams came and went during the five years of the National Association, but only the Boston Red Stockings, who were champions in four of the five years, lasted all the way until 1876.

Enter the National League
The National League, as we know it today, began in 1876. The same time as the American Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Custer's Last Stand at the battle of Little Big Horn and the introduction of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in Boston. In fact, all four happened on the same day.

So about the names.
Cincinnati wanted to use their original name Red Stockings, and the Boston team decided that two Red Stocking teams would be weird, so they changed their name to Boston Beaneaters.

Beaneaters? Really?
It got worse. Beaneaters lasted into the late 1890's, when they became the Doves (just to really inspire fear in their opponents), then changed it to the Braves. When the American League showed up in 1901 there was a second Boston team that didn't really have a nickname. Newspaper writers called them the the Americans because of the league name. After all, the Braves had been in town for 30 years at that point.

Fast forward to 1907.
The Braves decide to change their uniform socks from red to blue, so the American League team that never really had a good nickname decides to go with red socks and adopt the nickname Red Sox. The Braves didn't care about that, but they were bothered by the fact that the Red Sox attendance outdrew the Braves every year. Even when the Braves won the World Series in 1914 and went to the World Series in 1948. So in 1953 the Braves got tired of being a distant second fiddle and decided to get out of Dodge and they moved to Milwaukee, where their AAA team played. It was good for a while. They even beat the Yankees in the 1957 World Series, but then fan interest faded, and in 1966 the Braves packed up once again and moved to Atlanta, where they hang today.

So the Atlanta Braves are the franchise with the most consecutive seasons of Major League Baseball...143 years. And Boston is the city that has had professional baseball longer than any other city...also 143 years.

So Kara and I can celebrate.
It doesn't matter who wins. I will have seen games at every Major League Ballpark, including 11 ballparks that are long gone or are no longer used for baseball. And the Bucket List wraps up in Cincinnati, where it all began.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Halftime Report: How Bad Are the Red Sox?

This is the only night of the year when there are no professional sports events, so it seems like a good time to post this.

Not as bad as you may think.
It all depends on how you look at it, of course. In recent years, the results have been all over the place.

In 2011, the final Francona year, the team had a very slow start in April, but were the best team in all of baseball from May 1st to September 1st. Started the final month in 1st place with a 1-game lead, and a 9-1/2 game Wild Card lead. Then the wheels came off and they were eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.

2012, the Bobby Valentine year, was a punch line from gavel to gavel.

2013 was one for the ages, of course, and it will keep me smiling and coming back for a long time.

So why has 2014 been so bad?
Poor pitching by three of the five starters, a couple of bad reliever signings, several of last year's best hitters off to a really slow start, a maddening inability to get a hit with runners in scoring position and promising rookies who have impressive defensive skills but can't hit major league pitching.

Player breakdown.
Felix Dubront looked iffy in spring training and was mostly terrible in his starts. Jake Peavy can't keep the ball in the yard. Clay Buchholz has been a shadow of last year (and a slim shadow at that). Add to that a couple of bad outings by Jon lester and John Lackey as well as several excellent outings by both of them but with little or no run support and that's a chunk of your problem.

Add to that the loss of .300 hitter Ellsbury leading off being initially replaced in the order by Daniel Nava, who also hit .300 last year but opened 2014 hitting about .110. Grady Sizemore was so good in spring training, hitting .365, that he was given the starting center field job but couldn't hold it. Jackie Bradley Jr. lead the team in strikeouts during spring training and was supposed to open the season in Pawtucket until Shane Victorino was hurt. JBJ wound up getting the CF job anyway, and has been excellent defensively, but strikes out way too often. Xander Bogaerts was handed the starting shortstop job and was okay, but didn't look like the #2 overall prospect in all of baseball. But wait...when Stephen Drew was finally signed in May, Bogaerts suddenly came alive, making great plays at short and hitting .300 while Drew was getting a late spring training in Pawtucket. Then, when Drew finally got to Boston, Bogey moved to 3rd base. His defensive skills got shaky and his batting average took a precipitous dive to .235 and he leads the team in strikeouts. Behind the plate, AJ Piersynski dropped a lot of pitches and didn't show much power. He also annoyed John Farrell by constantly swinging at the first pitch - exactly what the Red Sox hitting coaches discourage.

Is it getting better?
Definitely. All you have to do is look at stats from the last 30 days and the difference is clear.

Impressive hitting in the last 30 days:
Pedroia .324
Holt .310
Nava .306
Bradley Jr. .286
Ortiz .272

Unimpressive hitting in the last 30 days:
Betts .235 (small sample size, but a slow start)
Herrera .214 (sent to Pawtucket)
Gomes .209 (great attitude, but...)
Pierzynski .200 (DFA'd)
Ross .194 (Lester loves throwing to him, but...)
Drew .147 (why exactly did they re-sign him?)
Bogaerts .108

Think of this.
When Jon Lester (who should get a new deal right now while we're in the All-Star break) pitches, meaning Ross is catching, and you have Bogaerts at 3rd, Drew at short and Gomes in left, one-third of the batting order is under the Mendoza line. Four of the nine are hitting under .210.

Impressive pitching in the last 30 days:
Jon Lester 2-0, ERA 0.97 in 37 innings (9-7, 2.65 year-to-date)
Clay Buchholz 2-1, ERA 2.73 in 29 innings (4-5, 5.42 year-to-date)
Andrew Miller 1-1, ERA 1.23 in 7 innings. (3-5, 2.23 year-to-date)

Unimpressive pitching in the last 30 days:
Edward Mujica 0-2, ERA 4.50 (0-2, 3.48, going the wrong way. I don't trust him)
Felix Doubront 0-0, 5.40 ERA
Craig Breslow, 0-0, ERA 6.97
Burke Badenhop, 0-0, ERA 9.39 (0-2, 2.93 year-to-date)
Chris Capuano, 0-0, ERA 15.00 (1-1, 4.55 year-to-date...clearly went downhill, has been released)

Bottom line:
Lester is pitching well. So is Lackey. Buchholz is coming around. Andrew Miller is best used as a spot guy facing lefties. Don't use him as a closer. They could lose both Peavy and Mujica and no one would complain.

Can they contend in 2014?
Ummm...not sure. Maybe. They're 9.5 games out, in last place by percentage points. But hold on...on this date in 1978 the Yankees were 13.5 games out of 1st place, but they rebounded in the 2nd half, beat the Red Sox in the Bucky "Bleeping" Dent playoff game and won the World Series. So it can be done.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


What Zim meant to Boston
A couple of days ago Don Zimmer passed away at the age of 83. He was a guy who, in his own words, "Never earned a paycheck that wasn't from baseball." It's a great baseball story, going back to when he got married at home plate in 1951, was supposed to take over from Pee Wee Reese as shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers but was beaned twice in the days before they had batting helmets, wound up with screws in his head and was never the player he might have been.

His nickname was Popeye.
Maybe in New York. Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe wrote that the nickname came from his oversized forearms. I disagree. It's because he looks like Popeye. The big jowls, the squinty look. And the Popeye thing is not what he's remembered for in Boston. He's remembered as the manager who's team blew a 14-game over the Yankees and lost the division in that one-game Bucky "Bleeping" Dent playoff, greatly disappointing a championship-starved Red Sox Nation (60 years and counting at that point). Everyone had figured this finally was the year, but noooo.

He supposedly hated pitchers.
Probably because of the beanings - and wound up trading one of the Red Sox best-ever lefties, Bill Lee, because Lee called him a gerbil. And that's his nickname with Boston fans. When Zimmer called Lee to tell him that he'd gotten even for the gerbil thing by trading him to the Montreal Expos, Lee replied, "Did you get anyone in return, or was I a freebie?" Who'd they get when Lee was traded? Papi. Not Big Papi, but Stan Papi who never amounted to anything. In 1979 Stan Papi batted .188 as a Sox infielder. That same year Bill Lee, a pitcher who had only played for the Red Sox and therefore had never batted in the majors, hit .216 for the Expos. (Can you name any current Red Sox hitters who'd love to be hitting as high as .216? Ross? Nava? Drew? Bradley?)

What about the Pedro thing?
In the 2003 ALCS between the Red Sox and Yankees there was a bench-clearing brawl (really??) at Fenway. Pedro Martinez barely hit Karim Garcia and the benches were warned. Subsequently, Roger Clemens threw over the head of Manny Ramirez and, although the pitch wasn't actually all that close, Manny took great umbrage, resulting in the bench-clearing. Zimmer, then the Yankees bench coach, ran toward Pedro Martinez. Reports described the encounter as Pedro shoving a 72-year-old coach to the ground, much like Manny pushing 65-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormack to the clubhouse floor over not getting enough tickets for his friends in 2008. Pedro was subsequently fined. What actually happened - I was there in Section 29 and had an excellent vantage point - was in mid-scrum Zimmer bolted out of the Yankee dugout and charged at Pedro like he was a bullfighter. Pedro ducked a little to his right and deflected the oncoming Zimmer, who then lost his balance and went down. That's what actually happened.

All in all...
It is a great baseball story. 66 years playing for five teams, managing four, coaching for seven and as a senior advisor for one. The marriage at home plate in 1951 lasted until his death. And anytime you see a player - even Little Leaguers or youth Girls Softball players - get plunked but are saved from injury by their helmet - you can thank Don Zimmer.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Big Bomb

The Big Bang doesn't do it for me.
The Red Sox are on the road and they have a night off. In Detroit, no less. What could be more fun than that? There's no game to watch, the game on the Cape that I was supposed to umpire was rained out, so I was sitting here watching "Jeopardy" and surprising myself at how many answers I knew. Including Final Jeopardy, where I would have bet it all and won. No, I didn't remember to say, "What is..." before yelling out the answers. But no one is paying me for correct answers, so I don't have to follow the format.

What's next?
Next on CBS is "The Big Bang." I know a number of people who are very intelligent and who's opinion I respect who have raved about this show. This was my third attempt at understanding their appreciation.

I don't get it.
Actually, I do get it, but just don't think it's funny. Or clever.

Perhaps I'm spoiled. I rarely watch network series on ABC (sometimes "The Middle" or "Modern Family"), NBC or CBS. No, even though I live in Wellesley, Massachusetts, I'm not a PBS snob. "Downton Abbey" is as far as I go on PBS. I enjoy HBO series like "Silicon Valley, "Veep" and "True Detective" and of course, "Game of Thrones." (Have you seen the bar crowd reaction videos to last week's Trial by Combat scene? They're great.) Loved "The Sopranos" and "Entourage" and enjoyed "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Showtime initially hooked me with "Dexter" and then "Homeland" (but I didn't like it when Brody was hanged) and I like "House of Lies," "Nurse Jackie" and even "Shameless." Both "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" on Netflix are binge-worthy. AMC's "Breaking Bad" was as good as any series I've ever watched. Ever. On F/X I'm a big fan of "Justified." (Every time I see a black Lincoln limo I think to myself, "That's a Raylan Givens car.")

But what about the Big Bang?
It's just too stupid. Nothing's funny. The writers are trying way too hard and failing. I hate the laugh track. Every time anyone says anything they pot up the laugh track and it's just plain annoying. I reminds me of a neighborhood fireworks display on the 4th of July (my favorite day of the year) when you're waiting for a grand finale that never happens.

But at least I tried.
As I said, people who's opinion I respect rave about the show, but I find it painful to sit through an episode.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

9 Games Into It

Okay, I've been remiss.
I went to Spring Training in March and never wrote about it. But it was fun. I went to Opening Day at Fenway and didn't write about it. Sorry.

But here we are, 9 games into the season and at the end of the first home stand.

So how are they doing?
Here's my take. In Ft. Myers Grady Sizemore looked very good. He hit well, ran the bases well, showed a lot of defensive range, made great catches. I was not surprised that he made the team and was named the starting center fielder.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. was the phenom of spring training last year and made the Opening Day roster, but couldn't hit big league pitching. This year he was the presumed replacement in center for Jacoby Ellsbury, but in spring training once again he couldn't hit. He batted .167 and lead the team in strikeouts. On the last day of spring training John Farrell announced that Sizemore is the starting center fielder and JBJ is going to Pawtucket.

Have you heard the Southwest spots for $69 airfares?
Hang on a sec. Shane Victorino pulls a hammy in the final Ft. Myers game, and JBJ gets a call from Farrell telling him to hop one of those $69 Southwest flights from T.F. Green in Providence to BWI and be in uniform for Opening Day at Camden Yards.

How'd he do?
He pinch hit in the 9th with the tying run in scoring position and...struck out.

But since then...
He wound up playing right field in several games and is hitting .400 and has less than half the strikeouts that Napoli and Gomes have. He's also made several great catches and is looking like the phenom we expected last year.

What about the other guys?
I saw Burke Badenhop twice in Florida and he looked horrible both times. In Boston he looked not particularly sharp the first time, then horrible the second time. On Tuesday he relieved Felix Dubront, who was having a dreadful night, and was as bad as Dubront, if not worse. I couldn't help wondering why they signed Badenhop. Yes, he wears his socks high (something they all should do, IMHO), but other than that brings little to the table. I'll be surprised if he makes it past the trading deadline.

Tell me about Dubront.
Four outings in Florida. Two were pretty good, two were disasters. In the regular season he had an okay, not great, start and got the win. Start #2 against Texas was the worst of his career. Two shutout innings, then a ridiculous third where he gave up 5 runs and couldn't get out of the inning. Badenhop comes in and gets out of further trouble in the 3rd, but gives up four more runs in the 4rd and 5th innings. Over the course of three innings we wound up being down, 9-0. In comes Brandon Workman, who throws three perfect innings. He does give up a run in the 9th, but you have to wonder why Workman didn't come in to replace Dubront back in the 3rd. Workman was rewarded for his excellent performance by being optioned to Pawtucket right after the game.

That's not as bad as it sounds.
The plan is to make Workman a starter, thus the temporary move to the Paw Sox to stretch him out. Expect him back and in the rotation before long.

Pedroia? Ortiz?
Dustin looks good, as always. He has grounded into a couple of double-plays and only has one RBI, but that's because the leadoff guys, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes, are batting something like .116 so Pedey has no one to knock in. And they're both slow, thus the GIDP's. Ortiz did nothing at the plate in spring training, and has hit the ball hard but not far enough over the last week or so. He does have two homers, including the game-winner on Wednesday afternoon.

Lester? Lackey? Peavy? Buchholz?
Lester has looked good but hasn't gotten much run support. Lackey is 2-0 with an ERA of .138 and seems to be a completely different guy from the 2011 pre-Tommy John Lackey. Peavy hasn't won, but he hasn't lost either, and his ERA of .238 is pretty good. Bad news...other than Dubront being very iffy...the Buchholz start was scary. 13 hits and 6 runs over 4+ innings and an ERA of 12.46. Is he still hurt? What happened to the guy who threw a no-hitter in his second start in 2007?

I saw Middlebrooks in spring training and he was hitting well, but made three errors at 3rd. Two in one inning. Not sure about him. But then, I'm not Jenny Dell. Xander Bogarts has been a pleasant surprise at the plate, but is a little shaky at short. I've seen several balls get by him that Steven Drew probably would have gotten to.

What about Drew?
The Red Sox seem to be annoyed about Drew turning down their 14.1 million-dollar offer for one year. Evidence? When Middlebrooks went on the DL they went out and signed Ryan Roberts as a backup 3rd baseman and gave him Drew's #7 jersey. And no one has picked Drew up. Ouch.

It's on to Da Bronx.
They play the Yankees 7 times home and away over the next couple of weeks. It should be a good indication of whether the Red Sox have a Championship hangover and whether the Yankees are aging on the vine.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Not Saying I Told You So, But…..

Red Sox pitchers and catchers have reported to Ft. Myers.
Their first workout is tomorrow. Columnists have been wondering whether there will be a championship hangover. But instead of talking about that…

Let's arrow back a year.
Clearly 2013 was a fun year to be a Red Sox fan. By my count even better than 2004, which is hard to top. But what were people saying about the Red Sox year ago? Mostly you heard that they'd be better than in 2012…how could they not be? But did you hear anyone predict a World Series win? If you read this blog you did. Okay, it was not a prediction, it was wishful thinking. But worth another look:

Feb. 12, 2013.

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 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.