Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#1 passes away at 99. I was almost named after him.

Bobby Doerr, the oldest living Baseball Hall of Famer, died on Tuesday. He was 99.

Doerr spent his entire career playing for the Red Sox, playing 2B (never played a different position) in 1,852 games. He wore #1 from 1938-1951, but it's noteworthy that in his 1937 rookie year he wore #9, which Ted Williams took in 1939. His career fielding percentage at 2B (.980) is topped only by...guess who? Dustin Pedroia (.991). Pedey also has a higher career BA (.300) vs. Doerr (.288). But this is about Bobby Doerr. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.

In addition to Cooperstown, Doerr is also enshrined at Fenway Park in a few places - the #1 in the row of retired numbers on the right field facade,

the lit up one in the walkway leading from the ticket office down to Yawkey commuter rail station,

the one on the outside wall when you're heading down Van Ness Street,

another one inside on the wall between Gates A and B, and most notably, the Teammates statue outside the entrance to Gate B (or K, if you're bringing kids to the game).

The statue is an homage to the 2003 David Halberstam book "Teammates."

It takes place in 2001, when Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio ("He's better than his brother Joe...Dominic DiMaggio-ooo"), Red Sox teammates back in the late 1930's, 40's and 50's, took a road trip to Florida to say farewell to their dying former teammate - and the greatest hitter who ever lived.

This is not exactly, but sort of, the picture the statue was based on, except they're in a different order. Williams and Pesky, the two lefty hitters, are on the ends in the photo, but DiMaggio is on the end in the statue.

So how was I almost named after him?

Dad was a huge Red Sox fan. When I was born in September 1948 the Red Sox were on the verge of winning the AL pennant for the second time in three years. They had gone 30 years since their last championship in we all know those 30 years would eventually stretch to 86...but they got to the World Series in 1946 only to lose to the Cardinals in Game 7. In 1948 they wound up tied with the Cleveland Indians for first place in the American League. There was a one-game playoff at Fenway. When jouneyman pitcher Denny Galehouse was announced as the starter my older brother Hugh supposedly threw up in the car. Turned out that Galehouse was not up to the task and Cleveland went on to face the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series. Boston...with two chances out of three to win the championship...did not. Cleveland won it at Braves Field, now Nickerson Field at BU. And that was the last time Cleveland won it all. 1948.

Okay, but the name thing?

Back then, the Red Sox even winning the pennant was a big deal. No one expected a World Series win ever. So when I came into the world on September 15, 1948...the Sox lead the Indians by 4-1/2 games. My Dad decided I should be named after the star second baseman, Bobby Doerr. I was going to be Robert Pershing Doerr Kelley. Mom would have none of it. So I wound up being Donald John Kelley. Named after Donald John Trump. Okay, that was a joke. I do share the same first and middle name with the current POTUS, but I don't bring it up much.

Did I ever meet Doerr?

I did. When "The Teammantes" book came out, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky came into the radio station (I was VP of Programming for Greater Media Boston and Program Director of the group's #1 station, MAGIC 106.7) for an interview with Mike Barnicle on our sister station 96.9 FM Talk. Right after the interview I chatted with Pesky (I had already met him a couple of times) and Doerr, whom I had not met. Remember, at this point they were getting up there.

I said to Bobby, "I was almost named after you."

He said, "You're a Doerr?" I responded, no I'm a Kelley. "I thought you said you were a Doerr?" I explained that my father wanted me to be Robert Pershing Doerr Kelley (see, I know your middle name), but Mom nixed it. He said, "Huh? You're not a Doerr?" Then Pesky jumped in. "What are you, an idiot? His name is Kelley. His father wanted to name him Bobby Doerr, but his mother said forget it. Jesus, don't you understand anything? Then Pesky turned to me. "How come your Dad didn't want to name you Johnny Pesky Kelley?" No idea, I was only a few hours old. Maybe it was the Pesky error that wound up losing Game 7 in 1946 World Series. This was like a scene in Grumpy Old Men. But they were both having fun ribbing each other.

Bobby Doerr, RIP.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cora a good choice for Sox Manager

Alex Cora named the 47th Manager of the Red Sox.

They had to wait until the ALCS ended to make it official, as MLB does not want major announcements made during the playoffs. I guess the 3-day layoff before the World Series starts on Tuesday night is a safe respite. It is a little like the Bill Parcells announcement about going to the New Jersey Jets while still coaching the Patriots in the 1997 Superbowl. But that wound up working out okay in the long haul.

Cora played for 14 years in the Majors.

7 years with the Dodgers, half a season with the Indians, three and a half with the Red Sox, two with the Mets, one each with the Rangers and Nationals. The Dodgers finished 2nd or 3rd every year he played there, except for 2004 when they finished 1st, but we all know who won that year.

In 2005 Cora came to the Sox at the trading deadline and the team won the Wild Card and went to the playoffs for the 3rd year in a row, but suffered from the World Series Hangover and were swept by the White Sox, who went on to end their own 88-year drought (1917-2005). Around that time I often wondered why there was so much attention on the Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino" 86-year curse when there were two teams - both from Chicago - that had gone longer. In the case of the White Sox I guess it's because people don't really care about them that much. Just ask Chris Sale.

Other than 2010, when the Rangers finished first, Cora was never on a team that went to the playoffs.

Except for the Red Sox.

They won the Wild Card in 2005, the AL East and the World Series in 2007, and the Wild Card in 2008.

He was there for the sweep by the White Sox in 2005, got a ring for the World Championship in 2007 and was there for the season-ending JD Drew called third off David Price in Tampa Bay in 2008.

So he'll get the Boston media thing.

Which many people from elsewhere do not. Cora has been here a world championship and for almost-but-not-quite-enough flop endings. He'll get it.

He's bilingual.

Alex is from Puerto Rico, meaning he's fluent in Spanish as well as English. This is a good thing for almost anyone, but should be especially helpful given the increasing number of Latin players on the Red Sox roster and in their system.

So let's go get a slugger for 2018.

In the meantime, my #2 World Series Preference has come true. Yep. #1 was the Red Sox, of course, and #2 was Anybody but the Yankees. And that's what it will be.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Not going the way I hoped

Yankees pounding the Astros.


Oh well.

It's only one game.

But the Damn Yankees look pretty formidable.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Down to four now. Preferences recalculated.

World Series winner preferences 1, 3, 4 and 8 are out,

The Red Sox were #1, of course. #2 was Anybody but the Yankees, #3 was the Nationals, #4 was the Indians, #5 was the Cubs, #6 was the Astros, #7 was the Dodgers, #8 was the D'Backs.

With the Wild Card and the Division Series in the books, we need to recalculate.

How's it look now?

The Astros have taken a 2-0 ALCS lead over the Yankees, which keeps former preference #2, now #1, alive. New York has come back from being down 2 games to none to win a 7-game series before, but they've also been up 2-0...yes, even 3-0...and lost - as we all remember. So #1 is still #1. The new #2 would be the Astros, who could deliver #1 with a Yankee Elimination night in New York on Tuesday or Wednesday. Sure, it's tough to knock them off at Yankee Stadium, but the 2004 Red Sox did it with the Yankees up 3 games to 2. A challenge, but do-able.

The Dodgers beat the Cubs 5-2 in NLCS game 1, with game 2 tonight in La La Land. When Cody Bellinger and not Adrian Gonzalez is at 1st base, they're a very good team. That's why Gonzo was on the bench for game 1 and will be for game 2 tonight as well.

The Cubs won in 2016 - you may have heard something about that - and the Dodgers have gone 29 years. That famous fist-pumping, ankle-hobbling Kirk Gibson home run off Dennis Eckersley in 1988 was the last Series LA won. That was when Eck coined the term "walkoff." When you hear someone say "walkoff" today, obviously they're talking about the batter who hit it. When he was interviewed after giving up the game-winning shot, Eck, known for his colorful turn-of-phrase, said, "I threw some cheese with hair on it, but he jacked it into the porch. At the point there was nothing for me to do but walk off." So Eck was talking about the pitcher walking off the mound, not the batter jumping in a pig pile at home plate. Dodgers are now #3.

At this point #4 is obviously the Cubs, although in a straight ranking the Yankees would be #4. But putting them at #4 would mean they are my 4th preference to win, and they're not. They're #1 preference to lose.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

World Series Preference...updated.

Three teams down...time for an update.

My preferences for a World Series winner went like this:

1. Red Sox

2: Anyone but the Yankees

3: Nationals

4: Indians

5: Cubs

6: Astros

7: Dodgers

8: Diamondbacks.

We’re down to 5 now.

The Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Indians are all out, so my #1, 4 and 8 preferences are done. That makes #2...anybody but the new #1. I’m feeling less and less comfortable about that after tonight’s Cleveland fold. Washington staved off elimination tonight and might actually knock off Chicago in Game 5, so we’ll stick with the Nats as they move up to #2. But the Cubbies are still right behind at #3, with the Astros at #4 and the Dodgers at #5.

Or maybe I move the Astros up to #3. Yeah. They’ve never won - neither has either of their football teams (former Oilers or current Texans) - and they had a horrible time with Harvey. Plus the Cubs did just win in 2016 and their Billy Goat curse was just a lame attempt at copying the Curse of the Bambino, which was definitely for real. So as the late Casey Kassem would say, the Cubs drop one notch to #4. Dodgers still at #5 because people in LA don’t care that much. They show up in the 3rd inning and leave at the 7th inning stretch.

On Friday either the Cubs or Nationals will be out.

We’ll recalculate. But the new #1 will not change.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

World Series 2017...My Preferences for a Champion

These are not predictions, just my hopes and dreams, ranked.

Of the 10 teams that made the playoffs, the Twins and Rockies were tied for 9th on my list, mostly because there was no expectation that either would advance. And neither did.

That said, here's your top 8:

I'm debating here whether to count down or up.

Counting up is more dramatic, and works well on the radio and on TV. Or on a Thrillist ranking where all 50 states are ranked on something and you have to scroll down a lot to get to #1, which you probably disagree with anyway. But 8 is a short list with little if any scrolling required, so we'll go with counting from 1-8.

#1: Red Sox (of course).

So what if they're already down by two games to Houston...the Sox came back from 0-2 to win the ALDS in 1999 (v. Cleveland), 2003 (v. A's) and down 0-3 to win the ALCS (v. Yankees) in 2004. As Monty Python would say, they're not completely dead yet. They pounded the Astros on Sunday, 10-3, to keep the series alive.

#2: Anybody but the Yankees.

Not much argument there other than folks from NY, NJ and the part of Connecticut south of Hartford. It's well-known that the real New England is 5-1/2 states.

#3: Washington Nationals.

People think of the droughts in Boston (86 years) and Chicago (88 years), but DC has gone longer than any market without a World Series Champion. 93 years, to be exact. It was in 1924. Prohibition was the law of the land. No beer vendors in the stands at Griffith Stadium (where I actually saw a game in 1958-Opening Day, Red Sox @ Senators. President Eisenhower threw out the first pitch). Back in '24 Calvin Coolidge was President and threw out the first pitch of Game 1. Star pitcher Walter "The Big Train" Johnson was the starter, 8th inning guy, and closer. He pitched all 12 innings, giving up 14 hits and 4 runs in a 4-3 loss to the New York Giants.

(Side note: in case you've ever wondered why people still refer to the "New York Football Giants"'s because the baseball Giants were around in New York a long time before the football ones. When the baseball ones moved to San Francisco in 1958 the Football Giants name just stuck.)

Johnson also started and finished Game 5, going the distance and giving up 13 hits and 6 runs in a 6-2 loss. In Game 7, with the series tied 3-3, Johnson came in as the closer in the 9th and threw four scoreless innings to lead the Senators to the championship in the 12th. 9 years later DC had one more World Series appearance, in 1933 against the same New York Giants...this time losing in 5 games. Nothing since then.

As years and bad seasons dragged on, the slogan "Washington...first in war, first in peace, last in the American League" was oft repeated by local sports scribes. The original Senators blew town in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins. They were immediately replaced by a new Washington Senators that was worse than the original and also blew town, moving to Dallas in 1972 to become the Texas Rangers. Then the good folks of DC suffered through 33 years with no team. Better to have a lousy one than none, right? Finally, in 2005, the Montreal Expos gave up and moved to DC to become the Nationals (a nickname the original Senators used in the 50's). The Expos were a bad team when they moved to DC, but have morphed into a very good team. They were the first to clinch their division in 2017. So yeah, Go Nats!

#4: Indians.

Cleveland has gone 69 years without winning. I was three weeks old the last time it happened, which was at Braves Field in Boston, just 6 blocks down Comm Ave. from Fenway. There was almost a Boston-Boston World Series that year, but the Red Sox blew a one-game pennant playoff against the Tribe. The Indians are a very good team. They have Tito, who broke the curse in Boston. They have Corey Kluber, the likely Cy Young Award winner. Cleveland is a much better place than the urban legends would lead you to believe.

#5: Cubs.

They've got Theo, who broke two long curses. (the Babe Ruth curse made some sense, but the Billy Goat curse was just stupid.) A repeat win after waiting 108 years would be cool. I haven't heard this mentioned, but when the Cubbies won in 1908 it was a repeat of 1907. They beat the Detroit Tigers in back-to-back years.

#6: Houston.

They're an awfully good team this year after decades of mediocrity. The Astrodome was horrible, but Minute Maid Park is really nice. They got rid of the ugly pajama uniforms. Jose Altuve is probably your MVP. No Texas team has ever won the World Series, so maybe it's time.

#7: Dodgers.

A Dodgers-Yankees matchup is the least interesting possibility this year, but the team had an amazing run. Especially when Adrian Gonzalez ("The Cooler") was on the DL. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is enshrined in Red Sox history for the steal of the century in 2004. Plus, the Dodgers took Carl Crawford and Gonzo off our hands.

#8: Diamondbacks.

Ugly uniforms, but a nice ballpark. Their manager is Tory Lovullo, who filled in for John Farrell at the end of 2016 and is probably the reason the Red Sox won the AL East last year.

So that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Then again, there's Monday.

It will be a possible elimination night for the Red Sox, Yankees and D'Backs. Which would move Washington up to #1 on the list.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

100 years ago today: The Perfect Game by a Reliever

How could a relief pitcher throw a perfect game?

It happened. Once, 100 years ago today, June 23, 1917.

Ten years ago this month I almost saw a perfect game.

It was in Oakland. Curt Schilling had not allowed a baserunner until the 6th when a guy reached on a Julio Lugo error. It was a room-service grounder and Lugo should have easily made the play. But he didn't. Really, I could have probably made that play. As Curt comes out for the bottom of the 9th, the crowd, A’s fans included, is on its feet, applauding. We get to two outs, the no-no still in place, and Shannon Stewart singles. A clean single to right center. Schilling retires the next guy and it's a one-hit shutout. But if Lugo had made that play, Stewart would not have gotten up in the 9th and it would have been not only a no-hitter, but a Perfect Game. Afterward, Schilling, being the way he is, blames himself for shaking off a Jason Varitek sign on the pitch that Stewart hit. He does not blame Lugo for the error that cost him a perfect game. At least not out loud.

But there's a better Perfect Game story.

The Babe before the Curse began.

It was 100 years ago today that the strangest Perfect Game in Major League Baseball history took place. It was game one of a double-header at Fenway Park, with the Red Sox, who had won back-to-back World Series in the two previous seasons, facing the original Washington Senators, who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.

The starting pitcher for Boston was one Babe Ruth. Leading off for the Senators was Ray Morgan. Ruth wound up walking Morgan on four pitches. When home plate umpire Brick Owens (is that where the name Brick in "The Middle" came from?) made the “ball four” call, Ruth was so agitated that he called Owens "the most foul name imaginable" according to the Boston Globe writeup.

The Supreme Court has since overturned the "fleeting expletives" fines that the FCC had leveled against ABC and Fox for F-bombs that aired during award shows, and given that today you can say "sucks" and "WTF?" on network TV during family viewing time, one has to wonder what was the most foul name imaginable back in 1917. “You bounder?” Remember, both damn and hell were considered offensive back then. No, probably an F-bomb or an A-bomb or a C-bomb or a D-bomb.

Back to the game.

Owens tossed Ruth. The Babe, who was not known for taking this sort of thing well, then marched up to home plate and took a swing at the umpire. That got him hauled off the field, and he was hit with a $100 fine (over $2000 in 2017 money) and a ten-game suspension. The catcher, Pinch Thomas (does it mean a pinch of snuff? - there were a lot of colorful ballplayer names back then) was also ejected. Call to the bullpen, sponsored by New England Telephone ("we're the one for you, New England...").

Red Sox pitcher Ernie Shore.

Ernie Shore comes trotting in from the bullpen as a reliever.

No time to warm up. It's the top of the first, one on, nobody out. Ray Morgan decides to try and steal second, but Shore senses this, throws to first and picks him off. One out, nobody on. Ernie then proceeds to retire the next 26 Senators in a row, a total of 27 straight outs, resulting in a 4-0 win that was a Perfect Game in relief.

Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore in the Sox dugout.

It stayed in the record books that way for years...

...until someone decided that, because Morgan originally reached 1st base on Ruth's walk, it was a no-hitter…but not a perfect game. Wondering what ever happened to Ernie Shore? His Sox career met the same fate as Babe Ruth. He was sold to the Yankees by owner Harry Frazee.

But it was one game that Grandfathers told their kids about, and they told their kids, and so on. It's too good a story not to pass on. June 23, 1917.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A visit to SunTrust Parek in Atlanta. Bucket List Once Again Complete

I had to top it off in Atlanta.

I started my Bucket List of seeing games at every Major League Ballpark back in 1989 when I read Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks by Bob Wood. He mostly was rating the ballparks of the time based on the food. Dodger Stadium came in first, Fenway Park came in last. As he said about Fenway, "How could such a great place have such awful food?" This embarrassed the Sox ownership, still the Yawkey family then. As a result, Colonial Provisions lost the contract for Fenway food and Aramark has had it since then.

My ranking is based on the ballpark experience.

In 1989 I had already been to four parks: Fenway and DC's Griffith Stadium back in the 50's, plus Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Angels Stadium in Anaheim in the late 80's.

I knocked off six more in the 90's (including the brand new Turner Field in Atlanta during the Inaugural Season), 5 more in 2000 alone, and by 2005 I had my daughter Kara as my Ballpark Buddy going on road trips with me. By 2010 I was up to 35, and in 2014 we went to Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. At that point I had been to games at 41 ballparks: all 30 of the current ones and 11 more that are gone or no longer used for baseball. That completed the Bucket List. For a while.

Atlanta decided to get rid of Turner Field, only 20 years old.

That seems like a pretty quick turnaround, but the majority of ballparks - 16 of other 29 - are actually newer than Turner. Only 13 are older. Only 6 were opened before 1990.

In Atlanta they remember where the team came from.

The Braves are the longest-running franchise in all of baseball. The team has been in Atlanta since 1966, but began play in Boston in 1871 and spent 82 seasons there.

Many of the food concession stands are named 1871 Grille in honor of that.

Why'd they leave?

In the final week of spring training in 1953 owner Lou Perini of Framingham got tired of the Braves being badly outdrawn by the Red Sox every year since 1901 and decided to blow town and go Milwaukee where his AAA team played. The Braves stayed there for only 13 years, so Turner Field outlived the Milwaukee Braves.

It's the only MLB franchise to win the World Series playing in three different cities.

Warren Spahn was a pitcher for the Boston Braves from 1942-1952 and the Milwaukee Braves from 1953-1964. Spahn and Johnny Sain were the star pitchers for the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series. The popular slogan was "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain." SunTrust Park has this statute of Warren Spahn with his famous high leg kick at the entrance even though he retired before the Braves moved to Atlanta.

Okay, tell me about Atlanta today.

The new ballpark is about 10 miles north of downtown, where the last two ballparks were located. If there's any public transportation heading that way I didn't see any evidence of it. But there's a lot of parking. Lots.

The Opening Day flag was held horizontally across the outfield. Only Fenway has a wall big enough to hang a huge flag.

How's the park itself?

Really nice. They all are, except for Oakland and Tampa Bay. But seeing a game at those places is still fun. With the Raiders getting out of Dodge for a second time, Oakland will either get a new ballpark or lose the A's as well.

RA Dickey strikes out the first batter.

They put some little Christmas trees in the batter's eye in center field, but they weren't spaced that well.

In case you were looking at your phone and missed a hit, the jumbotron reminds you.

A Braves home run gets fireworks. I saw this happen indoors once at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

What's unique?

Well, the Tomahawk Chop, of course. There's no PC issue about it there at all. It's the "Sweet Caroline" of Atlanta. Ludacris lead the crowd for the first chop.

Tomahawk Chop lead by Ludacris from Don Kelley.

Do they do a stupid 5th inning race?

Sure. Everywhere but Fenway does that. Milwaukee has a sausage, a brat and a hot dog racing. In DC it's George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy always loses. At SunTrust it's sponsored by Home Depot and they have a hammer, an orange bucket and a paint brush racing. I won't bore you with a picture. A couple of musical tidbits: RA Dickey's walkup music is "Game of Thrones"...and you know how every park (except Fenway) has an organ playing "If You're Happy and You Know It" or "Charge" or that sort of thing between batters? They had the organ play "Battle Hymn of the Republic." In Atlanta? Surprised me.

Who won?

The Braves beat the San Diego Padres, 4-2. Both teams hit back-to-back HR's. The leadoff guy for San Diego was Manuel Margot, traded by the Red Sox to get Craig Kimbrel.

But my Bucket List is once again complete.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Back From Spring Training. How Do The Sox Really look?

Only a few days till Opening Day on Monday. Today, mostly sunny but only around 45. Clam Chowda, anyone?

The chowder at Fenway is actually very good, by the way. But how will they look? This is the 6th straight year I've gone to spring training in Ft. Myers. I've seen games at jetBlue Park, which is a fabulous place for a spring training game. Great weather, relaxed atmosphere, you get a look at some of the rising stars. The field, of course, looks 98% like Fenway with all the nooks and crannies, the faux Monster with the hand-operated scoreboard.

This, by the way, is the actual scoreboard that was in the Fenway Wall from 1969 to 2003. It was replaced by a look-alike that also includes National League scores when the net was removed and the Monster Seats were added. I've also been to the Twins ballpark, Century Link Sports Complex, also in Ft. Myers, Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles park in Sarasota, Charlotte Sports Park, the Rays park in Port Charlotte and the Blue Jays park in Dunedin, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Couldn't they come up with someone better for the naming rights? Maybe Waffle House Park??

jetBlue is easily the best, but it sells out every game so you see a fair number of snowbird Red Sox fans at all the parks. It's especially fun on St. Patrick's Day when they wear green unis.

After 6 trips, you understand things better.

Early on, like when Daniel Bard was supposed to be the new closer, or the next year when Andrew Bailey was supposed to be the new closer, or Koji the last few years, I'd wonder why John Farrell would bring them in for the 5th or 6th inning? Try scoring a game by hand (which I do all the time) and you'll figure that one out. By the 6th or 7th inning almost no starters are still in the game. It's the "scrubs" wearing #80 with no name on the back who are getting some playing time but have no hope of going north with the big club. Why waste an outing by your closer by having him pitch to Single A guys?

The old pitching excuse.

Every year you see one of the five projected starters have a bad 3-inning outing and after the game they say, "I wasn't really trying to get anyone out...I was just working on my mechanics." Oh, so that's why you were horrible. Got it.

But the established starters are actually doing that. David Price was shut down so I didn't see him, but I saw Eduardo Rodriguez (I refuse to call him E Rod, just on principle) look very good for two or three innings, then lose his way a little. Chis Sale had a dicey first inning, then was excellent.

Ft. Myers from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

Steven Wright looked very good. Gave up no runs in his first four appearances. Drew Pomeranz was a B-minus. Rick Porcello was also shaky at first (ERA over 7), then settled down and looked more like the reigning Cy Young winner. After two straight years of signing 8th inning setup guys who are on the DL (Carson Smith last year and Tyler Thornburg this year) it looks like Joe Kelly can handle it just fine.

Not so for the guys on the bubble.

Three guys competing for the final two starting slots, or several middle relievers really fighting to make the club. You feel badly for them when they have a couple bad outings in a row. That's what happened to Henry Owens and Brian Johnson. They've both been up a time or two and have a lot of potential, but don't do themselves any favors when they can't find the plate. Both were sent to Pawtucket to start the season. Noe Ramirez is another one. I don't trust him at all on the mound. When he was up with the big club last year he'd give up four straight hits and I'd ask myself why Farrell is leaving him in? He must see something I don't. He pitched 1/3 of an inning on St. Patrick's Day and gave up 5 hits and a walk leading to 4 runs, an ERA of 6.14 and a bus trip down I-95 to Pawtucket. Kyle Kendrick was one of the more effective pitchers in camp, but the Sox already have six starters for five slots so he's been sent to Pawtucket as well.

The Killer B's.

Well, two of them are on fire.

Ft. Myers from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

Andrew Benintndi, the #1 prospect in all of baseball, looks like he'll live up to that. Hitting over .300 with power, great baserunner. Mookie, last year's runner-up for MVP, looks great and is well over .300. Jackie Bradley shows his excellent D, but has had a slow start at the plate. In 2013 he crushed it in spring training but couldn't get up to the Mendoza Line during the regular season and was sent down. Maybe this year will be the reverse. He does have his hot spells, like last year's 29-game hitting streak and he's picking it up more toward the end of spring training. Add Chris Young as the fourth guy and you have an outfield that projects to be as good as Williams-Piersall-Jensen or Rice-Lynn-Evans. Didn't get to see Bogaerts as he was off playing for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

.The other hitters?

The Pedey laser show is in high-wattage. Panda, while still a rotund guy, is in much better shape than when we last saw him pop his belt on a swing-and-miss. Lighter, much more agile, and hitting .350 with homers from both sides of the plate. Hanley has yet to pick up his firstie's mitt, but he's hitting .310 as DH. Mich Moreland, the new supposedly part-time 1st baseman, is hitting .317. The lineup sure looks like it can repeat scoring the most runs in baseball.

Catchers.Three guys looking for two spots. Sandy Leon projected as the starter, as he hit .310 as the starter last year from June on. That was mostly fueled by his .467 in June and his .355 in July. By September he was down to .280, but that's still way higher than Christian Vasquez has ever hit. But Vazquez is an excellent defender. Calls a great game and has a cannon. Threw out runners at 2nd, 3rd and home a couple of days ago. Then there's Blake Swihart, the best athlete of the three and easily the best hitter (.325), but he lost almost all of 2016 and needs to work on blocking pitches in the dirt. Plus (big plus) he has minor league options and the other two guys don't. So Farrell opted for defense over offense behind the plate and Blake is on that bus down I-95. I think he'll be back by summer. I'm also hoping to see Josh Rutledge and Brian Johnson on the big club along with Joe Kelly and Chris Sale, as all of them played for my local Cape Cod League team, the 3-time champion Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.

I'm excited and very optimistic.

Of course, I always am when it comes to Opening Day. One of my top 5 favorite days of the year. Now if we can get a forecast that says "Sunny and 68"...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Roger That!

One of the funnier moments after the Patriots'unbelievable comeback in Super Bowl LVI...

...was when the Shields MRI TV spot ran. It was moments after we saw the much maligned Roger Goodell hand the Super Bowl MVP trophy to Tom Brady.

Shields had been running a spot for a month or two where TB12 is in the waiting room in a Shields MRI office and the greeter asks Tom to put his jewelry in a locker. He takes a Super Bowl Championship ring off each finger and hands them to her. After he hands her the fourth one she asks him, "Is that all?" Tom smiles and says, "For now."

Back to the post-win celebration.

Fox goes to the first break following the win and we see the same Shields MRI spot. I'm watching it wondering if they thought of doing an update. Even if they had, would it be ready to roll this quickly? The Pats were down by 25 points in the 3rd quarter and 19 in the 4th. No one had ever come back from a deficit like that.

The Shields spot plays.


.Exact same thing we've been seeing for a couple of about 24 seconds into the spot, where the woman asks, "Is that all?"...cut to Tom who says, "Oh, wait...there also this one. It's kinda new." as he pulls #5 out of his pocket. In the updated version the woman then says, "We might need to get you a bigger locker" and TB12 responds, "Roger that!"

Roger That! A great line, perfectly timed.

That's why The Boston Globe chose it as the name for their special commemorative coffee table book about the historic season.

They walk you through it.

A quick look at the previous four Super Bowl wins, all of which were won in the final seconds. Then each game in the regular season, and on to the playoffs and the Big Game. Just enough text and fun facts about Brady, Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, Gronk, James White and the whole gang. They also to refresh your memory on previous Pats Super Bowl appearances. But wait, there's more. It's loaded with fabulous closeup Getty-quality photos.

Priced for a Yankee swap or Secret Santa.

The typical budget attached to a holiday or office gift swap is $20-or-under...which buys you very little. Maybe a couple Venti Skinny Lattes. But this book retails for only $14.95 so you can also throw in a $5 Dunkin gift card. My only complaint is that it's not hard-cover. We ordered three and the soft covers were all bent - but only a little - during shipping. Who ever said you can't buy a gift for next December in March?