Category Archives: Baseball

What a difference a year makes

This time last year was a dismal time for Red Sox fans. We honestly thought we couldn’t sink any further. Ho, Ho, Ho! Then we met Bobby Valentine. We’re now told that one of the strengths he brought to the job was his experience and maturity, characteristics which would help him fit in and deal with the big egos and big entitlements which were clearly part of the Red Sox clubhouse – and which cost them in 2011. In the end, history will record exactly the opposite happened. Instead of rising above the posturing he locked horns with the personalities and, ultimately, drove them out or simply had them shipped-out.

It is undeniable that injuries played a part in the story, but it is equally clear the rot set in early with Jason Varitek being edged into retirement. Soon after the season started, Valentine publicly questioned the commitment of Kevin Youkilis and, as he evidently favoured Will Middlebrooks over the veteran, Youk’s departure was inevitable. Throw into that mix Valentine’s decision to take a gig on New York sports radio and even by then the only thing which would redeem him in the eyes of the Boston fans would be a World Series ring.

The season occasionally spluttered in a vaguely positive direction, but it was occasional and spluttering. By the All Star Break and the return of Dice-K, the pattern was inexorably set. The mid-season fire sale which saw some of the big names  (not to mention the ego & payroll) was official acknowledgement that the season was done. So we had the situation where most of the active roster at the end of the season began it playing in the minor leagues. And don’t even breathe the name Alfredo Aceves in Nick’s presence!

So what about 2013? The pundits seem to favour a deal with the Blue Jays to bring Boston favourite John Farrell back, and I think that would go down well with the fans. Plan B revolves around another home-grown candidate in Tim Bogar, with ‘Tek seen as the wild card candidate.

My view: Given how wrong we were in our depth perception this time last year, boy-oh-boy did they get it wrong in making Terry Francona the scapegoat. The Tito years were self-evidently the best the Red Sox have ever seen and if ever there was an object lesson in taking the rough with the smooth, the 2012 Boston Red Sox served it up perfectly.

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Finding New & Inventive Ways To Lose

I have deliberately limited the frequency with which I use this blog to go on about the Red Sox, but I need a place to vent, and that – after all – was my principal reason for setting this thing up in the first place. So kindly bear with me or click here to exit (Kay’s favourite commercial – you’ll see why).

Anyway…

Apparently their seventh loss in eight games was the result of a bad call by the home plate umpire – adjudicating on a fairly technical point relating to the ball hitting the batter’s hand while attempting to put down a bunt. Manager Bobby Valentine’s point seems to be if the umpire made the right call (arguably he did) or sought a second opinion which might (probably not) have gone the Red Sox way, then maybe the outcome of the game may have been different. Or maybe it wouldn’t have. For a manager to blame a loss on the umpire when his starting pitcher hasn’t lasted beyond five innings is a complete crock.

The 2012 Red Sox are following the pattern set last year; bursts of brilliance punctured by long periods of total mediocrity. On the face of it, the pitching staff must shoulder a goodly part of the blame. To have a starter who has an outing which can be described as anything but “sub-par” is a rarity. This season they apparently don’t have Popeye’s Fried Chicken and beer in the clubhouse to blame – though the legacy of Beckett’s “No Snitching” mardiness no doubt lingers.

The bullpen took some getting going this year, but recent signs seem positive. However, after the April 21st debacle against the Yankees, when the bullpen gave up a 9-0 lead to lose 15-9, a Red Sox fan will never fully trust the ‘pen not to blow it. Maybe we miss Papelbon, but he was (and remains) fallible. If a team is consistently relying on a strong ninth inning then perhaps they’ve taken the wrong tack anyway?

Talking of brilliance dimmed: what happened to Big Papi and the new ‘phenom’ Middlebrook last night? The pair of them went 0-4 when even the lacklustre A-Gon managed a three RBI hit.

The AL East has gone completely bonkers so far this year, with the Rays and Orioles duking it out at the top (with Baltimore even holding claim to The Best Record In Baseball at one point) while the Red Sox and Yankees occupy the bottom two spots.

So it’s only May, with a lot of baseball still to play, but something fundamental about how the Red Sox play the game has to change if they are see Post Season action this year. Taking it out on the home plate umpire is most certainly not the way to do it.

Uninformed rant over. Thank you.

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Doom and Gloom – Already!? [Updated]

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, but the booing has started already for the Red Sox. Sure, only two games (in a season of 162) have been played – and lost. However, as Dan Shaughnessy writes in the Globe, they are now on the receiving end of 22 losses in their last 29 games. The disaster of September should be consigned to the history books, but baseball is as much a head game as one of physical ability, so the memory of last year still has a powerful influence.

Two games, two starting pitchers, two losses. Clay Butcholtz starts tonight and will be under unimaginable pressure to turn in the first good start of the season. I can’t help but think (or is that fret?) that the absence of reliable, confident starting pitching is the thing that has been the achilles heel of the Red Sox for a long time.

You can never accuse Boston sports fans of not taking things seriously!

Update – following the Eleventh Inning defeat by Detroit in Game Three…

Well, they tried hard, that’s for sure, but that makes it Three Games, Three Failed Starting Pitchers and a spectacularly blown save by the (to be fair, emergency…) Closer.

This game was really hard work (to listen to!) and, like Game One, was nail biting at the end.

On to Totonto, for hopefully happier pickings?

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Opening Day 2012

Image

The Red Sox start their regular season campaign tonight at Detroit. A lot of new faces in the line-up for us long distance fans to get to know. It’s a long time until October, but let’s hope it’s a fun and happy journey!

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Isn’t it refreshing when the price of something goes DOWN?

MLB At Bat screenshot

MLB At Bat for the iPhone screenshot

In previous years, the pricing model for Major League Baseball’s various electronic products has been somewhat “grabbing”. As well as being expected to cough up $120 for a top-of-the-range package to watch baseball over the internet, they had the temerity to charge £8.99 each for the iPad and iPhone “At Bat” apps. I’m loathe to use the term “rip off” as when-all-is-said-and-done, no-one is pointing a gun at my head to buy. Nevertheless, it didn’t do any good for MLB’s image in my eyes.

This year is a whole different story. As well as getting a returning subscriber discount (a whopping $4.99!) on the MLB.tv package, they have taken the very welcome step of incorporating that subscription into the At Bat app – on both iPad and iPhone. In other words At Bat (which has lost its yearly appellation) is now free, with MLB.tv subscribers able to unlock the additional features. That is certainly the way to do it, and kudos to MLB for saving me twenty quid or so this year.

All we need now is for the new-look Red Sox to win 100 games before October.

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Well, what a surprise

Boston Red Sox – Red Sox pitching coach Curt Young agrees to deal with A’s – The Boston Globe.

I particularly like this quote:

“Obviously it was a fun year in Boston, but not finishing the way we wanted to finish, I think has a lot to do with me being let go,’’ Young told reporters in Oakland.

Y’don’t say!?

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I won’t go on about this, but…

…. as a final point on last night’s cataclysm: This illustration neatly explains the enormity of what happened during September:-

Red Sox path to doom

Red Sox path to doom

Blatantly copied from (ironically) The New York Times

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I still can’t quite believe it

Papelblown
I woke a couple of times during the night and checked MLB At Bat on my iPhone. First time I looked the signs were good. The Red Sox were ahead of the Orioles, if only just, and they were off for a rain delay. They had played enough to make it official if the game were to be called. Meanwhile, the Rays were on the receiving end of a 7-0 shellacking by the Yankees. No anti-Boston tactics in play there I thought.

The next time I rolled over and reached for my phone, by a strange quirk of timing it was 05:00 – just in time to see the Sox were tied at 3 in the bottom of the ninth at Baltimore and the Rays had somehow clawed their way bay to seven apiece taking the game into extra innings. Not fully aware of the enormity of what was playing out before my eyes, and especially not that it was “live”, the Boston score changed to 3-4Final and I then realised something dramatic had happened. Within seconds it seemed, the Rays scoreline also changed – to 7-8Final/12 and that was it.

I went back to sleep, not entirely sure I hadn’t just dreamt that – or was it a nightmare?

Only an hour or so later, as I got up to take Kay to work (pay back!) I began the post mortem scanning of the game reports. For the second season in a row it looks like Papelbon will be cast in the role of villain. One strike away from victory….

One thing that has to be said here is that Tampa Bay are in no way the bad guys in this story. In fact you’ve got to tip your hat to them – they kept winning and that is the difference in a nutshell. I’m sure they are still celebrating now on the Gulf Coast, and with good reason. Their wild card birth is as remarkable a story as Boston’s spectacular choke (though won’t be talked about for anywhere like as long!)

Some time today Jonathan Papelbon will be on the phone with Scott Boras: “Er, Scott, I guess that may have cost us a few Million bucks last night?”

The history of sports – and Boston losses in particular – suggests that Terry Francona will be looking for a new job in the winter. My own view, however, is that that would be harsh – if only for the two World Series wins he engineered. Curt Young, the pitching coach, is a dead cert for the sack, and given that woeful starting pitching (and some closing pitching!) has been the main let-down, he deserves it. Sure, neither he nor Tito could foresee the injury to Clay Buchholz, but the train wreck that was Dice-K was entirely predicable (though impossible to have dodged cost-effectively).

The 2012 Red Sox will bear only passing resemblance to this year’s squad, with some old favourites there no longer. On September 2011’s showing, that’s maybe no bad thing.

Incidentally, I bet Theo now wishes they paid Johnny Damon what he was asking for in 2006 to keep him in Boston.

Tito's Frustration

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Tonight’s The Night

It really is this simple: Having showed their stuff by grinding out a win in the 14th against the Yankees, a win in Baltimore is everything. A loss (especially combined with a Rays and/or Angel’s win) really is it. By ‘it’ I mean that only a mathematical fluke would take the Sox onwards, and I sincerely believe that would cause Sox fans more pain than enough.

Tonight is It.

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