October 23rd, 2007 → 8:39 am @ Seth Mnookin
Several readers wrote in pointing out that Coco’s catch was, in fact, posted on the MLB site, although so far as I can tell you need to subscribe to the MLB postseason package to see it. Worth doing, though, for that alone.
And in case that’s not enough video highlight for one day, here’s JP’s latest audition for Alvin Ailey…
One more day till the fun begins.
October 22nd, 2007 → 10:33 am @ Seth Mnookin
2007 ALCS Stats
Player 1: .500 BA, .576 OBP, .929 SLG, 1.505 OPS, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 10 R, 1 2B
Player 2: .292 BA, .424 OBP, .542 SLG, .966 OPS, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 3 2B
Player 3: .333 BA, .375 OBP, .519 SLG, .894 OPS, 1HR, 8 RBI, 3 R, 2 2B
Player 4: .409 BA, .563 OBP, .727 SLG, 1.290 OPS, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1 2B, 5 R
It’s an enviable position to be in, for sure…but next weekend’s games in Colorado mean one of these big four thumpers is going to be riding the pine at any given point. If you were just taking a gander at these numbers, you’d figure either player 2 or player 3 would be the odd man out, right? That’d mean that you’d be benching either Papi (Player 2) or Lowell (Player 3). My guess is that player 1 – that’s Youk, for those of you who haven’t figured it out by now, with Manny being Player 4 – is going to be the odd man out, at least at the beginning of any given game, but there’ll be plenty of chances for him to get in (filling in after a pinch runner, defensive replacement, etc).
Just to be a mild contrarian, I think there’s a good argument to be made for Youk to be starting lineup, displacing the consensus ’07 MVP at third. Youk is a good hitter on a torrid streak, and worse hitters have stayed white hot at crucial times: Think Bellhornâ€šÃ„Ã®whom I would have named co-WS MVP along with Foulkeâ€šÃ„Ã®and his game-winning homer in Game 1 of the ’04 WS along with his .700 SLG/1.263 OPS, or Todd Walker with a line of .349, .400, .778, 1.178 OPS as 5 HRsâ€šÃ„Ã®out of 15 hits!â€šÃ„Ã®in the ’03 playoffs.
That’ll be one interesting thing to watch (along with the weather), when the Series gets to Denver next weekend. Another lineup development that should get some attention is situation in CF. I’ve been a fan of Coco’s all along, and the game-ending catch last night (I can’t find a pic or video clip, even in 101-page photo essay. Anyone else have any luck?) shows why. But Jacoby clearly is more comfortable at the plate, even if he’s not even close to comparable in center. (Check out the picture accompanying the story announcing that Jacoby would start Game 6 as evidence.) He’s good, to be sure…but we really have witnessed an historic defensive year from Covelli…if I was forced to decide, which, thank god, I’m not, I’d probably platoon them.
Lots of other things to discuss and mull over, of course, and hopefully we’ll all have time to do just that in the days to come. For now, congrats, folks. We’re going to the Series.
October 20th, 2007 → 6:57 pm @ Seth Mnookin
I’ve been criticized as of late for not posting with the frequency that you’d imagine the post-season would necessitate…and understandably so. Believe me, it hurts me more than it hurts you. Presently, I’m in San Francisco for a two-part wedding: this morning was the Sikh ceremony; the Hindu part of today’s festivities begins in about an hour. (The fact that I’m here and not in Boston should give some sense of how much I care about said couple.)
To make up for it, here’s a look back at one of the Sneak Peeks I ran back before Feeding the Monster was published. (You know – the bestselling book about the Red Sox. You can buy a copy from Amazon for $10.20 – cheap! – and request a personalized, signed bookplate all in a couple of seconds.) This one details the day after Thanksgiving 2003, when Theo et al were negotiating with Schilling in an effort to convince one of the best postseason pitchers in the history of the game to sign in Boston. The two sides were discussing sundry bonuses…when Curt reminded everyone what this whole thing is all about.
You can read the rest for yourself. I don’t want to spoil the ending. Now, on to Game 6…
October 16th, 2007 → 10:06 pm @ Seth Mnookin
…with some post mojo. Come on, guys. Let’s do this.
October 10th, 2007 → 3:29 pm @ Seth Mnookin
So writes Adam Robertson, who goes on to say, “I keep checking for updates and am always disappointed to see an old thread on there…a lot to get excited about right now.” (The rest of his note–”By the way, I read and really enjoyed both of your books”–warmed my heart.) Adam’s missive comes a day after Akiva Yasnyi was even more to the point: “It’s the postseason for god’s sake, blog a little.” And indeed, it’s been two days since the Yankees were sent packing, three days since the Sox swept the Angels for the second time in four years, five days since Manuel’s first-ever walk-off as a member of the Red Sox…and I haven’t written anything for a week. My excuse–too much to do, too little time to do it in–doesn’t cut it. I know. I’m sorry.
It is, unfortunately, true — honest. I haven’t even allowed myself to watch this season’s premier of the best show on television, and that unfortunate reality will keep me from writing anything too monumental (or at least anything that’d require hours or research). But there have been some thoughts swirling around in my muddled brain, and I’ll unload some about Game 2 here:
The Mrs. and I had the good fortune to be at Friday night’s game. Or most of it, anyway: despite leaving New York at 2:30 for what should have been a 3.5 hour drive, it took us a full seven hours to arrive in Boston, and we didn’t arrive at Fenway until the top of the third. That, it turns out, wasn’t such a bad thing: Most of Game 2 of the ALDS was pretty boring. Dice-K was off, and therefore not around for long. Neither the Sox nor the Angels put together any kind of real rally. There were no slap-your-head defensive gems. And Fenway was, for most of the night, slightly less electric than during a tight regular season game. (Example: the three mildly drunken guys sitting behind us had a lengthy conversation about MILF Island–Jack Donaghy‘s new NBC reality show with the tag line, “25 super-hot moms, 50 eighth graders, no rules”–and I followed along.) That all changed, obviously, in the ninth, when, as soon as it became clear that Ortiz was going to get a chance at the plate, everyone pretty much went apeshit. (Another quick observation: three years after the ’04 playoffs, the Sox are still playing “Lose Yourself” when they’re either tied or behind in the ninth. It is truly this generation’s “Eye of the Tiger.”)
That apeshitedness died down a little when K-Rod was ordered to give Ortiz an intentional pass, and not just because Senor Octubre wasn’t going to get a chance to add to his already jaw-dropping post-season legacy. It is because, as brilliant and majestic as Manny is, he doesn’t have much of a history of huge, late-in-the-game hits. (I was astounded when the Fenway scoreboard informed the hoi polloi that Manny had tied for the league lead in game-winning RBIs with 17…but only until I realized that a game-winning RBI can occur in the 2nd inning.) In fact, the man who still seems destined to break Lou Gehrig’s all-time grand-slam record had never had a walk off homer as a member of the Red Sox. (To put it another way: he has one less than Julio Lugo.)
That, of course, is no longer the case, which is cause enough for rejoicing. More exciting is the extent to which that ball was absolutely crushed. I’ve been at Fenway for almost 100 games over the past several years, and that was one of the three hardest hit balls I’ve seen. (The other two: another Manny bomb over the Wall and the rocket A-Rod launched off of Schilling in the ninth of the first game after the ’05 All-Star break.) It also was the type of swing that Manny unleashes when he is locked in and ready to roll, and I haven’t seen that happen since the waning days of 2005. (Indeed, I didn’t think the Sox had any real chance to go all the way that year, but I wanted to playoffs to go on as long as possible just so I could keep on watching him hit.)
Manny’s not the only one who seems dialed in, although Ortiz was pretty on the ball for all of last season. And having these two hitting at the same time is one of the things that, when it occurs, separates the Sox from other teams.
To be sure, they’re both going to be needed. If I wasn’t such a Sox partisan, I’d be tempted to say that the Indians are, pound for pound, the best team in baseball. I didn’t relish the idea of a Sox-Yankees ALCS not because I was scared of the Yankees but because as much as I relish beating New York, the whole Clash of the Titans thing is getting a bit tiresome. That said, I knew the Indians are a much better team. But not a perfect one, by any means, and the biggest weakness on their roster is Joe Borowski, one of those jokes of a closer who somehow amasses a large number of saves. If there’s been a team that good with a closer that imminently hittable, I don’t think I know what it is…
October 3rd, 2007 → 10:52 am @ Seth Mnookin
If I was both a Buddhist (note: I am not) and a betting man (not: I am not), I would put a whole pile of money down on the Cubs. Why? Because 2007 seems, fairly clearly, to be a sort of total eclipse year in the world of baseball.
Don’t believe me? Check it out:
* The Mets just suffered through the fifth biggest choke in baseball history – and that’s including both playoffs and regular season. The odds of the Mets missing the playoffs were 499-1. On the morning of September 13, New York’s NL team had a 99.8 chance of making the playoffs. You get the point. (The Sox, it will surprise no one to find out, play a role in four of the top nine spots: the ’86 WS, the ’86 ALCS, the ’04 ALCS, and the ’03 ALCS.)
* The Padres, meanwhile, suffered the tenth biggest collapse. They had three chances to clinch a spot in the playoffs. In two of those games they had the lead during the opposing team’s final at bat, and both times they had baseball’s all-time saves leader the mound…a man with a better save conversion rate than Mariano Rivera. In one of those games, the son of perhaps the Padres greatest player knocked in the winning run. The Padres manager knocked out one of his best players when trying to stop him from attacking a lunatic umpire. And, as if all that’s not enough, the home plate ump blew the call that scored the game’s final run.
* In order to win the Wild Card, the Colorado Rockies became the first team in the last 42 years to win at least 14 of their last 15 games, and only the third team since 1900. (The ’65 Dodgers and the ’60 Yankees are the other two.)
* Which means, yeah, the Colorado Rockies are in the playoffs. Think about that for a few minutes.
* Three of the eight teams in the playoffs (the Cubs, the Rockies, and the Phillies), had 41-40 records at the season’s halfway mark. The Yankees were 40-41.
* The Red Sox spent more days in first place (150) than any other team.
* There wasn’t a single “Manny’s demanding to be traded” story all year.
Yes, indeed, it’s been a strange year. There’s a big part of me that likes rooting for the best story, and that part of me will be rooting for a Sox-Cubs WS (at which point, of course, I’ll be rooting for a Sox victory). I’m also a sentimental bastard, and Josh Byrnes is one of my favorite people in all of baseball, so that part of me will be rooting for a Diamondbacks-Sox series, which’ll feature all sorts of delicious current Sox baseball ops vs. former Sox baseball ops storylines.
Anyway. Buckle up. And hope that the gods of the diamond aren’t Buddhists. (Unless, of course, you’re a Cubs fan.)
October 1st, 2007 → 12:18 pm @ Seth Mnookin
The 2004 Sox went 98-64, peaked in the second half of the season, and won the Wild Card. The 2007 Sox went 96-66 (which wouldn’t even have been good enough to make the playoffs in ’04), peaked in the first half, dethroned the Yankees to win the AL East, and tied for the best record in baseball. The 2004 Red Sox faced the Angels in the ALDS; the 2007 Red Sox will face the Angels in the ALDS. In ’04, obviously, the Sox won it all. In 2007, who knows what’ll happen? But let’s look at how they fare in a head-to-head matchup…
Catcher: V-Tek v. V-Tek: Sorry, 2006 Varitek; your 2004 self whips your 2007 self’s pasty white ass. 2007, 0, 2004, 1.
First base: The Battle of the Kevins: By the end of ’05, Millar’s shtick had become real old. In ’03 and ’04 he had real value, though. Youk, meanwhile, anchored down his corner of the IF with defense that, if not exactly Mientkiewiczian, was pretty damn good. On the other hand, he hit well below .250 the second half of the year, was surprisingly prone to strike-out, and had the corner on the Paul “If I look really pissed when I don’t succeed then it means I’m gritty” O’Neill market. 2007, 1, 2004, 1.
Second base: The Battle of Who Could Care Less: OK, fine…that hed doesn’t work. (And if it was the criteria, Bellhorn would seem to be a clinch.) I love(d) Mark, and he sure as shit should have been the ’04 WS MVP, but Pedroia gets the clear nod here. 2007, 2, 2004, 1.
Shortstop: O-Cab v. Lugo: This isn’t really a contest: it’s O-Cab in a landslide. 2007, 2, 2004, 2.
Third base: Lowell v. Billy Ballgame: Mueller won a batting title (in ’03, granted). Lowell picked up the offense and played better defense. 2007, 3, 2004, 2.
Left field: Manny being Manny v. Manny not being Manny quite as much: He didn’t deserve that WS MVP, but Man Ram circa ’04 tops Man Ram’s ’07 without really breaking a sweat. 2007, 3, 2004, 3.
Center field: Johnny Jesus v. Coocoo for Coco Crisp: My crush on Coco is well-documented; the rest of the world’s crush on Damon is just as well documented, if not more so. I’m tempted to mark this one a draw, but I’ll give JD the nod, even though I still believe Coco’s defense was one of the two or three most important components of the ’07 team. 2007, 3, 2004, 4.
Right field: Trot “The original dirt dog” Nixon v. J.D. “Why wait around for the division-clinching celebration?” Drew: I assume pretty much everyone is going to give Nixon the upper-hand here (Tony Mazz probably summed up the feeling of a lot of RSN when he gave Drew an F in his year-end report card) but I’ll go all counter-CW here and give it to Drew. His defense was arguably as consistently good as we’ve seen in right since Dewey, and he’s been raking during the last month. Plus, the ’04 Trot wasn’t exactly great shakes. (And, it’s worth pointing out, was a lot less durable than JD.) 2007, 4, 2004, 4.
DH: Huge Papi, ’04, v. Big Papi, ’07: Even before his heroic playoff performance, Papi had one of the all-time great years in ’04. 2007, 4, 2004, 5.
Josh Beckett v. Curt Schilling, ’04 edition: Schilling was great; Beckett was better. And hopefully won’t need to resort to cutting up his ankle. 2007, 5, 2004, 5.
SP: Daisuke Matsuzaka v. Pedro Martinez: Draw.
SP: Curt Schilling, ’07 edition, v. Bronson Arroyo: The Big Schill takes it over Saturn Nuts. 2007, 6, 2004, 5.
SP: Tim Wakefield, ’07 edition, v. Tim Wakefield, ’04 edition: Still as likely to be brilliant as terrifying. To Sox fans, that is. Draw.
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon v. Keith Foulke: Draw. It’s easy to forget how incredibly good Foulke was in ’04 due to how bad he was in ’05. Along with Ortiz, he should have been the playoff MVP.
Bullpen: Okie, Tavarez, Lester, Delcarmen, Gagne, Lopez v. Lowe, Timlin, Embree, Swilly, Myers, Leskanic: Since we’re doing this regular-season awards-style and thus can’t take D-Lowe’s playoffs into consideration, and since the Sox had the best bullpen in baseball this year, this goes to ’07. 2007, 7, 2004, 5.
Bench: Cora, Hinske, Mirabelli, Ellsbury v. Youk, Kapler, Malphabet, Mirabelli: Ellsbury is the obvious wild-card here. I’m gonna give a slight edge to the ’04 gang. 2007, 7, 2004, 6.
Manager: Tito the rookie v. Tito the vet: Terry’s managing of the squad during the ’04 playoffs was brilliant; his managing during the ’07 campaign was too. Once again, since it’s a regular season thing, this year wins. 2007, 8, 2004, 6.
Chemistry: Cowboy Up v….well, what are we supposed to call them, anyway?: The fact that the ’07 team has no kind of slogan makes the answer obvious. 2007, 8, 2004, 7.
And there you have it. The nod would seem to go to this year’s team, but, of course, we’re not grading the rest of baseball. And all categories are not created equal. (Example: Ortiz would obviously beat out Greg Norton in the DH category…but the difference would be a lot greater than, say, Papelbon v. Mariano.) But if we want to look at the totality of the ’04 season and what will, in a month, be the totality of the ’07 season, regardless of what happens from here on out, ’04 wins. The Sox will never again win their first WS in more than eight decades. (At least we hope so.) The Sox will not beat the Yankees in a seven-game series after being down 3-0 a year after losing a seven-game series in extra-innings because of the bone-headed move by a Gumpian manager. The Sox will never again break the curse. The Sox will never again experience the last-gasp transition from the Duquette era to the Epstein era. The Sox will never again have David Ortiz truly embody the whole hackneyed David v. Goliath thing.
But that doesn’t mean the next month of baseball isn’t going to be fun.
Nostalgic for the ’04 season? (Who isn’t? Who won’t be for the rest of their lives?) If you want to relive the insanity and bliss of ’04, and if you want to learn everything there is to learn about the team leading up to the World Series win…and everything there is to learn about the year (plus) after that same win, make sure to get Feeding the Monster, the Boston Globe and New York Times bestseller thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s been called â€šÃ„ÃºRed Sox pornâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and the only book written by someone who was embedded with the team for a full year. It’s available from Amazon for only $10.20 (cheap)â€šÃ„Â¶and you can even get your copy inscribed with one of these free, signed, personalized bookplates. Theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re really nice. Seriously: ask anyone you know who has one.