June 18th, 2007 → 12:16 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Quick thoughts on this weekend’s Giants series, of which I attended games two and three:
* Saturday was most definitely not Dice-K’s best game of the season; it was, however, an illustration of one of my favorite themes: the need to consider process vs. results. At points he had trouble locating his curve; he went to three balls a number of times; and only threw seven frames of zeros because of a gift-wrapped strike zone. The sixth inning, in particular, was a classic example of what we’ve seen when Matsuzaka struggles: with Bonds up third, he walked a batter and gave up a hard single before K-ing Barry. Another hard hit liner by one of the Flying Molina Brothers was, fortunately, aimed directly at short. After that gift, Dice-K hit Nate Schierholtz — who has now amassed a total of 41 big league at bats — loading the bases. He then proceeded to walk in a run in a 1-0 game…or would have, anyway, if home plate umpire Charlie Reliford had had his eyes checked before the game. That’s not to say I didn’t like what I saw…but this game might have been a blowout had the Sox been playing an AL team.
* Terry Francona finally seems to have realized that you never want to pitch Mike Timlin in any game in which the Sox are winning or losing by less than five runs. (I pray I’m right on this one…)
* Manny’s two home runs were great to see, but even better was the authority with which he was swinging the bat. He was back to the showing off perhaps the most beautiful swing in the game. Historically, when he finds that swing, he doesn’t lose it for a while. Ortiz, on the other hand, still looks like he’s swinging from his heels too much, and he’s also beginning to look over anxious. Yesterday’s two ground-rule doubles were great, don’t get me wrong…but they weren’t the kind of majestic drives we’ve come to expect from Papi.
* JDD continues to miss badly on some pitches, but the balls he is hitting, he’s hit squarely and with authority. All season I’ve been a guy who’s preached patience with Drew; you don’t put up the kind of track record he does and suddenly forget how to play ball. Coco looks much more confident at the plate too, and he continues to play good-to-great center field. (Lugo is a whole other story; he looked desperate and confused.)
* Following Murray Chass’s logic, the fact that the Sox gained a game on the Yankees this weekend means they’ll end the season 35 games up. That, of course, won’t happen. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Boston’s lead will stay within the 5-9 game range through September, but it’s also not out of the realm of possibility to think it’s going to get much tighter down the line. Both of these teams are good. New York’s not half as bad as they were playing in May, and Boston’s not the historically great outfit their record indicated. If both teams stay healthy, it’s going to be an interesting — and hopefully fun — summer.
Want to hear me talk about all of this, and more? (And whatever else you want to know?) This is your lucky week: I have a series of readings/signings/q&a’s in Boston this week: tomorrow night (at the Boston Public Library, 6pm), Wednesday lunch hour (12:30, downtown Borders), Thursday night (Winchester’s Bookends, 7 pm), and Friday night (Porter Square Books, 7 pm). Don’t miss out.
May 25th, 2007 → 12:15 pm @ Seth Mnookin
It’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s 90 degrees…and I’m moving. Perfect timing! But I haven’t forgotten my blogalicious duties, so without furtherado, this wrapup/compendium:
* Some good news on the Sox’s home-grown pitching talent front and some thoughts about why it’s best to remember the all of the implications of every action. Jon Lester has been ripping it up at Pawtucket to the tune of around .8 Ks per inning and a 1.62 ERA. We all saw lefty Lester’s potential last year, and we all hope he’s back in the bigs soon. One thing we might all not know: if the infamous A-Rod for Manny trade had gone down in the winter of ’04, Lester wouldn’t be here…because he was slated to go to Texas as part of the deal. In other minor-league news, Clay Buchholz is getting raves at AA (to the point of folks saying he out-dueled Clemens earlier this week). The Sox were able to draft CB because of the compensatory pick they got when Pedro signed with the Mets. Every rational person would admit that, thus far, Petey hasn’t been worth his annual salary in New York. If Clay develops into a reliable fourth starter — and people are talking about him as much more than that — he’ll definitely be worth his. (One last interesting Buchholz note is that he dropped as low as he did in the draft because of a laptop theft in high school. I got arrested in high school (and did lots of stuff I should have been arrested for but wasn’t) so I’m fully in favor of second chances…
* Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Rob Bradford’s work. He has a recent couple of pieces worth checking out. His most recent post in his always-worth reading Herald blog, The Bradford Files has several interesting tidbits, including details of Sox players’ off-season workouts (I’m not going to be trying those anytime soon) and part of a Q/A with Eric Hinske. These are the types of things blogs should have: interesting notes that wouldn’t make it into the paper and standard-fare Q/As that aren’t jaw-droppingly revelatory but are interesting nonetheless. (One especially interesting note is Hinske’s thoughts about Theo’s relationship with the players.) And a Herald article from a couple of days ago is another example of why I’m a fan of Rob’s: a evergreen feature on Sox advance scouts Dana Levangie and Todd Claus actually teaches you something about the team you might not know even if you were an obsessive reader of all things Red Sox related…
* Speaking of evergreens, Gordo has a nice piece in the Globe about the job of official scorers. This is an perfect example of a story that oftentimes wouldn’t make it into the paper for all the wrong reasons: because it seems obvious to everyone on the inside. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that’s not the case for your average reader.
* Two interesting perspectives on the Sox’s recent successes…and reasons why they might not be the winningest team in baseball when all is said and done. The ProJo’s Sean McAdam weighs in on the J.D. Drew’s struggles and the bullpen’s successes. McAdam finds Drew’s offensive suckitude troubling (you’ll get no argument from me there) and the bullpen’s lights-outedness unlikely to continue (ditto). But — and this is a big but — it seems like there’s a logical inconsistency behind thinking a consistently good player won’t return to his level and a group that’s collectively over achieving will fall back to earth. The Telegram-Gazette‘s Bill Ballou looks at all of the Sox’s underachievers (Crisp, Drew, Hinske, Pineiro, and Manny) and sees an illustration of Francona’s skills as a manager: one of the ways he keeps the clubhouse functioning smoothly in a tough-to-play-in town is by showing faith in guys when they’re scuffling. As Ballou notes, sometimes in pays off (Damon and Bellhorn in the ’04 playoffs) and sometimes it doesn’t (Bellhorn and Millar in the ’05 season). One point I’d add: it’s not always just that Francona is showing patience; sometimes it’s that the players are acting like whiny little punks (Millar in the ’05 season).
* Speaking of Manny, if the Sox weren’t tearing it up, we’d be hearing a lot more about his general suckiness, a topic Edes covered earlier this week (and one that’s been receiving some attention over at SoSH). Edes talks to the scout that signed Manny about his seeming hesitation at the plate. It’s hard not to get a tinge of panic when watching him walk back to the bench after being called out on strikes one more time; on the other hand, I was with the Sox in 2005, the Gammons “he just doesn’t care out there” year, the “I’m worried about my mom and her blood transfusions” year, the black-hole until late May year. History says there’s no reason to expect this to be any different. Emotions worry otherwise.
* And finally, for everyone out there who thinks the Lugo signing was, based on the evidence thus far, an unmitigated disaster, here’s an interesting factoid: John Dewan, author of The Fielding Bible, says Lugo’s been the fourth best defensive shortstop in all of baseball.
That’s it for now. It’s gonna be a hot one this weekend, and you don’t need to be back at work until Monday. That means, of course, that it’s an absolutely perfect time to read Feeding the Monster, which is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!). And, of course, free signed and personalized bookplates are here for the asking. Theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re really nice. Seriously: ask anyone you know who has one. Or just write in. But whatever you do, act today.
February 6th, 2007 → 8:54 pm @ Seth Mnookin
There are a lot of great sports reporters out there. With that caveat out of the way, the reason Eagle-Tribune Sox beat writer Rob Bradford‘s stuff stands out so much is that he’s always coming up with new angles and new ways to approach stories and then reporting the crap out of them. He had a pair of doozies in the paper over the weekend, both about J.D. Drew. If anyone missed his piece on Drew’s, um, unusual regimen for staying healthy, do yourself a favor and check it out. And in this story, Bradford explains — or helps explain, anyway — why Drew’s contract got held up. (If only Murray “call me Woodward and Bernstein” Chass had half the initiative and a third of the reporting chops of Bradford, Times readers might have known this a while back…and been spared a whole slew of insane jeremiads. Oh well.)
January 26th, 2007 → 12:08 pm @ Seth Mnookin
By the end of the day, the Red Sox and J.D. Drew will have signed a contract. (I know at least one person who’s gonna be pretty disappointed by this.) The conspiracy theorists who speculated that the Sox had “come to terms” with Drew merely as a way of greasing the skids with Scott Boras in advance of the Dice-K contract have been proven wrong.
The two sides came to some specific agreements concerning Drew’s surgically repaired shoulder; the deal is similar to the ones the Tigers worked out with Magglio and Pudge. The details are pretty straightforward. Now we can all focus on pitchers and catchers…
January 17th, 2007 → 9:51 am @ Seth Mnookin
Speaking of Murray, in the past week or so, I’ve been forwarded a whole slew of readers’ correspondences with Murray Chass. (Standard caveat: I have absolutely no way of knowing if these emails are legit, although this is a lot of trouble to go to if they’re not.) One thing they show us: Murray should think about spellchecking his email, especially when writing to the public.* Or pubic, as the case may be. They also demonstrate that Chass has a very healthy sense of his own skills.
Here’s some selected quotations from Chass’s response to a reader’s complaint about his ongoing obsession with the J.D. Drew (non) tampering charges:
“The Didgers (sic) pubicly (sic) and the Red Sox can refute the ‘allegation’ all they
want. The Dodgers privately believe there was tampering, and no one can
refute the existence of all of those converdsations (sic). If you were there and
monitored every conversation between and among club executives, let me know.
I would be impressed.”
There’s also this bit of condescension:
“As for Theo, I have no axe to grind with him. He’s a nice young man, and if
he were my son, I would be proud of him.”
Awww! I’m sure Theo’s thrilled.
“Your reaction reminds me of the reaction to the initial reports of Woodward and Bernstein about Watergate.No one wanted to believe them, and they were criticized for their reports.”
Seriously. I didn’t make that up.
* I have absolutely no doubt that karma will ensure that I have at least one spelling error in this post.
January 16th, 2007 → 9:33 am @ Seth Mnookin
Boston area sports fan have another five days to discuss the immaculate reception which is a good thing…because there ain’t a lot going on in the land of Cochineal Stockings…unless, that is, you consider the not along going on in the J.D. Drew negotiations as actually meaning there’s a lot going on.
One interesting tidbit: the Herald reported the other day that Boston is still interested in Roger, and apparently for reasons other than bringing its payroll in line with New York’s. It certainly would be interesting, and a great coda to Clemens’s career. But it also could be a mess. Buried in a Times story that ran last weekend about sportswriters’ culpability in the steroid scandal, Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was quoted as saying, â€šÃ„ÃºI donâ€šÃ„Ã´t think we (I) know enough about this generation of players to separate presumptive cheaters from the hundreds who cheated more subtly or intelligently, or who have otherwise avoided scrutiny. Like, oh, aging power pitchers who display tremendous resilience and longevity, not that Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m thinking of anyone in particular, Roger.â€šÃ„Ã¹
The Times is one of the more prominent outlets that has now printed what reporters and baseball executives alike have been whispering, sotto voce, for years. I have no idea if it’s true. But if it is, and if Roger gets nailed, and if that nailing takes place while he’s wearing a Red Sox cap…well, let’s just say it won’t be pretty.
January 10th, 2007 → 12:00 pm @ Seth Mnookin
But there’s a decidingly unexciting non-event taking place today – the Boston Baseball Writers Association’s annual dinner — and this event has, as Cafardo points on online, been used to make announcements in the past…