Monday, October 22, 2007

Cleveland Does Not Rock Tonight

I'm imagining Cleveland fans feel much like I did in 2003 - disheartened, angry, confused, stunned, and just generally not sure that it's really all over. After Aaron Boone hit that Tim Wakefield pitch into the left field seats at Yankee Stadium, I sat on my couch, crushed. Unable to move. I stared blankly at the television, then went to bed, then woke up ... and moved right back to the couch, where I sat nearly catatonic until evening rolled around.

It all feels very unfair and unjust and wrong.

From 2004 and now, in 2007, I can tell you it feels very much right when you're on the other side.

An enjoyable series. Can't believe the Sox are back in the World Series. They'd only been once in my memory pre-2004 and now they've been there twice in four years.

Here's the final Useless Countdown update for the all-time LCS records:

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 6.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 21 (0)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
Manny Ramirez, 46 (1)
Kenny Lofton, 45 (1)
Derek Jeter, 4

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 81 (1)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (0)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Manny, 23 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Lofton, 15 (0)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25 & Manny Ramirez, 25 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
Kenny Lofton, 34 (1)
Bernie Williams, 33
Derek Jeter, 31 & Manny Ramirez, 31 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 15 (0)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (0)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 70 (2)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 60 (1)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New #7 Channels Old #7 For A Night

JD Drew steps up and acts the hero for a night.

Bottom of the first. Bases loaded. No outs. Manny and Lowell coming up. Manny and Lowell sitting down without producing a run. JD Drew steps in. Everyone expects him to do what he's done all year, which is disappoint.

But he doesn't.

He doesn't.

Truth be told, I was happy that he made solid contact. I was hoping it'd find a gap, or catch the wall. Just get us a run. Two would be great. But four? Crazy game.

And Schilling, whose probably barely 80% of what he used to be on the mound, came up huge. Again. Sure, the abundance of runs by the offense helped, but when he was in it bad in the second (two on, no outs), he pitched his way out of it. Gutsy.

So we get a game 7 and we only have to wait until tonight to get it. If nothing else, the Sox and Cleveland have given us a series with some drama - the first of the entire post-season. The "big inning" has been key to this series.

Should be a fun Sunday night.

Here's the Useless Countdown Update.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 6.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 21 (1)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
Manny Ramirez, 45 (0)
Derek Jeter, 44 & Kenny Lofton, 44 (0)

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 80 (0)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (0)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Manny, 22 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Lofton, 15 (0)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 24 (0)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33 & Kenny Lofton, 33 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 30 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 15 (0)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (0)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 68 (1)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 59 (0)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hype This

I understand why everyone hates the Red Sox. Believe me, I do. In the past several years the Sox have elevated themselves to join the Yanks as Empire clubs who can spend whatever they want to sign whomever they want. It's bad for the game to have an uneven financial playing field - I'd rather the Royals and Pirates had just as solid a chance at making the postseason every year as the Sox and Yanks. That they don't ... well, I'm just glad I grew up in New England, I guess.

I do think, though, that what's led the Sox to become the second Empire Club is having the Yankees as their primeval rival. If it were the Dodgers, and not the Yankees that had sat atop the financial landscape for the past twenty years then it would now be the Giants, and not the Red Sox, that stepped up into the financial P2 slot. Or if Steinbrenner had bought the Mets it would be the Phillies, or the Cardinals if he'd bought the Cubs, and so on. It's one thing to have hated the Yankees while they've been on this run, but when it's your rival doing it ... it stings a bit more and it blends that sting with a shot o' jealousy that almost demands a reaction.

Having sat on that side I can understand now how people look at Sox with hatred and jealousy and want to see the little guys (Cleveland's 2007 payroll is less than half of Boston's) win the Series for a Feel Good Series against the Rockies. FOX does tilt the way they sell the games towards Boston because they're a network interested in ratings and, frankly, just like any professional sports network they'd prefer teams from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston to be prominent. Part of that is the size of the television market and part is a club's history. It's annoying, and ultimately I think it hurts the sport.

Going into Game 5 of the LCS last night, with Cleveland up 3-1 and looking to clinch, most sports fans wanted the Sox to lose. Even if they don't hate the Red Sox they understand the economics and they sense the hype and the East Coast Bias (which you can't really understand the depths of, I don't think, unless you've lived west of Philly) and, frankly, the fans that make up the Red Sox Nation, and they'd just rather not have to deal with it anymore. Better to have the Smiling Racists in.

Especially since they look like the better team.

Fitting that they would have clinched last night and sent the latest Annointed One, Josh Beckett, home with the loss.

Beckett wasn't having any of it.

Not even the Smiling Racists hiring one of Beckett's ex-"galpals," Danielle Peck, to sing the National Anthem and "God Bless America," seemed to cause him a problem. I don't believe the Happy Racists did it purposely, but given they found out about the Peck/Beckett connection prior to the game, it was a cheap move to not make a switch ... if it was a regular season game, fine. But in the playoffs?

Tacky.

That said, it wasn't like Beckett and Peck had either a long-term or dramatic relationship, so I'm not sure it would even be something that could cause a problem. And, really, you can't blame the Racists for not knowing Peck and Beckett dated a few times last year. I mean, she's Danielle Peck. However popular she may be in country music circles she has yet to crossover to a mainstream audience.

Beckett was so locked in last night, though, you probably could've shown his parents having sex on the jumbotron with alien robots and he wouldn't have been flustered. With all the hype about him from the media I half expected him to come out and get bombed. Or lose a 4-3 game where he was good but not great. Wrong. He was epic, again, as he continued to make his case as the best big game pitcher of the moment and CC Sabathia continued to make his case as the next great pitcher to be playoff-challenged (see: Clemens, Roger).

Beckett's line: 8 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks. Pretty good for a guy making less than Gil Meche.

The offense is still way too reliant on Papi-Manny-Lowell, so it was good to see Pedroia and Youk get into the act last night.

Because of Beckett and Youk, we get another game and Schilling gets another crack at beefing up his Hall of Fame resume - which is only going to be considered because of his post-season performance. If Schilling can get the Sox past Fausto Carmona then it comes down to Daisuke Matsuzaka in Game 7 and he can earn his paycheck with that one game.

Here's the Useless Countdown Update. Manny jumps both Jeter and Lofton in Hits and Jeter in RBI.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 5.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 20 (0)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
Manny Ramirez, 45 (2)
Derek Jeter, 44 & Kenny Lofton, 44 (1)

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 80 (3)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (1)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Manny, 21 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Lofton, 15 (2)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 22 (0)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 33 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 30 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 15 (1)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (1)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 67 (2)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 59 (1)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Game 5: The Last Red Sox At-Bats for Manny, Lowell, Soggy, Lugo, & Drew?

Let's play the bad analogy game.

Having your team be down 3-1 in a series is a bit like hoping you hit the match on a pinball game so you can get a free credit to keep playing - it's not really likely to happen, but that doesn't mean you don't stand at the machine and wait expectantly for the set of numbers to roll on by. Every once in a while, you get a match and get to keep playing.

Usually, though, you get nothing.

The Sox, unfortunately, have played the last two games like they're waiting around for something to happen for them instead of going out and taking it. They team either looks inept (Lugo, Crisp, Drew), frustrated (Pedroia, Youk, Lowell, Varitek), or just flat-out despondent (Papi). And the pitchers look dazed, helpless. Only Manny, really, seems like his typical self.

And, really, enough with these "Manny doesn't know what's going on" stories. The guy is the second-best right-handed hitter of his generation - he knows perfectly well what's going on. The idea that he's some simple-minded idiot savant is so over-played and insulting. The guy's a bit of a goof but he's not exactly clueless; time and again he gets written and talked about like he's some Baseball Rain Man, up at the plate mumbling "Wapner" and swinging and connecting without realizing he's doing it. Please.

The Sox have to win tonight or the season's over, obviously. Speculation about next season will begin ... well, it's already begun, I suppose. For a team that won 96 games and finished with the best record in baseball, you get the feeling that massive changes are coming.

Or, at least, that everyone would like to see massive changes coming but there's not a whole lot of flexibility - yeah, the Sox have enough money to outspend their problems, but they've been hesitant to pay other teams to take their players. It's possible, even with as bad as the bottom-half of the line-up has been, that the only change we see in the starting 9 (if Lowell is re-signed) is Coco Crisp sent packing. Who the hell is going to be dumb enough to take JD Drew and his 4 years and $60 million remaining? Or Lugo and his 3 years and $27 million?

There will always be trade rumors about Manny, but I think this is the first year in a long time that the team doesn't actively seek to trade him - he's only got 1 guaranteed year left, and unless they somehow acquire another huge bat (by foolishly getting into the A-Rod Auction) there's no reason to move him unless you're going to try and sell the fans on 2008 being a rebuilding year. Which doesn't really seem all that possible, especially with the apparent vulnerability in the Bronx.

Can you tell I really have nothing to say about Game 5? What's there to say? They've got to play better. They've got to get Ellsbury into the line-up. I'm all for loyalty but when Crisp and Drew are giving you nothing ... start the kid. At the very worst he'll inject some life into the line-up.

Here's the Useless Countdown update following Game 4

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 4.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 20 (1)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44 & Kenny Lofton, 44 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 43 (2)


TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 77 (5)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (1)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20 & Manny, 20 (1)
Lofton, 15 (2)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 22 (0)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 33 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 29 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 14 (1)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (1)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 66 (2)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 58 (1)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wrong Question? Beckett. Right Question? Ellsbury.


Game 3 was one of those dreadful Red Sox games where you knew the game was over the second Coco Soggy (clever! witty! huzzah!) grounded into that double play to end the second inning. (Can Coco Crisp do anything at the plate other than ground out to shortstop?) Bases loaded, no outs, then Tek pops up and Crisp gets doubled up and the game is over.

There's a lot to get angry about but the most glaring problem is that the entire bottom of the line-up is filled with dead men walking: Drew (who can only ground out to first), Tek, Crisp, Lugo. Horrendous. There's no energy, no life. Just frustration on our part watching guys who are too comfortable go out and suck up the night.

So of course what ESPN wants to talk about to lead off SportsCenter is whether Terry Francona is making a mistake in not starting Beckett tonight on three day's rest. Three days rest almost never works and yet the media always wants to talk about it. It's silly and stupid. Beckett can, at most, only pitch you to two more wins, so you're going to need Wake or Schil or Matsuzaka to win a game. Wake's rested. Start him. If he's not a guy you can trust to win this game for you (he did win 17 games this season) then he shouldn't be on the playoff roster.
Obviously, Wake's not as good as Beckett (there's a reason he's the #4 starter), but better to take the chance he can outpitch Paul Byrd than outpitch Sabathia or Carmona.

No, the real question people should be asking is why is the team's second best OF sitting on the bench when Coco Crisp and JD Drew are out there looking hapless and hopeless. Neither of them even looks like they want to play and while you can't read too much into body language, you can read plenty into .227.

Which they're both hitting this postseason.

They've combined for only:

1) 10 hits - all singles except for one double by Soggy, which means Drew, the team's #6 hitter, has a slugging percentage that's NO HIGHER than his batting average. That's the very definition of suckage.

2) 5 RBIs (3 for Drew).

3) 1 walk (Soggy).

They're not alone in their postseason steamer, either. Tek and Pedroia are hitting .160. Lugo's at .238.

Yeah, how is this team still playing?

Get Ellsbury in the line-up. He'll add some life to a lifeless bottom half of the line-up.

Here's the post-Game 3 Useless Countdown update. Jeter held off Manny and Lofton everywhere except in Times on Base, where Manny caught him, but is vulnerable to be passed tonight in Runs, Hits, and RBIs. The good news for Jeter, though, is that he apparently still leads the league in postseason threesomes.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 3.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 23 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 19 (0)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44
Kenny Lofton, 43 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 41 (1)


TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 72 (1)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9 & Manny Ramirez, 9 (0)

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20
Manny, 19 (0)
Lofton, 15 (2)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 22 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (1)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 32 (0)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 28 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter & Manny Ramirez, 13 (0)
Kenny Lofton, 11 (1)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
4th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 64 & Manny Ramirez, 64 (2)
Kenny Lofton, 57 (1)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Only Stupid People Will Vote The Ohio State #1 This Week

College football polls in October are next to meaningless. There's no reason to get excited or blow a vessel because your favorite team is ranked higher or lower than where you think it should be or could be or would be if this or that one play could be changed.

If CFB has proven anything this year it's that everything is going to get mangled. The #1 and #2 teams both lost this week - LSU to Kentucky and Cal to Oregon State. Which means the top 3 teams next week are likely to be Ohio State, Boston College, and South Florida.

The pollsters have done a good job this year reorganizing and reevaluating their polls each week
and this week provides another opportunity. If the AP simply slides winning teams up in the position they're in, the Buckeyes are going to be #1, the Eagles will be #2, and the Bulls will be #3.

That would be wrong outcome.

In looking at what TOSU, BC, and USF have done this season, I don't see how anyone can honestly vote Ohio State #1 this week over South Florida. Here's who the Buckeyes have beat: Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue, and Kent State. I'll give them credit for going on the road and beating the Huskies and Boilermakers, but both of those teams are average, at best.

South Florida, on the other hand, has beat Elon, Auburn, North Carolina, West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, and Central Florida. Auburn was 17th at the time and WVU 5th.

You might not like that South Florida has only been around for just over a decade but they've got the better resume. Ohio State hasn't done anything to warrant being ranked ahead of South Florida. Maybe they will when it's all said and done, but right now, USF should be the #1 ranked team in the country.

Weird.

Ugly One Gets Away

What an awful game. Cleveland 13, Sox 6. Few losses are more aggravating for me than an extra-innings blowout. Especially an American League playoff game that's 34 hours long to begin with and ends with team fan whipping gnome Eric Gagne digging the hole that former fan favorite Trot Nixon fills in.

Oh yeah, and it takes place after one in the frigging morning.

I'm going to love watching Scott Boras try to sell teams on Eric Gagne this off-season.

Here's the Useless Countdown update after Game Two. Manny passed Jeter in Total Bases and Walks. moved into a tie with him in extra base hits, and tied Bernie for first on the all-time LCS HR list. Lofton tagged him a bit of Jeter's hide, as well, passing him on the singles list.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated Friday night in Game 1.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 22 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 19 (1)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44
Kenny Lofton, 42 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 40 (1)


TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 71 (4)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9 & Manny Ramirez, 9 (1)

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20
Manny, 19 (3)
Lofton, 13 (0)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 21 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 13 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 32 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 27 (0)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter & Manny Ramirez, 13 (1)
Kenny Lofton, 10 (0)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
4th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 64
Manny Ramirez, 62 (2)
Kenny Lofton, 56 (1)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Josh Beckett is Not Remotely Interested in Being Average

Sox 10, Smiling Racists 3. The game was the fun kind of boring once Mike Lowell doubled Youk and Papi in - not too much suspense but Beckett's big-time performance and the offensive attack (all starters managed a hit) kept my attention without keeping me riveted.

I'll take that every night.

Two big stories emerge from the game: Beckett and the Papi/Manny Show.

Tom Verducci has a great slurp-job on Josh Beckett up at SI.com that I'm not going to compete with; you want the historical skinny on Beckett, check it out.

Here's what I think about Beckett: in the context of Red Sox pitchers, he's not as dominant as Clemens and he's not as dazzling as Pedro, but he's quickly, efficiently making the case that he's a better big game pitcher than either of them. Clemens' post-season failures are well-documented, and Petey was great so long as he didn't have to face the Yankees, but Beckett is something different. With Clemens I waited for something bad to happen and with Petey it was the same when the Sox played the Yanks. Both guys inspired confidence in the regular season but they weren't able to translate that into the playoffs.

The post-game didn't change things. Clemens always seemed on the verge of going crackers and always had an excuse (hamstring, usually). Pedro always seemed like the game was an interlude in the crazy-ass party that was his life. Beckett? Focused. He's not interested in whatever games the media wants to play, he's not interested in patting himself on the back, he doesn't come across like he's on his way to the bars. Heck, he doesn't even sound like he's having fun; it's business and he's completely locked in.

One of the most overused phrases in baseball is "professional hitter," which always gets slapped on guys like Matt Stairs and Harold Baines but Papi and Manny were professional hitters all night. They displayed the kind of discipline that makes them who they are as hitters - they make you come to them, make you throw the pitch they want to hit. If you don't give in to them, they'll take the walk, get on base, and let the guys behind them do the damage.

Hell, Manny picked up two RBIs on the night on bases loaded walks after getting down 0-2 in both counts. If I'm a Cleveland fan, I'm screaming "Throw a strike!" at my television set during those at-bats.

10-for-10.

Manny and Papi came up ten times on the night and they reached base all ten times.

People love to overstate things come playoff time but it's just one game. Cleveland's still going to throw Sabathia and Carmona three more times in this series (if it goes 7) so Friday was a great start. But anyone thinking this series is over is just wrong.

Hard to have a better opening game, though.