October 17, 2008

Game 5 Twitter: the Zombie Edition

By all rational measure, the Sox were dead, done and finished last night.  Their postseason was floundering more than the John McCain campaign.  There was a greater probability of the reanimated corpse of John Lennon joining Peter Gammons on stage at Hot Stove Cool Music for a "Yellow Submarine" sing-a-long then there was the Sox erasing a seven run deficit.  

But slowly but surely, the Sox cut into the lead, largely due to some much-needed clutch two-out hits.  And when Mr. Roboto sealed the deal in the bottom of the ninth with a double-scored-single to knock in Youkilis, the collective heads of Sox fans around New England imploded.  Unfracking believable.

Despite the obvious parallels to the comebacks of 2004 and 2007, I am still pessimistic about this series.  The thought of a hobbled Captain Kickass taking the mound on Saturday gives me shivers.  But at least the Sox did not get swept at home.  At least the Rays do not get the chance to celebrate at Fenway.  At least the TBS announcers, who had waxed rhapsodically about the Rays' defense, had to eat a plate of crow pie after Longoria's ill-timed error.  Other thoughts:

-  What was Joe the Manager thinking?  Leaving the right handed Grant Balfour in to face Big Papi.  Walking Jason Bay to get to J.D. Drew, a lefty who is 4-7 lifetime against your lefty pitcher J.P. Howell.  The TBS sycophants called this an "unconventional move."  I call it incredibly, jaw-droppingly stuuuuuuuuupid.

-  I am on record as an opponent of the phrase "Red Sox Nation" and all the silly chest puffing associated with it.  But how could you not watch last night's game and take a deep sense of pride in Sox fans?  Despite the large deficit, most fans remained in the stands and the faithful were pretty much on their feet from the seventh inning on.   For all the usual complaints about fair weathers and pink hats, that was dedication.  Can we all just agree, however, to keep our shirts on?

- Speaking of managerial moves, a lot of people are praising Francona's decision to bring out Papelbon early in the game.  Its great to see managers not leave arrows in their quivers, but why isn't this an accepted move outside of the postseason?

-  The Sox comeback was the largest in postseason history, surpassing a mark set in Game 4 of the 1929 World Series.   Seems like its becoming more like 1929 every day.

-  Can you believe Masterson has appeared in seven of the Sox eight postseason games?  Even more impressive, can you believe he's given up only 2 ER in 8.2 IP of work?

-  Good news: more baseball.  Bad news:  its back to the Arm Pit and its cowbells, mohawks, and flying vajayjays.

October 13, 2008

Random Rant: Novelty Fans

I have written on this before.  But in light of the first two ALCS games at the Arm Pit, I wanted to reiterate my hatred for the fact that teams are now passing out novelty items to spur their "fans" to do the things real fans do every time they come to the ballpark - make noise on behalf of their team.

The madness has to stop.   Unless you are rassling livestock in between innings, there is no reason to bring a cowbell to the stadium.  Unless you are planning to pray to Ojibe the Rain Spirit during pitching changes, you should leave your thundersticks in the car.  And no matter how terrible you think it makes you, nobody is at all intimidated just because you are waiving around a white dish towel.  

If you want to spur on your team, clap the meaty thundersticks God gave you.  If you want to convey your dedication, open your mouth and make some noise with the fleshy cowbell in the back of your throat.  If you want to strike terror in your opponents, get on your feet and root root root for the home team.

Real baseball fans do not need gimmicks.  They do not need to be prompted by sketches on the jumbotron.  They do not need to be lured to the ballpark by promises of aquatic animals or air conditioning.   They do not need to be urged to their feet by a deadbeat in a blue afro.  Real fans are willing to brave freezing temperatures and beer soaked bleachers because they love their team.  

October 12, 2008

Patriots Week 6 Twitter: the Paper Tiger Edition

The Patriots look bad.  Three weeks ago, it was still to early to pass judgement, and last week's win against the hapless 49ers papered over many glaring deficiencies.  But now there can be no dispute, the Patriots are a mediocre team, capable of beating the schlubs of the NFL but utterly impotent against the big boys.  There was a reason they were the lowest ranked one-loss team in Football Outsiders DVOA rankings going into this week.  Other thoughts:

-  There can be no doubt that Cassel made a number of fundamental mistakes tonight - under throwing a wide open Randy Moss in the first quarter, missing a wide open Ben Watson in the endzone in the second, tossing an ill advised screen pass for an interception in the third.  His passes look wobbly.  He appears uncomfortable in the pocket.  He seems incapable of throwing to receivers running medium or deep patterns.  At best, Cassel is a work in progress;  at worst, he is a disaster.  

-  Cassel is not the only one to blame, of course.  Anytime the defense spots your opponent 30 points, you are probably going to lose.  Deltha O'Neal earns obvious "goat of the game"™ honors for being burnt twice for long gainers, but the Patriots defensive line deserves equal blame.  You line up in the 4-3 and you are unable to stop the run or record a single sack?

- Should I be inspired or depressed that Cassel had more rushing yards Sammy Morris?   

-  I cannot wait to read the speculation about what Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick were jawing about prior to halftime.  Perhaps Daniels was asking whether Cialis or Viagra would better rehabilitate the Patriots limp and sagging offense.

- Should I be inspired or depressed that Morris had more receiving yards than Randy Moss?

ALCS Games 1 & 2: Dice-K giveth, Beckett taketh away

All things being said, splitting the first two games of the ALCS is a good thing.  The Sox managed to steal a game on the road in a hostile environment.  Now they come back to Fenway with a good chance to put the Rays on the ropes.  Dice-K is pitching well.  Our ace is set up for Game Three.  Youkilis, Bay and Pedroia have been offensive juggernauts.  So really, everything is fine.  The Sox are in control.  I will remain positive.  I must remain positive.  I couldn't have asked for anything more...

...oh screw this!  Game Two was a missed opportunity.  Not in the sense that the Sox had any business winning that mess, but because it was a game that may well come back to haunt the Sox.  It was a game that has changed the complexion of  this series and left a massive pit in the bottom of my stomach.  Random gripes:

-  First off, why was an injury hobbled Beckett even pitching in this game?  He looked terrible in the ALDS.  Not to mention, Lester was rested enough and could have gotten the start.  This would have had the added bonus of setting Lester up for Game Six.  Now, we'll be lucky if we see Lester twice in this series.

- Second, why did Francona send the ailing Beckett back out in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Sox had just reclaimed the lead?  Even more puzzling, why did he stick with an erratic Beckett after Carlos Peña singled to tie the game?  It was clear to everyone that Beckett's fastball lacked velocity and his breaking pitches lacked that important thing called break.  

-  Third, why was Francona playing wheel of relievers early in the game, leaving the Sox with few options late in the game?  Delcarmen, Okajima and Masterson all pitched well, they just did so over the course of a miserly 3.1 innings.

- Fourth, why Timlin?  Sure it was the bottom of the Ray's order, but its not like the Sox were out of options.  A healthy, reliable inning-eating relief pitcher was busy waiting on the bench.  

October 8, 2008

ALDS Game 4 Twitters

After losing a close game they had no business being in, the Sox storm back to win a game that had no business being this close.  There is so much to talk about here:  the fact that Jay Bay is the unofficial ALDS MVP going 7-17 with two doubles, two homers and 5 RBIs.  The fact that youngsters like Tacoby and Jed Lowrie are playing solid October baseball.  The fact that the Sox advance to the ALCS to play hated division rivals the Tampa Bay Devil "Regress to the ALCS" Rays.

But I want to talk about something else (and I warn you, its a bit of a rant).  Here goes:

Mike Scioscia - you suck.  You suck because you are constantly complaining to the umpires about ball and strikes.  You suck because you went Chad Johnson on us and guaranteed a victory in game four.  But you especially suck for calling a squeeze play with one out and a runner on third in the ninth inning of a deciding postseason baseball game.  

Why in the world you asked Erick Aybar to attempt a squeeze is beyond me.  It was a bonehead call.  Its a strategic decision of such Herculean stupidity it makes Pearl Harbor and Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union look like strokes of genius.  

I have seen the arguments for the squeeze.  Aybar has had nine bunt singles this season.  Squeeze plays succeed eighty five percent of the time.  If it works, you have a decent probability of winning the game

But there was simply no reason to make that call in this situation.  Its true that Aybar is not a sacrifice fly type hitter, but why not go to your bench?  It is true that you can expect a decent pitch to bunt with a 2-0 count, but you also have a good chance to draw a walk and bring up the top of your order with two on and only one out.  More importantly, everyone has touted your bullpen as the superior group of arms.  Why force the issue when extra innings favors your side? 

Perhaps you bought into your own myth about how you were a "small ball team" that likes to "manufacture runs,"  despite the fact that you were sixth in the AL in sacrifice hits, sixth in sacrifice flies and had only nine more steals than the Sox.  Perhaps you sold yourself on the idea that if this crazy plan worked, you would be hailed as a risk-taking genius by the sycophantic myrmidons at TBS and not the lead-headed manager that is 5-15 in postseason baseball.  

The worst part of all of this is after Willits was tagged out, rather than accept your Dusty Bakerian ineptitude, you charged up from the dugout to whine and complain.  Much like the entire Angels team after this series.  Congratulations Mike Scioscia - you have managed to turn the Angels into "the Atlanta Braves for a new generation."  

October 6, 2008

ALDS Game 3 Twitters: the Insomniatic, Overcaffeinated Edition

Despite the fact that the Sox had no business being in this game, the loss was still a heartbreaker.  Beckett was not one-hundred percent, barely managing to get out of the top of the first before eventually surrendering 4 earned runs in 5 innings.  

On the offensive side of things, Mike Lowell remains hobbled.  He went 0-4 last night and is without a hit in the series.  Speaking of offensive bermuda triangles, what is up with Dustin Pedroia?  Mighty Mouse was 0-5 last night, often in situations where we needed his bat the most.  He left 4 on base.  Other random thoughts:

-  Ellsbury becomes the first player in postseason history to get a 3-RBI single on a bizarre play that by all rights should have been ruled a error on Torii Hunter.  

-  On the "lets hope this trend continues" front, the Angles managed to get 16 hits but score only 5 runs.  They left a whopping 25 men on base.  Even the DMV is more efficient than this team.

-  First Patriots fans are booing Matt Cassel, now Sox fans are reportedly booing Julio Lugo?  Granted Julio is not exactly beloved, either for his glovework, his anemic offense or his spousal abuse record.  But this was not the time to vent one's frustrations at Señor Automatic Out.

-  We finally get a game with an early start, and it drags on so long it literally breaks my TiVo.  What is it about the postseason at Fenway that requires the game to last 5+ hours?

-  My crush on Amalie Benjamin knows no bounds, but did she have to write: "As for Beckett, it was as if some imposter - related to Daisuke Matsuzaka perhaps - had invaded his body from the start."  Thanks Amalie for putting the voodoo jinx on our potential Game Five starter!

- Where in the world is Manny Delcarmen?  He's pitching 1.2 innings of 1 hit relief.  In fact, the bullpen stalwarts all pitched effectively, we just ran out of them.

October 4, 2008

ALDS Game 2 Twitter

J.D. Drew has weathered a lot of criticism in the two years since the Sox acquired him.  The chattering classes claimed he was underperforming, that he lacked focus, that he was only in it for the money.  Radio blowhards and casual fans accused him of not playing with heart.  Even after his grand salami in Game Six of the 2007 ALCS, Drew remained the object of suspicion and scorn.  

So I watched with great satisfaction last night as Mr. Roboto lit up the game, going 3-5 with a double, a couple of nifty plays in right, and of course,  the 2-run shot off K-Rod to seal the victory over the Los Angeles Suburbanites of Disneyland.  Here is a guy who has been hobbled with back pain, who had to take not one but two epidurals just to be pain free enough to even take the field.  If that isn't an obvious sign of cardiovascular fortitude, then I don't know what is.  Other random thoughts:

-  Once again, Jason Bay refuses to wilt under the spotlight.  Bay went 3-5 with another home run and 3 RBIs.  How quickly do you think it will take the media to change its tune to how Bay was "hungry for the postseason" and is a "man on a mission"?

-  Acknowledging my obvious biases, I think Coco got back to the bag safely on that pickoff attempt.  I have to admit, however, that Erick "Eric" Aybar does dance a nice protest jig.

-  You have to admire Torii "Tory" Hunter's enthusiasm, but injuring yourself jumping around after getting thrown out at first puts you in company with bastions of stability like Milton Bradley.  

-  By the way, did you know that Jason Varitek uses this magical glove sewn from the webbing of enchanted platypus feet?  I didn't, until Buck Martinez wouldn't stop talking about the damn thing.

-  Once again, as predicted, Angels not named Teixeira, Guerrero or Hunter vanished going a collective 3-20. 

-  Tito's decision to stick with Masterson was a bit mysterious.  Justin didn't exactly appear to have his command down, giving up two walks in the seventh.  Joy of Sox asks a good question:  where in the world is Manny Delcarmen?  

-  Despite two effective and efficient innings, Papelbon is officially credited with a blown save.  Meanwhile, all-time single season save record holder Francisco "The Less Douchy Hyphen-Rod" Rodriguez implodes.  Yet another reason why saves is a useless measure of quality.

-  Is Pedroia's nickname really "Caballito" - the Thoroughbred of Sin?

-  Major league baseball should ban thundersticks.  If your fans cannot get excited enough to make noise with the meaty, fleshy thundersticks that God gave them, then they don't deserve to watch baseball.  Maybe in Japan, where everything is a bit crazy, zany props and inflatable noisemakers are acceptable, but not here in America.