April 2006

Cheers or jeers for Johnny?

First of all, thanks to everyone who chimed in this weekend, it was interesting fodder to read since I watched maybe one inning all weekend – the Saturday ninth inning!

Now, on to the main event. I want all of you to let me know what you would/will do if you had/have tickets to Monday’s game.

When public address announcer Carl Beane starts off the game with, "Batting first, Number 18, the center fielder, Johnny Damon!", do you cheer or do you boo and why?

I think my six-year-old son Tyler put it best. "I’d cheer because he was a great center fielder for the Red Sox for four years!"

To expand on Tyler’s point, Johnny Damon absolutely deserves to be cheeed during his first at-bat on Monday. This guy did nothing but play hard and play hurt and come through in the clutch for his entire four years in Boston. He made a business decision to go to the Yankees, just like the Red Sox made a business decision not to keep him.

Saying that, Damon is a Yankee now, so I think it’s fair game for fans to do whatever they want after that first at-bat. If they want to boo him like Sheffield or A-Rod or Jeter, that is anyone’s right because the man is now a Yankee.

But I feel very strongly that he deserves a very warm and heart felt "thank you" ovation in that first at-bat. Remember that Orlando Cabrera got standing ovations on three straight days when he came back last year. Orlando Cabrera! The guy played threee months in a Boston uniform. Johnny produced for four years and his two homers in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium was one of the best big game performances in Red Sox history.

So give that man a hand — a loud one — in that first at-bat. Then cut the cord from that point after and treat him however you wish.

The two-game series should be interesting. The Red Sox aren’t exactly clicking now so maybe the adrenaline of playing the Yankees at Fenway will get them back on track. I hope the rain stays away!

Ian.

Keep me posted

OK, I am at a friend’s wedding in another part of Florida this weekend so I will not be with the Red Sox. So I make an unsual request to you guys and gals on the blog. For this weekend, I would like you to use this space to keep me posted on what is going on with the team during the three-game series against TB.

I’ll allow you guys to be my eyes and ears, and catch me up on what I’ve missed so I will be up to speed when I get to Fenway Park on Monday.

Do you guys think you can handle that? The more posts the better, and it can be on anything from game developments to pre or post-game news.

Thanks a bunch in advance,

Ian.

Beckett belted

Raise your hands, please, everyone who saw this coming. I suppose Josh Beckett could only play with fire so many times in the first inning before he got burnt, badly.

It is especially painful to see someone give up a grand slam after walking two batters in a row. As Beckett is quickly learning, there is simply NO margin for error in the American League. The Indians are one of the best hitting teams in the league, right up there with those Bombers of Bronx. If the Tribe can get any consistent relief pitching this year, they are going to be seriously reckoned with.

One thing that has been frustrating about watching the 2006 Red Sox is that once they fall behind early in the game, you don’t sense that the offense has enough amunition to bring them back. This is far different than the teams of ’03-’05. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot they can do about this until Coco gets back.

It is strange how Beckett was so dominant those first three starts, and into the eighth inning of his fourth start. And then came that horrid eighth inning in Toronto, and it seemed to carry over into tonight.

This guy is fiercely competitive. I’m thinking he finds a way to get it turned around for the big start Tuesday night at Fenway against the Yankees.

For those of you who haven’t done so yet, please scroll down in the blog and give me a post to the question of the week. I’ve had a lot of fun reading through those.

Thanks,

Ian.

Question of the Week

OK, i guess my pal Mark Feinsand of Yankees.com openly ripped off his pal Sam Borden of the NY Daily News by asking a question of the week on his blog. So here is mine.

What is the most
memorable game you’ve ever witnessed at
Fenway Park, either live or on television?

I’d like to compile the results and see what we can come up with. Let’s do something like this every week. And future questions are always welcome.

Thx,

Ian.

Pick Your Poison

It’s the nature of Boston — the fans, the media and the general passion that engulfs Red Sox Nation — that the talk of the next 24 hours is going to be Terry Francona’s decision to leave Curt Schilling out there for 133 pitches on Tuesday night.

Personally, I thought Schilling should have come out after the sixth because he had already grinded his way through six innings and didn’t have his best stuff. But they won the game, so how can you really argue with the decision, or go too crazy about it?

The real storyline was the best 3-4 hitting punch in baseball winning this game in the late innings.

Imagine being  Eric Wedge. Ortiz hits a missile in the seventh to tie it up. He has a chance to put the Sox in the lead an inning later, but Wedge decides that with first base open, it’s the perfect time to walk him. the only problem is that Manny is coming up. Man, it takes guts to walk anyone — even Ortiz — with Manny coming up.

So Manny hits a three-run blast off Mota to snap the tie, and basically win the game. How many other managers will be bold enough to put David on to face Manny? Manny had his little cold spell. Now he’s getting hot and will probably stay hot for who knows how long. Ortiz already has nine homers, and now he’s going to be getting fatter pitches to hit because Manny is going to start looming in the minds of the opposition.

Another big blast by you know who

Will David Ortiz ever run out of clutch home runs? Apparently not. For six innings, the Red Sox put runners on and kept finding ways to strand them.

In the top of the seventh, Ortiz took the first pitch he saw from old friend Scott Sauerbeck and promptly deposited it deep into the seats in right-center to tie the game. Naturally, it was a bender from Sauerbeck, who described himself as a "curveball flipping freak" the day he was traded to the Red Sox in 2003.

It would be a big boost for the Red Sox to win this game, as they haven’t really played winning baseball for most of the night. They’ve run into outs and failed to capitalize on oppportunities. But this is what good teams do, right? Win when they aren’t at their best.

Schilling was obviously not at his best either, but at least he kept them in the game, and kept them an Ortiz blast away from tying it.

It was Ortiz’s ninth homer this month, tying him with Manny (April, 2001) for most homers by any Red Sox player in the month of April.

Ortiz’s shot was a mere 412 feet. The guy is ridiculous.

FYI, I’m glad the press box windows are closed at Jacobs Field. It is quite frigid out there tonight. Nice to be able to feel my fingers, unlike that first weekend of the season in Baltimore.

Gut check answered

In response to the earlier post, the Red Sox indeed answered their first gut check of the season, playing with clear urgency and doing everything that needed to be done.

The most encouraging sign of the day? Easily Keith Foulke. 3 K’s in 1 2/3 innings, no baserunners. He was untouchable. If he has a few more outings like this, you know the chatter will start again that Papelbon should be moved to the rotation and Foulke should be restored as the closer.

Personally, I think they should keep things as they are and go out and find a fifth starter, or hope that Wells can make the comeback a lot of people don’t seem to be expecting.

What did everyone think of Ortiz’s bunt single?

Those who might complain about it are probably some of the same who applauded last August in Anaheim when he laid down the exact same single and Manny followed with a two-run homer. I think it was a good move at the time. Even with runners on first and second, the Jays still walked Manny intentionally. I think that more often than not, you’d like Trot Nixon’s chances in that spot, even against a lefty. If it was later in the game, they probably would have pinch hit Pena there.

  Also, the overlooked play of the game was the perfect hit-and-run executed by Gonzalez and Youkilis to set up the run in the eighth. Youkilis shot the ball right into the exact spot the shortstop would have been covering if not for the hit and run. Those are the types of plays that win games.

   Cleveland should be a fun series and another early test for this team. Thank goodness for the retractable roof in Toronto, otherwise we would have had rain delays galore this weekend.

  Ian.

Sunday gut check

I look at today’s game as the first little gut check the Red Sox have had this season. They let one get away on Friday and got blown out Saturday. Toronto has handled the Red Sox with ease of late.

Today is a day the Sox need to rebound. They don’t want to get swept going into Cleveland.

This is the kind of game the Red Sox teams of 2003-2005 would always seem to win. With a new cast of characters this year, you can’t predict if they’ll respond to adversity in similar fashion.

Clement has pitched well in two of his first three starts. They need a big effort from him today.

It’s a standard non-Coco lineup of Youkilis-Loretta-Ortiz-Ramirez-Nixon-Varitek-Lowell-Harris-Gonzalez.

Nobody likes to go into an offday on the heels of a sweep so I’m sure the visitors will come out swinging today. We’ll find out soon enough.

A very blah Saturday

Not sure what you can really say about a game like today’s. In baseball, i think momentum is typically overrated. But in this case, I do believe last night’s marathon heartbraker carried into today.

  The Red Sox knew going in that their bullpen was short. They weren’t going to have Foulke or Papelbon, and who knows how much pressure that might have put on DiNardo. Plus, Varitek was understandably out of the mix after catching 12 innings last night.

   Halladay’s final line was good, but he looked hittable. It was just one of those bad days for the Red Sox and they never had much of a chance after falling behind so far, so fast.

   After the game, the Sox called Manny Delcarmen up and sent down Van Buren. I think it’s a great move, and actually, I’m kind of curious why they just didn’t call up Delcarmen in the first place as soon as Wells went on the DL. Delcarmen is an intriguing pitcher. I liked what i saw from him in limited samples last year.

Let’s face it, with Seanez struggling and Riske hurt, Delcarmen could really help this bullpen right now. the key is whether he can command his breaking stuff. For whatever reason, Delcarmen lost his breaking ball after being called up last year and it basically made him a one pitch pitcher. If he can get that back, he might turn into a pretty effective sixth or seventh inning pitcher.

   BTW,  Papelbon’s mohawk looks pretty  bad. By pitching 10 scoreless innings, you’d think he’d get a better reward than having to walk around with that look :) But he was definitely good natured about it. He’s a great kid.

 

Manny finally gets one

Really, how long was Manny going to go before he finally put one in the cheap seats? And, in typical Manny fashion he made it memorable. Not only did he go back-to-back with Ortiz, but he clocked it some 398 feet to the opposite field.

Do you realize how few players in baseball can hit a ball 400 feet to the opposite field? This guy is amazing. We should all relish the opportunity we’ve had to watch him hit on a daily basis since the start of the 2001 season.

And it was Ramirez’s 200th homer in a Sox uniform. He became just the fourth player in baseball history to hit 200 homers with two different teams. The others? Jimmie Foxx, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.

Other interesting tidbits. It is the ninth time Papi and Manny have gone back-to-back. The breakdown, thanks to crack PR man John Blake: Once in 2003; Six times in ’04; Once in ’05; and now once in ’06.

  It was also fitting that the blast was struck at Rogers Centre, the building formerly known as SkyDome. Ramirez has now clubbed 22 homers in this park. The only other visiting place he’s hit more homers? Yankee Stadium, with 23.

More later.

Ian.

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