A stolen victory?

What a gutwrenching way to lose on Wednesday night. Papi smashes a two-run shot to turn a three-run deficit into a one-run deficit. The Sox get a gift when Tejada falls down as he’s about to throw Wily Mo out at first.

And then, Willie Harris comes off the bench to run for Wily Mo. Never did it enter my mind that Willie Harris would try to steal. Trot is a gap hitter with power, so in my mind, Harris is in the game so he can score on a double or get to third on a single.

Trot Nixon is one of those guys you want up in the clutch, particularly against a hard-throwing righty. Those are the type of guys that Nixon has feasted on over the years. But the bat was taken out of his hands.

Harris admitted after the game that he had seen the hold sign on the first pitch. He did not see it prior to the second pitch, so he took off. Harris was told by either Francona or one of the coaches after the game that when the hold sign is on for the first pitch, that implies that it’s on for the whole at-bat. Harris took the blame and admitted he screwed up.

I thought it was very classy for Francona to avoid answering the question about whether Harris missed the sign. This is why guys like playing for Tito. He didn’t see any gain in criticizing his player publicly, yet we found out from Willie that the message got across where it needed to — behind closed doors.

Willie Harris can be a sparkplug for this team. He’s not Dave Roberts, but he does have good speed. I just hope that next time he’s in that situation with a guy like Trot at the plate, he doesn’t take the bat out of his hands.

25 Comments

It’s always distressing for a baseball aficionado to see so many talented young athletes nowadays whose minds and discipline are out to lunch. The Sox have been fairly sharp for some years now. Let’s hope they stay that way. Let’s hope it’s a lesson learned. On the bright side, a month and a half into the season, it seems like a good time to take stock. And it seems the team’s trades and aquisitions during the past offseason are working out very well, continuing the organization’s tradition of having a knack for building a team. The Sox got tremendous value in their trades. And I was very happy to see Kevin Youkilis playing every day. I could see that he was too good to be sitting on the bench. I think this is going to be another Year That Was for the Sox, I think they’re going to win another championship. I even envision the perfect scenario, the Red Sox and the Mets in the World Series, and the Sox avenging ’86. The Red Sox are always exciting and fun to watch, competitive and talented and gutsy enough to go toe-to-toe with any team. A night when the Red Sox aren’t playing is always a somewhat dull night in Major League Baseball. Red Sox baseball is often a downright adventure. Right, Doug Mirabelli? There’s a day that will go down in Boston baseball lore, the day Doug raced cross-country to Fenway Park to catch Tim Wakefield in that night’s game. I’m looking forward to great things this summer and fall.

I notice the conversation is calmer than it was last week, when some of our bloggers were arguing with each other. We’ll blame it on the tension accompanying a series with the Yankees. I get that way, myself. I can usually enjoy and marvel at the feats of the opposition, as well as those of the Sox, like Tejada’s homer Tuesday night that semed to get out of the park in about 2.5 seconds off a 97-mile-an-hour fastball from Josh Beckett. But with the Yankees, it’s more like war for me. And it’s a shame I can’t enjoy it to the maximum because, as John Madden puts it on the day of a big postseason football game, “This is what it’s all about.” We have another great race this year in the AL East. Ellen, you were wondering about the Yankees bloggers. I agree, we do have a good group, knowledgeable and intelligent. The Yankees bloggers have a lively, very active blog, with dozens of bloggers, for Yankee fans, after all, are legion. It’s become America’s team. You can’t enter a restaurant in Nebraska, or look at a group photograph taken in a small town in Kansas, without seeing the inevitable Yankee cap. I go back a good many decades, and it seems to me that when I was a kid, most Americans tended to dislike and resent the Yankees because of their dominance, and today’s Americans tend to admire and identify with, and want to be associated with, the Yankees because of their dominance. To me, this speaks volumes about moderns, but that’s a subject for another blog. Many of the Yankee bloggers seem to need remedial classes in English as a second language, many, remedial classes in English as a first language, and many, remedial classes in baseball. They have a near-sightedness, looking down their noses at other teams. They dismiss other teams, they dismiss the Red Sox’ offseason trades, because they’re Number One, of course, 26 championships and all that. Yeah, and that’s why any thinking person worth his or her salt is sick to death of them, you dopes! In my genealogical research, I discovered that my great-grandfather’s brother played in the Major Leagues around the turn of the last century, for a time with the New York Giants, and for a time with the Cincinnati Reds. It was exciting to find a family connection to Major League Baseball. Thank goodness he was never a Yankee!

The Red Sox did exactly what I had hoped they would do during the offseason. It was time for some new blood, and a new image. They changed the team’s image from that of the “cowboys” and “idiots” to that of a very professional team, very strong on pitching and defense, in addition to their always-strong offense. Steinbrenner thought he would hurt the Red Sox by taking Damon away, but he didn’t. This is another Era of the Red Sox, really, Red Sox Nation’s heyday. We’ve seen Rodriguez spurn the Sox for the bigger bucks and what most players are convinced are the greater odds of winning a World Series that the Yankees offer, only to have to watch the team he spurned win a World Series. Now the pressure’s really on him to win one. There’s a lot of talk about how the consensus is he will not have proven himself until he does win a Series. He’s obviously still not entirely at home at third base. He is perhaps the game’s best shortstop, but he wasn’t about to displace Jeter with the Yankees. With the Red Sox, he could have stayed, and sparkled, at shortstop and won a World Series. Let’s win one again this year, Red Sox!

RATS!! Loretta singles and Ortiz homers. So I’m sitting there thinking “Chris Ray doesn’t have it tonight and they’re leaving him in.” I wasn’t just hoping the Sox would win; heck, I was EXPECTING they’d win. Nobody out and four .300+ hitters coming next in the order: Manny (’nuff said), Mr. Doubles, the hot-hitting Wily Mo and Mr. Clutch. I repeat: RATS!! Them’s the breaks, I guess. It’s only one loss, and the Sox still took two out of three from the Orioles in Baltimore, and they’re still atop the division, albeit in a tie with the hated Yankees. And the American League East is still the most exciting division in baseball if you ask me. (Of course that opinion could be somewhat biased.)

I noticed that our friend Ian Browne reported yesterday that the Sox have the best fielding percentage and the fewest errors in the majors. I guess those off-season moves had the desired effect.

Ian, thanks for pointing that out about Tito and how he takes care of his players.

A lot of people don’t ‘get’ it and it’s one of my favorite things about him.

It was very close at second…had he been called safe everyone would have been singing Willie’s praises. This stuff happens in baseball. It isn’t the end of the world.

http://redsoxchick.mlblogs.com

I too was asking myself whether or not that steal was planned. I think we caught 2 bad breaks… 1) that throw landed at least 10-12 feet before second and bounced absolutely perfectly right on the bag. Even a few inches bounce in any other direction probably would have been enough for us. 2) He looked safe at first, but they didn’t show any close replays on the Orioles network (I wonder why?). Did anyone see a close-up, slo-mo replay? In any case, with Trot already ahead of the count 1-0 and Ray in a gopher-ball mood, I did think it was strange to steal.

rayman:

I haven’t seen any slo-mos, but the Orioles radio announcer last night said it looked like he was safe. Not much sense in worrying about it though: if the ump says you’re out, you’re out.

robertmarshall: my grandfather too played in the majors. Unfortunately he was with the NY Highlanders (from what family stories say, and to the best of my knowledge) later to become that team that became the Evil Empire. This was in 1911. He played a very short time with them for which I am grateful.. But to have lineage that played in the bigs, I’m very proud of that. He’s probably spinning in his grave over me being a member of the Nation. Anyway, last nights game was a true disappointment. But, 12 out of 13 over them isn’t a terrible thing. Now we get to go to the city of Brotherly Love. I understand that Papi will be at 1st in at least 2 games. This should be a good 3 pack of games. I couldn’t believe the BLUNDER that Harris made by not “seeing” the sign. I know it could happen, but if you can’t come through on the fundementals, what then????

//We’ve seen Rodriguez spurn the Sox for the bigger bucks and what most players are convinced are the greater odds of winning a World Series that the Yankees offer, only to have to watch the team he spurned win a World Series.//

Um, what?

I’m no fan of Alex Rodriguez, but let’s get the facts straight. A-Rod went to the Yankees via a trade, not free agency. He was going to be traded to Boston but the deal was nixed by the Players Association because of the salary cut (which Rodriquez, BTW, was willing to take).

NYY stepped in with the money and the trade went through for them. And it ultimately worked out well for the Red Sox. But let’s not blame A-Rod for that one.

I stand corrected. It’s good to know what you’re talking about before you start talking. You notice how many of us tend to say “Steinbrenner did such-and-such,” when Brian Cashman is the general manager? I guess it’s because Steinbrenner gives the impression of being such a hands-on owner. Thanks for reading my rambling posts today, folks. “Hey, if you want to write a column of your own, go write one,” right?

Robert, make all the posts you want. Where are the rest of you this week? Pipe up, I want to hear your take. Make this blog your sounding board. Don’t be shy.

I’d like to know what a backup plan could be if Gonzales doesn’t start hitting. Here is what I fear… Other teams start walking or pitching around our #8 guy like they do now and then in the National League. Why on earth would someone pitch to Youkalis or Wily Mo with men on, when you can just walk them and pitch to Gonzales? He is hitting .152 with men in scoring position and .125 in Close and Late situations (see More Splits on espn.com). It’s bad enough that our #9 doesn’t contribut, but if it starts hurting our #8, that could really get ugly.

Here is what is going to happen. Eventually J.T. Snow is going to be moved out, whether he is traded or designated for assignment. By then, hopefully Coco is back. so on the bench in the late innings, you have the lefty-righty power combo of Choi and Wily Mo ready and available to hit for Gonzo whenever the need arises.

Sure, AGon can’t hit, but look at his fielding stats. ONE error so far this season vs. Renteria would’ve had at least half a dozen by now. Plus he has gotten us a bunch of outs that mere mortals would have missed.

Btw, did anyone else notice that WMP has the highest BA of any active player?? His .322 > Lowell’s .317. Take your time getting healthy, Coco…

speaking of coco, ian, what’s the update on his illness/rehab? how long after he recovers (from his illness)will he make a rehab start in the minors? when can we expect him to be ready to be back in center for us?

One way I would know I had really made it… would be if I were able to sit down and write out a check for $11,995.00…without having saved up for years…or giving it a second thought. That’s what it cost to participate in the “ultimate experience” posted on the home page here. If any of you have been are interested, time is running out, and the sale price has been marked down from the original $12,000! Maybe it’s just me…but I could buy a decent seat at Fenway for every game for three years.

Winning two out of three in Baltimore isn’t bad, but the fact that a running error cost us still hurts. While that form of a loss hurts, one of the great things that came of it is that the players present and future, have had it reaffiirmed that Tito is going to have their back. That goes a long way in attracting and keeping good players. As far as all the talk about a-rod goes, I for one am happy to see him where he is at. Although you can never really know how a player would perform in a different setting, his performances in the post season are not all that great. As far as Gonzales is concerned I think the Red Sox new what they were getting and lets face it we have won some games with defense this year that we would not have in years past. I think he will come around to be an adequate hitter before all is said and done.

I don’t know how we got on the subject of A-Rod, but I’d love to throw my 2 cents in and outline my LOSER hypothesis:

Seattle:

– Several good years with good players around A-Rod. Made the playoffs a bunch of times, never really went anywhere.

– The year AFTER he left, they win 116 games.

Texas:

– Several good years and playoff berths before they got A-Rod. Last place every year with A-Rod.

Yanks:

– 2 early playoff exits with A-Rod.

Even the year he won the MVP with Texas I read a good article on espn.com how he disappeared for most of the middle of the season and then padded his stats when they were already out of the race. I think one more year of Steinbrenner breathing down his neck and no world series will break the guy.

Well, Willy made a mistake, Willy KNOWS he made a mistake, and Willy is smart enough not to make it again. Yeah they lost a close one, it won’t be the last time they loose a close one. I bet they win more of the close ones then they loose this year. Re-reading that,,, it doesn’t sound very intellegent but it gets the point across. :-)
A-Rod: not worth talking about, let him play his game.

Gonzo: The FO knew what they were getting was mostly glove work. No mysteries there, nothing to worry about, the batting coach is a very capable guy.

Clement: Something there will click and he will just be superb the rest of the year. Someone light a fire under Coach Nipper and get him working on it.

Ian:
A few Notes of Statistical interest:

SOX lead both leagues in least number of errors at 12 (followed by Padres and Twins at 17)

SOX lead both leagues in Pass Balls at 11 (followed by Orioles and Pirates at 8)

So I suspect the Sox success can be attributed to good relief pitching, good OBP, and defense (except for the PBs).

Got any comment?

Will this hold up for the year?

Especially when you factor in Coco and David Wells return?

//Winning two out of three in Baltimore isn’t bad, but the fact that a running error cost us still hurts//

Willie made a mistake and knows it…it isn’t that big a deal.

//SOX lead both leagues in Pass Balls at 11 (followed by Orioles and Pirates at 8)//

I’d like to know how many of those came AFTER May 1st.

Ooh, one other thing:

//A-Rod: not worth talking about, let him play his game.//

That’s not really fair. Although a Red Sox blog, this is a place to discuss baseball. Anything baseball-related is worth talking about. Especially when, as a fan base, we keep being told that we ‘missed out’ on him. I’m with the folks who don’t think the Sox ‘missed out’ at all.

http://redsoxchick.mlblogs.com

By all means, bring up A-Rod and whoever else you want. All baseball matters are fair game here. Responding to an earlier question about Coco, i’d say the week after next week is the earliest you’d see him in the leadoff hole. I’ll probably know more later today.

In response to the question “will this hold up?” I think we might see a little blip in the error stat when Coco comes back, only because he’s been out of action for so long. I don’t see any reason to EXPECT that the rest of the defense will suddenly go south. Wily Mo Pena is the only one out there who is really playing defense better than anyone expected, so it’s not like anyone else is on a defensive hot streak just waiting to cool off.

Relief pitching? Keith Foulke’s ERA continues to drop; except for last year, he hasn’t finished a season with an ERA over 3.00 since 1998, so I expect he’ll continue to improve. Timlin is still motoring along like nobody’s business, and what can you say that hasn’t been said about Jonathan Papelbon? Rudy Seanez’ last three appearances may indicate that he’s turned a corner and is entering a hot streak. I’m still worried about Julian Tavarez and am curious what will happen when David Riske comes back, but overall the bullpen could be a lot worse than it is.

Pass Balls? 10 of the 11 belong to young Josh, so I don’t expect too many more of those, although they will happen here and there.

With all of the above, you just can’t predict when someone will get hurt, go into a slump, etc. Barring the unpredictable, I think it’s still looking like the Sox are going to continue to have a great year.

With all the hulabaloo over the latest guy to approach Ruth’s home run total, and the inevitable comparisons of Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds, I have to chuckle to myself. Another thing we in Red Sox Nation have in the Red Sox legacy is The Greatest, Ted Williams. He was the best hitter ever, the guy who mastered the art and science of hitting and had it down pat like no one else ever has. Everyone but us Red Sox fans tend to forget that had he not gone off and mastered the art of fighter piloting and served in two wars, his records would still be untouched by anyone who’s come along so far.

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