August 2006

Putting it in perspective

I think all Red Sox fans should refrain from wallowing in self pity during September.

Think about the run you all had from 2003-05, three of the most memorable and eventful years in club history.

So you’re likely not to have anything to keep you sleep-deprived this October. Perhaps everyone could use some time to take a deep breath and soak in all that you’ve seen the past few years. The Cowboy Up season of ’03 was both rewarding and painstaking. The ’04 season — from Aug. 1 until Oct. 27 == will probably be the best sporting period of your life.

And ’05 was very much a crowning season. You got to hear "World Series champion Red Sox" all year long, and you got to see that banner get raised while the Yankees watched.

So this year went bad in a hurry. There were a barrage of factors, and we’ve been over them all. It’s baseball. Everyone should get over it.

Gear up for ’07.  Enjoy the rest of ’06. Maybe they’ll surprise you and catch fire again. Probably not, the way things have been stacked up all of a sudden. But just enjoy the game. And enjoy what you’ve seen the last few years.

It’s only baseball.

20

In my mind, that is going to be what it takes for the Red Sox over these last 30 games to give themselves a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. that would put them at 96-66 for the season, so perhaps they could get in with a couple less wins.

I know, I know, very wisfhul thinking, but miracles do happen don’t they?

My point is, you don’t want to get in a situation where you are relying on other teams to lose, so if this team is going to get to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, they are going to have to play complete, lights out baseball.

Is it possible? Sure, on a remote basis. Probable? Of course not.

One thing they have going for them is the surge they’ll likely feel when Varitek, Nixon, Wakefield and Gonzalez come back. Obvioulsy the team will go nowhere if Ortiz and Manny don’t come back in short order, that goes without saying.

Next week, the White Sox come in for three games, starting Monday, so that’s going to be the first critical chance for them to get themselves back into the hunt.

Maybe it’s too late,we’ll find out soon enough.

Heart of the Matter

It’s just baseball. We all love it, we all need it, but right now, as David Ortiz goes back to Boston to get his heart checked out, the game seems trivial, as does the woeful way the Red Sox have played of late.

Let’s hope Ortiz is OK. Right now, I don’t care about his chase of the MVP or his pursuit of Jimmie Foxx’s team record of 50 home runs.

I first got to know David Ortiz in Spring Training of 2003 and I’ve liked him since the moment I met him. There is not a nicer guy in baseball than Ortiz. I’ve watched him go from a platoon player to a superstar and he’s the same good guy. He’s produced some of the biggest hits in Red Sox history, he’s become an icon in his sport, and not even an ounce of that success has gone to his head. How many people can you say that about?

Terry Francona emphasized after the game that he’s confident that Ortiz, who has felt a rapid heartbeat on multiple occasions on the past 10 or 11 days, is going to be OK. They just want to cross ever "i" and dot every "t" to make sure there is nothing wrong.

This guy is special. And I hope — for his sake and his family’s sake — that he’s OK.

That’s all I have to say today.

Later,

Ian.

Double Whammy

No Manny Ramirez (knee), no David Ortiz (rapid heart beat, back to Boston for tests). Things officially can get no worse for the Red Sox. Mirabelli and Wily Pena also are still out, meaning that Francona has one reserve (Gabe Kapler) at his disposal tonight.

The last time the Red Sox went to battle without Manny and Ortiz? PR savant Peter Chase points out that it was Oct. 2, 2004, in the first game of a doubleheader at Baltimore. Of course, the Red Sox had already clinched a playoff berth at that time.

This looks like a Spring Training lineup. As someone  cracked here up in the press box, the Red Sox actually might have been fined in Spring Training for not bringing enough regulars to the game. Any of you who have attended a road, Red Sox Spring Training game can relate to what i’m saying.

Those fans who have tickets for this weekend might wintess the returns of both Varitek and Nixon. Will it be too late to save this team?

News of the day

Another day of injuries galore for the Red Sox. Lester has been scratched from his start tomorrow because of back woes. Steve Stiffler (I mean Kason Gabbard) will make that start. Seriously, all you American Pie fans (the movie, not the song), Gabbard couldn’t look more like Stiffler than he does. it’s eerie.

Also, Manny is out of the lineup again. His knee is just too sore, says Tito. And Mirabelli has all been scratched with recurring ankle woes.

There are two guys playing out of position — Loretta at first and Youkilis in left.

Buckle up!

Going to the Wells — but it runs dry on Timlin

The Yankees already lost, the Angels are an absolute nightmare for them. So here was a chance for the Red Sox. They had a chance to get this thing down to a modest 4 1/2 games. David Wells did everything he could to get it there, but Mike Timlin coughed it up.

Remember back when we were talking about David Wells as if he was just some nice luxury? Well, guess what, now they desperately need him. He’s been huge for them lately, pitching well in his last four starts. He’s been robbed of wins now in his last two starts.

What to do about Timlin? He’s 40, and obviously feeling his age a lot more than Wells. Can Tito start turning to Foulke in the eighth? How about Delcarmen? It’s a dicey situation as none of the relievers — aside from Papelbon — have been consistent.

In other news, Manny is back but the Red Sox don’t seem all that confident that his knee is signicantly improved. This bears watching. If Manny can’t make it through the season, we all know what kind of trouble the Red Sox are in.

Absoultely gorgeous weather in Seattle tonight and i ate lunch at Wild Ginger, an incredible restaurant that sportswriters all around the country enjoy to the fullest. The fragrant duck rules.

Can the Red Sox avoid being sweepless in Seattle later today? Time for Red Sox Nation to turn their lonely eyes to Kyle Snyder.

Keep the faith, if you have any left :)

Rubber match

Everyone drinking caffeine in order to stay up for this big rubber match in the OC? The Red Sox have put themselves in a position where they basically have to win every series, so this game is large.

The biggest aspect of the game is Beckett. As we’ve discussed innumerable times, he needs to start pitching like the guy the Red Sox traded for instead of some shadow of his former self.

The Manny news is good, no structural damage, so all of you can exhale.

Varitek should be back by the next homestand and Wakefield made more progress today. Again, it’s imperitive that the Red Sox stay within a sniff in the standings until they get reinforcements, and perhaps they have another run in them.

Live from the OC

I can’t imagine there is a better place for the Red Sox to be right now, after all they’ve been through the last few days, then the calm waters of Disneyland, A K A Angels Stadium.

No crush of media, no demanding fans, just beautiful weather and baseball, and a chance to right their season.

It’s going to be a lot of fun watching Pedroia these next few days. One very real comparision betwene Pedroia and Nomar. The ball almost always seems to find the barrel of his bat, and that’s a rare skill. Other than that, David Eckstein is a far more legitimate comparision for Pedroia than Garciaparra.

I’m hearing rumblings that there was a team meeting before the game. i’ll see what i can find out on that.

I hope all of you are staying up late.

Knocked down, but are they out?

You can’t get beaten more soundly than the Red Sox have the last four games. Four utterly disheartening losses against a team they can’t afford to lose against. Still, ask yourself this: Is it indeed over, as the Red Sox sit here 5 1/2 games out with 39 to play.

Yes and No. Yes if the Red Sox continue to play like this, yes if the Yankees don’t cool off the rest of the way. But no if the Red Sox get their confidence back, not to mention Varitek, Nixon and Wakefield, and no if the White Sox continue to be inconsistent.

I can tell that you guys are deflated because the post total this weekend has been far less than it was in recent weeks. I don’t blame you for being deflated. But just remember that this is a very strange game and you usually aren’t as good as you look during a winning streak or as bad as you look during times like these.

I understand the frustration with Francona last night. By and large, I think he’s been an excellent manager for this team. But I know a lot of folks in the press-box first-guessed not bringing Papelbon in to start the eighth and also having Youkilis, a poor bunter, lay one down with Ortiz, a poor runner, on second.

But this spell is by no means on Francona. It is on the players, and, at least at this point, the front office for not improving a team that held a three-game lead at the All-Star break.

Sending Hansen down was absolutely the right thing. They couldn’t keep letting him get beaten around like this. I’d start going to some of the veteran relievers again — Tavarez and Foulke. They can’t be any worse than the young guys have been lately.

The Yankees are coming

If you have a baseball pulse and you have the slightest bit of interest in the Red Sox and/or the Yankees, it simply does not get any better than this. Five games in one weekend between two epic rivals, starting with Friday’s doubleheader at Fenway. The American League East race is no more settled now than it was on Opening Day.

Both teams have weathered all kinds of adversity this season. The Yankees without mashers Sheffield and Matsui; The Red Sox, of late, playing without three core players in Varitek, Nixon and Wakefield. Yet here they are, just 1 1/2 games apart. There’s always something with these teams, new wrinkles each year.

Friday is kind of a mess with Jason Johnson going against Wang (seemingly a mismatch for the Red Sox) and Lester going against Ponson (possibly a mismatch for the Yankees). So the way this rivalry goes, i could easily see the Red Sox winning Game 1 and the Yankees taking the nightcap. Shouldn’t you always expect the unexpected with these teams?

Saturday’s matchup is an absolute beaut when you consider the storyline. Beckett and Randy Johnson, two former World Series MVPs who have been perplexingly inconsistent this season. In particular, this start is HUGE for Beckett. His less than stellar performances have been the talk of the town lately and here is his chance to stop that talk.

From a purist’s standpoint, Sunday night’s matchup is the best of the series. Schilling and Mussina. Each team sends their battle-tested ace to the mound. That is going to be a baseball game right there.

Monday, we finish with Wells (always entertaining to see him face the Yankees) and Lidle (joining the rivalry for the first time).

Who will be left standing by the end of this showdown?

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