July 2008

Gone Fishin'

Well, not really but it seemed like the right thing to say with me taking my personal All-Star break at the moment.

I’m leaving for New York on Saturday night to cover the All-Star festivities, beginning on Sunday, which includes the always interesting Futures Games for those who truly love baseball. Monday will be a press conference with Terry Francona and NL manager Clint Hurdle at a Manhattan hotel. The teams will take batting practice Monday afternoon, and then the home run derby Monday evening.

On Tuesday, there will be a press conference with all the Hall of Famers in town for the game. That should be fun also. The game itself is Tuesday night, and is there really a closer controversy here? I don’t see any way that Mariano Rivera doesn’t pitch the final inning of an All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Besides, he’s having a better year than Papelbon, so it’s not like it would be a stretch for Francona to play it that way.

Anyway, my break started Wednesday night after that fiasco of a game. I spent Wednesday night at my mom’s comfortable and spacious house right on the beach of Hull. It was nice to get away from the city. We had some beach time with my kids on Thursday afternoon, and then I went to the Bon Jovi concert with my wife and oldest son last night.

OK, I have to admit — I used to make fun of my wife for worshiping Bon Jovi. But I’ve come around. He put on a good show last night. My eight-year-old son was thoroughly entertained.

One of the best parts of the show was when he played the song, “I Love This Town”, and on the video board during that song, there was a great montage of all the Boston teams winning their recent championships. The place was going crazy during that part of it. I also noticed during the show that the Celtics first (1957) and last before this year (1986) banner was missing. It must be on display somewhere, or maybe it was out of view.

Today is just a chill-out day, that’s all. Keep me posted on the weekend events at Fenway against the Orioles as most of you will probably see more than I.

That’s all for now.

Ian.

Boston Tee-Off Party

What a beatdown this has been. Just one of those days where everybody is finding the barrel with the bats.

Weren’t we just talking about the slumping offense? After scoring four in the eighth last night to overturn that 5-2 deficit, the Red Sox just mauled the Twins today.

It was a top to bottom bashing. Every member of the starting nine had at least one hit. Jacoby Ellsbury had four hits. Youk had three runs, three hits and four ribbies. Manny Ramirez scored twice, had three hits and three ribbies. Mike Lowell had two runs, two hits and two RBIs. Sean Casey comes off the bench and belts three hits. On and on it went. Jason Varitek was 6 for his last 63 coming into the day and had a pair of knocks today. Kevin Cash comes off the bench in the late innings and swats a solo shot.

Granted, this was not a day where you’d expect a crisp pitcher’s duel, as it was about 160 degrees at game time and it hasn’t cooled off yet.

As for Beckett, he was pitching through a stomach flu today, which explains his rocky outing.

Slumping Captain Gets a Rest

Tonight is one of those rare nights that Jason Varitek is sitting on a night when someone other than Tim Wakefield is pitching.

When you consider the grueling schedule the Red Sox have had lately and a day game on Wednesday, this is a sensible time for Varitek to get a breather.

Ortiz took some more rips in the cage and it’s reasonable to assume he will start a rehab assignment right around the All-Star break.

If I had to guess a target date for his return, I’d say July 25. Who are the Sox playing that night? Just a certain Pinstriped rival.

Masterful decision

I’m not at Fenway today, but I was intrigued by the news that Justin Masterson is going back to Pawtucket to learn how to be a reliever. I think this could pay huge dividends for the Red Sox in the second half, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Buchholz joins him in the pen at some point.

Ortiz took BP in the cage and appears on track for a rehab shortly after the All-Star break.

Buchholz returns to start for the Sox on Friday against, oh yeah, that team that he no-hit at Fenway last year.

I’ll be back at Fenway tomorrow.

Ian.

Happy Dave Righetti Day

The planets sure are aligned. Exactly a quarter-century after Dave Righetti no-hit the Red Sox on a hazy, Fourth of July afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the two teams are facing off today in the final year of this great ballpark.

Would anyone like to put odds on Darrell Rasner no-hitting the Red Sox today? The odds would be much slimmer of Josh Beckett no-hitting the Yankees.

Do all of you remember where you were when Righetti threw that no-no? I was at Minot Beach in Scituate with my mom, stepdad and sister. Let’s see, 1983. I was between fifth and sixth grade. I had a transistor radio next to me and it was the first time I had listened or seen any type of no-hitter.

Ken Coleman and Joe Castiglione were at the mike for the Sox as I listened to them in one ear and the waves crashing in the other. The great, great, great Ned Martin was calling the game on channel 38, along with Bob Montgomery. Remember how Wade Boggs swung at a slider in the dirt for out No. 27?

Speaking of lefties with nasty stuff, Jon Lester was amazing last night. A complete-game shutout at Yankee Stadium, the first for a Boston southpaw in this yard since Roger Moret on July 4, 1973. That was the second game of a doubleheader by the way. And it was a thrilling 1-0 win for the Sox. A guy by the name of Carl Yastrzemski drove in the only run for Boston, scoring Rick Miller with a single in the top of the fifth.

What will today bring? Perhaps a breakout performance by Manny Ramirez, who has been awfully quiet at the plate of late. Things were not quiet in the Yankees clubhouse last night, where Joe Girardi aired out his nine for a job not well done. Is it really great strategy to air out a team just hours before they are about to face Beckett?

These are strange days in New York when hard-hitting New York Post columnist Joel Sherman refers to Derek Jeter as nothing more than an ordinary player, and some days, less than that. Then again, these are also days where you see the New York Daily News with the front page photo of A-Rod and C-Rod and the headlline, “Madonna Broke Up Our Marriage”. As one of the great singers of all-time Jim Morrison would say — Strange Days!!!!

By the way, the Righetti masterpiece isn’t the only memorable Fourth of July Red Sox-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. Does anyone remember the fireworks of 2003?

Happy Fourth of July everyone. Perhaps you guys and gals can check out the blog in between burgers and dogs.

Ian.

Back in the Bronx

Are you guys feeling that usual Red Sox-Yankees feeling tonight, or do you feel as if the whole second place-third place thing has decelerated it?

I can’t judge my own feelings because I got about three hours sleep last night before getting on a 7:15 flight from Tampa to New York this morning.

To me, there isn’t the same buzz in the air.

Red Sox look good early. They also looked good early last night. It will be interesting to see how deep Jon Lester can take this game and what the bullpen will do after he leaves.

Happy holiday weekend!!

Papi's ponderings

We got a good, relaxed David Ortiz in front of his locker for a good eight minutes today. Big Papi respects the Rays. But he still thinks the AL East is a Red Sox-Yankees Division.

Here is the big man unfiltered from earlier today.

Red Sox and Yankees different this time because it’s second and third place? “The two best teams in baseball playing against each
other. It don’t matter.”

 
Different for you? “I’m not playing.”

The race in general, “I think, there’s time, dog. There’s a
lot of games left. One way or another, they know how to figure it out. We know
how to figure it out. the time will tell. It’s a long season. These kids across
the street [the Rays], they’re playing good dog. I wouldn’t take that away from them.”

 “I don’t know, things happen. sometimes, you know, I
guess experience shows up and takes over, you know what I’m saying?”

 “I’m not saying that they will drop, but if you go by the
numbers, that’s normally what happens in baseball, you know what I’m saying?
It’s always the guys with more experience and the guy that’s used to being in
the same spot at the end of the year that take over.”

on the Rays in general: “It will be good to watch
those kids right there come through and watch them in the playoffs, it would be
good for baseball, it would be good for people to believe that it doesn’t
matter how much money you pay, or how big your payroll is, those teams still
have a chance to be in the playoffs and make a difference, you know what I’m
saying? But at the same time, you know how it is. You guys know better.”

“Every year it’s the same thing. Every year. last year we
were up by, what, 10 games in the first half? Next thing you know, you have the
Yankees breathing right behind you at the end of the season.”

 “Everybody knows that they’re having problems with their
pitching but, I don’t know dude, the know how to figure out. I keep on saying
that every year. they know how to figure things out. how, I don’t know? it
seems like they’re not even going to be close, and next thing you know, they’re
right there.”

 “It’s a matter of time. we’ll see what happens. We’ll see
how the second half comes in, we’ll see who gets caught sleeping and who
doesn’t. We’ll see who shuts things down, who turns on the engine. That’s how
it is.”

 
on Missing Papi: “Important players are always going to be important
players. in our lineup, I make a difference when I’m playing. When I’m out of
it, you can tell. Some of the guys have to step up when you’re out and get it
done, but this game, it’s a game where you’re going to have hot and cold times.
If you know how to maintain yourself in between, that’s how people are going to
notice when you’re in and when you’re out.”

 “I’ve been here for a while and doing my thing. when
something like this happens, this team is going to feel it. you’ll notice a
difference if anyone else goes down. everyday players, you always want to have
them out there. when you get one out, you’re going to miss the next because
he’s one of your everyday players.”

 Hard not to play against Yankees? “It’s been hard for me since Day One.
I’m not used to this.”

 
Wrist stuff, “um, every day I feel better. every day I
discover something new, but in a good way. you know me, my problem might be
because I swing so hard, you know, I’ve got to be 100 percent to play, because
otherwise I could have a setback and I don’t want  that. I don’t think this team needs that.
that’s why I’ve got to take my time before I start playing. But I’m feeling
good though.”

 
Live BP, “I guess, I did soft toss yesterday for the
first time, I looked all messed  up doing soft toss. I never thought I would
have such a hard time hitting soft toss. At the end, I took like 25 swings. 25
soft tosses. At the end, I started catching up. I’m going to go through the
same thing today and we’ll see. I don’t know, I’ll probably be hitting in the
field maybe when I get back to boston.
it all depends on how he feel. this is kind of a weird injury and it’s becaue
one day you feel really good and another day you feel kind of weak. It seems
like you have to do what the trainers tell you to do and just hang in there.”

Game 2 at the Trop

What has happened to the mighty Red Sox offense?

For starters, David Ortiz hasn’t swung a bat in anger since May 31, and the same thing always seems to happen when a superstar goes down with an injury. The team holds its own for a while, and then begins to feel the impact of such a big cog missing.

Jacoby Ellsbury is struggling mightily and you wonder if, as hitting coach Dave Magadan suggested, the center fielder will start dropping down some bunts and utilizing his speed. Magadan’s point was proven when Ellsbury just reached base on a swinging bunt and Dioner Navarro’s throw sailed down the RF line, allowing Ellsbury to reach third on score on a sac fly to left by Drew.

Jason Varitek is also not hitting. Not even a little. The captain has just three hits in his last 42 at-bats and Magadan cited some mechanical adjustments that Varitek is still getting used to from the left side.

Here’s an interesting stat uncovered by Sox PR maven John Blake. By losing their last three games by a run, it marks the first time the Sox have lost three consecutive one-run games since July 9-11, 1998.

There’s just no way Ortiz’s loss wasn’t going to be felt. Speaking of Ortiz, he did advance to hitting against soft toss today after earlier being reduced to tee work.

J.D. Drew has cooled off in the three-spot. Though he hit a homer Monday night — his 12th and last of June — the right fielder entered the night with just three hits in his last 26 at-bats.

Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are the three guys who have hit on this trip. Other than that, there’s been a lot of outs.

Jonathan Papelbon hasn’t pitched since Friday, so look for the closer to get out there one way or the other tonight.

Random thought: When was the last time the Red Sox had a series in Tropicana Field and Tim Wakefield didn’t pitch?

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