Archive for October, 2007

My top 5 favorite games of the 2007 season.

Here are my five favorite games from the Red Sox 2007 season.

  1. The Mother’s Day miracle: Boston rallied from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5. What I remember about this game was Josh Beckett left the game early with a “finger” problem, and suddenly everyone’s thoughts turned to the blister problems that have plagued Beckett his entire career. Also, Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles was shutting the Boston bats down all game, allowing 0 runs on three hits. Being that it was Mother’s Day, I turned the game off in the top of the ninth inning to take my wife out to dinner. I was shocked when I came home and saw that the Sox won.
  2. Schilling throws a one-hitter: 4o-year-old Schilling was one out away from throwing the first no-hitter of his Major League career against the Oakland A’s. After the game, Schilling admitted that he shook off Jason Varitek’s sign on the Shannon Stewart single. I may have jinxed this one. With two outs in the ninth and the no-hitter still intact, I phoned my buddy Dylan to make sure he was watching. Before he could even pick up the phone, Stewart singled. End of the no hitter. Sorry about that, Curt.
  3. Clay Buchholz throws a no-hitter: In only his second Major League start, Buchholz dazzles the Baltimore Orioles and gives Red Sox fans a glimpse into the future. I was working at the fire station during this game. It seemed like every time I tried to sit and watch the game, I would get dispatched for a call. In between taking patients to the hospital I would check the box score. I finally made it back to the station and watched from the seventh inning on. I found myself wishing for two things: not to get another alarm and for this kid to make history. Both wishes came true.
  4. Game 5, ALCS: Josh Beckett keeps the Red Sox season alive with another dominating post-season performance. This was the game that solidified Beckett as one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time. The Red Sox were able to put a stop to Cleveland’s three-game winning streak and seize the momentum heading back to Fenway.
  5. Game 4, World Series: Jon Lester starts game four after beating cancer, allowing 0 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. A gutsy performance from the 23-year-old. Bobby Kielty homers on the first pitch that he’s seen during the entire World Series. Mike Lowell further endears himself to Red Sox fans with a double and a home run, leading to his World Series MVP award. And Papelbon closes the door with five outs to help capture the second Red Sox World Series in four years.

These were my favorite games. Please post your comments and tell me which games were memorable for you.

2007 Red Sox year in review

Coming into spring training in 2007 the Boston Red Sox were a very different team than the one that finished in third place in the AL East. After a very disappointing 2006 season, the Sox made a huge splash in the free agency market, landing notable players Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, and the biggest prize, Dice K Matsuzaka. Boston had set a few goals in the offseason to improve team speed and starting pitching and bolster an inconsistent bullpen.

With a bunch of new players added to the roster, there were a lot of questions concerning the 2007 Red Sox in spring training. With Jonathan Papelbon set to join the starting rotation, the Red Sox had open tryouts for the closer position. Guys like Joel Piniero, J.C. Romero, and Mike Timlin all took their turns trying to close, all with out success. Curt Schilling came in to camp looking heavy and out of shape after an offseason of promoting his video game company. Josh Beckett was a question mark after his disappointing first season in the American League. Boston gave the starting second base job to an untested rookie in Dustin Pedroia, even after he failed miserably during his 2006 September call-up. Of course Manny was being Manny, going back and forth on wanting to play for the Red Sox. And it seemed like David Ortiz had something hurting from day one. It was hard to predict how this team would do. This was a team that had the potential the play in the World Series or suffer the same fate as the 2006 team.

We all know what happened next. The Red Sox jumped out to huge lead in the AL East behind some great early season pitching by their starters, and Jonathan Papelbon jumped back into his closer role. Even though new starters Lugo, Pedroia and Drew were struggling miserably the first months of the season, Terry Francona kept running these guys out there, giving them every chance to turn things around. Despite the poor performances by these players, the Sox kept winning, eventually increasing their lead in the AL East to a whopping 14 1/2 games over the New York Yankees.

There were times during this season that I really thought I was in Bizzaro World. Big Papi went from a home-run crushing powerhouse to an on-base percentage machine. Manny Ramirez stopped hitting home runs and seemed to ground into a thousand double plays. Mike Lowell went from a career .280 hitter to the Red Sox MVP and team leader in clutch hits and RBIs. Kevin Youkilis turned into the best defensive first baseman in the American League, committing zero errors at the position all year. And Japanese import Hideki Okajima went from Dice K’s security blanket to an All-Star set-up man.

Going into the All-Star break, the Sox had finally started to get some production from Pedroia and Lugo. Beckett was pitching the best baseball of his career and Boston was holding the best record in the major leagues. Then things began to change for the worse. Schilling’s lack of offseason conditioning finally caught up to him, landing him on the disabled list for six weeks. Manny strained his oblique muscle and began the longest oblique-muscle rehab in the history of baseball. The New York Yankees started playing great baseball, eventually cutting the Red Sox lead to 1 1/2 games.

All these things turned into a blessing in disguise. Without the injuries to Schilling and Ramirez, we may have had to wait another year before seeing rookies Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury take the league by storm. If the Sox didn’t get beat up by the Yankees at the end of the season, they may not have learned the resilience to never give up when the playoffs rolled around. With this team, it seemed like they seized every opportunity and dictated their own fate.

The Sox eventually won the AL East and with a healthy roster and the playoffs starting, the Red Sox looked to be a team of destiny. They buzzed through the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, sweeping them in three games behind the pitching of Beckett and the offensive rebirth of Big Papi and Man-Ram. In the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, it was time to jump on Beckett’s back again. It was also time to put our faith in the future as Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Youkilis carried the offense, helping Boston to rally from a 3-games-to-1 deficit and advance to the World Series.

In the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, it was men against boys. Boston got solid contributions from every player in the lineup. Every game someone new stepped up to be the hero for the Red Sox, eventually leading to a four-game sweep and the second World Series title in four years.

The Boston Red Sox came into the 2007 season full of question marks. Would Manny be back? Who would be the closer? Will Dice K live up to expectations? Could Boston finally dethrone the Yankees? As these questions were eventually answered, a new one popped up.

How many World Series can the Red Sox win in a row?

A new day in Boston

Dylan writes for us again, with a post about the past, present, and future of Red Sox Nation.

Does anyone else feel different? Does this title feel odd at all? I honestly feel different about being a member of Red Sox Nation than I have ever felt before. There was the cowboy-up team of ’03, the idiots of ’04, and now, ’07, maybe the professionals? After the game last night, I celebrated, though I was at work and couldn’t celebrate in the same “regret that in the morning” fashion I did in 04, I celebrated. But inside of me, a new feeling began to emerge for this team. A team for the first time, that gave me confidence in them?!?

To me, the Red Sox Nation reminds me of the Parrotheads that follow Jimmy Buffett – occasionally immature, mostly blue collar, pessimistic about the world around them, yet, a love for following around what they love. We are a band of gypsies traveling all over, near and far, to cheer for this team. In those 86 years that passed between 1918 and 2004, most of us were raised with the occasional trip to Fenway, listening to parents banter on about the likes of Greenwell, Rice, and Boggs, and hearing our grandparents speak of how there will never be a hitter like Williams again. I’ve heard my Dad tell me exactly where he was when Fisk hit his game winner more times than I can count. Yet, in all those generations of being born into it, a cynical approach to this game always lingered. I’m reminded of speaking to my Dad before game 4 in 2004 and listening to him talk of how bad he wanted to see a title come forth, but “they’ll probably blow it like they always do,” he said. We all know the story now, but this was the attitude of Red Sox Nation: on the outside, more optimistic than anyone else, but inside, always on the edge, ready to be let down again, and again, and again.

We now flash forward to 2007. Our hated Yankees are in shambles. I even heard a Yankee spokesman say next season is a “transitional year.” The nemesis has been beaten, and we sit atop our new position as rulers of the baseball world. In a way, this title is more important than 2004. The ’04 team showed that if there was a curse, it was lifted, and anything was possible. But this team, the professional baseball Boston Red Sox of 2007, they proved to Red Sox Nation that a new day has sprung in Beantown. With the young talent that appears to be a full starting line-up for a rookie All Star team, future Hall of Famers showing the ropes to our rookies, and a front office staff that has the baseball savvy required to run the Red Sox Nation, the future is oh so bright. So, to Red Sox Nation, take a deep breath, take in all of the surroundings, and rejoice. The days of past are gone, the baseball legacy of the Red Sox begins again now, and the curse of A-Rod down in NY settles in even more (I have much more to write on the A-Rod matter as soon as it settles down somewhat). Life is good!!!

The birth of a dynasty

The Boston Red Sox are World Champions. It’s nice to see that they were finally able to break the three-year curse that has plagued them since 2004. Even though this was a four-game sweep, there was some great baseball being played. Colorado proved to be a dangerous team that never quit, even up to the last pitch thrown.

I can’t say enough about this team. From the manager all the way down to the role players, everyone contributed. It seemed like someone different would come through each game. One night it was Beckett, then Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, Lowell, Timlin, Kielty, Okajima, Papelbon. Someone always rose to the occasion. This is truly a team for the ages.

Let’s start with Terry Francona. Everything this guy touched turned to gold during the playoffs. Start Papi at first base? Put a rookie in to centerfield? Start Jon Lester in game four? Pinch hit Kielty? All of these moves were money. Francona showed that he knows his players, and in turn they want to perform well for him. I also like that Francona was playing for the win last night. He threw most of the bullpen at the Rockies last night. These guys were running on fumes and still got the call. If the Rockies had rallied back and won, Boston would have been in trouble. Oh well, we know how that ended up.

I think it’s time for the Sox to make Mike Lowell an offer he can’t refuse and lock him up for three more years. This guy has solidified the third base position for Boston and should be rewarded. As for A-Rod, who cares. I don’t care where he ends up, as long as it’s not with the Yankees.

The Red Sox are loaded with young players that can flat out play. Lester, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youk, Papelbon, Buchholz, Delcarmen, Dice K are all under 30 years of age. This is a franchise whose brightest days are still ahead of them.

Check back tomorrow for the Red Sox Year in Review.

THE BOSTON RED SOX ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!!!

That is all.

And then there was one…

Am I the only one that was getting a little nervous when Colorado scored five runs in the seventh inning? Was anyone else having flashbacks of Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone? What the hell is wrong with us?

This is a different Red Sox team. This team is made up of guys that never quit. After seeing their lead cut to one run they could have panicked. Instead, they got back to basics and put four more runs on the scoreboard. I got the feeling during the eighth inning, when Boston responded to the Rockies rally with three runs, that the Colorado players were finally beginning to realize that they were over matched. This was a punch to the gut not only for the Rockie players but also for their fans.

While I am on the subject of the Rockies fans, am I the only one that was a little disappointed in their performance last night? I kept hearing all week that once the series went to Colorado it was going to be totally different ballgame. That the fans were crazy and acted like the 10th player on the field for the Rockies. Instead I saw a stadium of people sitting on their hand the whole game. They didn’t make a peep until the seventh inning when the Rockies finally scored. And when they did they responded with the lamest chant in sports history. “Rockies………………. GO!” They need to (a) change their chant, (b) change their batteries, or (c) buy a metronome. Not to mention the towel waving was pathetic. These fans really need to watch the Cleveland Indian fans from games 3 and 4 in the ALCS for a Towel Waving for Dummies demonstration. Colorado had the tamest 50,000 fans I’ve ever seen.



“Crazy” Rockies fans in action

I thought Dice K looked great last night for the first four innings. He didn’t try to get cute with his pitches and, with the exception of Todd “Chin Beaver” Helton, didn’t get into any really long battles with the Rockies players. These long at-bats have been what’s plagued Matsuzaka this year, driving up his pitch count and tiring him out. When Dice K started to wear down in the sixth inning and walked two batters, Terry Francona did the right thing and pulled him. It was a solid performance from the rookie pitcher that I am sure he will build on for future post seasons.Speaking of rookies, Jacoby “Wonderboy” Ellsbury and Dustin “The Little Engine That Could” Pedroia were awesome. Did these guys not get the memo that they are rookies? Instead of going a combined 7 for 10 with four RBIs, they were supposed to be sucking their thumbs in the corner. But these two are wired differently then most. They have ice water in their veins and play better on the bigger stage. They make something happen in every game they play in. I really look forward to watching these guys play in Red Sox uniforms for the next ten years.

Here are thefoulline.com’s quick hits for game 4:

  • How the hell did the Rockies make it to the World Series with a rotation of Francis, Jimenez, Fogg and Cook? These guys are even worse then I thought. If Aaron Cook can make it past the fifth inning tonight, I will eat my Red Sox hat.
  • What a great time for Julio Lugo to start playing his best baseball of the season. He got on base three times last night and made two great defensive plays. He reminded me of Plastic Man on the run-saving line drive he caught. It was a great play at a pivotal time in the game.
  • Please put Javier Lopez in the same hole Eric Gagne is hiding in. He sucks. Just because he has a funky delivery doesn’t mean he can pitch.
  • How about Big Papi at first base last night? He looked pretty good. Maybe it was the six run lead, but I wasn’t too nervous with him out there.
  • Jon Lester will complete the most inspirational comeback in sports this year when he wins game four for the Red Sox tonight.
  • I’m stuck on who I think is the MVP of the World Series. If Beckett pitched one more game, I think he would win it. But right now I think it’s a two-horse race between Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon. I’m voting for Pedroia.
  • Get the champagne on ice.

Cautiously Optimistic

For the first time during these playoffs I am not 100% confident that the Red Sox are going to win a game. Now before people start calling me a fair-weathered fan, give me a chance to explain.

Being up 2-0 in the series, I feel that the pressure is now on Boston. The Rockies are in a big hole to a more experienced team. But unlike most teams in baseball, the Rockies seem to play better when their backs are against the wall. The Rockies can go out and just let it rip. They can be aggressive at the plate and take chances on the basepaths. People are already writing them off, so what do they have to lose?

Colorado has scored two runs in the series. Nobody can really believe that this is the best the Rockies have to offer. This is a team loaded with guys that can play and that are eager to show some offense. And tonight they’re playing at Coors Field in front of 50,000 fans. If this doesn’t give the Rockies the boost they need, nothing will.

Which brings me to Boston. I have been going back and forth since game two on who I think should start at first base for the Red Sox. This was like if someone asked which of my kids was my favorite. Who do you pick? Big Papi or Youk. This had to be a really tough decision for Francona. My initial thoughts were to go with Youkilis. He plays great defense and has been crushing the ball. The defense is particularly important in a bigger park like Coors Field.

Big Papi, on the other hand, is arguably the greatest postseason hitter in MLB history. He may not be a Gold Glover, but he has proven to be a decent first baseman. Every time I think Papi can’t play first base well, I remember the 2004 World Series. Game three, St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Suppan rounded third base too far and was promptly picked off by Ortiz on a great throw. I understand why Francona kept Big Papi in the lineup, but I just know I am going to worry every time he has a ball thrown or hit to him. Francona has stuck by his guns all year with regards to who plays and hasn’t been wrong yet. I’m counting on him that this is the right decision.

Another reason for my concern is Dice K pitching tonight. Although he pitched pretty well in game seven against the Indians in the ALCS, I never know what to expect from him. To make matter worse, Dice K doesn’t like pitching in cold weather, and with the forecasters predicting temperatures in the 40′s for tonight’s game, this could pose a huge problem for Boston. Another point of concern is the thin Colorado air that toys with pitches. Balls don’t break like they are supposed to. Balls that are supposed to break out of the strike zone will come right down the pipe on a silver platter. With a pitcher like Dice K, who relies on off-speed pitches and breaking balls, this could be a big problem. Let’s hope the extra day he has spent in Colorado has prepared him for tonight.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. The Sox have a two-game lead in the World Series. They have been getting great pitching from the starters and the bullpen and getting a lot of runners on base. As an added bonus, Boston will face Josh Fogg tonight. A light-throwing pitcher that relies on nibbling around the plate, he reminds me of a really poor man’s Jamie Moyer. With a lineup like Boston’s, this has the potential to resemble batting practice.

The key for Boston tonight is not to play “safe” baseball. They need to continue to do the things that have got them to this point: patience at the plate, making pitchers work for their strikes, and capitalizing on mistakes.

If Boston can do these things and win tonight, pull out your broom. The series is over.

Two down… Two to go

Now that felt like a World Series game. Colorado showed a lot of heart, bouncing back from a devastating loss in game one. Unfortunately for them, they lost again and are now down 2-0 in the series.

It looked like it was going to be a long night for Boston’s hitters. Ubaldo Jimenez started the game great for the Rockies. He was pounding the strikezone and making the Boston lineup look ordinary. But like Boston has done all season long, they started taking some pitches, drawing some walks and getting guys on base. Boston has done their homework on the Rockies pitching staff, and they knew eventually Jimenez would lose control and start throwing balls. The Red Sox have shown the patience to wear out a pitching staff and force them to throw strikes.

Colorado, on the other hand, continued their offensive woes. Last night’s offense was brought to you courtesy of Matt Holliday (4 for 4, one rally-killing pick-off). The rest of the team decided to take the game off, combining for one hit, and designated misser Ryan Spilborghs’ World Series drought continued with a three-strikeout performance.

Schilling was pretty ugly in the first inning, giving up a couple of hits and not getting over to cover third base. But, Schilling being Schilling, he settled right in and pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run baseball. I was happy to see Terry Francona have the quick hook with Schilling last night. Too many times this season, Schilling has been allowed to pitch to one batter too many, and the results have been bad.

The rest was history. Okajima pitched the best he has all season with 2 1/3 innings of no-hit ball. This guy is going to go down as the deal of the century. Okajima was followed by the best closer and craziest guy in baseball shutting the door with another great save.

Here are some quick hits about last night’s game:

  • The Red Sox went back to the future last night with both musical acts. James Taylor and Boys II Men may have been the oddest choices to perform. It made me want to put on my Members Only jacket and parachute pants.
  • Tim McCarver is starting to remind me of my drunk uncle at a family get-together, sitting half-comatose in the corner, then waking up and saying the first thing that pops in his head. Listen to him next game. He can’t go five minutes without saying something off the wall.
  • Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better: Free tacos for everyone, courtesy of Wonderboy Jacoby Ellsbury and Taco Bell. This guy does it all: great defense, big hits, feeding the country.
  • J.D. Drew had two hits, one walk, and one hit by pitch. Another solid game by the $14 million man. What surprised me was that Drew stayed in the game after getting drilled. Maybe this guy is tougher then we thought.
  • This series is far from over. Colorado is a different team at Coors Field, which is evident by their 51-31 record.
  • Speaking of Coors Field, I would bench Ortiz and play Youkilis all three games. You can’t take Youk’s defense off the field, especially when playing in that huge ballpark. Plus he’s hitting better than Ortiz is right now. More on this tomorrow.
  • The next two games are going to be a coin flip on who’s going to win, with Dice K vs. Josh Fogg in game three followed by Jon Lester vs. Aaron Cook. Anything can happen in these two. I would be happy with a split, setting up Josh Beckett in game five.

Up 2-0, the Red Sox appear to be in the driver’s seat. Boston has shown they have the talent to win the nail-biter and the blowout. Now if they can only do it two more times.

Rocked-tober

This game was over before it even started.

During announcements of the starting lineups, you could see the nervousness in the eyes of the Rockies players. Colorado’s starting pitcher Jeff Francis had a serious deer-in-the-headlights look going. This was their big-game pitcher, the guy who was supposed to be the one to steal a game at Fenway, and he looked like he was looking for the first bus back to British Columbia. The Rockies “Ace” lasted all of four innings, allowing six runs on ten hits.

Francis wasn’t the only Rockie that was overwhelmed last night. NL MVP Matt Holliday looked lost in the outfield and contributed an 0-for-4 night with two strikeouts. News flash to all Rockie players: You are not playing against another Junior Varsity National League team.

I’ve said this before, the playoffs are a whole different ballgame. Everything is magnified. Some of the best players in the history of Major League Baseball have crumbled under the playoff spotlight (see Rodriguez, Alex). On the flip side, some players embrace the challenge that the playoffs offer. They have the extra gear and can kick it up a notch (see Beckett, Josh). Beckett had another dominating performance last night, with 7 innings pitched, 9 strikeouts, 1 ER, and 7 pissed-off walks back to the dugout. He could have been pitching against the 1927 New York Yankees last night and would have won. This guy lives for these moments.

The Red Sox look locked in right now offensively. They are being patient at the plate and capitalizing on every mistake. Boston crushed the ball last night: 13 runs on 17 hits was historic for the first game of the World Series. But the stat I found interesting is that Boston scored 13 runs and still left 12 guys on base. This actually could have been a lot worse for Colorado.

Apart from the big win, I enjoy games called by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Even though Buck is really smug at times, and I think McCarver may have taken a few too many foul balls off his head, and they both seem to have an unhealthy obsession with free Taco Bell tacos, they do a pretty good job. My favorite part of the game last night came in the fourth inning. Franklin Morales came in from the bullpen. This was followed by Joe Buck going on for about five minutes on how great this guy was. How his pickoff move is the best in baseball, and that his stuff was “electric.” Well, I think maybe someone forgot to plug him in. Morales proceeded to balk a runner to second base and allowed seven runs in 2/3 of an inning. If this is the best the Rockies bullpen has to offer, I like the Sox chances.

There is some good news for the Rockies. They have Ubaldo Jimenez, a rookie pitcher who has trouble throwing strikes, facing the most patient lineup in baseball for game two. He’ll be going up against some no-name guy named Curt Schilling. Maybe they’ll have better success tonight. Then again, probably not.

Thefoulline.com World Series preview

I’ve already stated the obvious: the Red Sox are going to win the World Series. In fact, they are going to sweep. It’s easy to say they are going to win. Here are thefoulline.com facts to back it up.

Starting pitching: Red Sox: Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Dice K, and Jon Lester; vs. Rockies: Jeff Francis, some other guy, Mr. No-Name, and Who Cares. Advantage: Boston. The Sox have two of the greatest postseason pitchers in MLB history in Beckett and Schilling. Mix in Dice K and the wildcard Lester and you have a formidable staff. The Rockies have one decent pitcher and three guys that should be working mall security.

Team Defense: Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury; vs. Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki, Kaz Matsui, Todd Helton, and Matt Holiday. Advantage: Colorado. The Rockies led the league in fewest errors. The Sox play consistent defense. Youkilis hasn’t committed an error at first base all season. Lowell and Pedroia are always solid, but I give a very slight edge to Colorado.

Team Offense: Red Sox: Big Papi, Manny, Lowell, Youk, Pedroia, and Drew; vs. Colorado: Holliday, Helton, and Atkins. Huge Advantage: Boston. The reality is that anyone in the Sox lineup can come up big and hurt you on any given night. One night it’s Papi, the next it’s Pedroia. Colorado cannot possibly prepare for everyone in the Sox lineup.

Mascots: Wally vs. Dinger. Wally the Green Monster is a stroke of genius for Red Sox marketing. To incorporate Fenway Park’s most famous feature into a mascot works brilliantly. Dinger the purple and yellow dinosaur is a leftover from the Barney show. What does a dinosaur have to do with Colorado? I have a better idea for a mascot. How about Coorsy the Friendly Bandwagon Jumper? Advantage: Wally in a landslide.

Fans: Boston has the most die-hard, loyal, passionate fans in all of sports. Fenway Park has sold out hundreds of games in a row. Colorado is well known for charging five bucks for tickets to get fans in the stands, and even then they can’t sell out Coors Field. In a recent poll in Colorado, 63% of the residents were unaware that there was a baseball team in Denver. Advantage: Boston.

So you see, it all adds up. Colorado is overrated, ill-prepared, and undermanned to possibly handle the Red Sox in the World Series.

Fortunately for them, it will be quick and painless.