Start Me Up

Baseball season is finally back, and although the offseason for the Boston Red Sox didn’t go the way I’d hope it would, I’m still optimistic for a successful 2009 campaign.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Theo Epstein and Terry Francona don’t read thefoulline.com. If they had, we’d be watching Mark Texiera and Derek Lowe gearing up for the season in Fort Myers, while watching the enigmatic Julio Lugo and overrated Jason Varitek packing their bags to destination Anywhere But Boston.

But after my initial disappointment with the lack of big name signings, I’m starting to really like the additions of Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and especially future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. These guys are low cost, with potential huge rewards for Boston. Even though Smoltz won’t be ready until June, he could be the big addition to the lineup that usually takes place at the trade deadline. If Boston makes the postseason, a lineup with Josh Beckett and John Smoltz would be scary.

Before we can talk about the playoffs, there are a lot of questions about this team that could severely affect their post season chances. Will Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell rebound from their 2008 injury-plagued season? With Coco Crisp shipped off to Kansas City, is Jacoby Ellsbury ready to be the everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter? Can a full season of Jason Bay make up for the loss of Manny? Who will be the Red Sox catcher of the future?

To make matters worse, rivals Tampa Bay and New York revamped their already dangerous lineups. The Yankees decided to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on big-game choker CC Sabathia, the oft-injured A.J. Burnett, and current thefoulline.com public enemy #2 Mark Texiera. Will this high priced talent lead to a return to the postseason for the Bronx Bombers? Or will these guys wilt under the pressure of playing in the Big Apple like Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano? Let’s hope for the latter.

As for the Rays, I really like the additions of Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce to fill the right field and designated hitter spots. This is a big upgrade of the Gabe Gross/Cliff Floyd combo. I’m interested in seeing whether Evan Longoria can duplicate his rookie season, and if the Rays can repeat their success with their closer-by-committee bullpen.

The good news is baseball is back.
The competition  for the AL East crown promises to be fierce.
Let the games begin!

Don’t Stop Believin’

OK, now this is getting crazy. Boston looked lousy during games 2, 3, and 4 and 2/3 of game 5. Meanwhile, Tampa was playing like a team on a mission, trying to make up for ten years of futility. Suddenly during game 5, the switch was flipped, and like a modern version of Freaky Friday Boston began playing loose, youthful, carefree baseball, while Tampa turned into a  cautious, conservative baseball team that’s playing not to lose, instead of pushing the action and trying for the win.

So this brings us to game 7. Which version of these teams will show up?

thefoulline.com quick hits

  • Jon Lester vs. Matt Garza, game seven, winner goes to the World Series. This is the match-up Boston fans were wishing for and Rays fans were dreading.
  • Regarding the TBS technical difficulty that caused first-inning coverage of last night’s game to be preempted by The Steve Harvey Show: According to a theory by thefoulline contributor Dylan “Conspiracy Theorist” Hamilton, TBS, concerned that the Rays’ current losing streak has reminded much of the Tampa Bay fan base how much they prefer Steve Harvey to baseball, did it on purpose.
  • The Sox bullpen has looked fantastic. Okajima gets better every time he pitches and looks like the Oki of 2007. Masterson looked absolutely scared shitless out there, and then he proceeded to shut down the Rays 1-2-3 hitters. Then there’s Papelbon. Tired, sore, gassed from pitching two tough innings in game 5, he goes out throwing 90 MPH fastballs with good location and gets the save. In a word… awesome.
  • High definition television is not kind to Kevin Youkilis.
  • Coco Crisp is doing his best 2007 Jacoby Ellsbury impersonation. Coco did more damage to James Shields last night than any punch would ever do.
  • Dan the #1 Rays Fan: Hang in there. This is still better than watching the Rays of the past. There’s still a lot of baseball left.
  • Jason Varitek saved his job with the Sox next year with a huge home run and an even bigger throw out of Dioner Navarro. That’s why he’s the Captain.
  • Terry Francona is the best manager in Red Sox history. Although the 78 pieces of tobacco wrapped in Double Bubble that he is constantly chewing during the game is pretty disgusting.
  • Josh Beckett dug down deep last night and pitched his ass off for 5 innings. This guy is a competitor.
  • James Shields is a tough pitcher with a promising future, but his “Big Game” nickname may have been a little premature. Names like that get invented in the postseason.
  • Dustin Pedroia is going to blow up tonight. He lives for moments like this, and he’s been too quiet for too long.
  • During the 6th inning of game 5 in Fenway Park, did anyone really think we would be watching a game 7?
  • There is no moment better in sports than the MLB playoffs.

Makes Me Wonder

The three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins was exactly what the Boston Red Sox needed. The Sox have been going through the motions lately, getting little to no production from Manny, Lugo, Ellsbury, and Varitek. Even Jonathan Papelbon has been getting hit. These guys had looked like a shell of their former selves.

During this series with Minnesota, Boston won the first game 1-0. They rallied back from a three-run deficit to win the second game, and they had the blowout in the third game to cap the sweep. I know that one good series doesn’t make a season, but this could be a turning point for the Sox. They beat a very good team three times, in three very different ways. Boston is finally getting healthy, and this could be when we see the real Red Sox show up.

Thefoulline.com Quick Hits:

  • Boston is 34-10 playing at Fenway and 21-29 on the road. Home field is going to be more important than ever this postseason.
  • Some guy named Clay Buchholz is starting for Boston Friday night. I hope that he can do as well as some of the other young pitchers the Red Sox have used this year.
  • Congrats to Evan Longoria for making the All Star team. It’s well deserved and is sure to be the first of many during his career.
  • Speaking of the All Star game… Imagine, if you will, the 9th inning, the AL up by one run. Francona goes to the bullpen, the last All Star game in Yankee Stadium… and out comes Jonathan Papelbon. It won’t happen. But it would be awesome to stick it to the entire state of New York.
  • Dustin Pedroia needs to be in the running for the MVP of the league.
  • Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays is injured again and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. It’s time for Toronto to concede the season and look towards next year.
  • After dropping three in a row, and losing 13-2 to Cleveland as I write this, you know that the Rays are counting the minutes to the All Star break so they can regroup. This is just a bump in the road. They’ll be competitive all year long.
  • Is A-Rod dating Madonna really newsworthy? Would this even be in the paper if the Yankees were relevant?

Fighting Temptations

Baseball fights are stupid. It’s essentially a pig pile of grown men. No one ever lands a clean punch, and all it does is increase the hostility between the two teams. Players’ egos are getting out of control.

With that being said, 3rd base coach DeMarlo Hale body slamming James Shields was awesome.

Thefoulline.com Quick Hits:

  • I would trade Coco Crisp for James Shields/Jonny Gomes any day of the week.
  • The Red Sox are a close-knit team, but you have to figure if anyone is going to fight in the Sox dugout, it’s going to be Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez. Youk is an intense, hardworking, blue-collar player. Manny is a naturally talented, lazy idiot. I’d be surprised if this was the first fight between the two.
  • With Manny’s contract up at the end of this season, I think Boston should make a serious run at Colorado Rockies Matt Holliday. He’s younger than Manny, would have a comparable salary, can play left field, and would absolutely destroy Fenway Park.
  • Please, please, please…. let’s hope Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t break his wrist in last night’s game. If he did, the Sox are in big trouble. Ellsbury has been doing a great job as Boston’s table-setter.
  • After last night’s basebrawl game, the Rays are now neck-and-neck with the Yankees as public enemy number one at thefoulline.com
  • Jonny Gomes, Carl Crawford, and Akinori Iwamura are a bunch of punks. These three are the biggest cheap-shot artists I have ever seen. Punching Coco when he was being he held down by Dioner Navarro was cowardly. These three should receive longer suspensions than both Coco and Shields.
  • I have to mention Joba Chamberlain’s performance the other night at Yankee stadium: 2.1 innings, 148 pitches, 4 walks, 55,000 dejected fans, one foolish looking owner. Question: If a guy is playing great in the set-up role, why mess with that? Answer: Hank Steinbrenner is a friggin moron.
  • I hope the Rays enjoyed their 22 days in first place of the American League East. It will be the last time they sniff first for the rest of the year.

Everything in Its Right Place

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • For the record, I wrote a few months ago that the Red Sox should make every attempt to trade for Johan Santana. This included dealing Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, pretty much anyone. Obviously the Sox front office is smarter than I am.
  • In case you missed it, Jon Lester threw a no-hitter against the K.C. Royals the other night. I’ve always figured that Lester would be a solid contributor for the Sox. He’s a guy that I thought could go out and win 12-15 games a year and be a solid #3 guy in the rotation. After Monday’s performance, I think I’ve underestimated his ability.
  • Watching the Sox as a kid, they were always a slow, prodding team that relied on the long ball. They rarely manufactured runs, and stolen bases were nonexistent. The 2008 team with Ellsbury, Coco, Pedroia, Youk and Lugo stealing bases and playing small ball is a lot more fun to watch.
  • Speaking of Lugo, his tenure in Boston may be coming to an end. What kind of message is Terry Francona sending when Lugo gets a defensive replacement four games in a row? Paging Jed Lowrie…
  • Jacoby Ellsbury stole 25 bases in a row to start his career, two short of the record set by Tim Raines. Ellsbury was thrown out on a pitch-out and a perfect strike from the catcher to second base, and he still was barely out. This kid is scary fast.
  • Manny Ramirez stated that he has stopped hitting home-runs on purpose. He said that fans aren’t excited enough about it, and he is going to wait to hit them on the upcoming west coast trip. The reason fans aren’t excited, Man-Ram, is that you’re hitting .178 with 11 strikeouts over the last 12 games. And you’re an idiot.
  • The Sox have had solid contributions this year from their young players: Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and Brandon Moss.
  • The Yankees “top” young players have done the following: Phillip Hughes 0-4, 9.00 ERA; Ian Kennedy 0-3, 8.48 ERA; Jeff Karstens 1-4, 11.05 ERA; Melky Cabrera, .252 batting average; Joba Chamberlain, 10 holds, 2.66 ERA, 700 cheeseburgers eaten. Advantage: Boston.
  • Bartolo Colon is wicked fat, but he pitched pretty well last night. He may make his Fantasy debut for the Yankeehaters next week.
  • Joba Chamberlain is joining the New York Yankees starting rotation. This is going to be just the boost the Yanks need to leapfrog the Blue Jays and seize fourth place in the division.
  • Ex-Sox and current freak show Eric Gagne is being sidelined with a shoulder “injury.” Have you seen this guy lately? Not only is he stinking it up in Milwaukee, but he may be the ugliest human on the planet. 7.45 ERA, multiple blown saves, $10 million… money well spent.

Mama Said Knock You Out

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are the best 1-2 punch in baseball. It seems like every game Ellsbury slaps a single, promptly steals second, and then is driven in by Pedroia. They’ve made the top of the Red Sox order fun to watch.
  • Miguel Tejada promised a sick kid with Muscular Dystrophy that he would hit a homerun for him, and then he went out and hit one. I don’t care how old Tejada pretends to be, that was a classy move.
  • All is right in the universe tonight after the Sox bounced back and swept the Rays.
  • That sound you are hearing is the sound of Rays fans jumping off the bandwagon.
  • Announcers should be biased towards their team, but the Rays’ combo of Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane take it to a whole other level. Listening to these two idiots go on and on over all the calls that go against the Rays makes me want to cut my ears off. Not to mention, Dewayne’s hair looks like a rat’s nest.
  • Dewayne Staats crazy hair
  • To further prove that Terry Francona reads thefoulline.com, after writing about the Sox’s offensive woes, they went and put up 26 runs on the Rays during the three-game series.
  • Tomorrow is the most popular day of the week, Fantasy recap day! Let’s see if my predictions hold up.

Nothing As It Seems

After watching the Red Sox this past week, I was under the impression that their offense was still stuck in Fort Myers. The dynamic duo of Ellsbury and Pedroia have looked lousy. Big Papi is a shell of his former self and has resorted to diving head first into first base in an attempt to get on, and Manny Ramirez has more stolen bases than extra base hits. I’m tired of the 2-1, or 3-0 games. I want the Sox offense to look more like a beer league softball team.

I can understand the Red Sox struggling against Roy Halladay or James Shields, these guys are good pitchers. What bothers me is when Boston’s potent offense is held in check by the likes of Edwin Jackson and Jon Garland.

But all my worrying was for naught. After doing a little research I found that Boston’s offense is right where it should be. Check out these numbers:

Batting Average: 1st in AL
Hits: 1st in AL
Runs: Tied for 2nd
RBIs: Tied for 2nd

The Red Sox also have Man-Ram leading the league in batting average and slugging % and in 2nd in homeruns and hits.

If Boston can only stay healthy for the rest of the year, they have the potential to put up some great numbers.

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • After the latest Roger Clemens scandal, it may be time for him to pick up Mike Tyson and O.J. Simpson and move to Siberia. America is officially sick of your crap. I can’t see how this guy could sink any lower.
  • Thefoulline.com staff would like to wish Alex Rodriguex and Jorge Posada a speedy recovery from their recent ailments. Fourth place in the division just isn’t the same without them.
  • Surprising no one, J.D. Drew is sitting out after nicking himself shaving. Or something.
  • Boston faces Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan tonight. McGowan has pitched really well against Boston in the past and has the best sideburns in the league.
  • Dustin Pedroia’s diving stop in the 9th inning of last night’s game reminded me of when he saved Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter last year. D-Ped does not get the recognition he deserves for his defense. He’ll make the All-Star team this year.
  • Has anyone else noticed that Jonathan Papelbon always gives a fist-bump to a Boston police officer when he enters the game? Anyhow, check out this article. It’s pretty cool.

Hey Man Nice Shot

Good teams find ways to win.

Sometimes it’s a pitcher throwing a complete game to give a tired bullpen the night off, or a great defensive play to keep your team in the lead. In the case of the Red Sox, it’s been back-to-back games with a game-winning home run in the 9th inning.

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • It already sucks to be a Cleveland Indians fan. It must suck even more when the Red Sox come to town and you know that your team is going to find a way to lose. The Indians have a ton of talent and should be running away with the division, but with a 5-9 record they are one game out of the Central Division cellar. Maybe they need some Lake Erie Midges swarming around their heads to get them back in the groove.
  • Did you see the lineup Terry Francona put out last night? Coco, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Lugo, and Cash. I thought they were mailing it in before another Yankees series. I guess even the Sox reserves can beat most teams.
  • It was great to see yet another Red Sox prospect live up to the hype. Two years ago it was Jonathan Papelbon. Last year it was Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Manny Delcarmen. After last night’s 3 RBI performance in his first Major League game, it may be time to add Jed Lowrie to the list of legitimate prospects.
  • Which reminds me, how are the over-hyped Yankees Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy working out for New York? Last time I checked, Hughes was was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, and Kennedy was 0-1 with an impressive 8.74 ERA. Do you think the Yankees are regretting not dealing these guys for Johan Santana?
  • Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano will make a combined $22,071,029 this season.
  • Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon will make a combined $4,775,000 this season.
  • To further reinforce how crazy the Steinbrenners are, these idiots actually dug up the “cursed” Ortiz jersey buried in Yankee stadium. News Flash, Hank! The shirt is not the reason your team stinks. It’s the lousy pitching pitching staff, over-hyped prospects, and $28 million cancer playing third base.
  • The Red Sox are in first place. Woo-hoo!

Bittersweet Symphony

Twice this week, I’ve had two of my fantasy pitchers face off against my favorite baseball team. Although I would never wish for a Sox loss, I couldn’t help but to think, If Roy Halladay or Rich Harden could hold Boston to one hit and the Red Sox could win the game 1-0, then it would be a win-win situation. I could get a bunch of fantasy points, and the Sox could get some wins. Is there anything wrong with that?

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • After being on the road for 17 days and flying 16,000 miles, I really hope Terry Francona lets this team sleep in tomorrow.
  • Didn’t Boston have one of the better defensive teams last year? The last two games, they looked more like the Bad News Bears, not the World Series Champions.
  • I still think Toronto gets into the playoffs this year. They play solid baseball and have the best rotation in the AL East. If B.J. Ryan can come back from his injury and resemble his old self, they will be a force.
  • A juice-free Andy Pettitte looked lousy the other night against the Rays, with 5 innings, 8 hits, and 5 runs. Maybe a call from Roger Clemens will boost his spirits.
  • Julio Lugo: That image in your rearview mirror is Jed Lowrie. Objects may be closer then they appear.
  • Am I the only one that is ready to see Jacoby Ellsbury lead off? This guy provided a big spark for Boston in the playoffs last year. Why mess with what’s been proven to work?

I’ll post the standings for the first week sometime tomorrow. It looks like a pretty tight race so far.

It Was a Good Day

I knew today was going to be a good day. The weather was a perfect 65 degrees, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I had two tickets for the Red Sox/Boston College game in Fort Myers. I knew the game wasn’t going to be close, but Josh Beckett was penciled in to pitch the first two innings and I was hoping to see a couple of the Sox regulars get some playing time. The game started at 1:05 p.m. I planned on picking up Dylan at 10:00 for the hour-long drive down to the game. What transpired over the next three hours made this a day I won’t soon forget.

  • I get a call from Dylan. He tells me that his Dad has called him seven times this morning to tell him that the World Series trophy will be on display at City of Palms Park. Thank you, Wayne Hamilton!
  • Approximately five seconds after getting to Dylan’s, he suggests we hit Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. Brilliant!
  • Coffee in hand, we make world-record time down to Fort Myers.
  • 11:00 Arrive at the park.
  • 11:15 In line to get our pictures taken with the World Series trophies. That’s right, two trophies! They had the 2004 and 2007 trophies on display.
  • 11:30-11:40 Dylan and I mug for the cameras.
  • After the pictures, Dylan is showing me around the park when a camera crew stops us. Long story short, this is the camera crew from MLB’s This Week in Baseball. They told us that they had been taping us during our time with the trophies, and they wanted to interview us. We talk about what the World Series trophies mean to us, the Sox chances this year, blah blah blah. Like a couple of idiots, neither one of us thinks to mention thefoulline.com. Anyhow, we’ll keep an eye out for when we’re on TV and get the word out.
  • Five minutes later, we are checking out the Boston Red Sox team store when team owner Tom Werner and Boston mayor Tom Menino pop in. These guys are walking around doing a little shopping like a couple of regular guys. Something tells me they don’t need to use their Red Sox Nation discount card.
  • For those of you that have never been to City of Palms Park for a Red Sox game, you need to go. This was my first time, and the place is beautiful. It felt like I was at a Grateful Dead concert. Everyone was united, in a good mood and ready to cheer on the Sox. It truly is Red Sox Nation South. I can’t wait to go back.
  • 12:30 p.m. Lineups are posted. I was psyched to see the lineup Terry Francona put out there today. He played every projected starter, with the exception of Manny and J.D. Drew.
  • 1:00-1:30 Josh Beckett looked like he was in mid-season form for the two innings he pitched.
  • 1:15.35 – 1:15.43 I am now convinced that Jacoby Ellsbury is the fastest person in the world. He went from first base to home on a bloop hit from Dustin Pedroia quicker then anyone I’ve ever seen.
  • Kyle Snyder, Brandon Moss and Manny Delcarmen looked really good today.
  • Dylan and I were sitting behind the owner of The Penalty Box Irish pub in Providence R.I. If you’re ever up there, check it out. Mention Kevin for a free round.
  • For seven innings, B.C. was dominated. Even with the starters pulled and the no-name Sox playing, this game was a blowout.
  • 24-0. Ouch!
  • Even though it was a Spring Training game against an outmatched opponent, I thought Boston looked pretty good.
  • I can’t wait to get my picture taken with the 2008 W.S. trophy next year.