The Safety Dance

I was playing some disc golf with my buddy Kyle the other day, and we stumbled upon a collegiate baseball tournament that was being played on the adjacent fields. I came to find out that there are 25 baseball teams playing in a month-long tournament in Port Charlotte (Snowbird Baseball Classic on Florida’s Suncoast). After dominating Kyle in golf, we caught a few innings of Montclair State University vs. Carthage College. If you put a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you where these school are located, but I can tell you it was really enjoyable to watch. This just further proves what I always say… Any baseball is good baseball.

Enjoy thefoulline.com’s Quick Hits:

  • Manny Ramirez has 3 sons, all named Manny.
  • How is it possible that the frickin’ New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys conglomeration of suckiness is having a concert at Fenway Park this summer and Pearl Jam is not?
  • If I had the chance to spend a day talking baseball with any two people in the world, Don Zimmerman and Yogi Berra would definitely top the list.
  • If I had the chance to spend a day talking fantasy baseball with any two people in the world, Ginger and the Bostonbadboy would definitely top the list.
  • Big, bad, burly Dan Johnson’s walk up music is Men Without Hats, “The Safety Dance.” Odd choice.
  • I’m really looking forward to a season of ESPN baseball broadcasts without Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Joe Morgan is a pompous ass.
  • I just read that Chipper Jones is having a great spring and is swinging the bat better than he did in 2008. I expect to be reading in two weeks that Chipper Jones is on the DL with a hang nail.
  • I think the Baltimore Orioles have a chance to go 81-81. Their pitching isn’t quite there, but the lineup with Vlad, Markakis, Mark Reynolds, Luke Scott, Brian Roberts, and Matt Wieters should be fun to watch.
  • Quick! Not counting Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Carlos Santana, name three players on the Cleveland Indians. (Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner were all I could come up with.) I think the Royals may have some competition for worst team in baseball.
  • I’m not sold that Josh Beckett is going to have the great resurgence that a lot of fantasy experts are projecting.
  • I’m predicting that Jonathan Papelbon will be the Baltimore Orioles closer in 2011.
  • Dear Seattle Mariner ownership: Please do not trade King Felix to the Yankees regardless of who they offer you. He’s your franchise guy. Build around him!
  • Has anyone seen Unsportsman Mike? I don’t want to hear any more lame excuses about an auto-drafted team this year. He had a three-week notice.
  • I’m hoping for the 4th-6th pick in this years draft. Not a fan of the bookend position.

12 days.

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!

Changes

Well, it’s been almost a month since the Red Sox lost game 7 of the ALCS to the damn Tampa Bay Rays. I think it’s finally time to come out from the dark recesses of thefoulline.com headquarters, dust myself off, and talk about what I think Boston needs to do to improve their team.

This is a pivotal offseason for the Red Sox. There are some glaring holes in the Sox lineup that need to be filled. If this team remains unchanged, they’ll be watching the playoffs on television in 2009.

There’s going to be a lot of Hot Stove activity going on in the next couple of weeks. The damn Yankees have $90 million coming off their books and are eager spend to improve their poor pitching, and like it or not, the Rays are going to be here for a while. If Tampa acquires a legitimate closer and a quality right fielder they’re going to be dangerous. The American League East is no longer a two-horse race.

So if I were Theo Epstein, this is what I would do, in order of importance.

1. Sign Mark Texiera.

Tex would tear up Fenway Park offensively and play Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. This MUST be done! A switch-hitting. perennial All-Star first baseman does not become available very often. As an added bonus, Tex is a free agent, so it wouldn’t cost Boston any of its young talent to acquire him.

Of course, this means Kevin Youkilis is moved to third base, and Mike Lowell is odd man out. I would try to convince a healthy Lowell to learn how to play first base and become Boston’s super-sub. With Lowell playing a mix of first, third and DH, he could prove to the rest of the league that he is healthy, and improve his stock for a trade. (Minnesota and the White Sox need a third baseman). It wouldn’t be the most popular move in Boston, since Lowell is such a class act, but we are here to win ball games. Get out your checkbook, Theo, and make it happen.

2. Derek Lowe makes his triumphant return to Boston.

Lowe is the type of sinker-ball-throwing, ground-ball-inducing pitcher that is tailor-made for Fenway Park. He’s proven to come up huge in big games, as in the 2004 playoffs, when he won the deciding game in all three playoff series. Not to mention, he wants to pitch in Boston again. He may even give Theo a discount.

I look forward to a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Dice K, Lowe, and Wakefield. This would keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen to help solidify the 7th and 8th innings before turning it over to Papelbon.

3. Deal a solid pitching prospect, namely Michael Bowden or Clay Buchholz, for either of Texas’s catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden.

They each have different strengths: Salty is still a raw talent that hits pretty well but needs to improve defensively. Teagarden is a solid defensive catcher with a laser-rocket arm, and he has the potential to put up some big power numbers. What they have in common is that they both are ready to be a starting catcher in the majors.

I’m starting to lean towards a  Buchholz for Teagarden deal, but either way it’s an upgrade of the aging Varitek. Thanks for all of your hard work, ‘Tek. We’ll see you at Jason Varitek Appreciation day.

4. Trade Julio Lugo for a bucket of used baseballs.

Jed Lowrie is ready to be the everyday shortstop. Lugo sucks. Find some sucker GM to take him off our hands.

…..
It almost seems too easy to improve this team. If Boston makes these moves, you can go and get the champagne on ice. If not, it may be a long season.

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.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Thursday night’s come-from-behind win for the Red Sox was amazing, series altering, life changing and whatever other hyperbole that the national media is throwing around these days. So why is it that I feel like Teddy KGB, so unsatisfied?  Boston’s win to force a game 6 was dramatic, but it’s not like they just won the series. Tampa Bay still holds a 3-2 series lead with the next two games at Tropicana Field. Don’t get me wrong, I feel infinitely better that Boston was finally able to string a few hits together, and David Ortiz had some resemblance to his 2004 version, but there is a lot of baseball left to be played.

Going into tonight’s game, I really wish that Josh Beckett’s ERA was sub-10.00 this postseason. I also wish that James Shields threw his shoulder out in June when his left cross missed Coco Crisp by three feet. But I guess we’ll just have to deal with this match up. Shields is the one guy on the Rays staff that scares me. He didn’t get his “Big Game” moniker from his deer hunting ability. This guy is a stud that rises to the occasion and relishes the pressure.

Shields is going up against some guy that has a striking resemblance to Josh Beckett, but without the 96 mph fastball and the pinpoint control. There is obviously something wrong with Beckett. He’s going to need to channel his inner Curt Schilling and make the adjustment from strikeout pitcher to a control pitcher that keeps the hitters guessing. But Beckett is a fierce competitor. Whichever version of him shows up tonight is going to be pissed off and spitting nails. This will be fun to watch.

As for the hitters on both teams, now that Boston has seen how productive it can be when they get consecutive hits, I really hope that they try and do that again. It was fun to see them scoring runs again. The Rays, on the other hand, are obviously taking steroids and corking their bats. There is no way that they can hit that many home runs. I’m calling for George Mitchell to reopen his investigation.

But seriously. Rays players have to be thinking that they have just woken a sleeping giant. They had Boston on the ropes and let them back in it. It will be interesting to see if the Rays hitters are squeezing their bats a little tighter and trying for the long ball tonight while playing in front of the home crowd.

Up a touchdown in the 7th inning. Champagne on ice. The smell of the World Series in the air. Only to blow it.  This has the potential to crush the confidence of a young ballclub. This is a must-win game for Tampa. With a potential game seven match up of baseball’s best story, Jon Lester, vs. headcase and chronic spitter Matt Garza. This is the biggest game in the history of Tampa Bay baseball. Again.

The Rays are still in the driver’s seat, but they have to be keeping a close eye on the rearview mirror.

I Believe

364 days ago I wrote a post called “Keeping the Faith, Part 2.” At that time Boston was in a 3-1 hole to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, and they were getting ready to face CC Sabathia in game 5. One year later, I find myself in a similar position, full of hope and optimism and sitting in front of my laptop. Can Boston make another comeback and crush the hopes and dreams of Rays fans everywhere? I not only hope so, but I’m going to give the reasons why.

  1. Scott Kazmir is pitching tonight. Why would Joe Maddon do this? He is either hoping that Kazmir rebounds from his last several poor performances and pulls out a win, or he’s that confident that “Big Game” James Shields will be money in game 6 at Tropicana Field to win it in front of the home crowd. Whatever the reason, I giggled a little when I saw Kazmir as tonight’s starting pitcher. This series is at least going back to St. Pete.
  2. The Red Sox have played horrible baseball. This the all-or-nothing, backs-to-the-wall scenario that shows a team’s character. Like Gene Hackman said in The Replacements, “winners want the ball.”  The Red Sox are the defending World Series Champions. Let’s start acting like it.
  3. 1986, down 3-1 to the California Angels in the ALCS. 2004, down 3-0 to the NY Yankees in the ALCS. 2007, down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. They’ve been here before and have won. They will do it again.
  4. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. There is no way in hell that these guys throw another crappy game like their last time out.
  5. Big Papi actually got an extra-base hit last game. The offensive flood gates are officially open.
  6. There is no way that the Rays can keep up with their 8 home runs a game pace. MLB is going to start charging them for lost baseballs.
  7. Dice K is a ninja. The Rays won’t know what hit them.
  8. Jason Varitek got the hole in his glove stitched up, so no more inning-extending passed balls.
  9. The Sox only have to win three measly games. A three game winning streak is nothing. They’ve done it 16 times this season.

So now you can see how obvious it is that Boston will rally back and win this series. I almost feel bad for the Rays…

Go Sox!

New York State of Mind

Don’t look now, but the New York Yankees have climbed to within three games of the AL East co-leaders Sox and Rays and are in Boston for a three-game set at Fenway Park that starts tonight. Like a bad case of athlete’s foot, New York refuses to go away. These guys have been decimated this season with injuries to Chien-Ming Wang, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Add to that the disappointing pitching from Ian Kennedy and Philip Hughes, plus the media circus of the A-Rod/Madonna/Cynthia Rodriguez/Lenny Kravitz Quadangle, and it is a miracle that these guys are still in contention. What is Hank Steinbrenner pumping through the air conditioning ducts to keep these guys motivated?

I’m not sure that the Yankees have enough pitching to make a long run at the playoffs, but you can be certain that Hank Steinbrenner will mortgage the future at next week’s trade deadline to at least make it interesting.

Objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.

Thefoulline.com Quick Hits

  • I don’t know what Joba Chamberlain’s problem with Kevin Youkilis is, but if he hits Youk again tonight, I hope he gets his face smashed in with a Louisville Slugger.
  • You can tell that autumn is here when the leaves change color, and you can tell it’s almost August when Manny Ramirez starts faking another injury. This season it’s his sore knee. It never fails.
  • The attendance at Tropicana Field for the last two games for the Rays was about 12,000 and 16,000. That equates to 30.1% and 40% of total capacity. I know that it’s not the temperature in Florida that’s keeping them away. It’s always fair-weathered in the dome.
  • Big Papi David Ortiz rejoins the Sox tonight after a long layoff. This might be the big move at the trade deadline that everyone has been hoping for.
  • Speaking of the trading deadline… I really hope that Boston deals Manny to the Mets for prospects, takes those prospects and adds a top-line Red Sox prospect to the mix, and makes a deal for Matt Holliday. He would make people forget about Manny pretty damn quick.
  • Playoff atmosphere at Fenway tonight, and there is no one better to have on the mound than the best big game pitcher in baseball, Josh Beckett.

Go Sox!

The Best of What’s Around

With Opening Day of the 2008 Major League Baseball season a few short hours away, the staff at thefoulline.com has come up with the inaugural Thefoulline.com All-Pro Team of Awesomeness. This is a team of players, handpicked by Dylan and me, who represent what this site stands for. These players may not necessarily be the best at their respective positions, some may not even be good at baseball at all, but they have the attributes to make them worthy of this prestigious honor.

To be eligible for this team, players have to meet certain requirements:

  • No Yankees allowed
  • Must be able to play hurt, and not spend more time on the DL then on the active roster. (This means Rocco Baldelli is out.)
  • Must keep their name on the sports page, not on the police blotter.
  • Not on the Mitchell Report. Sorry, Roger.
  • Most importantly, these are players that Dylan and I like. It was hard to not make it all Red Sox, but we did our best.
  • No Yankees allowed

Here is the 2008 Thefoulline.com All-Pro Team of Awesomeness

Catcher: Jason Varitek
Varitek is not only the captain of the Boston Red Sox, but we are making him the captain here as well. Although he’s getting on in years, he still prepares his pitchers well and calls a great game.

First Base: Mark Texiera
Tex flies under the radar as far as elite first basemen go. He’s solid every year he plays.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
The baddest man in Boston provides the scrappy trash-talking factor for the team. If this guy was 6 feet tall, he would be a household name.

Shortstop: Orlando Cabrera
I still can’t get over the Sox not signing him in favor of Edgar Renteria. The O.C. was great for Boston during their 2004 run.

Third Base: Alex R…..NOT! David Wright
This guy has every chick in New York City wanting him, and he still goes out and hits .324 with 30 HRs. Plus I like the fact that Derek Jeter gets this guy’s leftovers. Best 3rd baseman in NYC.

Right Field: Vladimir Guerrero
Vlad swings for the fences with every swing of the bat and has a laser-rocket arm. What’s not to like? He once went yard in the on-deck circle.

Center Field: Grady Sizemore
Sizemore plays the game like a new and improved Jim Edmonds. Not to mention, Grady is a pretty cool first name.

Left Field: Carl Crawford
Poor Carl, playing in relative obscurity in Tampa, still manages to put up great numbers. And he has to play his spring training games next to road-rager Jon Weber.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
This one was obvious. He’s one of the most likable people in all of sports as well as the greatest postseason clutch hitter on the planet. Plus, I can’t really think of another DH worth a damn.

Starting Pitcher: Josh Beckett
He makes the team due to his remarkable playoff record and the fact that he never smiles during a game. This guy epitomizes intensity.

Starting Pitcher: Scott Kazmir
This future Red Sox led the league in strikeouts last year. Also Dylan has a man-crush on him, and vice-versa.

Starting Pitcher: Jake Peavy
He’s great at nothing but really good at everything.

Starting Pitcher: Felix Hernandez
His nickname is King, and he one-hit the Red Sox last year. That’s good enough for me.

Starting Pitcher: Tom Glavine
Token old-timer of the staff and 300-game winner. Also Dylan saw him play high school hockey in Billerica, Mass.

Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Great stuff. Decent dancer. Crazy as hell.

Bench: Carlos Pena
The pride of Haverhill, Mass.

Bench: Troy Tulowitzki
Pretty good ballplayer, even if he does play for the Rockies.

Bench: Joe Mauer
Close personal friend of Matt McLaughlin, so he makes the team.

Bench: Kevin Millar
This guy will never make it out on the field for this team, but he’s a fun guy to keep around.

Manager: Sparky Anderson
My dad’s favorite manager when I was growing up.

League Commissioner: Bill Lee

Here’s our team. I think that they would fare pretty well in the league. Who makes your Team of Awesomeness?

The Sounds of Silence

For some reason MLB.tv had legendary announcer Vin Scully call the Red Sox/Dodgers game yesterday. Wow! Listening to Vin Scully call the game made me want to move to Siberia and never listen to another game for as long as I live.

Scully is a huge name in the broadcasting world. He’s been calling Dodgers games for 57 years and has been inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. But enough is enough. This guy needs to hang up his microphone and enjoy his golden years.

During yesterday’s broadcast, some of the poignant topics that Scully talked about included: a detailed lesson about every palm tree in Dodgertown; which flavor bubble gum Matt Kemp was chewing; the reason that Mike Lowell doesn’t chew gum at the plate; and a history lesson about the field the Dodgers play on. He even managed to call a few balls and strikes. And this was just in the first inning.

This guy is the reason that television and radio broadcasts added a color commentator. If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Scully in action, don’t do it. Find a WNBA game and watch that instead. You’ll thank me.

Thefoulline.com’s tantalizing tidbits and predictions for the week.

  • If Josh Beckett’s back injury is even remotely serious, the Red Sox are screwed.
  • If Julio Lugo’s back injury prohibits him from playing ever again… oh well.
  • The Grapefruit League’s worst record belongs to the Boston Red Sox. The best record belongs to the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • The Sox treat Spring Training as a way to evaluate their young prospects. The Rays treat Spring Training as their World Series.
  • I think Coco Crisp is going to have a good season for the Oakland A’s.
  • If Bartolo Colon’s ERA matches his weight this year, he will go down as Theo Epstein’s best transaction… ever.
  • The 2008 MLB All-Star game will be held at Yankee Stadium. Manny Delcarmen will be on the American League team. Derek Jeter will not.
  • Thefoulline.com fantasy baseball draft starts in 17 days. Spots are still available, and competition is fierce for 2nd place.

A blessing in disguise

Yesterday when I read that Curt Schilling had an injured shoulder and was going to miss the first half of the season, I was pretty worried. I was hoping that Schill was going to have a solid final season in the major leagues and make a push for making the Hall of Fame someday. I was concerned that the Red Sox would miss his leadership. I wondered how the Red Sox rotation would fare with two young guns assuming a very important role. I was wondering if Theo Epstein blew it by not making a serious run at Johan Santana.

But then I came to my senses.

The Red Sox had the best rotation in baseball last year in spite of the elementary performance of Schilling. Schill came into spring training looking like a poor man’s Joba Chamberlain, and it showed with his injury. The once dominant fast-baller had morphed into a finesse pitcher with a weight problem. Hitters were no longer intimidated by him, which was evident by his 9-8 record. He couldn’t blow the pitches past the hitters and resorted to nibbling the corners. I was on the edge of my seat every time Schilling pitched last year, because he was always one pitch away from serving up a three run home-run. I had big hopes for Schilling this year. He seemed motivated to come to camp this year in better shape and erase the memories of his disappointing 2007 season.

With Schilling missing at least the first half of the season, this is the opportunity Clay Buchholz needs to prove why he is Boston’s top pitching prospect. Buchholz was dominant during his short stint with the Sox last year, but being that he is only 24 years old and still developing, the Sox will want to limit his innings this season. So maybe he can assume the #5 spot in the rotation until Schilling comes back, then go to a six-man rotation for the playoff run. This will give everyone a little rest and get them ready for the playoffs.

I still really like Boston’s rotation this year. Beckett will be Beckett and should chalk up another 20 wins. Dice K, with a season of experience under his belt, should take his game up a notch. Wakefield is always good for at least 12 wins. Then we have the always improving Jon Lester, and the wild card Clay Buchholz. If any of these guys falter, Boston will have some options. Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez are always available to start. There some kids in the minors worthy of a call-up. And if all else fails, Theo will make the deal to shore up the rotation.

We all know pitching wins games. We’ll soon see if the Sox have enough to defend their title.