Monday, November 14, 2011

The Man Who Brought Ted Williams Back to Life


Ted Williams is alive and well and Bruce Spitzer is the one we need to thank. Extra Innings, a novel written by Spitzer where the great Ted Williams is brought back to life through the science of cryonics.  He recovers from the operation that grafts his head onto the body of a young man and once again learns how to hit, throw, run and simply survive in strange yet familiar surroundings.

Extra Innings is Field of Dreams in reverse.  Reanimated in the future and once again playing for the Red Sox, Williams finds himself trapped in a world he hardly recognizes:  the corruption of the game he loves with ├╝ber-juiced batters and robot pitchers; difficult love affairs clashing with his old habits; and a military conflict of the future in which he must harness his old fighter pilot skills.

Married three times in his former life, Williams has to learn how to treat women in a new way.  Dr. Elizabeth Miles is the cryonicist who brings him back to life, initiating a dramatic sequence of medical achievements.  She and her young son Johnnie are a constant reminder of what Williams lacked in his first trip around the bases, never devoting much time for love and family.  Yet, this time around, old habits die hard.

With enemies and allies both on the field and off, Williams must make sense of it all and play on against a machine that he detests, pressure to take “the giddyup” he abhors, unrelenting media mania, and a dystopian world he can’t ignore.

The narrative resonates with the consequences of the major issues we face in our world today—the steroids debate in sports, global warming and flooding, corporate greed, technology run rampant, and the moral ambiguity of war.

Extra Innings is alternately poignant and humorous, heart breaking and joyous, and thought provoking throughout.  It is a rollicking ride about second chances and redemption, triumphing over adversity, and the search for meaning in this life and the next.

Flawed in his first life, Williams must decide in the second, what’s more important, a chance to win his first World Series, or a chance to be a better man?

The book will be released in the spring and I had the opportunity to interview Bruce Spitzer on my latest podcast.

You can follow Bruce Spitzer on twitter @brucespitzer1

Here is my podcast with Bruce Spitzer as we talk about the novel and the amazing life of Ted Williams and his relationships with his family and his teammates Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom Dimaggio.

Listen to internet radio with Mike Dobreski on Blog Talk Radio

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Defending Theo Epstein

Theo Epstein has left Boston and the bashing has begun. It seems every article and every talk show host list every single bad move Theo ever made as GM of the Red Sox.

Revisionist history suggests that 2004 team was really built by Dan Duquette and the 2007 team was built in the weeks in which Theo had walked out in the gorilla suit. The sentiment by way too many people is that Theo's time in Boston was overrated that he really was The Boy Blunder. It is time to defend Theo and it really isn't a hard defense.

Before we get to the facts, I will admit that I am biased when it comes to Theo. I was a fan from the day the Red Sox hired him as the GM back in 2002. Here was a guy who was just a year older than me and grew up living and dying with the Red Sox. I saw myself in him. When Theo was hired he talked about being 12 years old and how devastated he was watching game six of the 1986 World Series. I blogged about my experiences on that awful night and they were eerily similar to what Theo had gone through  I felt a bond with him right away. He was living out my dream. Who wouldn't want to call the shots for the team they have loved since they were a child? I was living that dream vicariously through a guy who was around my age and both knew the pain of being a kid watching their favorite team fail when being so close to winning it all in 1986. Theo wrote and op-ed piece for the Boston Globe in which he said his farewell to Boston. Ironically, it was published on October 25th, twenty-five years after that awful night that bonded myself with Theo.

Let's get to the facts now. The first charge is that the 2004 team was really built by Dan Duquette and Theo really had nothing to do with it. Theo took over after the 2002 season. The Red Sox had won 93 games that season but it wasn't good enough for a playoff spot. A late season swoon cost them. The team was very talented and of course had the likes of Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Johnny Damon. All of them would be key contributors to the 2004 championship team but the roster had a ton of holes, holes that Theo started plugging right away. The 2002 team had infield of Tony Clark, Rey Sanchez, Nomar and Shea Hillenbrand. Does that sound like a championship infield to you? The Red Sox DH was Brian Daubach. I loved Daubach, but is he a guy that should be the DH for a championship team? The rotation of course had Pedro at the top followed by Derek Lowe, John Burkett, Frank Castillo and then a combination of Casey Fossum and Tim Wakefield. Does that seem like a championship rotation to you?

Over the next two seasons Theo went to work building that 2004 championship team. It started with the infield when he acquired Kevin Millar from a team in Japan. Millar was a grinder at the plate and a huge leader in the clubhouse. He would also prove to have two very huge walks in that amazing 2004 ALCS. Theo then picked up Todd Walker for the 2003 team to play second base and then picked up Mark Bellhorn for the 2004 team. Bellhorn was another guy who grinded out at bats and he would have big postseason home runs in 2004. Theo upgraded at third base with Bill Mueller who would win the batting title in 2003 and come up with clutch hits in the 2004 postseason. An aging and often injured Garciaparra was traded for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz at the trade deadline in 2004. The entire infield was built by Theo for the 2004 world champions. There is no getting around that or somehow distorting those facts. There is also no way around the DH that Theo Epstein brought to Boston. No more Daubach, instead a guy named David Ortiz. How did that work out?

Theo did not do much to the starting pitching rotation for the 2003 team which is one of the reasons why they fell short. Epstein corrected that problem prior to the 2004 season by trading for a guy named Curt Schilling. Theo then went out and signed Keith Foulke who was instrumental in the title run.

Theo then upgraded the bench and bullpen depth with guys like Mike Timlin and speedy baserunner named Dave Roberts. Leadership was also important with the addition of Gabe Kapler who was a very vocal leader in that clubhouse along with doing a great job in right field filling in for an often injured Trot Nixon.

Moving on to 2007. The big debate is who really made the trade for Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett. The Theo bashers will tell you that when Theo stormed out in the gorilla suit the trade was made and Theo never would have done it. Of course these same Theo bashers criticize him for not having an elite shortstop since Nomar. This is the classic case of the Theo bashers wanting it both ways. They say in one breath not to give credit to Theo for Beckett and Lowell and in the next breath point to the weak shortstop position under Theo. Well, if it is true that Theo never would have made the trade then a guy named Hanley Ramirez would be the Red Sox shortstop.

I find it had to believe that Theo would not have made the trade for Beckett and Lowell but for the sake of all the Theo bashers we can pretend Theo had nothing to do with it. So let's look at the rest of the 2007 team and let's see how much Theo's moves really had to do with that title.

Curt Schilling anchored the staff in 2007 while the bullpen was stacked with Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Mike Timlin. Papelbon was drafted by Epstein, Schilling as we mentioned was traded to the Red Sox and Okajima and Timlin were free agent pick ups by Theo.

The lineup still had Manny but they also had his tag team partner in the lineup, David Ortiz. Once again, not a bad free agent pick up by Theo. Dustin Pedroia was the starting second baseman for the world champs and was also named Rookie of the Year. He would win the MVP in 2008 when the Red Sox were a game away from going to the World Series. Epstein was ridiculed for drafting Pedroia so high and was criticized even more when Pedroia got off to a slow start in his first season. Theo was right about Pedroia and Pedroia was a key to the 2007 title and continues to be the key for the franchise.

Jacoby Ellsbury was also drafted by Epstein and he would have his breakout moment in the World Series hitting .438  Ellsbury is only getting better as he is coming off an MVP caliber season in 2011.

J.D. Drew was a controversial signing by Epstein but without his grand slam in the 2007 ALCS the Red Sox don't go on to win it all.

Even if you throw out Beckett and Lowell, the 2007 team has Theo's stamp all over it just like the 2004 team.

The facts are the facts. The moves are the moves. Has Theo made bad moves? Of course he has and it is real easy to list them all. However, the list I just made outweighs the bad list and if you struggle with comparing and contrasting the two lists then simply remember that Theo Epstein was the GM of the Red Sox when they won two world championships. Case closed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bill Lee: Baseball's White Rabbit

illustration: Paul Windle
I never saw Bill Lee pitch but he has always been pretty interesting to listen to and read about. He was great in the baseball documentary by Ken Burns and during his playing days was at the heart of Red Sox/Yankees rivalry in the 70's. Paul Flannery does an incredible job of going even deeper into the man they call The Spaceman.

Here is an excerpt from his story on Bill Lee:

Bill Lee is late. There are sixteen kids, their parents, and a man named Miro who is running for mayor waiting for him on a Little League baseball field in Burlington, Vermont. The weather is unusually cold for October, and now it’s starting to rain.
Lee’s baseball life is equal parts inspiration and cautionary tale. During his fourteen-year run in the big leagues, he survived with little more than guile and a sinking fastball, and then proceeded to blow up his career for a principle. Exiled from professional baseball READ MORE

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sandy Koufax vs Mickey Mantle: No Comparison

Jane Leavy who authored books on Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax had some interesting comments on both icons. Leavy grew up as a New York Yankee fan and Mantle was her hero. She first met Mantle in 1983 while working for the Washington Post. Mickey had showed up late for the interview with blood shot eyes and the smell  of alcohol on his breath. Mickey put out his hand and said "Hi, I am Mick". Jane responded "I am nervous". Mickey smiled and said "Why are you nervous? You afraid I am going to pull on your titties?" Mickey ended the interview by passing out face first in Leavy's lap while trying to feel her up. Mickey being Mickey.

When Leavy met Koufax she told him that growing up she always hated him because he made Mickey look so bad in the 1963 World Series. John Roseboro said that Mickey was so overmatched by Koufax in that series that Mantle would yell back to Roseboro, "How the (expletive) do you hit this (expletive)!?"

Koufax who is intensely private did not want a book written about him but he decided that if book was going to be written about him anyway he might as well make sure it was accurate. He never gave Leavy an on the record interview but he was available to verify stories told to Leavy by people who knew Koufax.

Koufax has always been bothered by the perception of his private nature. People have assumed he is private because he is trying to hide something. This perception grates at Koufax. Leavy does a great job in the book of explaining his private nature and the real reason behind it. Leavy said that Koufax ruined all men for her. He is a true mench she would write and it turns out she was cheering for the wrong guy growing up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

25 Years Later...

Twenty-five years ago tonight I cried myself to sleep. I was 11 years old and I just witnessed something horrific, game six of the 1986 World Series. It was the worst night of my childhood but maybe it was a blessing in disguise.


1986 was a magical season and it was the first season that I followed closely from start to finish. By the time the playoffs began I was fully invested. The Red Sox were my team and I tuned in to watch them win it all. I tuned in expecting them to win it all. I was a month away from turning 12 and grew up in Upstate NY away from the angst of New England. I was naive and knew fairly little about Red Sox history. I had no baggage. My team had Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans,Wade Boggs and the guy I called "the glue", Marty Barrett. They were the best team in baseball and the best team wins it all, right?

Dave Henderson homered off of Rick Aguilera in the tenth inning putting the Red Sox up 5-3. They were three outs from winning it all. I started drinking kool-aid like it was victory champagne. The bottom of the tenth inning came and the first two Mets made outs. My team was now one out away from winning it all, with a two run lead and nobody on base. I drank more and more kool-aid. Then it all happened. I stopped drinking the kool-aid and my personal Red Sox baggage had arrived.

I was devastated. I watched game seven in silence knowing that the Red Sox would not win, and they didn't. I was a true Red Sox fan now. I had baggage, heart break and I was bigger fan than ever. What if the Red Sox would have won that night? Would I care about them as much as I do today? I doubt it. That night was awful but it made me determined to see the finish line. I wanted to know how it would feel if the Red Sox were to win it all. As each season passed after 1986 I wanted to feel it more and more. It became a passion bordering on an obsession.

Seventeen years later the Red Sox had the lead in game seven of the 2003 ALCS. It was the closest the Red Sox had been to winning it all since 1986. The Red Sox entered the 8th  inning with a three run lead. I was 28 years old now and was not celebrating. I was pacing around my apartment praying for six more outs. The confident kool-aid drinking 11 year old was killed off. The angst ridden, baggage filled 28 year old Red Sox fan was alive and not well.

All of that pain led up to the 2004 season. There are no words to describe what happened in 2004 and the feelings that long suffering Red Sox fans had after seeing their team finally get it right. I was 29 years old and cried when they won. I had an excuse twenty-five years ago when I cried myself to sleep, I was just 11 years old. I was now a month away from turning thirty and I was crying tears of joy over a baseball team. I wasn't alone twenty-five years ago and I know I wasn't alone seven years ago. That awful night in 1986 is what made 2004 so special. 2004 made that awful night in 1986 a less painful memory. October 25th will be tough to forget, it truly was the worst night of my childhood but in two days it will be the anniversary of one of the greatest nights of my life. Those tears of joy that flowed seven years ago were from that 11 year old inside of me. He finally got to see how it feels when his Red Sox won it all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 20, 2004: The Best of Times

October 20th, the holiest of holy days for Red Sox fans everywhere. They may have actually broke the 86 year championship drought a week later, but this was in many ways bigger. History was made and it was made at the expense of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was the best of times for the Red Sox and the worst day in Yankee history.
The Red Sox didn't just win Game 7 but they dominated it. It was over before it even started. The Red Sox finally snapped and beat up their long time bully. After two innings it was 6-0 Red Sox as David Ortiz continued his domination of Yankee pitching with a homer in the first inning. Johnny Damon hit a grand slam in the second inning. Mark Bellhorn would back up his huge homer in Game 6 with another homer in Game 7 and then Damon would homer one more time to complete the scoring. It was surreal. After three excruciating nights of nail biting games, the Red Sox exploded in Game 7. The last few innings were a coronation. Yankee fans were silenced in disbelief while Red Sox fans became louder and louder as each out was counted down. The Red Sox had their own party in Yankee Stadium.

The locker room scene after the game said it all. A huge weight had been lifted on a franchise and a fan base. Theo Epstein talked about payback for the 1949, 1978 and of course the 2003 failures to the Yankees. It was as emotional as anything I have ever witnessed. I was a grown man of 30 years old fighting back tears of joy. The tears would be there again a week later when the Sox would finish their sweep of the Cardinals and become World Champions but this night meant more in so many ways. It was revenge, the ultimate revenge.

The Red Sox were often associated with their failures, their choking and their 86 year drought. October 20th, 2004 erased all of that. No team in baseball history had ever come back to win a series after being down 3-0. The Red Sox had become the first that night and the Yankees instantly became the first team in MLB history to ever lose a series after being up 3-0. The Yankees were now associated with the biggest choke in baseball history. The 2011 Red Sox collapsed in September and by the numbers it was the worst collapse in baseball history but many teams have had big leads and blew it down the stretch in the regular season. The collapse was awful but it had been done before and besides it was for a wild card spot and the team that passed the Red Sox was the Tampa Rays, not the Yankees. There is no comparison.

The 2004 ALCS series will never go away. As long as sports is played and as long as teams go up 3-0 in a series the 2004 ALCS will be referenced. October 20th is the culmination of that miracle, the worst night in Yankee history, the best night in Red Sox history and fittingly the birthday of Mickey Mantle

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19, 2004: The Bloody Sock

The greatest thing about Game 6 is how it still bothers Yankee fans. Yankee fans still refuse to admit that Curt Schilling had anything wrong with his ankle. They are convinced the blood was fake and Schilling was just creating the drama. As a Red Sox fan I love it, it shows just how much the collapse bothers Bronx Nation. The facts are the facts, Schilling only made 11 starts the following season because of surgery and had an ERA of 5.69. Schilling was not the same in 2005 and in reality was never the same after that incredible night in 2004. It was the ultimate sacrifice by Schilling, he went out there on one leg and forever changed the Red Sox franchise. He will always be remembered for it and it was the kind of thing that may just push the Cooperstown doors open for him. The bloody sock will live on forever and be a thorn in the side of Yankee fans as long as there is baseball.


The Schilling heroics were far from the only story line from this game. Bronson Arroyo and the Alex Rodriguez saga continued in the 8th inning. The saga actually got it's start back on July 24th when Arroyo plunked AROD on his elbow pad in a game the Yankees were dominating. This touched off the infamous bench clearing brawl with Jason Varitek giving AROD a picture perfect facial. The Red Sox woke up on that day and came from behind and beat the Yankees with a walk off homer by Bill Mueller against the great Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox would use that win as a rallying point and it transformed them from a team that wasn't looking like postseason material into a very dangerous pennant contender.

With the Red Sox up 4-2 in the 8th inning they turned to Arroyo. The Red Sox bullpen was on fumes and Arroyo who served most of the season as the fifth starter was now asked to get three very big outs before turning things over to Keith Foulke. Arroyo struck out Tony Clark for the first out of the inning and then gave up a double to Miguel Cairo and a single to Derek Jeter. AROD was up with runners on the corners with one out in a two run game. Rodriguez had a chance to build a reputation right here as a true Yankee and a great postseason performer. Instead, he dribbled a ball off the end of his bat and then slapped the ball out of the glove of Arroyo.

 As the ball was rolling free, Cairo and Jeter scored. Alex was standing on second base and the game was briefly tied. I was watching in utter horror. Jeter was pumping his fist as he touched home plate and I was contemplating throwing my television out my bedroom window. The umpires came to the rescue and for the first time in the history of postseason baseball the Yankees did not get the call. Arroyo got Gary Sheffield to pop up and the Red Sox dream was alive and kicking. AROD would go hitless in Game 7 and would struggle the next several years in the postseason. He would briefly redeem himself in 2009 but Rodriguez will be more known for his big game failures than for anything else and it all started with that at bat against Bronson Arroyo seven years ago tonight.

While AROD began a personal trend of postseason failure, the Red Sox second basemen entered his name into Red Sox lore. Mark Bellhorn was booed incessantly by Red Sox fans throughout the 2004 playoffs. He hit just .091 against the Angels in the first round. Fans wanted Pokey Reese, but Terry Francona stuck with him, beginning a pattern that would define Francona's mangerial career in Boston. He always stuck with his veterans, it was a trait that angered many Red Sox fans but it was his style to the very bitter end. In Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS it paid off.  The Red Sox would win 4-2 and force a Game 7 thanks to a Mark Bellhorn three run homer and an incredible performance from Curt Schilling. Two of Tito's veterans stepped up when it mattered most making this 2004 team one to remember for the ages.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18, 2004: He Can Keep on Running to New York

Kevin Millar had warned everyone the night before not to let the Red Sox win. A Red Sox win in Game 4 would mean the Yankees would have to face Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling in Game 5 and a possible Game 6. When this series is remembered 25 years from now people will think about that and it will make sense to them how the Red Sox came back and it may take away some of the magic of it all. However, on October 18th, 2004 the reality of the situation was setting in for Red Sox fans.

The Game 4 win was incredible and it felt special but the issue going into Game 5 was that Pedro was no longer the Pedro that history will remember. His last dominant, prime season was really 2003. His ERA in 2004 was 3.90 and on top of that he was facing a Yankees team that had started to figure him out over the last couple of seasons. In 2004, Pedro was 1-2 against the Yankees with an ERA of 5.47.

Game 5 was the greatest game of the series. It was a game the Red Sox could have lost in a variety of ways. They didn't of course and the way they would win was truly special.

Pedro had a 2-1 lead headed to the 6th inning and was pitching pretty well. However, Pedro's pitch count was rising and his effectiveness was starting decline quickly. He loaded the bases with two outs and Derek Jeter delivered a three run double down the right field line. Yankees 4 Red Sox 2. I really thought it was over at this point. I had a bad feeling coming into this game with Pedro and those bad feelings were confirmed. Was it really possible we could rally again?

The 8th inning came and the heroes from Game 4 made their presence known in Game 5. On the mound for the Yankees was Tom Gordon, a pitcher who just six years earlier had a dominant season as the Red Sox closer. How dominant? Well, Stephen King, a Red Sox die hard fan, wrote a book called The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Gordon was brought in an inning earlier to face Manny Ramirez and got him to ground into a double play. David Ortiz would lead off the 8th inning and homer to cut the lead in half. There is a reason why Ortiz would eventually be named the ALCS MVP, this is just one of them. Kevin Millar would then walk, immediately he was pinch run for by Dave Roberts. Ring a bell? Trot Nixon was now up. Nixon signed with the Red Sox out of high school eleven years earlier. He was a fan favorite for the way he played and here he was in a huge spot. This was his chance to make a mark on the 2004 season in which injuries had limited him to just 48 games during the regular season. Roberts was running and Nixon was swinging. A base hit to center would put runners on the corners with nobody out. Gordon's night would be over, Mariano Rivera was summoned from the bullpen to redeem himself from the previous night. Rivera would face Jason Varitek and the captain would fly out to deep center, scoring Roberts to tie the game. Two nights and two runs scored by Roberts, both of which tied the game. He is now a Red Sox legend. Mark Bellhorn would then strike out as his slump continued and as fans would continue to question Francona and why he was sticking with him.

The game was far from over. It would last 14 innings and nobody would score from eighth inning. The five innings in between were excruciating. It really felt like I was losing my mind at times. The Red Sox offense went to sleep and I remember just waiting for the lineup to turn over until Manny and Papi would get up. Johnny Damon and Bellhorn were both slumping and were basically automatic outs at this point. Gabe Kapler pinch ran for Nixon in the 8th inning and he wasn't exactly a huge offensive threat. It was agonizing.

The Yankees did threaten a few times, most notably the infamous double by Tony Clark in the 9th inning that somehow jumped up into the seats negating Ruben Sierra from scoring.

Then there was Tim Wakefield, two nights earlier he had made the sacrifice in which I called his greatest night as a member of the Red Sox, well this night is right up there. He would pitch three innings, giving up just one hit, no runs and would strikeout four. He did this all the while pitching to Varitek who was awful at catching the knuckle ball. Every pitch that Wakefield would throw with a man on base was torture to watch. Usually you are just worried about a base hit but now you were worried about a base hit and if the guy didn't hit it would Varitek catch it. To make matters worse, the knuckle ball was really moving. There would be three passed balls during Wakefield's three innings of work but none would cost the Red Sox a run or the win. They found a way to survive until Big Papi showed up.

The 14th inning came and Damon who was swinging really bad managed to work a walk. Manny would also work a walk from Yankee pitcher Esteban Loaiza and then our Mr. October would fight off a single to center scoring Damon five hours and forty nine minutes after the first pitch of the game. I will never forget the image of Damon sprinting home and hearing Joe Buck say "here comes Damon, and he can keep on running to New York"  The Red Sox were headed to New York. They had survived Game 5 and fittingly Tim Wakefield would be the winning pitcher.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17, 2004: Don't Let Us Win Tonight

Where were you seven years ago tonight when Kevin Millar warned the Yankees?

"Don't let us win tonight"

A night earlier the Sox had been pounded 19-8 and I remember my friend Ben calling me and basically offering his condolences. Ben was still feeling guilty about the year before when the Red Sox seemed to be on their way to winning Game 7 of the ALCS.

Ben was on his way home from a friends house when he called me to check on the score. I told them the Red Sox were leading and it looked like it would be the night. Ben then showed up at my apartment to be part of the celebration. Things started going badly as soon as he showed up and when the Yankees finally tied it he left. He didn't stick around for the Aaron Boone home run. He knew that things would only get worse or maybe I scared him away when I threw my liter of bottled water against the cabinet, so long security deposit.

So here we were a year later and Ben was calling to check on me. I was in better spirits than Ben had anticipated. I had come to terms with it all. The Red Sox were never going to win and I just needed to enjoy the great game of baseball and the beauty of Fenway Park. I told Ben that we needed to take a road trip next season to Boston so he could finally see a game at Fenway Park. I went to bed looking to move on.

I woke up on the morning of the 17th feeling different though. I am not going to sit here and say I predicted a Red Sox comeback but I did feel they had a shot. After all they had come back from being down 2-0 in a series a year earlier against the Athletics. They had done the same thing in 1999 against the Indians. Those of course were just best of five series , this was a best of seven. The Red Sox would have to win four games in a row, not three and they would have to do it against the Yankees. It definitely seemed next to impossible especially since it had never happened in the history of baseball. Much like Kevin Millar, I was thinking kind of the same thing. We just needed to find a way to win tonight. I have always been this way. I have been a Red Sox fan since a young boy but grew up in Upstate NY. I didn't have that natural New England angst and the sky is falling mentality. Ever since I was little I always thought that my Red Sox were going to win. This is actually not a good thing because you really leave yourself open to getting kicked in the gut and trust me my guts have been kicked over and over again thanks to my beloved Sox.


The actual game was a classic. Derek Lowe was forced to start since Wakefield was no longer available. Lowe left the game with the lead, although he didn't pitch great. He would pitch much better a couple of nights later. Mike Timlin would cough up the lead that the Red Sox would eventually find a way to erase.

The guy who warned the Yankees several hours earlier had the pivotal at bat against the greatest closer in the history of baseball. Kevin Millar led off the ninth inning with the Red Sox trailing by a run. Millar has said that he was actually looking to take Mariano Rivera deep. Rivera was uncharacteristically wild and Millar found himself on first base where he was quickly pinch run for by Dave Roberts. As Roberts left the dugout, Tito Francona gave him a little wink. Roberts found himself on second base after a steal that will live on forever in Red Sox history. Only Jackie Robinson has a more famous stolen base in postseason history and fittingly both came against the Yankees.

The forgotten man did his job next with a base hit up the middle scoring Roberts and tying the game. Bill Mueller was the batting champ in 2003 and  hit a walk off homer against Mariano Rivera in the famous July 24th game which really got the Red Sox going. There are many heroes and legends from the 2004 Red Sox, Bill Mueller is one of those who often goes unmentioned.

Keith Foulke is another guy who history has tended to forget. He was amazing in this game. He didn't get the win or the save but pitched 2 and 2/3 innings, threw over 50 pitches and did not allow a hit. People like to bash the free agent track record of Theo Epstein but those same people tend to forget that Mueller, Millar and Foulke were all free agents signed by Theo.

David Ortiz would then end it in the 12th inning off of old friend Paul Quantrill. The crowd went nuts, the team went nuts and I went nuts as the ball landed in the bullpen. The series was now 3-1 but it felt like it was 3-3. Something special just happened, you could feel it. The Red Sox would live to play another day by winning an absolutely thrilling and crazy game. How crazy? Curt Leskanic got the win. Leskanic was waived by the last place Royals in June of that season.

The Yankees did just what Millar warned them not to do. They let the Red Sox years ago tonight.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16th, 2004: The Sacrifice

It is that time of year again, time for Red Sox fans to celebrate . After a 7-20 September and daily new revelations of a drunken and fat clubhouse, this yearly celebration could not get here soon enough. It is holiday time for Red Sox fans. Seven years ago tonight it all started. Now many people like to start the celebration tomorrow night but I feel the ultimate life altering, history making comeback began on October 16th, 2004.

While many Red Sox fans are still throwing up in their mouths about the selfishness of the 2011 team, there was no mistaking the unselfishness and heart that was exhibited seven years ago. The Red Sox were in the middle of getting clobbered at home by their most hated rival. They were on the brink of elimination and Tim Wakefield went and got his cleats and told Tito Francona that he could go as long as needed. This was remarkable given that Wakefield was scheduled to start in Game 4. Wake sacrificed a postseason start in order to save the bullpen and take a beating in the process. Wakefield threw 64 pitches over three innings of work giving up five hits and five runs. The Yankees would of course go on and win 19-8 but none of the key guys in the Red Sox bullpen had to pitch. Timmy fell on the sword and the comeback doesn't happen without him.


Ironically, Wakefield is one of the pitchers being questioned about his selfishness in 2011. His pursuit of career win 200 never did seem quite right and his quote after the season saying he wanted to come back next year because the fans deserve to see him go after the all time win record in Red Sox history also didn't seem exactly right. Seven years ago tonight just about everything went wrong. Wake went right and because he did we now get to celebrate it all over again. Happy Holidays Red Sox fans.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Anatomy of a Collapse

The Boston Globe detailed some new allegations and more detailed accounts of old allegations as the Red Sox collapsed their way out of the postseason. The old allegations surrounding pitchers drinking beer were given more detail, including names. The new allegations are about Tito Francona and the claim that he was distracted by marital problems and an abuse of prescription drugs.

Francona disputes being distracted but doesn't dispute marital problems or the fact he is on a steady dose of pain medication.

Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia have all spoken and not one of them has denied the allegations brought up by team sources. They were all careful not to throw anyone under the bus but not one of them said that the allegations were false. That says a lot. So here is the article, it is a great read and is all the more intriguing because it seems to be factual.

The issue I have with the article is the characterization of Tito Francona. Tito took full responsiblity for the Red Sox collapse. He refused to point fingers or throw any of the players under the bus. He took the high road and handled it with class. Unfortunately, the team "sources" decided to throw in under the bus in this article. It is pretty clear the source for this information is the ownership, in particular Larry Lucchino.

Dustin Pedroia voiced his anger with how Francona was treated in this audio clip

Keith Olbermann defends both Francona and Epstein in his blog and goes off again against Red Sox ownership on his tv show in this clip

Eric Wilbur also takes the ownership to task in this article.

The big question though deals with the Red Sox rotation and in particular John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. Lackey was horrible all season and Beckett and Lester were at their worst when the team needed them most.

When Jacoby Ellsbury homered to beat the Yankees on that Sunday night, I was convinced that the Red Sox would catch fire and make a very deep run in the postseason. This didn't happen. Instead, the aces of the staff would get hammered in their remaining starts taking away any momentum gained by the heroics of Ellsbury. It now appears that Beckett has always been this way. Peter Abraham is now reporting that Beckett had these issues dating back to his days with the Marlins. It got so bad that Jack McKeon had to lock the clubhouse during games so that Beckett and Brad Penny would not sneak back there and drink beer.

The Boston Herald's back page tomorrow will read that Beckett must go. I am starting to agree with them.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Colby Rasmus Fan Club

If Colby Rasmus was playing for the Red Sox and he didn't get along with Terry Francona, I would have my concerns. If Colby Rasmus went on to disrespect Francona, my blood would boil. If Colby refused to listen to Dave Magadan and instead turned to his own father for advice while batting just .246, I would want him shipped away as fast as possible. However, Tony LaRussa is involved and suddenly I feel like buying a Colby Rasmus jersey.

I am not a big fan of Tony LaRussa, I never have been. I tend to have issues with people who think they are the smartest person in the room when in reality they seldom are. I tend to have issues with people who are grossly overrated. I find the "genius" very easy to root against.

Let's start with how overrated he is as a manager. The Oakland A's were built by Sandy Alderson and were loaded. The genius manager was only able to win one title with them and in the process lost to the 1988 Dodgers and the 1990 Reds. Talent wise both of these teams were not close to Oakland, in fact the 1988 Dodgers might be the worst team in the history of baseball to ever win a World Series.

LaRussa is bad for the game. Proof of that was on display in the epic 19 inning Pirates/Braves game this week. The best pitcher in the Pirates bullpen is Joel Hanrahan who serves as their closer. He never appeared in the 19 inning game because the Pirates were on the road and they were never able to get the lead in any of the would be final innings. It is the dumbest trend in baseball. It is not even a trend anymore, it is part of the infamous "book" that every manager uses and has been using for about two decades now. Tony LaRussa, the cat whisperer himself is the one who started doing it years ago. Dennis Eckersley was the first specialist closer. He would only be used with a lead and only for one inning. Of course it had to be a save situation, if the lead was too big you wouldn't see Eckersley. If the game was tied in the 9th inning or 19th inning you wouldn't see The Eck. These new closer rules caught on faster than alcoholism in the Billy Martin family tree.

Lastly, there is his defense of Mark McGwire. Nothing wrong with defending one of your guys but the way LaRussa did it made Roger Clemens look intelligent. When Jose Canseco came forward with his story about injecting McGwire it was LaRussa who sprinted to the microphone to defend Big Mac. LaRussa called Canseco a liar and lazy. Tony was adamant that McGwire was clean and always had been clean. LaRussa, who has a law degree and reminds you of that in every book that he writes, looked into the camera through those "intimidating" shades and said he would always see McGwire lifting weights. He explained nobody worked harder than McGwire. Lips pursed, the genius manager would talk about how Mac killed himself in the weight room with marathon sessions six days a week. LaRussa would then pause, staring into that camera as if he had just given the ultimate evidence that his boy Mark was as pure as the driven snow. Of course there were a few problems with this theory. The first problem is that most people understand that performance enhancing drugs only work if you are working out. PED's give you the ability to recover faster after workouts enabling you to work out for longer period of times and more frequently. The impassioned speech that the genius gave to defend McGwire just gave more credence to just how dirty Mark was. You would think an intelligent man like LaRussa already knew that. Maybe those drunk nights of falling asleep behind the wheel of his car had caught up to him. The facts are getting injected with PED's and then sitting on the couch for six months are not going to turn you into an impressive physical specimen. Marathon weight lifting sessions six days a week? There is only one way a human being can do that Tony.

The other issue of course is that McGwire eventually admitted to using illegal steroids and performance enhancing drugs. LaRussa didn't have too much to say after that, instead he hired him as the Cardinals hitting coach. Now I don't know what happened between Rasmus, McGwire and LaRussa but I am giving the benefit of the doubt to Rasmus. Can you blame me?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Love Letter to Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter reached the 3,000 hit plateau a little over a week ago. My blog has turned into a Jeter blog the last several weeks and I have received more than a few emails asking why I did not post about Jeter's great accomplishment instead of bashing him all the time. In my defense I was on vacation, then again I did manage to bash Roger Clemens in a blog post from the beach house. So here it is, a favorable blog post about Jeter.

I will be the first to admit that I was shocked when Jeter went deep for #3,000. It was even more shocking that it was hit to left field and wasn't cheap. If you told me Jeter would go deep for his milestone hit, I would have guessed a pop fly to right field at Yankee Stadium with Jeffrey Maier stretched out over the warning track. I even tweeted this minutes before the homer:

Michael Dobreski
Where in the infield will Jeter's 3,000th hit stop rolling? 

I admit it, The Jete made me eat my twitter words. Derek would get five hits on the day and I can appreciate how great it must have been to be a Yankee fan at the ballpark to witness it all. I have my issues with Jeter and mainly how he is perceived by the so called baseball experts but I have always respected the way he plays the game. He always plays hard, always runs hard down to first base and gets the most out of his ability. He is the anti Robinson Cano.

I also respect the fact that he put up these numbers without the use of performance enhancing drugs. Obviously, nobody knows for sure who used and who didn't but evidence suggest Jeter has been clean throughout his career. This evidence has really been strong the last two years as Jeter has looked very old. This is not a knock on Jeter, just a fact. Jeter is aging like many great ballplayers have done in the past. Remember Willie Mays falling down in Shea Stadium? (my father just experienced chest pains as he read that, sorry Dad)

You don't peak at age 37, you regress, sorry to the fans of Barry Bonds who still have their head buried in the sand. Jeter is in decline and while it may be tough for his fans to watch, it doesn't hide the fact that it is happening. If I were a Jeter fan I would celebrate his decline as proof that he was clean all his career.

So to recap, I gave credit to Jeter's home run, praised his work ethic, put him in the same sentence with Willie Mays and also killing my father in the process and finally I proclaimed him PED free, a rarity in the Yankee clubhouse. Now let's move on.

The five hit day by Jeter ultimately will benefit the Red Sox because it gives the Jeter apologists a platform to say he is not done and should continue as the Yankee lead-off hitter. Those five hits may add an extra two weeks to the inevitable and those two weeks could be the difference between a playoff spot, a division title, or sitting home in October. The Yankees are not a better team with Jeter leading off. If Jeter really cared about winning above all else he would request to be moved down in the order and make Joe Girardi's job easier but I have beat these points into the ground on my previous posts which you can find here and here and here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

First Half Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox enter the second half of the season with a 55-35 record. This is even more impressive when you consider the infamous 0-6 start even though I warned all Red Sox fans in this blog post they will look foolish if they jumped off the bandwagon. It is now time to figure out if this Sox team can win it all. Let's take a look at the key players from opening day and see how they have faired so far. We will place them in one of three categories:  

The Over Performed Category

Too many players in this category and the likelihood of a bad second half of the season is very real.

Jacoby Ellsbury
Adrian Gonzalez
David Ortiz
Josh Beckett

The four players above have had incredible seasons so far. Beckett has found his form. Ortiz looks like he has found the fountain of youth. Ellsbury looks like he has become what Red Sox fans have always hoped he would become. Adrian Gonzalez has been better than ever. There is bound to be some regression in the second half from these players. Beckett has already started to have some health issues. However, Ellsbury may have finally reached his potential and maybe in a year from now this type of production will be the norm for him. Ortiz is not getting any younger but usually his struggles come early in the season, not late. He is playing for a new contract so the regression shouldn't be too much. Then there is Adrian Gonzalez, he has surpassed the crazy expectations and projections so far. He seems to be impossible to get out. It is hard to maintain a .350 average with power but he might just be the best hitter in the game and he is in his prime. The regression risk is low.

Under Performed

Carl Crawford
J.D. Drew
Dustin Pedroia
Kevin Youkilis
John Lackey
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Bobby Jenks

The more guys you have in this category, the more likely a team will have a good second half. Pedroia and Youkilis started out slow but have been hot as of late. Their batting averages are still under what you would expect from them. Look for them both to have a great second half of the season.

Crawford was horrible to start the season. He then got red hot and then got hurt. Carl Crawford is a great player and will have a better second half then he had in the first half of the season. How good that is might determine the ultimate success for the Red Sox.

Matsuzaka is done for the year, thank god! Lackey can't possible pitch worse. He looked much better in his last start but he is still a huge wild card. It is real hard to count on him. Jenks has also struggled and has had injury issues. He is also very hard to count on for the second half.

J.D. Drew may be done. I have always been a big supporter of his and what he can bring to the team but he is definitely on the downside of his career. Does he have that one great month left in him when he can carry a team? I doubt it, but you never know.

As Expected

Marco Scutaro
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Jon Lester
Clay Buchholz
Jonathan Papelbon
Daniel Bard

Lester has been good but I do think he can be even better in the second half. Everyone else has performed like many expected.

The Red Sox are in real good shape. The players who are having great seasons are not likely to have a huge regression. The majority of players who are under performing are very likely to have a big impact on the second half of the season The issue for the Red Sox will be the health of the pitching staff. Buchholz is dealing with lingering back issues, Beckett having issues with his knee, Lackey having elbow problems. The season could become a disaster very quickly if those guys are unable to perform. Andrew Miller may end up being the key to the season. That could be scary or exciting depending on how you look at it

Roger Clemens Strikes Out the Government

Sometimes things work out for stupid people. Roger Clemens is the real life Forrest Gump.

The Texas Con Man demanded to be heard by Congress when he didn't have to be heard and lied through his teeth. The Government went after him for perjury and lost badly when the judge declared a mistrial during day two.

Clemens will now wait until September when it will be decided whether or not the trial will get a second life. The likelihood of a second trial is remote since the Government has already spent $10 million in tax payer's money to go after the Rocket.

Cases are won in lost during jury selection and the judges ruling. Judge Walton ruled early on that the prosecutors could not use info about other players and their PED use. When the prosecutors showed a video tape that talked about Andy Pettitte and his testimony the rules were broken. It doesn't make Clemens any more innocent than Casey Anthony. It does make him a free man though.

Clemens denial is all about protecting his legacy. Roger has won the battle for his freedom but his legacy has been destroyed. Is there really anyone out there who believes he never touched any performance enhancing drugs? There is too much evidence against him and his story doesn't make any sense to the general public. He will be lumped in with all the other cheaters during the steroid era and will only get into the Hall of Fame when all the rest do. Maybe things are not working out for Roger after all.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Derek Jeter Debate Continues

I know what you are thinking. Another Jeter post? I can't help it, this keeps on getting more and more interesting. Derek Jeter is now two hits away from 3,000 and has been back for four games since coming off the disabled list. In all four games Jeter has batted lead off and the Yankees record is 1-3. Keep in mind the Yankees were 14-4 while Jeter was out. The Yankees went from trailing the Red Sox in the standings with Jeter, to taking the lead in the division without him, to falling back behind the Red Sox in the four games since he has been back in the lineup. It has led to a division among Yankee fans about what to do with Jeter.

Don Mattingly, was also a Yankee captain and he made some interesting comments on the Michael Kay Show. "Sometimes you have to put your ego aside and do what's best for the team" said Mattingly when asked about his 1995 season and moving down in the order. Mattingly was no longer the hitter he used to be in 1995 and he realized that and instead of making his manager's job even tougher, he would make it easier. Mattingly volunteered to move out of the #3 spot in the order in 1995 because he knew that Paul O'Neill deserved to be there and more importantly the Yankee captain knew it would make the team better. This is what a captain should do and so far Jeter is reluctant to do the right thing. It appears he is going to leave it in the hands of his manager which will only further the divide among the growing faction of Yankee fans and it may even cause a problem in the Yankee clubhouse. Jeter can stop all of this by doing the right thing, by doing what Mattingly did in 1995.

Joel Sherman had the following things to say about Jeter and the issue of him leading off and playing every day:
  • Nobody comes to see the Yankees play, they come to see the Yankees win and currently Joe Girardi has the worst hitter in the lineup leading off and getting more at bats than anyone else in that lineup.
  • Jeter has a .690 OPS over the last two seasons. The small sample size excuse is no longer valid.
  • Jeter is one of the lowest extra base percentage guys in the MLB
  • Jeter is hitting .179 with runners in scoring position. The clutch argument and the intangible argument are no longer valid.
  • Jeter hits line drives only 4% of the time, the third worst percentage in all of baseball.
  • Brett Gardner should be leading off. His OBP is forty points higher, he has more speed than Jeter, making him more likely to steal a base, go from first to third base on single and score more often from second base on a hit than Jeter would. These are all things that make a difference between wins and losses and can help explain the Yankees record with Jeter in the lineup and when he is not in the lineup.
Many Yankee fans understand these things and really think Jeter's days leading off are over and also think that he shouldn't be out there every single day. Then there are the Jeter apologists. The classic one is Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay. Here are some of Michael Kay's thoughts:

  • You can't disrespect Derek by moving him down in the lineup, it will crush his soul. There is no reason to do that.
  • I would sacrifice a season or two in order not to disrespect Derek Jeter.
  • Brett Gardner is not Rickey Henderson so there is no reason you have to move Jeter out of the lead off spot.

The debate continues.

The Fighting Showalters

The fiasco that took place at Fenway Park is the responsibility of one man, Buck Showalter. This all began before the season began when Buck took a shot at Theo Epstein and the high payroll Red Sox. Showalter started to back track on these statements not too long after they came out. Maybe he realized he was the wrong person to criticize high payroll teams since his previous stops were all on high payroll teams. Showalter is still the ring less wonder. The best moves his previous teams made was to let him go as both the Yankees and Diamondbacks won championships the very first year without Buck. There is no question Buck is bitter about this. The chip on his shoulder coupled with his enormous ego make for a dangerous combination. This combination blew up Friday night in Fenway Park.

The Orioles and their "genius" manager were obviously upset because of the Red Sox eight run first inning. It went against the plan Buck had at the start of the season to "kick the ass" of these high payroll teams. So in the eighth inning Kevin Gregg attempted to hit David Ortiz with a pitch. He failed the first time and tried again, and failed again. He tried one more time, and one more time he failed. Three pitches, all way inside, but none making contact with Ortiz.  It was obvious what he was doing even though he lacked the actual ability to do it. Ortiz took exception and both teams were warned. It was now a 3-0 count and Ortiz took a huge swing and popped it up. Gregg then motioned to Ortiz and shouted something in his direction. Immediately he was ejected by the home plate umpire just as Ortiz went and charged the mound.

The post game comments are the key. Kevin Gregg was apparently upset that Ortiz was swinging at a 3-0 pitch in a 10-3 game. Once again it appears the Sox had hurt the feelings of the Orioles, the team that is supposed to "kick the ass" of the high payroll teams this year. Gregg then talked about the pitches he threw at Ortiz and gave the standard line of trying to control both sides of the plate and that the Red Sox are whiners. Gregg's comments smell of Showalter. The "we won't back down to anybody" mantra is the preaching Buck has been doing with this team and Gregg has apparently bought all in. A once proud Oriole franchise has been a joke for quite a while now and they took another step back with the Showalter hiring, and now their behavior at Fenway has them crashing to a new low.

"What do we have to whine about?" asked Jonathan Papelbon following the game. Great point, the team that has the most to whine about on the field Friday night was not the Red Sox but the Orioles. The good news is they are only one move away from winning it all. Just ask the Yankees and Diamondbacks what that move needs to be.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Roger Clemens is the Texas Con Man

One day after the Casey Anthony trial ends, the Roger Clemens trial will begin. The Texas Con Man gets his day in court and somewhere Will McDonough is smiling and not the least bit shocked at the turn of events in the life of the Rocket.

Roger is facing perjury charges where a conviction could lead to jail time. I can't imagine Roger beating this. His story is absolutely ridiculous. His lies are so bad they are comical. However, anything can happen as we all just found out in the Casey Anthony trial.

The case centers around Roger, his trainer Brian McNamee, Andy Pettitte and Roger's wife. Click here to read what I wrote a few months ago about this very interesting relationship.

I am sure Clemens has his supporters. I used to be one. As a boy he was my hero. I hated Will McDonough and Dan Duquette. I thought John McNamara was a liar, there was no way my baseball idol would ever ask out of Game 6 of the World Series. I was wrong though. Will McDonough was right, Clemens is a con man. Duquette was right, Clemens was in the twilight of his career and ended up turning to PED's because Roger also knew it was true. John McNamara was right, Roger did ask out of Game 6 of the World Series because he had a blister. Do I have evidence? None, but I have learned that Roger tends to lie when his lips move.

Here is my reminder about what you need to believe in order to believe Roger is innocent:

First we look at the facts. All these things did happen as all parties involved admitted to it happening:

  • Andy Pettitte was injected with HGH by Brian McNamee
  • Chuck Knoblauch was injected with HGH by Brian McNamee
  • Debbie Clemens was injected with HGH by Brian McNamee
  • Brian McNamee was Roger Clemens personal trainer and also worked for the Blue Jays and later the Yankees.

Now we look at the disputed facts:

  • Brian McNamee says he injected Clemens with HGH
  • Andy Pettitte says Roger Clemens told him that McNamee injected him with HGH
  • Roger Clemens says he has never used steroids or HGH
  • Roger says he never talked with Andy Pettitte about steroids or HGH and Andy just "misremembered"
  • Roger says he never even heard of steroids or HGH until his wife told him that Brian McNamee injected her with HGH at the family home when Roger was out.
  • Roger says Brian McNamee only injected him with B12 shots in the buttocks.

Who ya got? Let the trial begin.