Seroids, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Loathe The List

David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez join Sosa, A-Rod, and Bonds as players named on the now infamous list.

But let’s be clear about this list (that’s not even supposed to
exist). It was a voluntary testing program to learn how wide-spread
performance enhancing drug (PED) use was in major league baseball. We
don’t know how wide spread, we don’t know if there were other lists,
but it is important to remember that at the time, many of the PEDs that
players tested positive for WERE NOT banned.

Another thing about the list: It is not a guide to who used
steroids in the majors. Some of the players on the ever-blessed list
tested positive for items that you can buy at a drug store and weren’t
banned by major league baseball until 2005.

So, before we judge anybody–and I’m including my least favorite player in all of baseball Alex Rodriguez in this–we have to know what they took, for how long, and why.

To automatically judge based on a name on a list…did we learn
nothing from Joe McCarthy? His “list” of card-carrying communists was a
farce. This list is a little more serious, but it doesn’t discriminate
between a legit ‘roid user and someone who used something that wasn’t banned at the time to get over an injury.

Quite frankly I’m sick and tired of hearing about steroids in
baseball. The only people who really care about perpetuating this
nonsense is the media. The fans, the players, and everyone else would
just like to move on. The media won’t let us.

I’d like to see whoever is leaking these names step forward and
claim responsibility. That @%*hole should be in jail. No one seems to
have compunctions that the way we’re getting information about this
list is ILLEGAL. 

Doesn’t anyone wonder why, if David Ortiz was juicing in 2003, his
post-season batting average was below the Mendoza line? Anybody else
wonder if Ortiz’s bat heated up by getting a different batting coach
and having Manny Ramirez hitting behind him? Is that so terribly
illogical that a 27-year-old baseball player could discover his swing
after going to a new club?

Gee. What a novel idea.

Barry Bonds got huge. He was quite literally a Giant. That is not
natural. Ortiz had a seemingly natural progression and hey…he’s in
the middle of what looks like a natural digression.

Here’s an analogy for you. For those of you who prefer things to be politically correct, stop reading now or skip ahead. It’s an analogy to
make a point, nothing more. For those of you still reading, answer
these questions: Do you respect Thomas Jefferson? George Washington?
James Madison? Do you think they were great men?

They were all slave owners. When they lived, slavery was a common
practice, it was not illegal. Yes, it sucked. Yes, it was wrong. And no
one is denying that it was a terrible thing and it’s sad that America
was formed with that institution still in place.

So does that change your opinion of the founding fathers? Should
they go into the history books with an asterisk because slavery was
outlawed almost one-hundred years later? Are they no longer great men?

No.

It’s the same with these players. Habitual juicers…I have more of
an issue with them, but if they weren’t breaking the rules, they don’t
deserve to be punished. Period.

We don’t call for discrediting of men who had questionable practices before it was illegal, why should we do it now?

It’s certainly something to think about. It’s not a black and white
issue, and it’s not something to be judged without all sides of the
story.

Do your research. The media will not tell you all the facts and you
can’t trust the TV. You have to look for yourself. How many people know
what that list is and why none of the names are supposed to be
released? How many people know that the players weren’t doing anything
against the rules at the time of the test?

As fans, we have a responsibility to look into the stories we are
fed every day. We have a responsibility to read and learn and make our
own decisions. As for me, I’m behind Papi 100%. I’m betting it comes
out that he was not a habitual juicer, and he might be one of the ones
who used something over the counter he didn’t even know was a PED, or
didn’t know it’d be banned later. 

How to Succeed At Belichick University

The New England Patriots “system”, run by Bill Belichick is not easy. It requires a player to be smart, selfless, dedicated, and hard working. Some players succeed and thrive in this environment, others drop out because they can’t hack it. Some transfer and some are sent away, finished or not.

The ones that finish have a much easier time, generally, than the ones who weren’t a fit for the system.

One only needs to watch five minutes of a press conference to realize that as a coach, Bill Belichick is not easy to please. He’s ornery, short, and cross. Sort of like a super-secretive mob boss with a Napoleonic complex.

But that makes him a good coach, possibly one of the best ever. His players don’t make excuses, they are quizzed on their opponents, they are expected to understand the game of football and their place in it.

If you can’t handle that, the Patriots will simply replace you with someone who can. Sentiment has no room in New England, you have to have the right stuff year in and year out or you’re gone.

It’s a rather harsh system, but has produced some great people, on and off the field.

Reigning MVP Tom Brady went down in 2008, and back-up to the stars Matt Cassel stepped in, and the Patriots still won 11 games.

2008 is a testament to Belichick University, and the New England system. It is built so all the parts are interchangeable and replaceable. They just have to know what to do.

Some of the players in the organization have fully grasped this concept and are well on their way to succeeding in life outside of football.

Rodney Harrison, the most recent graduate of the Patriots, is already making waves as a commentator. He’s frank, honest, and doesn’t give a flying fig about Farve. It’s refreshing to find a talking head who still has a pair.

He’s already one of my favorite commentators, not just because he’s one of my guys, but because he’s the tamer, friendlier, Curt Shilling of the NFL. Curt will tell you exactly how he feels and what he thinks about a situation. Rodney will do the same, but he’s a hair more tactful than Curt.

Then there’s Mike Vrabel. Vrabel went to the Cheifs with Cassel for a second round pick this year. He’s getting older, and a bit slower, but this was not an easy trade to understand. Vrabel, despite some of the physical problems, is likely a future coach. Or at least an analyst.

He’s a quick wit, but all that football humor comes from a deep understanding of the game and the ability to learn the game as he plays it.

The Patriots will miss his presence in the locker room, certainly, but Vrabel should be destined for great things. Whether its as an analyst or a coach, Mike should continue with the game mentally when he can no longer play physically.

There are a few graduates who are still waiting for some final grades to see if they’ve passed:

Matt Cassel. He may be flash in the pan as far as pure talent goes, but there’s a lot to be said about what he learned as Brady’s back-up and as the starter in the Patriot’s system. If he remembers half of what he learned in New England, and the Cheif’s O-line protects him consistently, he’ll be a decent QB.

Then there’s Josh McDaniels. The rookie head coach of the Denver Broncos was brought up in the Patriots organization, and is attempting to run Denver the same way. That didn’t work out with Jay Cutler, but you have to wonder if maybe the rest of the team will start bucking under.

If McDaniels manages to get that locker room under control and starts to make moves to improve the team, he’ll be up there with Harrison.

The hardest thing for McDaniels now will be in trying to run the Broncos the way the Patriots are run. That system didn’t happen overnight, it has to be built. If he can get Marshall to stop bucking for a trade and settle down to play, he’ll be taking a step in the right direction.

Then there are those who have failed. Most of them never played enough snaps in the NFL to even matter.

The New England system is a unique one.

On one hand it is an incredible learning environment. You will come out of the organization with more football knowledge than you cam in with. On the other, its a ruthless and heartless mob. No one is safe from the ax, expectations are high, and lack of preparation is not accepted

The “university” is all about winning, and the Dean is one ornery, smart, slightly obsessive, and somewhat profane perfectionist named Bill Belichick.

The Boston Red Six?

On Friday, the Boston Red Sox
take on the Toronto Blue Jays to kick off the second half of the
season. On the hill for the Red Sox will be Clay Buchholz.

Many will remember Buchholz from his no-hitter in September 2007.
Others remember how bad his 2008 season was, as he was shipped off to
the minors.

In 2009, Buchholz has been dominating while playing for Triple-A
Pawtucket. But with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Brad
Penny, and Dice-K, there was no room on the rotation.

When Dice-K went down, John Smoltz stepped up. So what do you do with the sixth man on the pitching roster?

If you’re Terry Francona, you should put him in the rotation. Does this mean that the Red Sox could have a six-man rotation?

It’s possible. If Buchholz proves that he has what it takes to pitch
at the major league level again, it will be difficult to take him out
of the rotation.

Early in the season, there was talk by the fans/media about Tim
Wakefield eventually landing in the bullpen, but he’s tied for the lead
league in wins (with Josh Beckett).

How about John Smoltz? If he’s locating his pitches, he’s great, which means he will stay on the roster.

How about Penny? There was the thought he might be traded, but
that’s not going to happen anymore. Lester and Beckett are certainly
not going anywhere. Maybe if Dice-K goes to rehab, they can throw him
in the ‘pen.

Then you look towards August and September. By then, Dice-K will hopefully be back in good form, leaving the Red Sox with seven quality starters. That is if everyone stays healthy.

As usual, the Red Sox have approached the season with their eyes on
October. Slipping in April and May and late-slump before the All-Star
break mean absolutely nothing at this point.

A few days rest will do the bullpen some good, and they should
bounce back from the issues they’ve had the past two weeks or so. Bay
and Youkilis are seemingly heating up again, and Papi seems to be
rejuvenated.

Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have improved their starts lately. They
seem to be the aces we expected at the beginning of the year.

Smoltz is looking good. Penny is looking good. Clay Buchholz can only add to the rotation.

As far as Wakefield is concerned, his first ever All-Star game
should only serve to motivate and inspire him to keep pitching well.

Would this six man rotation work for the Red Sox? It cuts down on
the number of starts, and thus, the number of possible wins. On the
other hand, would the extra rest make the starters more likely to win?

We might actually get to see the answer to that question.

The Red Sox don’t care if Josh Beckett only has the opportunity to win 15 more games instead of 20, and he doesn’t either.

No one will care if this method helps win a World Series. In fact,
if that happens, six-man rotations might become the new rule in
baseball.

Or maybe not.

The big question facing the Red Sox in the second half is a good
one; what do we do with our extra pitching? They basically have great
bargaining chips that won’t hurt the team if they go.

This would not be a bad move on the Red Sox part. This could put
them in prime position to make a great run in October, whether they use
five or six pitchers in their rotation.

Return to the Beasts of the East

On March 16, 2009, I made the following predictions for the NL East:

  1. Mets
  2. Phillies
  3. Marlins
  4. Braves
  5. Nationals

And I said they were the best division in the National League. I also made these predictions about the AL East:

  1. Red Sox
  2. Rays
  3. Yankees
  4. Jays
  5. Orioles

And I claimed they were the best division in the American League.

How have my predictions stacked up so far?

Lets start with the NL East. I picked the Mets to win the division because they beefed up their pitching and looked good. Injuries and bizarre mental mistakes seem to have plagued the Mets. They’re in fourth, 6.5 games back from the lead. I also predicted that whoever won the NL East, the second place team would win the Wild Card.

The Marlins, as I suspected, were going to be good this year, as well as the Braves. They are young, but talented teams. The Braves aren’t likely to take the division this year, but the Marlins are only four games out and with the Phillie’s pitching woes, that’s not far enough back.

So, my new predictions are this:

  1. Florida Marlins
  2. Philadelphia Phillies*
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. New York Mets
  5. Washington Nationals

The Mets, Braves, Phillies, and Marlins should stay fairly close to each other throughout the season, but even firing Manny Acta won’t help the Washington Nationals.

*I think the Marlins take this division unless the Phillies manage to land Roy Halliday or Pedro Martinez has discovered the fountain of youth. If one or both of these things happen, the Phillies will take the division.

I no longer believe the Wild Card will come out of this division, the Wild Card will come from the West, and it will either be the San Francisco Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The second division I delved into was the American League East. I was much closer in my predictions in this division were much closer.

This division has certainly not been a disappointment. Toronto started the season on a hot streak, and though injuries have dropped them to 11 games off the lead, what they did in May and April is still impressive.

The Rays pitching woes have kept them out of first place, but they are hanging around at 6.5 games behind the lead.

Despite spending enough money to buy a small country, the Yankees pitching staff and bullpen have been inconsistent, at best. Wang’s been plagued with issues, Sabathia is good, most of the time. Burnett has been less than stellar, and Chamberlain hasn’t been great.

But their home-run hitting offense, coupled with the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium, have kept the Yanks in the mix just 3 games back.

And despite a rough April and May, and a little rough patch lately, the Red Sox pitching staff has been the best in the division. In the last 16 games that Beckett or Lester have started in, the Red Sox are 14-2, and both are coming off stellar pitching performances.

The offense has slumped slightly, but the balanced batting order can compensate for one player who seems to be struggling.

So how will the second half shape up for the AL East? Roy Halladay is the big bargaining chip that can make a big difference in any team’s fate. If the Rays manage to land him, they will certainly make a run at the Division. If the Yankees land him, they could overtake the Red Sox and win. If the Red Sox take Halladay? No team can stand up against the rotation of Beckett, Lester, Halladay, Wakefield, possibly Penny and Smoltz, and maybe even Clay Buchholz.

So the fate of Roy Halliday aside, how does this division stack up?

  1. Boston Red Sox*
  2. Tampa Bay Rays+
  3. New York Yankees^
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

*This is a close call. If the Red Sox can straighten out their bull pen and get the offense going again, it will be difficult to take this team out. They’re built for the post-season, and if they continue the domination of the East, they will be difficult to beat.

+The Rays can out-run the Yankees and the Red Sox, but if they don’t get their pitching staff consistently preforming, they won’t be able to beat them.

^The Yankees offense alone keeps them in this race. Their pitching is questionable, and they’ve delt with some injuries that haven’t helped. If this offense hits a road bump, though, the Yankees could be in some real trouble.

My final prediction is this: the Wild Card will come out of the AL East.

We’ll see in December just how good my predictions are.

Mismanaged: Joe Maddon and the All-Star Game

Kevin Youkilis was a few thousand votes away from being the starter
at first base for the American League. Jason Bay led the outfield in
votes, Boston had the most players selected to the All–Star roster by the fans.

So how exactly is it that the five Red Sox that went to the All–Star
game had a total of three at–bats, one inning pitched, and four innings
in the field?

Tampa Bay, who did not have anyone selected to start, ended up with
three players playing a total of nine innings with five at–bats.

That couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Joe Maddon, the
manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, was manging the AL All–Stars and the Red
Sox are 6.5 games ahead of the Rays in the AL East standings, right?

I don’t think so.

Last year’s epic 15–inning affair, managed by Terry Francona, seemed
much more evenly distributed. The starters got one, maybe two times up
to the plate, and everyone that could get into the game got playing
time.

The game being 15 innings long might have had something to do with
it, but the point stands. Terry Francona gave every single All–Star
their chance to shine, whether they were a Ray, a Yankee, or an
Athletic. It didn’t matter; these guys were there to be exhibited, so
everyone should get their shot on the field and at the plate.

The AL won. Congratulations. Whatever.

This year’s game was a huge disappointment. It was boring, the
changes were hard to keep up with because certain players were
replaced, while others moved all around the field to make sure they
weren’t replaced.

I can’t complain too much about the pitching; that was handled fine,
with the exception of Wakefield. His selection was one of the feel–good
stories of this All–Star Game and he doesn’t even get to pitch?

Come on! He’s 42 and was selected to his first ever All–Star team.
Fun fact: there are only two pitchers in the American league with 11
wins. Both made the All–Star roster, neither made it into the game.
Beckett didn’t play because he just pitched, so that was
understandable, but not putting Tim Wakefield in the game?

Maybe I didn’t enjoy the game as much because the Red Sox were being
pulled away from the spotlight as fast as possible by Maddon. Maybe it
was because there were no homers and a lot of cheap hits that are just
too ordinary.

I have to wonder; had Dustin Pedroia played, would he have stayed in
the game as long as non–starter Carl Crawford or Mark Teixeira?

Judging from last night, I’d say no.

I’m beginning to wonder if the only reason Beckett and Wakefield
made the team was that Maddon couldn’t find a legitimate reason to
exclude them from the roster. His bias would have been too obvious had
he left the two 11–game winners off the roster in favor of guys in
different uniforms with 10 wins or less.

Honestly, this game doesn’t mean much to me personally, but the
pride people take in playing in this game deserves more respect than
that. It deserves more than a manager playing favorites.

I get that having the pitcher batting makes things difficult, but to
not even put Kevin Youkilis, arguably one of the best defensive first
basemen in the league, on the field for even one inning is beyond
disrespectful to his talent and to the fans.

At the end of the game, I switched sides. I started rooting for the
National League, because there was no one left on the field for the
American League that I gave a rat’s you–know–what for.

I might have been more inclined to stick with my league of choice had I felt it was managed correctly.

But last night, I would have gladly traded home field advantage if it meant that Joe Maddon would lose that game.

Living With Blinders On: Cheating, Points-Shaving, and the Mob


I was listening to the “Best of the Jim Rome Show” on the radio the other day, and I caught his interview with Michael Franzese, a former member of the Colombo family.

This guy was a big time mob guy who, after serving time, has become a motivational speaker. At least, until whoever’s left of the Colombo’s gets a hold of him. Hopefully that won’t happen any day soon, because he gave an eye-opening interview.

Most of us know that the mob was (and probably still is) connected to gambling. And athletes and officials with a gambling problem or a debt are offered an “easy” way out. Just shave a few points, miss a few fouls, blow a few calls to cover the spred and your money problems are over.

According to Franzese, who enforced the collection of those debts, it was rampant throughout college and professional sports.

That brings up the question: just how naive are we, as sports fans?

You would think in the days of 24-hour sports networks, and a rampant, invasive media-driven culture we’d know all about any illegal actions and any gambling problems of every professional and high-profile college player.

But in the days of Internet gambling and athletes with more money than sense, do we even have a clue how many are involved with stuff like this?

Its like steroids in baseball, we know about the A-Rods and the Manny Ramirezes and the Barry Bonds, but exactly how rampant was the use of steroids and how many players are still using? There are a handful of guys you can look at in the majors today and say “these guys have never and will never use ‘roids“.

Guys like Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Michael Cuddyer, to name a few, have too much respect for the game to use steroids. Hopefully, guys like that are becoming the rule instead of the exception.

But if they were the exception, that means the rule was the steroid users. That’s more guys than the Mitchell Report, more guys than any who have come out and said anything, like Jose Canseco, and more records that are quite possibly tainted.

And no one knew this was going on?

If we expand that to other sports, how many Tim Donaghys are there still in the NBA? A foul can change the course of a game, and a single game can change the course of a player, team, coach or franchise. How many of them are out there and why hasn’t anyone noticed this before?

The same could be said in college basketball, the NCAA and the NFL. How many non-calls and phantom calls have been human error and how many have been to cover the spread?

Many NFL fans are still naive, they still have the blinders on. When the Patriots were caught video taping in 2007, many fans believe that New England was the only team unscrupulous enough to do that. Puh-lease. Get a clue. It’s a copy-cat league, and whether the action they are copying is legal or not, if it works, other teams will do it.

The only team I can say with some degree of certainty wasn’t doing that is probably the Colts. Aside from Tony Dungy, all coaches are that unscrupulous if it means they’ll win more games

It seems to me that the sports world still has more questions than answers when it comes to this sort of thing. It all falls under on category: cheating. And the cheating is usually tied to the money.

Players and officials may cheat for money, or to repay a debt they’ve accrued. Coaches and players cheat to get more wins or more homers or to recover faster from an injury. All of this revolves around the all-mighty dollar.

How long have we been walking around with blindfolds on? And the greatest question of all: how prevalent is it today?

Mis-Managed: Joe Maddon and the All-Star Game

Kevin Youkilis was a few thousand votes away from being the starter at first for the American League. Jason Bay led the outfield in votes. Boston had the most players selected to the All-Star roster by the fans. So how exactly is it that of the five that went to the All-Star game (Dustin Pedroia understandably withdrew), they had a total of three at-bats, one inning pitched, and four innings in the field?

Tampa Bay, who did not have anyone selected to start, and Carlos Pena was added to the roster to replace someone, ended up with three players playing a total of nine innings with five at bats.

That couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays was manging the AL All-Stars and the Red Sox are 6.5 games ahead of the Rays in the AL East standings, right?

I don’t think so.

Last year’s epic 15-inning affair, managed by Terry Francona, seemed much more evenly distributed. The starters got one, maybe two times up to the plate, and everyone that could get into the game, got in.

It being 15 innings long might have had something to do with it, but the point stands. Terry Francona gave every single All-Star their chance to shine, whether they were a Ray, a Yankees, or an Athletic. It didn’t matter, these guys were there to be exhibited (it is an exhibition game) so everyone should get their shot on the field and at the plate.

The AL won. Congratulations. Whatever. This year’s game was a huge disappointment. It was boring, the changes were hard to keep up with because certain players were replaced, while others moved all around the field to make sure they weren’t replaced.

I can’t complain too much about the pitching, that was handled fine, with the exception of no Wakefield. He was one of the feel-good stories of this All-Star game and he doesn’t even get to pitch?

Come on! He’s 42 selected to his first ever All-Star team. Fun fact: there are only two pitchers in the American league with 11 wins. Both made the All-Star roster. Neither made it into the game. Beckett because he just pitched, so that was understandable, but to not put Tim Wakefield in the game?

Maybe I didn’t enjoy the game as much because the Red Sox were being pulled away from the spotlight as fast as possible by Maddon. Maybe because there were no homers, and a lot of cheap hits that are just too ordinary.

I have to wonder, had Dustin Pedroia played, would he have stayed in the game as long as Carl Crawford (who wasn’t a starter) or Mark Teixeira?

Judging from last night, I’d say “no”. I’m beginning to wonder if the only reason Beckett and Wakefield made the team was that Maddon couldn’t find a legitimate reason to exclude them from the roster. It would be too obvious that he was biased if he left the two 11-game winners from the Red Sox off the roster in favor of a guy with 10 wins or less who wears a different uniform.

Honestly, this game doesn’t mean much to me personally, but the pride people take in playing in this game deserves more respect than that. It deserves more than a manager playing favorites. I get that having the pitcher batting makes things difficult, but to not even put Kevin Youkilis, arguably one of the best defensive first-basemen in the league, one the field for even one inning is beyond disrespectful to his talent and to the fans.

At the end of the game, I switched sides. I started rooting for the National League, because there was no one left on the field for the American League that I gave a rat’s you-know for.

I might have been more inclined to stick with my league of choice had I felt it was managed correctly, but last night, I would have gladly traded home field advantage if it meant that Joe Maddon would lose that game.

Monarch of the Mound

The Royals were prepared to have a tough night with the bats, the Red Sox were also not expecting a high-scoring game, what they got was a pitchers duel that held both teams scoreless until the bottom of the eighth. This night was all about the men on the mound.

Lefty Jon Lester has owned the Royals in his three (now four) starts against them. He came in with a 1.64 ERA against KC and brought it down tonight going 8 innings with 4 hits, 2 walks, and 8 strike-outs. He improved to 8-6 on the season and brought his ERA down to 3.87. And no one was more excited than Lester when Pedroia hit his RBI double in the 8th.

It is also interesting to note that 3 of the 4 hits given up by Lester were to lefty batter Mark Teahen.

Bannister had his way with the Red Sox as well. He went 7 2/3 innings allowing 3 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, and 7 strike-outs.

Jon Lester and Brian Bannister dueled it out into the eighth, holding each other’s teams scoreless* (see bottom of article for explanation, this has nothing to do with Barry Bond’s home run record) until the 8th when Dustin Pedroia ripped a two-out double off the monster to put the Sox ahead 1-0 in what would be the final score.

To complete the pitching clinic put on by both teams, Jonathan Papelbon, who has been shakier this season than he’s been in recent years, came on and pitched a perfect 9th.

Both Lester and Papelbon were locating pitches wherever they wanted to, and kept the Royals off-balance most of the game.

The most impressive thing to come out of the night was Jon Lester’s ability to tie up hitters. He was throwing breaking balls, cutters, fast-balls, curves, anything he wanted to and hitters were tied up, confused, and watching strikes go by all night. In previous years, and even in previous starts, Lester has had to rely on his cutter and fastball more, so this is a great sign of growth.

It reminds me of what Varitek said after he pitched the no-hitter last year. That was not Jon Lester’s peak. Far from it. We get to watch him grow and develop and mature as a pitcher right before our very eyes. And unlike some teams *cough* Yankees *cough*, many of our pitchers are home-grown, we didn’t pay a gazillion dollars to take them from another team.

Though it is funny to note that only ONE of the Yankees big money players (Sabathia, Texiera, and Burnett) made it into the All-Star game.

You know who did make it, and who should start if there was any justice in baseball? Tim Wakefield. He probably won’t, but it would be a really great thing.

One final note (to explain the asterisk):

*The Red Sox should have been up 1-0 in the 5th, when Mark Kotsay distracted the infield in a run down, Jacoby Ellsbury headed home from third. He slid in safe, very safe, if you watch the replay, but was called out.

The Sound of Silence

Last year, everyone was talking about how bad Jason Varitek was hitting and whether or not the Sox would re-sign their aging and slumping captain. In April and May, everyone was wondering if Big Papi was simply finished. In the off-season, fans wondered just how long Tim Wakefield was going to stay in the lineup.

No one is saying that now.

Tim Wakefield is, deservedly so, and All-Star. He’s been the Red Sox most consistent pitcher this season, the first on the team to 10 wins, and has had very few “bad” games. He has a chance to notch his 11th win before the All-Star break. I’m pretty sure no one even considered that this winter.

I didn’t even consider it and I’m a fan of Wake!

But Wakefield never had any expectations on him. He simply flew under the radar, and was even considered to be the “weak link” in the much-touted Red Sox pitching staff. Expectations were high for Beckett, Lester, and Dice-K while Penny was the question mark and Wake was the starter, for now, who might get put in the bull pen to make room for Smoltz or Buchholz.

Lester and Beckett struggled in April. Penny’s been surprising. Dice-K is on the DL. And Wake has been great. Lester and Beckett have bounced back and are their ace-like selves again, but it is nice to know that the Red Sox have that anchor in Tim Wakefield.

There’s something to be said about flying under the radar. No one is talking about Jason Varitek. Why? Because there’s nothing to say! He’s not getting into terrible slumps, he’s one homer and four doubles away from tying his 2008 numbers, his OBP is up and his strike outs are way down. Further proof that maybe last year was a fluke.

Yes, he’s getting old, and yes, his stats are going to decline, but this season has been good to Varitek. He’s not mentioned in the news unless he has a good night. He’s certainly not hitting at a great major league level, but he’s batting .243.

He’s not an automatic out anymore. And that’s why no one is saying a word about him. And that’s a good thing.

Same with Papi. Before he hit his first home run, every at bat was scrutinized, every hit brought with it questions of age and bat speed. He slumped through April and May, and then things started to turn around.

Papi hit .320 in June with 7 of his 9 home runs. And the media coverage of David Ortiz’s every at-bat stopped.

Most of the player-focused media has left Boston largely alone recently. Why? Because they aren’t a much of a story. The team is playing well, the staff is pitching well, and aside from Mike Lowell returning after the All-Star break and the question of when and if Clay Buchholz will make his return to the Majors, there aren’t a lot of questions swirling around about the Red Sox.

Consistancy is boring. Consistancy does not make it on Sportscenter, usually. Manny Ramirez getting himself tossed from the game does.

The Red Sox certainly aren’t flying under the radar. They have the best record in the American League, the first team to have two 10-win pitchers, and are sending the most players to the All-Star game. Everyone knows they are good, that they have a great pitching staff, a balanced line-up that can hit from the top to the bottom, and a phenomenal bull pen.

But with all that, they aren’t making headlines. Headlines are not necessarily good. Do you think all the Dodger players are happy that America is suddenly interested in them again solely because Manny is back? Do you think the Cubs are happy that everyone is talking about how their new owner way overpaid? Especially when the Cubs are nothing to write home about?

So let people keep talking about Manny and A-Rod and the sale of the Cubs, I am perfectly to have my boys make good headlines as a team and stay silent as individuals.