Duet or Ménage À Trois? An AL East Prediction

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Last year the Yankees (ug) took home the ring, the year before, the Rays lost to the Phillies in the World Series, and three years ago, the Red Sox won. Needless to say the AL East is looking to have a repeat appearance this year, but who?

 

The Red Sox made some moves to shore up defense, the Yankees lost a few bats, and the Rays and Orioles reloaded with young prospects and solid trades. So who is going to win? 

 

If the Yankees could get consistent starts from their three-four-five guys, they could win the division. Is that likely? No.

The Red Sox lost a big bat in Jason Bay but added John Lackey, who could be a number one starter but is starting number three, behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. He’ll be followed by the seemingly ageless Wakefield, Dick-K, and the young, talented Clay Buchholz. Now, Dice-Ki is injured and we’re not really sure how Buchholz is going to do, but if they all bounce back, the Sox could go for a six man rotation. 

Not likely, but it could happen.

The Rays, as always, are the Dark Horse. They have iffy pitching and young guys just starting their careers, but they are faster th
an the Yankees and Red Sox and very talented. Of course that youth does lend itself to inconsistency, especially playing in Boston and New York where the fans can be pretty hostile. Taking that all into consideration, do they win over 90 games? 

Eh. Maybe. 

The Orioles are better. Not great, but certainly much better than last year. And Toronto…well, we’ll go ahead and label this a rebuilding year for them. They traded away Doc Halladay, it’s to be expected.

 

So with opening day just hours away ( hallelujah!), what else would we do but make predictions on what is going to happen six months from now? Bear in mind I am not using any sort of scientific formulas, stats, or anything on these predictions, which is contrary to the typical baseball fan’s thinking. (Admit it, we love stats!) 

I’m doing something new this year, I’m going with my gut. I’ve watched these guys all spring, and this is what I came up with it. 

First, my final division standings:

 

  1. Red Sox
  2. Rays*
  3. Yankees
  4. Orioles
  5. Blue Jays
Call me a homer, but I really like this Red Sox team. They are a little faster, their defense is better, and the addition of John Lackey is a huge boost to the pitching staff. The bullpen is good, and Daniel Bard is waiting in the wings, so if Jonathan Papelbon struggles with closing, he can be replaced. I don’t see that happening, but I’m sure that, and his last game are in his mind, getting his competitive juices flowing. 
Plus, who wants to face a weekend where your pitchers are Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey? Yikes. And you’ve got Jacoby Ellsbury who is stellar and still not done developing. Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia are great at the plate, and if Papi returns to form…double yikes. 
If they all stay healthy and the pitchers stay on their form, there’s no reason this team can’t win the division.
Now to explain the asterisk on the Rays.
Like I said, the Rays are the Dark Horse. Even Longoria is a beast, and they have a few young guys like B.J. Upton who are due for a breakout year. A few good trades and young talent means this Rays team is a lot like the one that went to the World Series in 2008. 
I just get a feeling about this team. But here’s a caveat. I think the Rays will get off to a big start, but if they start to falter around the All-Star break, I’m going to put them out of the playoffs. I just think that if they get too far behind or see themselves slipping, they might fold under the pressure. So that’s why I put the Rays as the Wild card*. 
So on to Steinbrinner and his evil Minions.
Let’s start with the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia is a beast. There’s no denying that, but after him gets a little…iffy. A.J. Burnett doesn’t like throwing to Jorge Posada, but Jose Molina is gone, so he has no choice. Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez are good innings eaters, but Pettitte’s age makes him a question mark. 
And yes, Mark Teixeira, Jeter, A-Rod, they can all hit, but the Yankees bench isn’t exactly deep this year. The losses of Judas (I mean Johnny) Damon and Matsui hurts them in terms of power. The Yankees look good this year, but repeating is very difficult, and in a division this tough? Eh.
I have them (maybe) not making the playoffs. But that’s dependent on the Rays. 
My prediction for the Yanks is third/ Wild card. They played like a team on a mission last year and I just don’t get that feeling from them now. 
Now for the other teams in the AL East. 
The Orioles really did a lot this year, and while they probably won’t make the playoffs, they will make life hard on everyone else in the East. They have a young staff that in a few years could really give the rest of the AL east headaches in a few years, and we could see flashes of that this season. My prediction, they finish in fourth place.
The Blue Jays…they won’t do much this year. They couldn’t make it to the playoffs when they had the one-two punch of Halladay and Burnett. They’ve got some good players, but it’s not enough to compete in a division that has the Yankees and Red Sox. 
We’ll start to see things heat up in this division around the All-Star break, that’s when the good teams will separate from the bad and the ugly. Then we’ll know if we have a Red Sox-Yankees duet or a Red-Sox-Rays-Yankees Ménage À Trois.

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.

Red Sox and Yankees: Rivals Go Head-To-Head For The First Time in 2009

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The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry
is the best in baseball, and possibly the best in professional sports.
I was raised to hate the Yankees, I mean, really, really hate them. I have a friend who was raised the same way, only opposite. She was raised to hate the Red Sox.

Why?

Who cares? It’s fun! It is certainly not a friendly rivalry, but it
is fun to have a “bad guy” to unite against. Its a showdown of good
versus evil, the Red Sox Nation vs. the Evil Empire, minor tweaks vs.
major, multi-million dollar overhaul.

A rivalry, yes, but most definitely a fun one.

Of course, with this rivalry, things can (and do) tend to go too
far. With Joba Chamberlain on the mound tonight, things might get a
little interesting. 

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If you recall from the previous two seasons, there is some bad blood
between Chamberlain and Youkilis. Why? Who knows. Fact of the matter
is, Joba’s thrown at Youkilis four times. Four. 

So far, no brawls, but it is getting a little ridiculous. Buzzing a
player inside is one thing, its acceptable, its part of the game, but
throwing at hitters, at their heads, is unacceptable. When Josh Beckett
did it earlier this season, it was an accident and everyone knew it.
When Joba did it last season, it was no accident.

If he does it again, judging by the reactions last time, there will most likely be a brawl or an ejection, or both.

Tonight, Chamberlain, who went 4.2 innings with six hits, five
earned runs, five walks and four strikeouts in his last start, will
square off against Red Sox southpaw Jon Lester. Lester looked much
better in his start against Baltimore going 7 innings with only four
hits, zero earned runs, and nine strike-outs.

While Youkilis’s consecutive on-base streak was snapped Wednesday
night, he is still making American League pitchers look bad, hitting
.429 with an OBP of .522.

In other good news, the Red Sox starters are all now hitting above .200, with Lowell, Youkilis, and Green hitting above .310.

The Yankees and Red Sox kick off their three game series at Fenway
tonight at 7:10 PM, with Chamberlain taking the mound against Lester.

Saturday’s game will be at 4:10 PM on Fox with A.J. Burnett squaring
off against Josh Beckett, who’s original start was pushed back a day
due to his suspension.

Finally, Andy Pettite will face off with Justin Masterson in the Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN at 8 PM.

CC Sabathia: Its Not His Fault

Yesterday the Yankees trotted out their 140-million dollar ace to
wow the lowly likes of the Baltimore Orioles. CC Sabathia, the reason
the Brewers were in the playoffs last year, the work-horse who has
thrown more innings in the past two years than anyone, Goliath himself, had one really bad day.

But it wasn’t his fault.

It was windy, so the pitches weren’t going where he wanted.

The crushing weight of being the Yankee’s ace was way too tough, he’s not used to it yet.

No,
that’s not it. Those are excuses. The truth it the strike zone was the
size of a postage stamp. That’s why he didn’t have any strikeouts, if
he pitched in the minuscule zone, the Orioles would hit it. So he had no choice but to walk five batters.

Again,
that’s an excuse. It’s because there were too many Orioles fans at
Camden Yards. The usually Empire-filled stadium was full of too many
people rooting for the home team and that really threw him off.

No,
that sounds like another excuse. Here’s the real reason that Sabathia
had such a difficult time and didn’t get a single strike-out all game:
he doesn’t do well in April. If you look at his starts last April, he
was terrible.

Yes. He is not good in April. That’s why he
allowed 8 hits and six earned runs in just over four innings for an ERA
of 12.46. That is the answer. You see, it wasn’t Sabathia’s fault, it’s
April’s fault. April is just not his month, but don’t worry Yanks, come
May 1st, I’m sure he’ll do better.

While I respect
CC for all that he’s been able to do the past two years, now that he’s
a Yankee, he’s in the firing zone, so no mercy, and I look forward to a
great competitive year in the AL East.

The Beasts of the East: Who Wins Baseball’s Best Divisions?

It seems like everyone is making their picks for who wins the AL East, I’m going to take it one step further and look at both the AL and NL East, arguably baseball’s best divisions.

Lets
start in the National League. The East is a powerful division, will the
defending World Champion Phillies again take the top spot? Will the
Mets suffer another late-season collapse? Can the Marlins overtake them both? Will the Nats actually look good this year? Barring major injuries and some fluky miracle season, here are my picks for the NL East:

  1. New York Mets (2008: 89-73, 3 GB) Here’s why: K-Rod and JJ Putz should ease the Mets’ bullpen woes,
    somewhat. It will at least keep them from hemorrhaging so much at the end
    of games. They have a good offense anchored by Wright, Reyes, and
    Beltran, the Mets should be able to make the playoffs this year. If
    they don’t, I give up, they must be cursed.
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (2008: 92-10, WS Champs) They kept most of their World Series winning team together, backed by a great offense with players like Utley, Howard, Victorino, and Rollins. However,
    the injury bug tends to bite hard the year after winning it all (look
    at the Red Sox from last year: same team, new injuries). Look for the Wildcard to come from the East this year.
  3. Florida Marlins (2008: 84-77, 7 1/2 GB) The Marlin’s
    are a good young team on a tight budget, and could surprise everyone
    and take over the East this season. With Hanley Ramirez and excellent
    pitching, the Marlins are a force to be reckoned with. Look for them to
    hang around and make life miserable for the Mets and Phillies.
  4. Atlanta Braves (2008: 72-90, 20 GB) Atlanta made some good moves in the off-season, with good pitching additions, but a weak offense will have them trailing the Mets, Phils, and Marlins this year. They are young, so look for the Braves to start contending more in a year or so.
  5. Washington Nationals (2008: 59-102, 32 1/2 GB) The Nats
    are young. I wouldn’t look for them to be great this year, but I would
    expect a better season than 2008. They’ll still come in at the bottom
    of the NL East, but with a much better record.

Now
on to baseball’s toughest division. The AL East has appeared in the
World Series 54 times out of 104 series. Of those 54 appearances, they
have won the World Series 38 times. That’s a pretty impressive
division, and its only getting tougher. Here are my (mostly) unbiased
picks.

  1. Boston Red Sox (2008: 95-67, 2 GB, Wildcard) Boston made a few little moves in the offseason that will have a very big impact. “Bargain” additions of Smoltz, Penny, Saito, and Tazawa make a descent bull pen and good pitching staff into a phenomenal pitching staff with a lights-out ‘pen. They have a few young guys to watch, both on the field and on the mound, and have several key players returning from injury in Lowell, Ortiz, and Beckett. This
    team came within one game of the World Series last year when they were
    hurt, now that everyone’s back, look for them to retake the East.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays (2008: 97-65, AL Champions) Everyone is still waiting to see if the Rays are “for real”. They are. The addition of Pat Burrell certainly helped the Rays, but they may have the same issue as the Phillies: health. In order for the Rays to compete, Troy Percival needs to stay healthy, and the pitching staff is a little lacking in depth.
    The key cog in the Ray’s wheel is David Price. He came in and pitched
    well late in the season, but once there’s a legitimate scouting report
    out on him, major league hitters will figure him out. He has to stand
    up to the pressure and eat up good innings. If not, the Yankees may
    take back the second spot, and wi
    th it the AL Wildcard spot.
  3. New York Yankees (2008: 89-73,
    8 GB) Why, if they spend $400 million dollars on stellar players this
    off-season, are the Yankees in third? Because they spent millions of
    dollars on a very small number of players and neglected to give
    themselves some dep
    th.
    CC Sabathia ate up a lot of innings last year, many times on short
    rest. It takes longer than a few months to recover from that and puts
    you at risk for injury. Burnett should do okay, and the addition of Teixeira will definitely help the Yanks, but without much of a bullpen and with
    starters who don’t always eat up innings, the Yanks may find themselves
    losing games late. Mariano Rivera, great closer that he is, is also
    approaching 40, and will start to decline.The Yanks will keep things interesting, and be competitive, making things tough for the Rays and Red Sox.
  4. Toronto Blue Jays (2008: 86-76, 11 GB) The Jays, in any other division, would be a playoff team every year. The loss of Burnett could hurt them, but they still have Halladay
    and a great pitching staff. They are looking for some players to return
    to form and some young guys to give them a lift, but probably not
    enough to compete for a playoff spot because their division is so
    tough. 
  5. Baltimore Orioles (2008: 68-93, 28 1/2 GB) Though the
    Orioles have a young, good offense, their lack of pitching means they
    will again be in last place in the division. Look for them to do a
    little better than last year, but with a division this tough, where
    they have to face the Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and Jays in 72 games this
    season, its going to be a difficult year.

News from the Weekend:

The Red Sox locked up LHP Jon Lester for 5 years, and ended talks (temporarily) with
OF Jason Bay. Because of his free agent status at the end of the 2009
season and the down economy, Bay decided to wait and see what the
market does. He would like to stay in Boston, but not at a cut rate
when he could get more elsewhere.

Dustin Pedroia
has a minor abdominal strain and will need a few days of rest before
resuming baseball activities. The injury is minor and should not effect
his opening day status.

The shortstop debate is over for the Red Sox, at least temporarily. Julio Lugo will have arthroscopic surgery on his knee tomorrow and will be out of opening day. Jed Lowrie will (most likely) start the season as the Red Sox shortstop.

Manny
Ramirez started his spring training by being pulled from a game due to
a hamstring injury. After trying to cut off a double in left field, he
felt tightness in his hamstring and was pinch hit for in the bottom of
the 4th inning.

Baseballs Best* Fans, Then And Now

*sort of. Not an all-inclusive list, just a few of the best, then and now.

This is a list of a few of the most loyal, most interesting fans in the
Majors. It covers over 100 years of history, betrayal, and rivalries
that make baseball the dramatic, interesting sport that it is off the
field. Since today kicks off the first official game of Spring training
(yay!) it’s time we salute you, the fans, for being there every season.

The Royal Rooters

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The Royal Rooters, led by Third Base Saloon owner Mike “Nuf Ced” McGreevey, were a rowdy group of Irish fans who cheered on the Red Sox from 1903, where they were instrumental in distracting the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, until 1918. They would clank glasses and sing songs, most notably “Tessie”, and change the words to further torment opposing teams and inspire the Red Sox to victory.
The Rooters are a fascinating bunch, check them out if you get a chance.

Bleacher Creatures

bleachercreatures.jpgKnown for their “Roll-call” after the first pitch and their always amusing “(enter name here) sucks” chants, the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee stadium exemplify the essence of being a fan no matter how where your seats are.
They are loyal Yankees fans, and they will let you know it. The Bleacher Creatures are also master hecklers, and a staple at Yankees games for years.
In the Old Yankee Stadium, they occupied sections 39 & 37, and will move to their new home in section 203 when the new Yankee Stadium opens in April.


Damon’s Disciples

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Now disbanded, Damon’s Disciples formed in 2004 when Johnny Damon, then a member of the Boston Red Sox, made the descision to not cut his hair or shave until the Red Sox had won it all. The leader of the “Idiots” of 2004, Damon’s antics kept the clubhouse loose and his teammates laughing. It also endeared him to the Red Sox rabid fan-base, and created a fan group known as Damon’s Disciples. Because the hair and beard made him look like Jesus, his followers donned wigs and beards and called themselves “disciples”.
While Red Sox Nation will always realize that Damon was a huge reason for ending the championship drought, he will unfortunately also be remembered like this:  “looked like Jesus, threw like Mary, betrayed like Judas”.

Cubs Fans

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While this isn’t a specific “group” like the previous three, we take a moment to salute baseballs most loveable losers. Most teams fans would jump ship after a century of no rings. Or at least after their team has lost 9 straight post-season games, most likely due to the pressure of said 100-year drought. Now, whether you believe in the curse of the goat or not, you have to respect the fans who come out, year after year, disappointment after dissapointment, and cheer on their team.

Cardinals Fans

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Since we just talked about the Cubbies, might as well mention their arch-rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Cards fans are present and loud, St. Louis, like Boston, is a baseball town. Even when the Rams were the “Greatest Show on Turf”, St. Louis maintained their love for the Cardinals.
So Cards fans, we salute you.

Giants Fans

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Giants fans make this list because of their loyalty. As a Giants fan about Barry Bonds and you would get a defense better than the one at OJ Simpson’s trial. These guys are fiercely loyal, and really into their team. I have to respect that, and admire them for sticking by their guys no matter what.

Phillies Phans

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The Phils Phans make the list because of the sheer meaness and rowdiness of the fan base. I mean, their old stadium had a prison in it just for disorderly conduct arrests.
We give them props for have the guts to boo Santa, and generally make life miserable for visiting fans and teams. 

Red Sox Nation

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We end our show with one of the most knowledgeable, and one of the best traveling fan bases in all of baseball: Red Sox Nation. The Nation is massive, though many are bandwagon fans who jumped on in 2004 or 2007. However, much of Red Sox Nation is made up of true fans. Even when the Patriots were having their dynastic run, they couldn’t replace the Sox in the hearts of Boston fans everywhere. There is no doubt about it, Boston is, and always has been, a baseball town.
Red Sox Nation gets props here because of their loyalty and their presence at away games. Its actually cheaper for most fans to fly somewhere and see the Red Sox then take in a game at Fenway, though those tickets are always coveted. When the Sox play the Orioles at Camden, I go, and Red Sox Nation far out numbers the birds fans there. They are always vocal, and always supportive of the team, no matter what.

That’s All Folks!

Like I said, this was not an inclusive list, and I’m sure I missed quite a few great fans, and I’d love to hear about them. Fans are the lifeblood of baseball, and the crazier they are, the more I love them. So to all the baseball fans out there who are counting down the days until April, I salute you. 🙂

So You Wanna Be A Red Sox Fan? Part 2

Here’s part two of your guide to being a Red Sox Fan.

As one of my lovely commentators pointed out, there are a few aspects of Fenway that I forgot to mention. So here’s a brief guide to Fenway:

 -It was built for the 1912 season, and the Red Sox owner at that time, John I. Taylor, decided to call it “Fenway
Park” because it was located in a section of Boston called “the Fens”.
(If you were wondering, Taylor was also the guy who changed the club’s
name to the Red Sox in 1907)

 -Duffy’s Cliff: Around from 1912-1933, Duffy’s Cliff was a 10′ high mound that ran from the left-field foul pole to center field, and because of this, any left-fielder playing at Fenway
had to play the entire game running uphill. Duffy Lewis, a star left
fielder for Boston, had playing this way so down pat, they named it
after him.

 -The Red Seat:
There’s a seat in the right field bleachers painted red. It marks the
spot of the longest measurable homer hit inside Fenway.
Ted Williams hit it on June 9, 1946, and it was measured at 502 feet.
According to legend, the ball crashed through the straw hat of a man
sitting in that seat, Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21.

 -The
Pesky Pole: The right field foul pole is named after Johnny Pesky. He’s
been a virtual fixture at Fenway since 1942. While he moved around a
bit, Pesky has been nicknamed “Mr. Red Sox” and his number, number 6,
was retired last year. The pole was officially named “Pesky’s Pole” on
September 27, 2006, Pesky’s 87th birthday.

 -Did you know that Fenway Park cost $650,000 to build in 1912?

 -The largest crowd ever at Fenway was 47,627, for a doubleheader against, you guessed it, the Yankees in 1935.

 -Behind the manual scoreboard (one of the last remaining) in left field is a room where the walls are covered with signatures of players who have played left field over the years. Maybe that’s where Manny always disappeared to…

 -No one has ever hit a ball over the right field roof.

 -The screen behind home plate that protects spectators from wild pitches/fouls/etc was the first of its kind in the majors

 -9 Red Sox players have pitched no-hitters at Fenway: George Foster (6/21/1916), Dutch Leonard (08/30/1916), Ernie Shore (06/23/1917), Mel Parnell (07/14/1956), Dave Morehead (09/16/1965), Derek Lowe (04/27/2002), Clay Buchholz (09/01/2007) and Jon Lester (05/19/2008)

 -The
Sox have currently sold out 469 consecutive games, and with the team as
talented as it is this year, look for it to increase.

Now a few more clarifications/rules/tips:

 -There is no curse of the Babe, we were not cursed and we don’t believe in it. Some people did/do but its best, if you want to hide your  newbie status, not to mention the “Curse of the Bambino“.

 -Before you go to a game, familiarize yourself with the roster and the starter’s numbers. This will help you, trust me.

 -The
“Yankees Suck” chant. I know I already mentioned it, but I think I need
to clarify. If you are a new fan, its best to avoid starting these
chants simply because of your in-experience. Some fans believe it is
applicable any time, any where. Others think there is a time and place.
Save yourself the trouble and join in, but don’t start.

 -Don’t
ask stupid questions. What is a stupid question? Here’s one: “I thought
Manny Ramirez played left…who is that Jason Bay guy?” or “Why does
that guy have the ‘C’ on his chest?” These will get you glares/looks of shock and will guarantee that everyone thinks you are a bandwagon jumper.

 -if
someone calls you a “bandwagon jumper” don’t get defensive and start
spouting off this whole sob story about how you’ve been a Sox fan since
the ’86 season (I’ll give you a hint, ball rolling through Bill
Buckner’s legs…). Just say “you’re crazy” or “okay” and brush it off.
Unless you have asked one of the above questions, then just admit to it
and say something nice about the fans/team/etc and all will be
forgiven. Most of the time.

 –Fenway is old.
It has lots of bad seats, but lots of character as well. Just don’t ask
why they built it like that, because its been that way since 1912, as
you’ve just learned, and its just the way it is.

Now, for a few pronunciations.This isn’t all-inclusive, so if you run into a problem, go with their first name or just point.

David Ortiz = (or-teez)

Jason Varitek = (Ver-a-tech)

Jacoby Ellsubury = (jucO-bee)

Dustin Pedroia = (Pedroy-ya)

Kevin Youkilis = (You-kill-is) just call him “Youk

Daisuke Matsuzaka = (Dice-K Mat-sue-za-ka) just call him “Dice-K”

Hideki Okajima = (Hide-e-key O-ka-G-ma) just call him “Oki

That’s
it for part 2. If I hear of anything else, there will be a part three,
if not, look forward to my next article which actually will be on the
MLB’s best fans.

Some Sox Beat the “Spring Training Rush”

Yesterday, the Red Sox minor league facility in Fort Myers was packed with veterans and newbies getting their workouts in.

Rocco Baldelli, Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Takashi Saito all arrived two days before pitchers and catchers were supossed to report to get their feet wet with a new team.

Co-aces Josh Beckett and Jon Lester were there as well, along with Kevin Youkilis. Lester and Beckett weren’t scheduled to report until tomorrow (thursday) and Youk wasn’t supposed to be in until Sunday, there they all were, the proverbial early birds just trying to get the worm.

Of course, this goes right along with Youk’s reputation as “Mr. Intensity”, and for me, means that baseball is back. And this is a good thing, because if I have to hear one more thing about Miss October (A-Rod) having juiced, I might scream.

There seem to be certain teams, certain locker room cultures across the league that seemed to condone the use of steroids at one time or another. And if you are in that culture, you’re probably going to do it. I’m not defending A-Rod, seriously, would I actually do that? But if he’s stopped, he’s stopped, and you don’t have to add an asterisk to any of his stats from those years because we will all do it in our minds, our own mental asterisks.

But with Spring Training officially starting tomorrow, we can move past the ugly and into what might be baseball’s most optimistic time. At this juncture, everyone thinks 2009 is going to be a great year, and for some teams, it will.

The Yankees made all the flashy moves this off-season, landing CC, Burnett, and Texiera. So that gives them a one-two-three punch of Sabathia, Burnett, and Wang. But who is their fourth starter? And their fifth? Joba made a splash last year, but he could turn into a Buchholz, he’s got fast stuff,  real rocket arm, but how many innings deep can he go? His technique makes him very injury prone, so the Yanks would be smart to keep his pitch count low. And now that everyone has seen Joba, they are going to start figuring him out. And who’s the other starter? Pettite?

And the Rays? The Rays are sort of the dark horse of the AL East. Either they caught lightening in a bottle last year and will be bottom of the barrel again this year, or they’ll still be competitive in the increasingly tough AL East. 

As for the Sox, I’m liking the rotation and the ‘pen. We’ve got Beckett, Lester, Dice-K, Smoltz, Penny, Wake…I’m not too sure what the rotation is going to look like, because you can never count out Masterson and Buchholz.

And while the Sox will miss quite possibly the greatest right-handed hitter of our time at Spring training, the Sox can make up for missing Manny with a meaty bunch of hitters. Pedroia, Youkilis, Drew, Ortiz, Bay, and Lowell, if they are healthy, make for a frightening batting order.

The focus this year, though, for the first time since 2000, will not be on “when will Manny show up”. The focus will be on the team, and their goal to win another World Series, and with the team we’ve got now, its a plausible goal.  

Just A Quick Blurb/Rant

    So I’m sitting here, refreshing my google news (sorted by date) on Jason Varitek. No word yet, and its just killing me. This is beyond ridiculous! Tek needs to take the contract, if only for my sanity and team morale. Yes, all you nay-sayers, team morale will plummet like the stock market after Obama’s election.
  
     Plus, our little pitchers need someone experienced on the backstop, and they would all be very sad to see Tek go.

    I know, I know, I’ve already said all this a million times, but its just so annoying! I mean, the Yankees have spent half a billion dollars on talent this year, so despite A-Rod’s obsession with Jeter, they’ll be competitive. Again. Are you telling me that we can’t spend a measly $5 million to bring back the gritty soul of the team? Seriously!

    Okay, that ends my rant. I’ll post again the minute I hear any news of Tek, one way or the other.

Off Season Rumblings

This off-season has been somewhat “quiet” in terms of the Red Sox. The moves of the teams in the AL East are all important because that might be the toughest division in the league. 

The Rays have made a few good moves, but are (mostly) sticking with what worked next year. 

The Yankees have found a problem and done what the Yankees do best: throw money at it. Why else do you think this was the first time in forever that they didn’t make the playoffs? That’s what the Yankees do. So as long as nothing happens to CC, Teixiera, or any of their other additions, they should be right back in the mix.

The Red Sox have been comparatively quiet. They got stung a little on the Teixiera deal, and right now they have no catcher, they made a few solid, cheep deals that should do nothing but help, and if they don’t, its not like they’ll have $10 million dollars on the bench with just one player out. 

They have a few loose ends to tie up, but they look to be in the mix for the AL East again this year. Pedroia and Youk will be back, Ellsbury and Lester can only get better, Beckett will be Beckett, Dice-K, despite his heart-attack inducing style, always does well, and who knows? Buchholz could be a lot better than he was last year, everyone seems to think so. 

First, they need to bring back Varitek. It looks like it’s probably going to happen because no one else wants him, and the Red Sox, despite their “we don’t care attitude” would love to have him back. I think, to, that if they bring him back, he’ll have something to prove, and maybe his bat will improve. I could be wrong, I’m no expert, but I like being hopeful. 

Finally, on that vein of hope, I have to say that I’m optimistic about Papi and Mike Lowell this season. I think Mike will be fine, and Big Papi will bounce back. Call me crazy, but with everyone healthy, the Red Sox are poised to be a big threat in the AL East, despite the Yankees trying to buy every free agent in sight. Think the fans are going to miss the ‘stash? 

So, my prediction is for one heck of a season, with the Rays, Yankees, and Sox coming down to the last few weeks to see who takes the crown and who takes the Wild Card.