The last couple weeks have been very busy for me, all with the Olympics, school, sports, and life in general. I know this happens a lot, and I always end up apologizing for stopping every few weeks. Life is busy, and mine is very busy right now, but I have to face the facts that I don’t have a lot of time on my hands and that I should use whatever free time I do have to do the things that matter most to me, one of which is blogging.
MLBlogs is always one of my top priorities, but I sometimes just don’t get around to it. During baseball season, there is more to write about, so everyone posts more, but during the winter months things have been straight up dull. The few huge trades of the offseason came early on, and most of January up until now have drifted along at a sluggish pace, with nothing much going on. However, we have now nearly reached Spring Training, and then the season.
As the countdown clock on the MLB.com homepage alerted me this afternoon, we are roughly 19 hours away from the entrance of pitchers and catchers to all Spring Training camps (some are already there). On the eve of this glorious day, as I really have nothing negative to reflect on involving the offseason, I must say that things are good in the baseball world.
The Red Sox are looking like an above-average team at this time. All baseball fans know that the sport we love is at times extremely unpredictable, so there’s really no telling what will happen to the Sox this year. Who knows what I’ll be saying in the middle of August. Last year, we consistently “had the Yankees’ number” in the beginning of the year, but spring turned to summer, and then… well, you know what happened then. Last year, a certain team from Boston was also expected to have a fabulous pitching staff. This dream was soon forgotten, as Dice-K conveniently chose not to disclose the details of an injury suffered during the World Baseball Classic.
After the Matsuzaka’s collapse, the rest of our staff slowly declined. We had a good pitching staff, but not a great one. Additionally, these next couple years will be some of the last in which guys like Josh Beckett will be able to pitch at top form. I hate to admit it, but he’s aging, and no one lasts forever. In the end, surprisingly, it was relief pitching (even our closer, Mr. Papelbon, of all people), that really killed us, both literally (e.g. Game 3, ALDS) and figuratively.
If the pitching staff can stay strong throughout the season and hold on for that final push at the end into the playoffs, we will be helped enormously just by that effort. However, there is still a gaping hole that has been occupied by Manny, Ortiz, and Bay, respectively: the power hitter. We need an offensive spark, someone that can clean up the bases and drive in runs. There aren’t many types of offensive players that directly translate into wins like a power hitter does. Several guys could step into that role, but right now no one seems to be ready. I’m still hoping that we might acquire someone that fits this role, but it seems unlikely.
So, aside from the normal griping and doubts about the team, I am pretty happy right now. Because, in 19 hours, we will have takeoff. Away we go!
Last night the Red Sox were glad to be back in Boston as we beat the Detroit Tigers 6-5 in the comfort of Fenway. Our bats came alive, as Nick Green, Jason Bay, and Dustin Pedroia all hit homeruns. Pedroia crossed home in the first inning, putting us on the board early.
It was especially nice to see Bay hit his shot, as just a few days ago he was out with an injury. Overall, it was a nice, not-too-stressful win. It feels good to be back in the swing of things, and I feel like that game was a decent first step to rebounding nicely from the Yankee series.
The win over Detroit came with an added bonus: a 5-4 win for the Blue Jays over the Yankees. That means that we’re one game closer to first place in the AL East, only 5 1/2 games back right now. Things aren’t so bad in Beantown, Sox fans!
Another good piece of Boston sports news, Tom Brady has told reporters that he’s ready to play on Thursday in the Patriots’ preseason opener vs. the Eagles. Today he said, “I’m ready. I think everybody is ready. We’ve had a good camp. I think guys have really been working hard, trying to do what Coach Belichick has asked.”
Also of note in baseball last night, Troy Tulowitzki hit for the cycle and Jason Bartlett came within a single from hitting for it as well.
Although several players have hit for the cycle this year, I found Tulowitzki’s especially awesome because he had accomplished 3/4 of it (all but the triple) by the end of the 4th inning. Usually players get the 4 hits more spread out in the game, because a player doesn’t always hit 3 times in 4 innings.
Jason Bartlett’s effort was a little hearbreaking, because he came within a single of the cycle, which is usually the easiest part of it to accomplish. It’s always annoying to see a player come so close to something special like the cycle, even when you’re not a fan of them.
All I can say is that we’ve been through the storm, and now we have to keep fighting until the end of the season.
It was a glorious day in baseball yesterday. Unfortunately, all that day has left me with is a feeling that things can only get worse from here.
First, it was a fiesta on my fantasy team. CC Sabathia made one of his best starts of the year, holding the Twins to 1 run and 2 hits in 7 innings. This more than made up for Johnny Cueto’s disastrous outing yesterday (see my post from yesterday).
Also, Paul Konerko, previously just a utility player for my team, really came through after my decision to start him: He hit 3 homers!
In Boston, Josh Beckett followed up a brilliant performance by the A’s rookie pitcher Brett Anderson with a great outing, getting his 10th win on the year.
(. Jason Bay also looked back to form as he went 2-3 with a homerun in the 2nd inning. Is his weeklong slump over? Let’s hope so…
And finally, in New York, the one thing that could brighten the mood as the Mets lost once again (yeah, I sort of like the Mets) was the sight of this guy getting ejected:
(that really looks like a mug shot, doesn’t it?)
So why do I keep getting the feeling that after this great night in baseball, things are only going to get worse from here?
Well, my fantasy team certainly hasn’t looked like it did last night before this season. CC has been good, but there is still much room for improvement. Konerko has also had a pretty good season, but a 3 homer night is rare and won’t likely happen again for him this season. I guess, on the bright side, Johnny Cueto can only get better from here!
For the Red Sox, it doesn’t look as much like things will get worse. We haven’t been amazing lately, but we are still the best team in the AL and things are still fine. Jason Bay has certainly been in a slump lately, and he won’t get much rest and relaxation during the All Star break. Let’s just hope we can hang onto this division lead and keep the pace in the second half of the season.
So, maybe I exaggerated a bit. I don’t know, can things get any worse with Manny?
I was reminded of these ads after watching a few games last night:
“Why?” you may ask. Well yesterday in the MLB it was a day of absolut(e) slaughter. I will start off with the slaughter that least affected me (in the real world, at least).
Interestingly enough, the case of slaughter (baseball style) that least affected me was probably the worst. The scene of the crime was Citizen’s Bank Ballpark, in Philadelphia. The Phillies beat the Reds 22-1 in this game. Unfortunately, the sorrow I feel for Reds fans everywhere is only half of my problem with this one. See, the Reds’ starter in this contest was Johnny Cueto, a bright young player who has performed well this year, keeping his ERA in the 2.00 range and posting 8 wins. I’m not even sure when he was taken out of the game, I think he allowed 9 or so runs, ballooning his ERA to 3.45. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, aside from being a new favorite player of mine, Cueto is the ace on my fantasy team. But really, should that concern me in the real world?
There was also a case of slaughter to a lesser extent here in Boston. It was brightened only by the glorious return of Nomar,
as the rookie Brett Anderson threw a 2 hit shutout vs. the Red Sox. We lost it 6-0, and all the more depressing were Jason Bay’s continuing struggles, as he struck out once and went 1-3. In the past week he is 2-25, among the worst in the league. This miserable week has even included an 0-5 with 5 strikeouts on July 1. Hopefully the All Star game will cheer him up and get him back on course to take that MVP award from Texeira in the second half.
The final case of slaughter came in Seattle, where Jarrod Washburn threw a 1 hit, 5-0 win against the Orioles, a team that I am actually starting to root for to at least make a little bit of a comeback in the second half. With such bright young talent as Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters, I’m beginning to really like the O’s.
It was a night to forget in the MLB, at least from this Sox fan’s point of view… (and I didn’t even consider the disappointing 9-4 loss for Kevin Millwood, another one of my fantasy pitchers, as legitimate slaughter)
Thanks for reading.
In the world of baseball, fans are constantly shocked by finding out a superstar has taken steroids or other PEDs. One by one, many people have seen their favorite stars cut down because of cheating: McGwire, Clemens, Bonds, Rodriguez, Sosa, Ramirez… Even more depressing is the fact that a player can no longer have a sudden burst of power or even a huge breakout season (also, a sudden drop of power, e.g. David Ortiz) without being accused as a steroid user. The worst part about it is, more and more often, the accusers are correct.
Do not lose hope entirely, though. If you are bogged down and depressed by the swirling steroid rumors and worried about your favorite player being the next revealed cheater, you can turn to ESPN (and its subdivisions: ESPN2, ESPN360) and ABC for the Little League World Series, starting August 21 this year. I have watched the LLWS in past years and really enjoyed it, and I do sometimes find it to be a good break (and, or distraction) from the seriousness of the big leagues.
Here’s a brief outline of how the LLWS actually works:
Each team (I think usually made up of All Stars from a local little league) must advance through different divisions before they can reach the actual World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. These divisions are typical of a worldwide tournament: in the US divison they go along the lines of town/city, county, state, region; in the international division they are understandably a little different. This year’s US divisions are:
POOL A: Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, Southeast, Midwest
POOL B: New England, West, Southwest, Great Lakes
The international divisions are:
POOL C: Carribean, Japan, EMA, Latin America
POOL D: Europe, Mexico, Canada, Asia-Pacific
The winner in each region goes on to the LLWS. In this final tournament they are split up into matchups based on their pool. Then the 1st and 2nd place teams from each pool advance to the semifinals. Then there is the championship between the two international winners and the two US winners. Finally, for the real championship, the US champion faces the international champion.
This can be sort of complicated…for more information on how it works and the schedule, visit here.
In the past 4 years, US teams have dominated, as a US team has won each of those years. However, in the 6 years before that, international teams won 5 times. Therefore, international and US play have been exactly even in the past 10 years, so it is hard to predict a winner. Even with this being true, some powerhouses have emerged. In the past 10 years, teams from Japan have made it to the championship game 6 times (including 3 years in a row from 2001-2003), and won 4 of those times; teams from Curacao have made it twice in that 10 year span and won once; teams from Hawaii have won twice in the past 4 years, and teams from Georgia also won in both ’06 and ’07.
To find the results of every LLWS, visit here and scroll down to “Little League World Series champions”.
But enough of all that boring stuff. Here’s a few of my reasons why games are fun to watch:
-They are quick and don’t take up much time, as they last only 6 innings
-Due to the small stadium size and the metal bats, there are a lot of homeruns
-However, even though that previous fact is true, a dominant pitcher can really excel, and there have been both perfect games and no hitters thrown in recent years
-All the kids are extremely talented, so it’s not just an error-fest
-There is a cool feature that ESPN used last year that shows the pitcher’s speed, and then below it, the MLB equivalent (I find this helpful when trying to figure out how fast these pitchers are really throwing for their age)
-The games can be really exciting, I think at least two of the last 4 championships have been ended on walkoff homeruns.
Those are just some of the reasons to try watching a game, and speaking of walkoff homeruns, here is Dalton Carikker’s to win the ’07 game (I’m still having trouble posting youtube videos, so this is just a link).
Still, though, it seems that no league can be safe from scandal, and in fact, there have been several in the LLWS, mostly regarding age. Many people will remember Danny Almonte, the young pitcher from the Bronx, whose fastball could reach up to 78 mph.
Almonte played for the Bronx in the 2001 LLWS and led them to the US finals, finishing in 3rd place overall. He threw a perfect game and a no hitter during the World Series, and struck out 62 of 72 batters he faced during the tournament. Remember that MLB equivalent stat for pitcher’s speeds? Danny Almonte’s average speed was equivalent to a 92 mph fastball in the bigs.
Almonte’s skills seemed unreal to many people, and sadly, they were. A few weeks after the tournament ended, Sports Illustrated reporters Ian Thomsen and Luis Fernando Llosa found records proving that Almonte was 14 years old, 2 years above the Little League age limit. Almonte’s father had brought him the the US from the Dominican Republic in 2000, and it seemed that the birth certificate presented to Little League officials had been false.
Although his parents insisted that he was the correct age, after a full investigation, it was revealed that he was, in fact, 14. All of his team’s records and wins in the LLWS had to be forfeited and erased from the record books. Little League president Stephen Keener said that Almonte and his teammates had been “used … in a most contemptible and despicable way” and that “millions of Little Leaguers around the world were deceived.”* Many people also thought that this incident brought the stereotype about obsessive sports parents to life.
Almonte maintains that he did not know he would be playing against kids younger than him, and although he had second thoughts during the tournament, he didn’t know how to tell his coach that he didn’t want to play anymore. It is a sad story and one that shows that even in what appears to be a safe haven from cheating, it has still occurred in the past. For more info on Almonte, watch this recent video produced by ESPN.
Even the occasional scandal in the LLWS is dwarfed by great stars that are produced by the league. Here are some of the league’s famous alums:
Jason Bay played for Trail, British Columbia in 1990. Here’s little Jason:
Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield both played for the Tampa, Florida team. Here’s Gary.
Jason Marquis played for Staten Island, New York in 1991.
Lastings Milledge played for Bradenton, Florida in 1997. That’s Lastings sliding into home.
Jason Varitek played for Almonte Springs, Arizona in 1984. Here are two pics of Tek.
Those are a few of now famous Little League baseball players, for more check out this list.
So this summer if you need a little break from PEDs and cheating, tune into the Little League World Series.
Thanks for reading.
Stats and info found through littleleague.org
*quote found through wikipedia.org
It’s been two great days for two of my favorite Red Sox players.
Jason Bay has done more than replace Manny since our acquisition of him last year. His hustle and determination are admired by Sox Nation and his attitude towards playing is always great. I am happy to have Bay as a member of the Red Sox, and now, as an American citizen on July 2. Congrats Jason!
Yesterday was also a milestone for a Sox player, Tim Wakefield. Wake made his 383rd start for the Red Sox, and passed Roger Clemens on the Red Sox list for this category. He had a tough outing last night against the Mariners, but reaching this milestone is still great. Wakefield has been with the team for 14 years and counting, and I know that Red Sox Nation is grateful for his commitment to the team. Congrats Tim!
Happy 4th of July to everyone as well!
So most of my wishes from yesterday came true. Here’s a checklist:
-a 1 run or 2 run victory for the Sox: this one worked out even better than I had expected, we won 3-0 and didn’t embarass D-Lowe too much
-a loss for the Yankees: this also worked out great, they lost on an error from who else but Johnny Damon!
-Big Papi to have a huge rebound game: okay, so not really, he went 1-4, but at least he got a hit
-Jason Bay to have some offensive support: well, he had some support (Drew and Youk both went 1-3, and V-Tek and Green both went 2-3), but he went 0-4 himself; I guess you can’t get it all
–and a loss for any other AL East teams would be nice: the Jays lost in extras, and the Rays won, so that worked out all right too
I guess I can say that I’m pretty happy with last night.
Also in the baseball world, what an awesome series going on in Chicago! Although the Cubs are up 2-0, making it appear one-sided, both games have gone into extras and both have been exciting. I have high hopes for game 3 as well.
In the random section of things, yesterday while at a party I tried a Now and Later. It’s a small square shaped candy, that is apparently supposed to taste good. It has got to be one of the most awful attempts at making a good tasting food that I’ve ever seen or tried. Yuck. Does anyone actually like these?