Tagged: Jason Varitek

Really back… I guess? (5 Red Sox Thoughts)

Hello again, everyone out there in the MLBlogosphere.

 I’m guessing that anyone who’s ever read my blog has noticed I tend to go AWOL for long periods of time, and then return with a post from the bottom of my heart about how things have been busy in my life (aren’t they always?), and how I’ll never leave again. Last time I did this, I had something like 2 posts before I was out the door again. I’ve now done this kind of thing two or three times, and now I’m not going to apologize and promise it won’t happen again. We all have busy lives, with tons of things going on, and there’s really no use complaining about them or using them as excuses for laziness. I’ve noticed that the most successful bloggers on MLBlogs are those who update their blogs every few days; those that are consistent. I have been hardly that, and I may continue to be hardly that. I don’t know. But I’m now well into summer break, and I have a good amount of free time, so I know that I will try to blog as frequently and consistently as possible. So I guess I managed to add a promise for blogging faithfulness after all! But enough with the apologies and promises. Fenway Bleacher Creature is officially back in business!
I have missed almost an entire half of the season to write about on MLBlogs, and it would take a very long time to do a complete review post about the Red Sox and baseball this year. It has been a busy and eventful year in the MLB, and nonetheless so for my beloved Boston franchise. As an attempt to review this season (so far) as best I can, I give you my 5 First Half Red Sox thoughts for the 2010 season. I hope you enjoy these, and if you have trouble staying focused on something for a long time (like me), you can just read the bold thoughts rather than my opinions and elaborations on them. Either way, I appreciate it.
#1 – For some reason, the Red Sox are always a bandwagon team.
bandwagon, noun
-When one only likes or agrees with someone/something due to success. Even if said individual liked/agreed with something before they were successful, they “hopped on the bandwagon.”-

bandwagon-comic.jpg

Somehow, the Boston Red Sox seem to always be a bandwagon waiting to happen. In ’04 there were “the Idiots,” a time that, while sometimes annoying, was pretty hard to hate most of the time. We struggled in the early summer months, fighting the Yankees for first place in the AL East and struggling past injuries and slumps. When we reached the playoffs we defeated the Angels without much trouble, then rolled into NYC for what promised to be a series for the ages. And, oh what a series it was. But any baseball fan knows the story of that series. I’m not one to gloat or brag, so I won’t dwell on that great victory for Boston and try to get my shots in at the Yanks and their fans. However, our remarkable comeback in that series sparked a Red Sox bandwagon. Friends in California and Florida told me that they were rooting for the Sox against the Cardinals and that a lot of their friends were as well. While this was nothing like those times when the whole nation rallies around a team, but it was the start of my experience with Red Sox bandwagons and bandwagon fans.
Now, in 2010, as the Red Sox, after an absolutely dismal first month or so, have finally climbed back into contention, sitting as of now a game and a half behind New York in the AL East, have turned into a bandwagon as well. Tons of people I know are suddenly claiming that they supported the Sox all along, and that they were there through the worst of it, always knowing that things would get better. I hate to break it to everyone, but… you weren’t. I like to think that I’m a pretty big Sox fan, and there were many times I gave up on my team this year. Everyone gave up on them.
RedSoxSuck.jpg
However, now that things are all better in Red Sox Nation, these bandwagon fans are popping up everywhere, each one’s claim of undying Red Sox belief and loyalty more ridiculous than the last. And while I am slightly irritated by the most outrageous bandwagon fans, I guess it’s true that because so many of us Sox fans gave up on our team early this season, we’re all technically bandwagon fans. And I’m not gonna deny that. I also can’t deny that the Sox are somehow a bandwagon team every other year, so that long rant about our struggles and our bandwagon fans is all part of my first Red Sox thought, something that I have always found interesting and one that sums up the biggest struggle of our first half of 2010.
#2 – We know how to get injured like no one else.

I’ll keep this one short and sweet (well, not so sweet). Red Sox players have been dropping like flies, from Varitek all the way to Clay Buccholz, the most recent Sox player to hit the DL. We currently have 4 regular starters injured, as well as a ******** 7 other players on the DL. No other team is even that close to us in terms of injuries. We still can’t compare ourselves to the ’09 Mets, but this is getting pretty bad.
And while this is nothing to be proud of, it actually makes me feel kind of good. See, while most every other team has 3-6 players injured, we have 11 PLAYERS ON THE DL! And yet, we are in a battle for first place in the AL East, lead the AL Wild Card race, and by most people’s standards, are one of the top 5 teams in baseball. Our ability to keep winning despite these misfortunes is admirable and gives me hope as to what we’ll be able to accomplish when healthy. But really, let’s stop getting injured (please)!

#3 – In my opinion, Dustin Pedroia’s “laser show” is the best baseball quote of the year so far.

Unfortunately, he’s currently injured, but this season has just reinforced my love of Dustin Pedroia. He performs in games, entertains off the field, and overall seems like a pretty good guy. This is all why I was so entertained by this quote from him earlier in the season, in response to a question about David Ortiz’s early season struggles.
I gotta say, I freaking love this guy. One of my favorite moments of our year so far for sure, and a fun moment that really shows for me why I love the Red Sox. 
“Laser show. Relax.”
(I have to give credit to the website barstoolsports.com for finding this great quote. It’s a pretty funny website most of the time, check it out if you want to, just be prepared for some pretty over the top and controversial material)
#4 – Big Papi has got to be the best 2nd month player in baseball.

In the past few years, David Ortiz has consistently had a lot of trouble in the first month of the season (which the question Pedroia was answering above is based on). However, in the past 2 years especially, he has managed to turn his game around so dramatically in the second month, that it has to get your attention. Now, I’m not a huge stats guy, but I’ve got to put some out here just to show you how crazy a turnaround Papi made this year and last in the second month of the season. 
2010
April
Batting Average- .143
Homeruns- 1
RBIs- 4
Slugging Pctg.- .286
On-base Pctg.- .238
May
Batting Average- .363
Homeruns- 10
RBIs- 27
Slugging Pctg.- .788
On-base Pctg.- .424
That is absolutely ridiculous! However, in June he bounced back to a .238 average and slightly lower stats for those other categories. So, he’s basically a second month superstar, and after that an average ballplayer. And in 2009, the same thing happened towards the end of May and into June. You can check out the stats here if you like. 
I can’t really think of anyone else who is that good in May as opposed to April, except for maybe CC Sabathia in past years. If you know of anyone, I’d be interested in seeing who, so post a comment about it. But for now, move aside Mr. October, we’ve got a Mr. May.
david-ortiz-3.jpg
#5 – The 6 Red Sox All-Stars are probably my favorite 6 Sox players, and they really deserve this recognition.

I am very happy for Clay Buccholz, Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Big Papi, and first year Red Sox player Adrian Beltre. These guys are fantastic, as well as Kevin Youkilis, who is on the Final Vote ballot. He also deserves an All-Star spot, and I encourage everyone to vote for him at mlb.com, I know I will.
Tomorrow, I’ll probably write about the All-Star teams, as this is a very popular topic right now. There is both outrage and joy about these teams, so it is a very interesting thing to write about. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
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Let’s take a break

Maybe a little break is needed for all fans of the Red Sox. After the painful game 4 loss in Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers have completed their first 4 game sweep at home in 24 years. It was a grim picture in NYC for the Sox, as was well illustrated on the depressed faces of our players.

Home plate umpire Bill Miller calls Jason Varitek out after swinging and missing on a third strike pitch by Andy Pettitte. Pettitte went seven innings, giving up just five hits.

Bard went on to walk A-Rod in five pitches after giving up back-to-back home runs. After that, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had seen enough, pulling the fast-throwing righthander. The Sox bullpen had an ERA of 8.22 in the sweep with 32 base runners in 15.1 innings.

Our boys don’t look so happy about the way they played last night, and for the whole series. Needless to say, no one is really happy about the way we played.

As I was scrolling through these pictures on Boston.com, I noticed some depressing stats as well:

“Brace yourself for these numbers: in the series the Red Sox went 25-142, a .176 average. Boston scored just eight runs on the Yankees and struck out a total of 40 times in four games. They went scoreless for 31 innings and with runners in scoring position the Red Sox batted .079 – 3 for 38.”

As I was trying to keep from screaming, I remembered who we were. We are Red Sox Nation, our motto is “Keep the Faith” and “BELIEVE!” We are the diehard fans who kept that faith and believed in the Red Sox in ’04 and since whenever things looked bad. There’s no way we were going to give up yet, right? Wrong. There was also this poll on Boston.com. With my false belief that as a nation we would not give up yet, I voted for the obvious “Red Sox fan” answer. I must say, the results did shock me.

How are you feeling about the Red Sox?

It’s over. Stick a fork in this team, there’s no playoffs for the Sox. When does Patriots season begin?
58.6%
It’s OK. This team is still a playoff contender when it’s healthy and this is just a bump in the road to the playoffs.
41.4%
Total votes: 7586

Really?!

Okay, so maybe some Yankee fans voted on this, but it made me sad to see what kind of faith we had been keeping.

So today, I want all of you Red Sox fans to take a little break. If you’re feeling really down in the dumps, don’t even turn on the game. If you’re a sports fan, check out some other sports news. It’s a day to recharge and get ready for the final haul to the playoffs ahead of us. Let’s get through the bad times and keep believing and keeping the faith.

“It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”

A special thanks to Julia of Julia’s Rants for giving me the idea to write this (I hope I didn’t steal her thunder too much). As usual she is one of our biggest believers!

Thanks for reading.

Complete Opposites

It is interesting how, in many ways, the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles are complete opposites.

Just this year, many examples have come to my attention:

-While our regular starting catcher (V-Tek) is an old vet, Baltimore’s is (as of recently) a young prospect (Wieters)

-4 of the 6 infielders on their roster were born before 1979, while 4 out of our 6 were born in or after ’79

(Don’t worry, they’re not all about age)

-We are in 1st and they are in last in the AL East, and it has been that way for a while

-Their closer (Sherrill) has taken  5 years to become as reliable as he is this season, whereas ours (Papelbon) took 4 years only to already pass the Red Sox all time saves list, and was a star immediately upon entering the league

Okay, those aren’t actually that many examples; I’m sure you can find more if you look harder.

As of yesterday, there is a puzzling new one to add to the list. The Orioles, who are currently playing the Mariners, are up 2-0 in the 3 game series, whereas the Red Sox were 0-2 in the first 2 games of our Mariners series last week. I don’t have enough time right now to discuss why this has happened the way it has, but I welcome anyone to post their ideas about this new “opposite example” involving the O’s and the Sox.

Fire away!

The Innocent Side of Baseball

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.

1984 He was a multi-position star for Alamonte Springs, Fla. in the 1984 Little League World Series. His team lost to Seoul, South Korea in the final. Varitek went 0 for 7 with two walks and a run scored in three LLWS games.

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