Thursday, April 30

Starting Pitching Problems

The Red Sox are 14-7 and have won 12 of their last 13 so there is very little to complain about, however one item of concern might be the starting pitching. I'm not sounding the alarm and suggesting we trade the farm for a top line starter, but if you want to point to the weak link thus far it's been the starting pitching.

As I wrote about on Tuesday the bullpen has been great with the best era in the American League. The line up has been killing the ball, even with a power outage in the 3 hole. Pedoria, Youk, Bay and Lowell are all off to good starts, and even Ellsbury is swinging a better bat as of late and making things happen on the base paths. He stole home Sunday night against the Yanks if you missed it.

On the flip side our 1 & 2 pitchers have not been pitching very "ace" like lately, and that does worry me. Lester pitched 6 innings last night, allowing 5 hits and 3 earned runs, not terrible by any means, but he walked 7 guys! 7 walks is the Jon Lester we were seeing when he first came up, great potential but an inability to throw strikes consistently.

For the year Lester is sporting an era of 5.40, not what Sox fans were thinking things would look like after 5 games. In Lester's defense, he says he feels good and his fastball is still popping, he does have 33 K's in 30 innings pitched.

Josh Becket, the other ace, has an era of 6. Beckett looked almost un-hittable on opening day against the Rays (who he faces tonight), but the Angels and Yankees knocked him around. I've had the debate with my friend Chris about how "good" Beckett actually is and how much of his resume is boosted by his post season numbers, the jury is still out, but Beckett isn't helping the "ace" argument.

Dice K is on the DL with a tired arm, not much else can be said for him. Masterson has looked great in his place and if he keeps it up he could find his way into the number 5 spot in the rotation, as Brad Penny continues to struggle. Personally I think Masterson is most valuable in the bullpen, as he can go a few innings or be a setup man in the 8th, but the situation right now is what it is.

I don't want to say Brad Penny is pitching with a short leash, but if he continues to throw a lot of pitches early and not give the Sox a quality start, I think the John Smotlz whispers will get a lot louder. Currently, the Sox are shutting down Smotlz for a week, no need to rush anything, we're in the first month of the season. Needless to say I'm excited to see what Smoltz can give the team when he's ready to take the hill, he's a warrior.

Tim Wakefield has been the best pitcher in Boston thus far, throwing another gem against Cliff Lee in Cleveland the other night. Wake's track record is that he goes from hot to cold, and with the unpredictability of the knuckle ball it tends to the change tends to happen pretty fast. Wake is 40+ years old and it's not realistic to think he pitches this well all season, in fact a stint on the DL is probably likely. For now let's enjoy Wake's hot streak because when it craters, the calls for him to retire and be benched for a younger arm will be there.

Despite an era of 5.20 for the Red Sox starting pitching, I still believe that after a few bumps in the road here in April the Sox rotation will get better, they're too good not too. On top of that, there are options down on the farm with Bowdin and Buchholz in triple A.

The Sox know how to handle their pitching and won't rush or force any pitcher into an uncomfortable situation. I really like the way Theo Epstein built the pitching staff this year, in Theo I (we) trust.

The Flying Dutchman

The story last night was, quite simply, Jonathan Van Every. The former Indians farmhand went 2 for 4, drove in 2, the more important of which was himself, in the 10th, with a game-winning homerun. Must have been a pretty sweet feeling to do it off the team that didn't think they had any room for him with the big club. A few more games like that and Van Every might become a significant cog in the Sox right field (where leg muscles go to die), with Baldelli and JD Drew fighting something-or-others. Another good sign for the Sox---Jacoby Ellsbury contines to heat up, going 3 for 5 last night and improving his average on the season to .289.

The starting pitching was a less optimistic story. Jon Lester, though settling in nicely and mowing down the Indians through the 4th, 5th, and 6th, continues an uneven season, with a pattern starting to emerge: balls left over the plate early (generally a bit high). Sound familiar? Is it possible he's reverting to 2007 Jon Lester? Let's hope I'm just seeing things, and just pray, pray, that we never hear the term "arm fatigue" in the same sentence as "Lester" this season. (Rereading this paragraph, I understand that last night's performance was all right and not nearly cause for such concern, but what can I say? I'm a worrier.)

On the other side, Carmona wasn't much more stable. Though he only gave up two runs, control problems put him in a number of tight situations. But when his sinker is on, he has the makings of a hell of an efficient pitcher. That, and, let's be honest, when Fausto is on the mound and Asdrubal is at second base, that's the highest concentration of 'names I wish my son could get away with' you're going to find on a diamond.

Ultimately, this game came down, once again (how many times already this season?) to the strength of the Sox bullpen. Lester settled in and went six, but the Sox needed scoreless relief from Lopez, Delcarmen, Okajima (with the W), and Papelbon in order to get this game won. You just can't say enough about the job the pen has done so far this season. (Though has anyone else notice much less percussion out there? Is there a correlation between the absence of rhythm and the success on the field?)

So the Sox move on today to Tampa Bay, who's been suffering from an early season hangover after last year's success. Don't be surprised, though, if the Sox visit is just the thing to stir the Rays. With Beckett and Garza tonight, it'll be a telling start to the series.

So enjoy. It should be a hell of a night, with the Sox and the C's both in the crosshairs.

Wednesday, April 29

Bard Continues to Dominate

When ITM was down in Ft. Myers in March, one thing was for sure....Daniel Bard impressed the hell out of us. Not only does he pump 100 mph fastballs into the catcher's mitt, but he's able to locate it well enough to make batters constantly swing and miss.

And that's exactly what he has done thus far down in Pawtucket. He isn't just throwing well, he is absolutely dominating hitters, striking out 18 batters in 10 and 2/3 innings....a ridiculous strikeout per inning ratio. Not only has he been blowing gas by nearly everyone, he sports a 1.69 ERA with opponents hitting an Ortiz-like .061 against him (sorry David, it's not exactly deserved, but being on my fantasy team with no taters has got me a little pissed off).

To further confirm his domination, on April 22 at McCoy Stadium, Bard K'd three Rochester Red Wings on nine pitches, which is known in baseball as an immaculate inning...not exactly an everyday occurrence.

Tim Murphy posted about our stacked bullpen and its positive impact can add this to that thought line....Bard is a stud, and he is chomping at the bit to make Tek's glove hand sting and batters miss at's just a matter of time.

Check out a little more on Bard here

Sox, Penny Drop the Ball

The Red Sox had no real reason to win the game anyways....but it still sucks to lose a tie game in the bottom of the 9th without your closer on the mound. Tito decided to go with Lopez in the 9th inning of a tie game, and stuck with him after a lead off hit by Mark DeRosa. His decision would have (and should have) worked, if it wasn't for Lopez fumbling away the chance for the Sox to make it 12 straight by forcing the game into extras.

The reality is the game was lost well before that play. The Sox had two separate four run leads that Brad Penny couldn't hold and made as many errors in the field as they had committed all season. It's a wonder they were even in the game at all.

So while many have seen the highlights of Lopez dropping the third out of the bottom of the 9th, the greater blame should be put on Penny. I'll be honest, I was a fan of the Penny signing before the year, and I haven't given up hope in the low risk, high potential reward he offers quite yet....but how many more chances do we give the guy to get his stuff right? On this team, with its depth and talent in the pitching position, it can't be much longer. With Dice-K on the DL but feeling better, Masterson showing he can be a more than dependable starter, Buchholz starting to pitch better in the minors, and Smoltz coming into the picture sooner than later....what are the chances Penny sticks around (as a starter at least) much longer?

Sure the defense didn't do him any favors last night (looking at you Lugo), but nonetheless, his ERA stands at 8.66, and when you consider the talent of arms this team has, that should cause the team to reconsider its number 5 starter.

Tuesday, April 28

Sox Win Streak Credit to Bullpen

During the Red Sox current 11 game winning streak you can point to one reason for their success, pitching, and more specifically the bullpen. During the win steak the Sox bullpen has an era of roughly 1.46, that's really good.

I'm taking nothing away from the lineup who has played very well during the streak, especially Youk, Bay, Pedroia and Lowell, but the real back bone of the team has been and will continue to be the bullpen. The starting pitching has been very good as well, Tim Wakefield started this current run with a near no hitter and he shut out the Indians last night through 7 despite not factoring in the decision.

Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez have 9 appearances each, neither has allowed an earned run. Delcarmen has pitched 12 innings and struck out 9, Ramirez 11 innings with 4 K's. Both have largely served as the bridge to the setup man, meaning that when a starter has left before the 7th inning these guys have the other team on lock down.

Lopez and Okijima have struggled with their command, but Lopez remains a match up option for Francona against lefties, and Okijima's history suggests hill figure it out. A few bad outings is skewing Oki's numbers, he's a guy Francona trusts and will continue to, I'm not too worried yet.

Takashi Saito has been able to fill in for 2 saves on days when Pap hasn't been available to pitch, essentially giving the Sox 2 closers. Papelbon himself has 4 saves, and although he hasn't been un-hittable, he hasn't blown a save.

In comparison to the Red Sox league best bullpen, the Yankees pen is sporting an ERA over 6 and they just got swept out of Boston. I currently have July 4th in the pool for Joe Giradi to be fired, we'll see how that works out for me and the Yankees, who got shut out by Justin Verlander last night.

Of course to win their 12th straight tonight the Sox will need more of the same consistent play, from both their pitching and hitting. That said Julio Lugo returns to the lineup tonight and I'm predicting the streak ends at 11, although I hope not.

Monday, April 27

Going Around the Horn

Fresh off a three game sweep of the Yankees, and riding a 10 game winning streak, the Sox are in Cleveland tonight to face Cliff Lee, last year's CY Young award winner.....who appears to have found his minor league form again. They're likely pretty tired after they were busy out-classing the Yankees all weekend, but the Sox have their best starter (thus far) on the mound tonight in Tim Wakefield....with that, let's quickly go around the horn....

-Julio Lugo has been activated by the Sox but is not in tonight's starting lineup. No need to rush anything this early in the season, especially with T Murphy's boy Nick Green playing well.

-JD Drew is sitting out tonight's game with a tight left quad. Jeff Bailey (who has been studly) will take his place in right....insert JD band aid insult here.

-Dice-K threw long toss today and will participate in a bullpen session on Wednesday. If all goes well, he'll be making a rehab start down in Triple A next week....which sets up the question of what to do with Masterson. His best value appears to be as a starter, but he's likely to go back to the bullpen, at least for this year. Tito might be right when he says this Red Sox team goes 18 or 20 deep on the pitching front (see Bowden, Clay, Bard, etc).

- The NY media appears to be up in arms about Jacoby stealing home, the curtain call, and the laughter in Boston's dugout. They're crying in New York and saying that the Red Sox "rubbed it in" and "there should be retaliation". Let's keep in mind this is their media, and not the actual players...but come on, your team got swept, your bullpen looks terrible, best starter got rocked, all world closer is hanging his head in shame, and lineup is looking old. See Tony Mazz's article for additional takeaways from the weekend series..... your team was handled, deal with it.

Go Sox.

Morning Brew, NY House Blend

Another look at the NY headlines, after a weekend of fun at Fenway. Enjoy.

NY Post - Girardi's Gang Whiffs in Real Fenway Flop. (Really, Post? You think "Girardi's Gang" is gonna stick? Really?)

NY Post - Ellsbury Steals the Spotlight

NY Post - Nady and Marte Making Pirate Swap Look Like Fl0p. (A pretty quick reversal on NY's love affair with Xavier Nady. They've moved on to a new obsession, buddy - pirates. The NY Post will now connect any and all headlines to pirates. "Swine Flu Ineffective Against Somalian Pirates, who keep Halal.")

NY Post - Yankees Beat Indians on Posada Home Run. (Seriously, that ran for a while this morning, a reference to last Thursday's 7-3 Yankees' victory over Cleveland. Probably an accident, the headline didn't stay up long. Or maybe just a brief nostalgic whimsy, a look back to better times.)

NY Times - With Display of Power and Guile, the Red Sox Sweep Aside the Yankees. (A clear sign, in addition to the use of 'guile' that the NY Times sports section is out of touch - the use of definite articles. Who does that?)

NY Daily News - Sox Steal Yankee Pride (I like this one--crisp, to the point.)

NY Daily News - Larceny is Grand for Ellsbury (This one not so much. I really prefer the Post punsters to the Daily News guys.)

(Maybe more interesting in the Daily News is the real absence of Yankees articles today. It's all Mark Sanchez all the time. Also, the Jayson Williams tasering probably didn't help save ink space, either. Boston sweeps do not sell papers, apparently. Who says this industry has no sense?)

AM New York: Ugly Betty Shoots at Citi Field. (Frankly, unless she's got Traveling Pants, I'm not paying attention.)

Sunday, April 26

Sox Outslug the Yanks While Fan Knits. Unreal.

The Red Sox slugged their way to a 16-11 victory over the hated Yankees yesterday. It was an amazing game and a great day to be at the ball park. There were so many reasons to cheer, boo, swear, and high five random people as a result of the back and forth slug fest......and then there is this lady who was sitting in front of me. Not only is wearing a tie-dyed shirt (didn't the world decide to burn all of those after 1994?), but she is KNITTING! I couldn't believe it, here I am, screaming at Robinson Cano, fully infatuated with the greatest rivalry in sports....and this lady is knitting away, not watching the game. There was not a peep out of this lady the entire game, I mean, Mike Lowell goes deep close and late, and I'm running down the row high fiving anyone withing reaching distance....and she continues to knit.

This is what's wrong with Fenway park and some "fans". Security should be instructed to search for these people and throw them out onto Yawky way. Bring in the real fans who can't afford the seats, or the beer, but will give the Yankees and their fans hell for 9 straight innings. I went to Yankee stadium a few years back, and everyone wanted to fight me because of my Red Sox shirt, most Yankee fans yesterday walked and cheered freely in enemy territory....I blame this lady.
Go Sox.

Saturday, April 25

Morning Brew, NY House Blend

A few quotes from the NY papers to start off your morning:

NY Daily News, Mike Lupica: "This was an April loss, 16th game of a real long season, 17 more regular-season games between the Red Sox and the Yankees to come. Only a big game because it was the first time Boston and New York were playing one for real in '09. Plenty of guys had knocked Mo out in the final round. Nobody ever hit him harder than Bay did Friday night. You couldn't believe the way the ball sounded coming of his bat and you couldn't believe where it landed."

NY Daily News, John Harper: "In his first taste of The Rivalry, Mark Teixeira had his chance to put a memorable imprint on all things Yankees-Red Sox and officially become the player Red Sox Nation loves to hate most. Well, until Alex Rodriguez comes back anyway...Instead Teixeira will remember his strikeout against Jonathan Papelbon with runners at first and third and two outs in the 10th as a failed opportunity to shut the fans up and perhaps pull out a victory for the Yankees.

NY Post, Mike Vaccaro: "'You give me any game where we have a lead and we have Mo on the mound,' Johnny Damon said, 'and I'll take it. I'll take it every time.' Almost every one of the 38,163 people inside Fenway Park knew that, too, and even so, they were on their feet, ignoring the odds. This is a city brimming with confidence after all, a city housing dynastic football and baseball teams, and the defending NBA champions, and even an out-of-nowhere favorite for the Stanley Cup. The people expect good things here -- even when they have no right to expect them."

ed. note---An altogether unpleasant night for the Yanks: Brian Bruney, their current setup man (had retired 22 in a row coming into last night) was sent back to NY for tests on his elbow; Cody Ransom, A-Rod's replacements, was immediately placed on the DL after doing something to his quadricep sliding into second last night; and Chien-Ming Wang was officially placed on the DL with a hip problem. The Yanks have activated David Robertson from AAA, and likely Phil Hughes, who is 3-0 with an ERA below 2 this year in AAA, will take Wang's spot in the rotation. Still, a disconcerting night for the Yanks on all grounds.

Friday, April 24

Sox Win an Instant Classic Against the Yanks

Sox/Yanks, game one of extra inning instant classic, so many great plays, such an exciting game, and ITM kept a running log throughout...

Game Log

Early going...

  • Lester looks strong through two, great mix of off-speed stuff (you can see his increasing confidence in the change up, using it late in counts now).
  • My buddy Pat is right, Jason Bay does looks like ITM's own Tim Murphy.
  • Mike Lowell, saving at least a run with complete disregard for his hip...diving down the line to make a great stab....surprised he could even get up, that's great sign, no inhibitions.
  • Joba has looked rattled at times, mainly by Jacoby on the base paths, he still gets out of it. Sox bats look anxious with RISP.
  • I'm a little disappointed with the boos for Teixeira, they're loud, but not as loud as I hoped for.....I'm talking, I want old Garden loud.

Middle innings

  • All we do is leave the bases loaded!!!, 4 double play balls with RISD, can't be serious.
  • JD, can't make a tough play on a Jeter fly ball, runs into the wall, surprisingly he's not hurt. I can hear Tim Murphy screaming "disabled list" from here.
  • No timely hitting again, I feel like we've left 19 guys on base.
  • Oki....make up your mind on what kind of pitcher you're going to're like a chick who is hot one day with make up, then mediocre the next without it.
  • Ortiz continues to look terrible, he's clearly forcing it.
  • Given our winning streak, this would be a deflating game to lose.


  • ITM Gal says "maybe Jason Bay will hit a home run"....then BOMB!....that's why I'm marrying her. Let the phone calls and screaming like little girls begin. Tie Game!
  • Jason Bay, a run-saving catch earlier today, now a game-saving tater...LOCK HIM UP!!!
  • Mo has 12 blown saves against the Sox, are we the only team that hits him?


  • PEDROIA!!!...saves the go ahead run from scoring in the 10th...followed by a fist pump and scream of "let's $%&ing go!" Looked very similar to the play where he saved Clay's no hitter back in 07'.
  • Of course it comes down to Pap vs we walk/intentionally stay away from him??....guess not.
  • Why are we giving Damon second base? Base hit scores two now....
  • HIGH HEAT, down goes Tex!.....see how much Pap poured??
  • I just stung the hell out of ITM Gal's hand with a violent high five...


  • I hate the Yankees suck chant, wish it was never created.

  • Fitting that game one of 18 is a long one...I'm dragging ass.
  • The new Bruins ads are fantastic. Great stuff.
  • Big double play to end the top half of the inning, Pedey having a big day out in the field
  • I've never heard of most of the guys in this Yankees bullpen.

  • Would Ortiz bat third in a slow pitch softball league right now??? Frustrating beyond belief.

  • YOUUUUUKKKKK! WALK OFF!!! No doubt about it, over everything!!! Game over...

  • Thank god, I'm beat. I'll be going to tomorrow's game..which I'm even more excited after tonight's sweet victory.

"Boston you're my home"

Thursday, April 23

Bostonians Top the Baseball Charts Again

(I swear this is not a member of the ITM staff, but just a crazy red sox fan...I swear)

Everyone knows we as Bostonians and members Red Sox Nation are a unique bunch. We don't pronounce our R's, house the best colleges in the world, probably drink too much, and care more about the success of the Red Sox than our own professional careers. We struggle to balance being educated baseball fans and housing an built-in element of irrational behavior. Nevertheless, a new study by The Media Audit confirms what we already knew, Bostonians are the most loyal baseball fans in the country.

According to the report: "The surveys, conducted in 88 U.S. markets between January 2008 and January 2009 by The Media Audit ranks U.S. cities on the percent who regularly follow professional baseball on radio or TV. Among all U.S. adults, 51.2% regularly follow professional baseball, up slightly from 50.7% a year ago. However, in Boston, 76.1% of adults regularly follow the sport, making Bostonians nearly 50% more likely than the average U.S. adult to follow professional baseball."

Not only did the Boston market take home the championship here...we beat the bag out of the competition. Where are those "dedicated" New Yorkers you ask? Probably too busy being stuck on a bridge or tunnel to care about their teams (kidding, kind of, different parts of NYC were in the top ten, but none higher than fourth). Boston however, has claimed this title two years in a row now. Also getting high ranks were: Southern New Hampshire (AKA Boston North, we're just that money), Cleveland (really??..that dump of a city?), and Philly....interestingly enough, Tampa Bay made it into the rankings for the first time ever....surprising how that works huh? (ITM note, the Rays are currently in last place...if this keeps up, how long until the cow bells go silent and the fake fans stop showing up?)

That said, tomorrow promises to be 70 degrees and sunny in Boston, with the Yankees in town, and weekend in the 80's on tap....things are looking up Milhouse.

Go Sox, Go Boston.

Wednesday, April 22

Sox Beat Twins, the Rain (sort of)

The Red Sox plowed ahead to their 6th straight victory in the first leg of what is scheduled to be a doubleheader. Tim Wakefield pitched his second-straight complete game (the oldest Red Sox to do so), this one even more economical than the last, after Wake summoned the rain gods to end the game after 7. The knuckleballer gave up only 5 hits and 1 run in his 7 innings of work, improving to 2-1 on the season, with an ERA of 2.45 and a 1.05 WHIP.

And the Sox bats were just as alive as the knuckle. Jacoby had another strong day, going 2 for 4. (He also swiped one and got nailed trying to swipe one.) And an even more encouraging sign---Ortiz had another 2 for 4 day, finally remembering how to slap doubles (nearly a home run) off the Monster. Maybe most surprising of all: JD Drew's numbers on the year, after today: .310 BA, 3 HRs, 7 RBIs, .408 OBP, .690 SLG. ITM's frequent complaints aside, the man is quietly having a monster April.

So the Sox improve to 8-6 headed into the nightcap, which is schedule to pit Brad Penny against Francisco Liriano, but looks likely to be pushed back tomorrow due to more rain. So be it. The Sox-O's two-fer worked out well for us on Monday. Let's hope we can get a bit of the same magic tomorrow, if need be.

In the meantime, let me hear it all across New England: "A bas, les habs!"

Tuesday, April 21

Sox Rained out

Tonight's Sox game against the Minnesota Twins has been rained out, the game will made up tomorrow as part of a day/night double header. Everyone knows what that means, we'll all be at work and won't be able to watch the first game.

Tim Wakefield will start game 1 tomorrow against Scott Baker, and Brad Penny is expected to face Francisco Liriano, although rain is in the forecast for tomorrow night. No worries though as the Bruins will be on, attempting to close out the Canadians in Montreal.

Other News and Notes:

- Iron Man Rocco Baldelli was placed on the 15 day disabled list with a strained hamstring which he injured during Monday's win over the Orioles running from 1st to 3rd. This is why I wasn't a fan of the Baldelli signing, he's JD Drew from the right side of the plate. Of course that's a wild exaggeration but still, stretch out a little longer win it's cold out, come on Rocco. Jeff Bailey has been called up from Pawtucket to take his roster spot.

-Julio Lugo will stay down with the Paw Sox until Sunday when he will re-evaluated and if all is well he'll return afterwards. Part of me would like to see what Nick Green can do at short over a long period of time, the other part of me wants to see if Lugo's good spring was a sign of things to come this year.

- Jed Lowrie underwent surgery on his left wrist today in Arizona and the good news is that he could be back before the all star break. After the surgery Tito said it went well and that Lowrie could be swinging a bat in 6 weeks. I'm still waiting for Lowrie to string together a couple of healthy months to see what he can do. When he was called up last year he looked great until he injured his wrist, same story with spring training this year. The good news is he didn't need surgery that would side line him for the season.

Monday, April 20

Sox Blast O's, Move Above .500

(Ortiz knew he had a 3-bagger right out of the box - AP Photo)

It took a little longer than expected, but the Sox are back above .500 at 7-6 after completing a 4 game sweep of the O's. Boston's domination of Baltimore was unrelenting today, as the lineup continued to show how dangerous it can be, lighting up the scoreboard, and O's pitching, for a 12-1 victory.....

....and the hits came from everywhere in the lineup, but most importantly, from the number 2 and 3 hitters. David Ortiz has received plenty of bad ink to this point, ITM included, but he did his best to shut the critics up today, blasting a double and even legging out the elusive triple while picking up 2 rbi in the process. It was Papi's most productive game yet, which of course coincides nicely with my decision to bench him in my fantasy league this week. This is why you DON'T DRAFT RED SOX PLAYERS onto your team, it creates a constant conflict of interest and unneeded additional stress (ed note; I also have Pedroia, it's been tough watching them both struggle out of the gate). I'm kicking myself right now, but at least it's for a good reason. If "Roger Dorn's Revenge" loses this week and Ortiz blows up, I'll probably punch myself in the face, but I swear I'll be happy for the Sox.

Speaking of Dusty, he went 4 for 6 with 3 rbi (he however, was not benched by me, I’m not that terrible of a manager). Pedroia continued his offensive breakout and presumably was quick to let Big Papi know that Jason Varitek is now up 3-0 on him in the tater department.

Jay Masty (new nickname, take note) tossed 5 1/3rd quality innings, allowing only one earned run on 4 hits (all singles). He appears ready and willing to show he can add a lot of immediate value to the rotation, never a bad thing. Tuning into EEI a few minutes ago, I already heard a caller talk about the possibility of trading Dice-K because of Jay Masty’s performance thus far this season......that's EEI for you.

So after struggling through Oakland, the Sox did exactly what I had hoped for; going 5-2 over their last 7 games and calming all our initial fears. Management continues to remind us all that it's a marathon and not a sprint, it's fitting that we were reminded of that fact yet again today.

Sunday, April 19

Groovin', on a Sunday afternoon

Jon Lester finally regained his 2008 form this afternoon, throwing 7 scoreless innings, giving up only 4 hits and striking out 9. The Sox bats weren't exactly up to the challenge, but they manufactured 2, with a couple of singles scoring runners in the 2nd and 5th. It turned out to be enough, though just barely, after Takashi Saito (Papelbon resting after 2 days straight working) let a run across in the 9th and had the tying run in scoring position when he finally closed the game on a strikeout. Ramon Ramirez pitched a clean 8th, maintaining his thus far perfect season - 6 appearances, 8.1 innings pitched, 3 hits, and 0 runs allowed.

The win brings the Sox to an even 6 and 6, and full of high hopes for a Patriot's Day extravaganza in Boston. The Boston Marathon begins at 9:22 with the wheelchair competitors, moving on to the Elite Women, then the Elite Men at 10:00 am ET. The Sox will throw the first pitch (with Masterson on the mound, a starter for the first time this season) at 11:05 am. And in the evening, the Celtics and the Bruins are both in playoff action at 7pm. (Tell me this lead paragraph to an espn article today doesn't make you question the sanity / mortality of hockey players: "Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick had his spleen removed Saturday but has not been ruled out of the NHL playoffs." I read this outloud to my quebecoise girlfriend, who explained rather nonchalantly that "you gotta suck it up if you're gonna beat les habs." Holy crap, does this happen a lot in hockey? Why aren't I following?)

So it should be a hell of a Marathon Monday. Happy Patriot's Day everyone. And screw the Brits! Tell them to get the hell out of America.

(ed. note - The only non-New England state to celebrate Patriot's Day is Wisconsin. So while the Brewers are not in action tomorrow, let's all give them a hand on Tuesday.)

Easy Like Sunday Morning.....

If Paul Pierce could have hit one more free throw yesterday Bostonians would be in a complete state of euphoria this morning. Instead, we'll have to settle for a Red Sox win, a Bruins playoff spanking of the hated Canadians, and reading the NY headlines this morning after a historic 22-4 Yankee loss.

With that in mind, ITM figured we would share some of the headlines from a game that saw the Cleveland Indians put up a 14 spot in the 2nd inning. 14. The 1.5 billion dollar stadium didn't have a scoreboard that could accommodate that kind of drubbing.

So here you go Red Sox Nation....enjoy!

ITM note: Wang's ERA is now 34.50....pretty pumped I didn't pick him up in my fantasy league....and his next start is Friday at Fenway Park...if he makes it through the week alive.

Saturday, April 18

Lowrie's Doctors, Lugo's Progress

A quick update on the shortstop situation:

Lowrie will head to Arizona tomorrow to visit Dr. Donald Sheridan. This is Lowrie's fourth opinion on the matter, and will likely be the final say. The options are the same: injections and short rehab; minor surgery, short rehab; complete surgery, season ending. At the moment, Lowrie is going with the injections, but seems resigned to the idea that surgery may very well be necessary. We should know in the coming days.

On a more optimistic note, Julio Lugo is up to playing three innings in extended spring training games. Lugo took five at bats yesterday, slapping a double and scoring subsequent, all without any apparent strain to the knee. No word on the official timetable for his return, but the club seems encouraged.

In the meantime, Mean Nick Green has proven himself able. We'll just hope that by the time scouts find his "Ellsbury pitch," Lugo or Lowrie will be ready to go.

Sox Big Bats (save for Ortiz) Bail Out Penny

It wasn't exactly the Mother's day Miracle, but last night's Sox/O's game at Fenway was far from normal. The Sox bats broke out again last night, the second consecutive game putting up 8 or more runs, pulling off a come from behind victory after trailing 7-0 in the early going.

From a fan perspective, the emotional roller coaster that was last night's game ran wild, from texting my brother that I wasn't going to watch anymore in the 2nd inning, to screaming at my TV when JD legged out a triple without pulling anything, it was a wild game.

So the Sox got the win, but let's be honest, they had no business winning that game. Here is a summary of the good and the bad from last night, feel free to chime in with additions/thoughts/opinions:

The Good:

The Offense: Back to back games of crooked numbers on the scoreboard is a welcome sign for a lineup struggling to find its stroke. This lineup can go from mediocre to amazingly deep if they can find some consistency. Right now, it's Jay Bay and JD as the glue holding it together, that can last for some time, but not forever (see Ortiz comment below).

Dusty: I don't think anyone is sincerely concerned about the little man, we all know he'll hit, it's just a matter of when. Well last night may have been his break out game. It's no coincidence that he gets on base and the lineup produces behind him.

The Pen: We all knew this was going to one of the team's strongest assets, but thus far, did anyone think it would be this good? After spotting mopping up Dice-k's mess to throw 10 scoreless innings on Tuesday, they did a fantastic job of keeping the Sox in the game last night with six more scoreless frames.....and it's not just one or two guys shouldering the load, it's everyone...from Delcarmen to Ramirez to Lopez to Pap....more than solid.

The Real Bad:

Ortiz: In ITM's world, David Ortiz has officially lost the nickname "Big Sexy" (don't ask). Regardless, he has been neither big, nor sexy thus far. Safe to say we're all extra worried after he left 5 men on base last night and could not catch up with a plus fast ball. With each passing game the thought that Ortiz could have really "lost it" grows stronger. Also, the thought that he could really be 38 years old and not 33 continues to pop in my head..not good.

The Bad, but not too concerning:

Brad Penny: WTF was that?? After a productive outing in his first start as a Red Sox, he turns into a drunk Derek Lowe on the mound? The good news is, everything about this start seemed like an abnormality. An inability to throw strikes (even his fastball) and continuing to leave balls up in the zone are the direct opposite of trademark Penny. Let's hope that it was an one-off outing which Boston was lucky enough to win.

Starting Pitching: With last night’s performance, the Sox rotation now boasts a whopping 6.79 ERA, good enough for second worst in the American League. On average, the team has gotten 5.1 innings from its starters, and just two outings of more than six innings. These arms are better than this, and you got to believe numbers will begin to even out in time.

Next up on the mound, a pissed off Josh Beckett. Let's roll.

Thursday, April 16

10 Questions for the Sox.

The Red Sox are 3-6 and coming home for a 4 game series with the Baltimore Orioles. While the Sox haven't been anywhere close to the playoff contender they are projected to be I'm not worried yet, it's far too early to tell anything for certain.

With that said, here are 10 questions the Sox will have to find answers to in order to turn the ship around, if they don't, we might be in full blown panic mode by the early summer.

1. Does Jacoby Ellsbury know where first base is? Everyone's favorite Native American is batting .194 (below the Mendoza line), his OBP is .256, and has only walked 3 times in 36 at bats. Jacoby has to get on base and set the table for the rest of the order, otherwise it's the equivalent of Pedroia leading off with 1 out already on the board.

2. Who bat's lead off if Ellsbury can't? Candidates would be Pedroia, Drew, and Baldelli. Of the 3 I like Pedroia and move Drew to the 2 hole where he should see some fastballs. I'm still not sold on Baldelli. I'm not wild about any of these scenarios but I do wonder why Theo traded Crisp this past off season. Bill Simmons asked the question, why did we trade Coc0 when Tito benched Ellsbury in the playoffs last season?

3. Will David Ortiz return to at least 75% of the player he once was? Ortiz has 0 home runs, 3 RBI, and is batting .176 (below the Mendoza line). Obviously the Sox have struggled offensively and there haven't been a ton of RBI chances for Big Papi, however if our #3 hitter can't adjust to seeing more off-speed pitches and drive the ball to the gap all the sacrifice flies in the world won't matter.

4. Will Jon Lester be affected by his dramatic jump in innings pitched from last year? This was a question already being asked before the season started, however Lester's first two starts haven't done much to quiet the skeptics. I personally think it has more to do with Lester hitting his spots and leaving pitches up than it does his work load. Bottom line, Lester has to pitch better than he has.

5. Who is going to play short stop? Julio Lugo is down on the farm getting some rehab work in and Jed Lowrie got an injection to his ailing wrist and is "feeling better". Right now the starting short stop is Nick Green and Gil Velazquez is our utility man. I'm not saying they can't win with Green and Velazquez, but the health of Lowrie and Lugo is important. When healthy, it looks like Lowrie can be a good ball player, unfortunately we haven't seen him healthy for a long period of time yet.

6. How will the WBC affect Daisuke Matsuzaka this season? We all watched Dice K get hit harder then a pinata on Tuesday night, the cause we're told is arm fatigue related to the WBC. Currently Dice K is on the 15 day DL and I don't expect he'll be rushed back. The Sox have a stable full of arms and Masterson seems very capable of holding down a spot in the rotation.

7. Will JD Drew continue to bat 5th all year long if he leaves the bat on his shoulder? I know Drew is an OBP guy and the Sox philosophy is all about taking pitches, but if the tying run is on 2nd with 2 outs you better swing that friggin bat. I know the logic for him batting 5th is to keep the line up going right/left so the opposing managers have harder decisions to make later in the game regarding the bullpen. Personally, I'm not buying into that, I want Bay batting 5th, I don't care if it's Youk/Bay, Drew drives me crazy!

8. Who is going to be the bridge to Papelbon in the 8th inning out of the bullpen? One of the strengths of the Sox this year is clearly the bullpen, however with Masterson going to the starting rotation (we think), Okjima struggling out of the gate and Tito hesitant to overuse Saito, I'm a little concerned going forward. Ideally I would hope by the summer someone steps up and takes the ball in the 8th, I like Delcarmen in the 7th. Ramon Ramirez has been impressive early on, maybe he steps into the role. It's way too early to count Okijima out, he struggled early last year and figured it out, however I don't think we'll see Okijima post numbers like his first year. There are certainly options down on the farm with Bowdin and Bard.

9. How will the team deal with under achieving if that should happen? In 2004 the Sox were 10 games or so behind the Yankees in July. They didn't win the division but caught fire after the Nomar/Cabrera trade and won the Wild Card. If the Sox continue to under achieve (this is making big assumptions after 9 games) and this team finds themselves 10 back of the division leader, does it take another trade to shake things up or do they have it in them to battle back? I was more out of things to write about then I am concerned about this, but given the current play it's a legit mate question.

10. If Ortiz is truly in a rapid decline when does Theo pull the trigger on a deal for a bat? I thought Ortiz was capable of hitting 30-35 home runs this year, however with every at bat I become less certain of this. If Youk continues to kill the ball maybe Ortiz sees some more fastballs and that helps his power numbers out, but if he can't hit for power the Sox might have to do something creative. Presumably a team like the Tigers might be out of contention by July and be looking to deal a high priced bat, Magglio Ordonez anyone? However where this new addition would play is a question that can't be answered right now. We'll see how the team looks closer to the trade deadline, but they might need some pop in that lineup.

I Blame the Globe....

I called it. A few days ago the Boston Globe ran an article describing Boston's good chance to make a run at championships in all four major sports this year...."something that has never been done before in the sports world"....and with that, we were jinxed.

Of course we all know about the injuries to Lowrie and the Dice Man that quickly followed the running of that article. Coincidence? Possibly. Now I wake up to hear about a Clay Buchholz hamstring injury. While it's not considered serious, the combination of hearing about Clay and the breaking news that Kevin Garnett will not be ready for the playoffs has me searching for that Globe article in an effort to burn it. Next thing you know Tom Brady will....nope, I'm not even going to say it.

When will they learn? You just can't run an article like that an expect things to turn out well. In the same way that Tim shouldn't have used the phrase "Wake has a no-no going through 7" when he called me yesterday....jinxed. I don't get it.

While I may blame Ortiz and others for the slow start, the overarching blame is squarely on the Globe's shoulders now. This injury blood is on your hands. Thanks a lot guys, thanks a lot.

Wednesday, April 15

Tim Wakefield, the Wind Beneath My Wings

Tim Wakefield gave the Sox a much needed boost on their way out of Oakland today, throwing a two run, four hit complete game. First pitch strike after first pitch strike, Wake flashed a bit of the old brilliance and made the ball dance at will. And boy did the bullpen need that day of fun in the sun.

Not only was Wake individually in the zone, he inspired others, too. A leader of men, finally waking up the Sox bats. (Speaking of waking up, did anyone else foresee that JD Drew bomb? It just felt like a rope a dope. Three strike outs, a slow start to the at-bat, then Blevins leans with his right, as it were, breezes by the chin, and pow, JD comes back with a haymaker. All right, I didn't actually foresee that, but I was kind of silently pushing for it.) Mike Lowell put one out of the park himself and went 2 for 3. And then there's Jason Bay, the Radgin' Canadgin', with another big night. Even Nick Green (flashing some amazing leather) and George Kottaras (who looks exactly like the father-catcher (spoiler alert) from Field of Dreams) got on base.

All that can't hide the complete lack of production the Sox are currently getting from the 1, 2, 3 spots, or the fact that Daisuke went on the DL, Lowrie could be done for the season, Lester's struggling with some demons, and Papi looks about as nimble as Greg Oden. But it will make the plane ride home a bit better (think JD Drew, tossing c-notes, yelling 'make it rain').

All in all, not an encouraging start to the season, but it could have been worse. Let's just put the left coast behind us, watch an episode of The Wire, and get ready for Baltimore.

[ed. - I have to say, though, losing 2 out of 3 aside, I really was getting to like Oakland. Okay, not the whole time, but today I was getting a good vibe. A nice quick game in the California sun. And listen to some of the deals they have there: Fridays, family of four gets tickets, hot dogs, peanuts, and Pepsis for $50 total ; Sunday's game against the Rays, the first 10,000 fans get a Matt Holiday jersey (not a t-shirt, a jersey) ; and they've got an all-you-can-eat ticket! All that, and you've got a quality young baseball team. I have to say, I'm feeling pretty good about my pick for the AL West. Until we see them again in July, I'm gonna be pulling for them and those elephant sleeve patches.]

Daisuke Down

Daisuke has been placed on the 15 day DL and the Sox have activated Hunter Jones from Pawtucket. All the blame is falling squarely on the WBC, and for good reason. The bad news continues for the Red Sox....

Slings and Arrows

More great news: Jed Lowrie is visiting today a Baltimore hand specialist, Dr. Tom Graham. And the options are not encouraging: 1) minor surgery, bone removal, six week recovery; 2) injections and rehab, one month or more recovery; 3) major surgery, season ending.

This is the same injury that nagged Lowrie last year, yesterday's MRIs confirmed. Lowrie admitted that it's been bothering him now for the last 2 and 1/2 to 3 weeks.

This is a pretty big blow to the Sox, who were obviously were even more dependent on Lowrie's emergence in light of the Julio Lugo situation. And you gotta feel for the kid. He finally gets his chance to seize the starting shortstop gig full-time and then this happens. This can't be a good day for many in the Sox clubhouse.

The Fallout - Daisuke and the Rotation

Word coming out of the clubhouse this morning is that the Sox believe Daisuke is suffering from some general arm fatigue. The man himself denies any ailment and seemed a little peeved about being pulled after the first. But both sides are treading cautiously.

"He didn't communicate too much," Francona after last night's 6-5 extra-inning loss. "We talked to him the other day because he expressed a couple days ago some kind of general soreness or fatigue in the back of his shoulder from the WBC. We thought we talked it through pretty good in Anaheim and he came out tonight and didn't really have a whole lot. We'll re-evaluate him in the morning."

And although they won't make anything official until after that re-evaluation this morning, it looks like Daisuke is going to get some rest on the DL. Which brings us to the debate of the day: what happens to the pitching staff?

After last night's stellar performance---four innings, allowing only two hits in relief of Matsuzaka---Justin Masterson seems the prime candidate to take over the third spot in the rotation. But Masterson has thrived this season in relief, as has the whole Sox bullpen. The club might be wary at this point of throwing any wrenches into what has been, thus far, the Sox lone bright spot. And the fact is, Masterson's likely replacement, Bard or Bowdin, is going to be a very different kind of pitcher. As excited as we all might be to see Bard hit triple digits, for example, he's likely not going to be ready to give you four innings of that with the big club. That said, the Sox do have a couple arms that have been used sparingly so far---Saito and Okajim---that could presumably take up a little more of Masterson's load.

The other option the Sox seem to be mulling is simply plugging Buchholz into the third spot and leaving everything else as it is. As we all know, Clay had a fine spring and is eager to rejoin the club. But the team seems disinclined to have their hand forced on Buchholz. He's still highly valued, but considered somewhat fragile, both in terms of his own performance and his trade value. The club may fear rushing him back up before they're ready and facing another setback that effects his arm, his psyche, or the general league perception of those two assets (which, at the moment, is again on the rise).

For the time being, the smart money, assuming Daisuke is going to get his rest, is on Masterson joining the rotation and either Bard or Bowdin coming up. The Sox have an off-day to travel back to Boston before starting their series against Baltimore on Friday, so they'll have some time to think it over. But, if the Sox find themselves being swept out of Oakland today, the last thing the team may want is a long flight to think things over.

Tuesday, April 14

Dice K Shelled

The Dice Man was shelled in the first inning tonight giving up 5 runs on 5 hits and issuing 2 walks. This was after the Sox offense finally showed some signs of life., scoring 3 runs in the top of the 1st.

Jerry Remy just said this, (and I was thinking the same thing after watching Dice K's fastball top out at 89), he's hurt. I wouldn't be surprised if Matsuzaka ends up on the 15 day DL, probably some fall out from the WBC.

We'll see what comes of it in the morning, but Justin Masterson could find himself in the starting rotation after coming in for long relief tonight.

Beckett Suspended 6 Games

Josh Beckett was suspended 6 games by Major League Baseball today after it was determined he intentionally threw at the head of Bobby Abreu. The suspension effectively means Beckett will miss 1 start unless he appeals the decision, delaying the suspension

I'm not going to sit here and say Beckett was in the right or he is completely innocent, but MLB decided that he intentionally threw at Abreu, how the hell do they know that? Beckett was beginning his motion to home plate when time was called, in that fraction of a second he decided to behead Abreu? I'm not saying it didn't happen, but to say they know is quite a leap.

Beckett was also suspended for aggressive behavior, which I agree that he was aggressive, but there wasn't any kind of violence. Aren't managers aggressive when they argue every call on the field?

In my opinion the entire situation escalated completely out of control because of the Angels behavior. Mike Scioscia was exhibiting more aggressive behavior than Beckett, and he only got fined along with Torri Hunter and Justin Speier.

I haven't taken the time to find out who Justin Speier is yet, but I hope Beckett drills him in the back next time these two teams tango, he was screaming like a mad man. If someone of the Sox laid out Speier I think they would be doing MLB a service, what an ass clown.

Maybe MLB is putting their foot down to make a point, they won't tolerate this crap when these two teams meet up again. I think if you want to fine Beckett that's one thing, but a suspension seems a little over board.

Of course I imagine everyone in Anaheim/Los Angeles disagrees with me on this, either way I can't wait until these teams meet up again, May 12th in Anaheim for a 3 game series for those who are curious.

Sox Lose Again, Globe Officially Jinxes Our Hopes

I was sitting at my desk yesterday, thinking about the upcoming two series against the Athletics and Orioles and thought to myself "we'll turn it around and go 5-2".... We'll I'm glad I didn't share this prediction with anyone. While a 5-2 trip is still possible, the Red Sox don't look like they could be the Pirates right now.

Last night, Jon Lester was far from the "stopper" we all came to know and expect last year. He struggled through 6 innings in an eventual 8-2 loss to Oakland. The lefty was leaving pitches high and catching too much of the plate....which is a formula that yields taters. Although, I guess it could be worse, we could be dealing with Chien-Ming Wang. I mean Christ (it's after Easter/Lent, I can say that), our old buddy Nomar even took Lester deep....and then welcomed the idea of someday returning to Boston (if he doesn't retire)....come on Nomar, you and I both know that Mia would let you step foot in Boston again. Youk was again the lone offensive bright spot for the Sox, hitting a solo shot and adding a double, but it's a team game and he can't win by himself. The Sox are now 2-5, their worst start since 1996, and it's been much of the same over the first 7 games; inconsistent pitching and a flat lineup (save for Youk) that seems to max out at 3 runs a game (currently averaging just over that).

To make matters worse, the Globe officially jinxed all of Boston sports for 2009. Why would they do that? Who decided this was a good idea to run this article??? Talk about bad luck, thanks Globe, with articles like that maybe going out of business is best for Boston sports.

Forgive me if this post is overly pessimistic, grad school is pissing me off lately, and the Sox are not helping.

Monday, April 13

Lowrie Sent to the DL

Word is coming out that the Red Sox have put their starting short stop, Jed Lowrie on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left wrist. The adjusting roster move is to call up infiedler Gil Velazques from Triple-A.

I'm actually almost happy to hear this. Lowrie started the year going 1 for 18 with eight strikeouts.....I was almost hoping something was wrong. His bat looked slow and swing out of sorts....hopefully some time off will allow him to get healthy and figure it out. There doesn't seem to be too many details on this yet, but we're assuming it's the same wrist which gave him problems down the stretch last year. Nick Green is likely to see multiple starts this week as Julio Lugo continues to work on rehabbing his knee.....hopefully Green can learn to get the bunt down while manning the starting position.

Meanwhile, here is the starting lineup for tonight's game.....obviously there is no Lowrie, but there is no Jacoby either with Rocco taking the lead off spot as a result of facing a lefty...

1. Rocco Baldelli, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. J.D. Drew, RF
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. Mike Lowell, 3B
8. Jason Varitek, C
9. Nick Green, SS

-- SP, Jon Lester....need a bounce-back performance from JL.

Go Sox.

Sunday, April 12

Sox Lose, Beckett Attempts to Kill Abreu

Games like today are painful to watch for the following reasons:

1. Your ace is on the hill and you lose.
2. You go 1-7 with RISP, including leaving the bases loaded in the top of the 8th.
3. JD Drew strikes out looking to end the game

Yes, the Sox lost to the Angels 5-4 today in the rubber game of their 3 game series. With the loss the Sox fall to 2-4 on the season, and although it's been a frustrating start, it's not time to panic. That said the callers on WEEI tomorrow will no doubt be in full panic mode, just know that the dumbest 25% call into that station during all hours of the day.

That said here are a couple of thoughts about the game.

-Everyone saw the dust up between Bobby Abreu and Josh Beckett in the top of the 1st inning. I enjoy the way Beckett doesn't take crap from anyone, similar to Pedro, but I think anyone would think twice about charging at Beckett. He's from Texas, don't mess with Texas!

-I won't use the word worried, but Okijima isn't making me as confident as other guys in the bullpen right now. Hopefully he can string together a few good appearances and that will be that.

-Nick Green got his first start at short stop today giving Jed Lowrie the day off. Let's hope Green hit's the cages early tomorrow morning and learns how to bunt. It's actually pretty simple, keep the barrel of the bat above the handle and stand in the front of the box so you bunt it fair. Other then failing to move Tek to third Green actually played pretty well.

-4 members of the Angels were thrown out of the game after Beckett and Abreu's dust up and really only Scioscia should have been. Torii Hunter is an idiot for running his mouth, and who the hell is Justin Speir? I've never heard of that guy but if you tuned in after the first initial clearing of the benches you would have thought Beckett took a piss on the 34 behind the mound. No idea why Speir was all hot and bothered but he was run out of the game as well.

-Peter Gammons was on Baseball Tonight after the game saying umpire Joe West did little to help the Beckett/Abreu situation. After talking to "people" Gammons said Joe West was confrontational when dealing with the Angels, and that Lowell and Youk were doing a good job of keeping the situation under control.

-Again it's early but the Red Sox offense has to do a better job of capitalizing on its' opportunities, I nearly broke the remote control when they left the bases loaded. Also was there any question Drew wasn't going to come through in the 9th? The bat never came off his shoulder.
-156 more games to go.

Saturday, April 11

I am the Resurrection and the Life

That's not a melodramatic headline, right? What? A guy can't merge the symbolism of Easter and baseball once in a while?

A few impressions following a nail-biting, desperately needed (to the extent we can throw that term around in what is admittedly the first week of the season), 5-4 Sox victory over the Angels:

---Anyone else surprised to learn that Brad Penny has the best April record of any active pitcher in the big leagues? After today's outing, he's a regular spring nymph at 21-7. The Sox have got to be pleased with that outing.

---Reassuring to see that Penny's velocity is there, but when he got up to 95, 96, it didn't look like he could hit 'Tek's targets. Still, that he was in the mid-90's at all is encouraging.

---That goomba Mike Napoli had this look on his face the whole game like he knew something we didn't. It was pretty impressive. Not just the hitting, but the fact that he was not at all surprised by it. The Angels apparently expect to get an awful lot of production from behind the plate this season.

---Speaking of catching production, way to be, 'Tek. I'm gonna try to be cool about it and not say anymore than that. Just, you know, way to be.

---I know this is strange, but Jacoby looks younger to me every time he doesn't get a hit. I'm not saying that at all as a slight, just as a real, physical observation. When he crosses the base path toward the dugout, it's like Field of Dreams and he seems to be a teenager all of a sudden. It's freaking me out a little.

---Reggie Willits is back with the Angels. You'll remember he was one of the goats of the 2008 ALDS. Terrible circumstances (I can't even begin to get into how terrible), but glad Willits is getting another shot with the club.

---Holy crap was that a good (stressful) last at-bat of the game.

---Chone Figgins has really got to work on the throw across the diamond. I've seen him lift Morales up off the bag three times this series already. You know that one where Figgins made a diving stab and a surprisingly good throw from his knees, but Morales just sort of watched it sail by his glove like he was seeing double for a moment? I'm thinking that was just revenge for making Kedrick work. Nobody makes Kendrick work. Got it, Chone?

---Please, please everyone: start calling Jason Bay the 'Ragin' Canadgin'. It would mean a lot to me if that caught on.

Pregame: Rocco In, Drew Out. Penny's Turn

Tito has replaced J.D. Drew with Rocco Baldelli for this evening's game against the Halos. Apparently, Tito decided to keep Jacoby in the lineup because he "likes the way he's been swinging the bat lately."

According to Tito: "You gotta pick one or the other,".... "It certainly won't be a platoon situation." Looking ahead, the Sox will see three straight lefties against the Oakland A's, so Tito will surely be mixing and matching Jacoby, Rocco, and JD. The attempt to keep everyone happy and healthy is just beginning....

Here is today's lineup:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Kevin Youkilis,1B
5. Rocco Baldelli, RF
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. Mike Lowell, 3B
8. Jed Lowrie, SS
9. Jason Varitek, C

SP- Brad Penny
As you all know by now, this is Brad Penny's first start of the season for Boston, a start we're all looking forward to. The season has started with inconsistent pitching for Boston, so a solid start from Penny would go a long way to cooling the current fears of Red Sox Nation.

According to multiple reports, Penny will be kept on a pitch count of about 85-90 pitches. Let's hope he gets through 5+ innings.

Let's go Sox.

Angels Win With Heavy Hearts: 6-3

The Angels couldn't lose this game. Not after all they have been through over the last 48+ hours, not after an emotional pregame dedication to Nick Adenhart whose 22 year-old life came to a tragic end two nights ago. The Angels were not going to lose this game, it was written.

As big of a Sox fan as I am, I can't help but being totally ok with the Angels dominating the Red Sox last night....well, maybe not totally, but you get the picture. As we all know by now, Tim Wakefield can be a hit and miss pitcher, last night, he missed. It was a struggle all night for Wake, meanwhile the Sox lineup made Jared Weaver look like the second coming of Cy Young. The Sox made it somewhat interesting in the late innings against the Halos bullpen, just interesting enough to keep me awake and frustrated until 1:30 am when I should have been in Faneuil Hall watching all the drunk people fight. The Sox lost 6-3, and I didn't get to see kids from the north shore fight each other, tough night all around.

So the Sox have lost three in a row, that's called a losing streak (please pick up on the Major League quote, please). Naturally that requires us here at ITM to call each other and hash out our thoughts on all things Red Sox. I'll spare you all the gruesome details and senseless movie quotes that make no sense....but here is one item we're contemplating:

The strike zone. Yes it's early in the season, and we're likely overreacting to a difficult start and trying schedule out of the gate, but hasn't the strike zone seemed much bigger thus far this year? Boston has certainly benefited from some of the calls, but for a team built on plate discipline, they appear to be struggling with what seems to be an expanded strike zone (see Jacoby and Jed Lowrie especially). The Sox have struck out 27 times in 4 games, 7 of which have come from the short stop. The offense clearly isn't clicking, but they've faced a combination of tough pitching and interesting umpiring, it'll all even out in time.

-ITM note, the Sox get the Rays and the Angels while the Yanks play the O's and KC? It would've been nice for the Sox to build some momentum and confidence with early series against those cupcakes.

(thanks to ESPN for the pic).

Friday, April 10

Captain, Oh Captain

Jason Varitek is a driven man, one who strives to be the most well prepared catcher in the game. Combine that with a pitching staff that has to be considered among the best in the game, and you've got a good thing going when the starting 9 are in fielding position.

But you've got to think Tek has even more driving him this year, mostly a desire to prove everyone (ITM included) wrong. Yesterday, Tek hit ANOTHER tater, again catching many of us by surprise....and from the left side nonetheless. It forced us all to remember that he somehow hit 5 taters this preseason and may have even caused a flicker of optimism among Red Sox Nation for their aging captain.

Here are my quick thoughts on Tek. ...Tim Murphy has called for an even worse year out of the captain (ITM note, he has also called for most of his predictions to fail). I believe Tek will hit around .240 or .245 this year, with slightly better production numbers as a result of a deeper, healthier line up in front of him, and less external distractions from his personal life. However, my real concern is how he gets to those numbers. Tek always comes into the season in good shape, and this year is no different. He could very well have a good first half of the year, but let's face it, he's another year older and the grind of being a catcher will likely effect his second half, and hopeful post season numbers. If the Sox are coming down the stretch with Tek out of gas, swinging a slow bat, and hitting .120 in August, September and into October, what's the net gain of slightly better numbers? (keep in mind, over the last three years, Tek has had a average of .210 in September).

I see nothing wrong with some cautious optimism for Tek, like I said, he's a driven man with a lot to prove, any additional production out of him this year is a bonus, but I have sincere concerns about him down the stretch. For now, let's enjoy Tek's "resurgence". I just wouldn't run to pick up Tek as your season-long catching solution in any fantasy leagues.

Go sox

Thursday, April 9

Game Three, Much of the Same

(When does this guy hit the free agent market again???)

Stop me if you've heard any of this before......Evan Longoria has a fantastic game against the Red Sox, Dice-K struggles through 5 1/3rd innings, Matt Garza throws a gem in Fenway, and the Sox claw back into the game just enough to keep you focused on ESPN Gamecast instead of real work during an afternoon game.

Don't get me wrong, it's game three of 162, I'm not freaking out, I swear. I'm just saying it feels like we've been here before. The Sox fell to the Rays this afternoon 4-3 at Fenway Park, losing the rubber game of the series. Garza looked to be in the same form as last year's ALCS, going seven strong innings against a lineup that appeared to be a timely hit away from rattling the young pitcher.

One thing is for sure, Evan Longoria is a stud. He's officially gone from star to superstar. Doesn't it just feel like he's going to hit 25 taters against the Red Sox this year? Not sure about you guys, but I'm more concerned with Longoria at the plate than anyone down in pinstripes.

Outside of that, what did we learn today? Not much, like I said, it's game three of 162. One thing is for sure, the WBC MVP continues to frustrate all of Red Sox Nation, let's just hope this frustration translates into an 18-3 season like last year.

Bruins to host Winter Classic at Fenway

(courtesy of the Herald)

News is breaking from the Herald this morning that the Boston Bruins will host the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway park on January 1, 2010. The opponent has yet to be named, but all we can do is hope/assume they're smart enough to schedule the Canadians. Let's face it, Boston/New York is a great rivalry in most professional sports, but hockey just isn't one of them, get the Canadians in here so we can throw stuff at them from the right field grandstand.

According to the report, the NHL looked at both Gillette and Fenway to host the game, but scheduling conflicts with the Patriots gave Fenway the upper hand. The league was also considering the cities of New York and Philadelphia for the game, but correctly decided on Boston and Fenway Park for this event. The game has yet to be officially announced, but you can bet that those crazy bruins fans are already waiting outside Ticketmaster for seats.

Bruins fans (the real ones)...are just a different breed of people, I respect them, but damn am I scared of them at the same time.

Wednesday, April 8

Let Down, that's a wrap

After the buzz of opening night, Fenway got a lot quieter tonight.

Lester started out strong, with five strikeouts in his first two innings, but from there seemed to lose control and intensity. He fell behind hitters, walked leadoff men, and eventually got pulled after five, having given up five.

On the bright side, the bullpen finally got a work out. Delcarmen pitched a clean inning, as did Ramon Ramirez (who looked very strong). Takashi Saito gave up a homerun to Evan Longoria, the first hitter he faced as a Red Sox, then retired the next three. Even Javey Lopez got into the act, giving up a run in the ninth. All in all, not a great performance from the Sox staff we were all feeling so infinitely rosy about this morning.

Kazmir, on the other hand, was on point, going six innings, giving up only one run. (Yes, I'm biting my tongue about that strike zone, as I'm assuming that Lester had some gimmes, too, but every fiber of my being wants to say that damn was Kazmir getting the benefit.) And the Rays offense bounced back nicely after a lackluster opening.

But what's to be expected? The Rays are here to stay. It's all just part of the rhythm of the baseball season. Settle in for at least 160 more up-and-down nights.

Lester Leads List of At-Risk Pitchers

Over at Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci posted today his annual list of at-risk young pitchers, and right there at #1 is tonight's Sox starter, Jon Lester.

For those of you unfamiliar Verducci's "at-risk" list, it's based on a pretty basic theory: pitchers who are 25 and under are highly susceptible to injury the year after they see a workload increase of 30 innings or more. Obviously, many clubs have been operating under the same assumption for years now, keeping young arms on tight innings restrictions.

But Verducci's particular equation on this has been scarily accurate: he went 6 for 7 with injury predictions in 2008 (think Ian Kennedy, Dustin McGowan, and Fausto Carmona). In today's column, Verducci summarizes his track record: "Over the previous three years I red-flagged a total of 24 young pitchers at the start of those seasons. Of those 24 at-risk pitchers, 16 were hurt in that same season. Only one of the 24 pitchers managed to stay healthy and lower his ERA: Ubaldo Jimenez, of Colorado, a guy I said would be less at risk because of his powerful body type."

This year he red flags ten pitchers (listed in order of their workload increase): Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Dana Eveland, Mike Pelfrey, John Danks, Jair Jurjjens, and Jon Niese.

Verducci does note of Lester that he "has age (he turned 25 in January) and size (6-2, 200) on his side," and expresses greater concerns over slighter, younger guys like Lincecum. He also notes that John Farrell appears to be on top of the situation and does not seem particularly concerned about Lester's injury-risk this year.

Still, Lester's workload increase in 2008 was dramatic - up 83.1 innings over the previous year. The Sox already seem to see Lester as their long-term workhorse, but this could be the year where they find out whether that goal is realistic.

Lester makes his first start of the season tonight against the Rays. There are nerves enough surrounding this start without Verducci's pesky historical analysis, but it's one more plotline to keep in mind. It could be one of the most important of the season.

Tuesday, April 7

Beckett Is the Key

Peter Gammons is on record, I've heard him say this in person, that if Josh Beckett is healthy the Red Sox are the favorites to win the 2009 World Series. Gammons of course is referencing the Josh Beckett from the 2003 and 2007 postseasons, where Beckett was nearly untouchable.

Today Josh Beckett was nearly untouchable, shutting down the Tampa Bay Rays down for 7 innings allowing 2 hits and striking out 10, while walking 3 in route to a 5-3 win today at Fenway Park. If you didn't get to watch the game Beckett really only had 2 innings that weren't easy. In the third inning he walked 2, leading to the only run he gave up, and the 6th inning Beckett stranded runners at second and third.

Of course it's only opening day and there are 161 games left in the season, but you can't help but walk away from today's game with a great feeling about the guy at the top of the Sox rotation. All I kept thinking about today during the game today was, "If Beckett was healthy last October the Sox beat the Rays in the ALCS." Feel free to disagree with that, but I believe it's true.

A lot has been made about the character and makeup of Josh Beckett going into this season. Some have touched on his focus to pitch on his day, while others talked about how he has a lot to prove this year in wake of last year's mediocrity.

After the top half of the first inning I think we saw the answers to both questions; Beckett is focused and is poised to have a lights out year. Iwamura whiffed to open the game, Crawford grounded out weakly to short on a nice play by Lowrie, and Longoria looked foolish chasing a curve ball for strike 3.

Beckett's curve ball looked very good today, ask Carlos Pena who struck out 4 times, 3 courtesy of Beckett.

Beckett is sure to have a bad start along the way, and he'll need help from the other 24 guys the roster to reach the destination that is the World Series. After just one day I need no other reminder that I wouldn't want anyone else pitching opening day or game 1 in October; Josh Beckett.

Yankees Follow-Up

To help get you through the morning hours, here are the headlines from today's NY papers. Enjoy:

NY Daily News: CC, Yanks rocked to start season
Id: Irked O's fans send angry Teix message
Id: Struggles an Eye-Opener

NY Post: CC, Tex Stink it up in Opener
Id: Yanks' Big-Money Men Make Poor Impressions
Id: Knicks Miss Playoffs for Fifth Straight Season (just thought you'd enjoy that, too)

NY Times: New Stars Fizzle as Yankees Absorb a Beating

Metro New York: Opening Day Bust

AM New York: Get a Derek Jeter-Style Manicure and Pedicure (ed-seriously)

Let's hope the Fenway debut goes a little smoother.

Monday, April 6

O's Top Yanks

The Oriole's are officially in 1st place in the AL East, topping New York 10-5 in today's opener.

The much bally-hooed debut of C.C. Sabathia in pinstripes did not go according to plan. The big southpaw went 4 1/3 giving up 8 hits, 6 earned runs, and walking 5. He never quite got control of his fastball, and departed the game with the Yanks in the hole 6-1.

The Yankees offense hit back, including a home run by Jorge Posada (still looking good, behind and next to the plate), as well as some some sweet swinging from Derek Jeter (3 for 5 on the night).

But in the 8th, when the Yanks had their chance to tie it up---with the tying run on third and the go-ahead on first---Mark Texeira couldn't come through, dribbling into a fielder's choice. It was a long day for the new three-hole, with booes raining down on him at every step.

The game blew wide open in the 8th, when the O's brought 4 across off of Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte. Which means the questions are still swarming out in the Yankees bullpen.

So there you have it. The Sox and Rays couldn't get their game in, but Boston still got some baseball pleasure today. Hope that gets you through to 4:06pm ET Tuesday.

Breaking news: Today's Game Canceled

Larry Lucchino is currently on WEEI's morning show and has said today's opening day game at Fenway has been canceled, and rescheduled for tomorrow at 4:05pm. Larry sounded very optimistic in regards to getting the game in tomorrow. The cancellation will likely change Brad Penny's expected start date, but it has yet to be officially announced.

This brings up the natural question....why is the first game of the season in, early April, at Fenway anyways? As much as I like opening day, shouldn't this series be played in Tampa? The Sox usually spend the first handful of series on the road as the Boston weather continues to slowly improve over the month of April.

Either way, my balloon of excitement has been popped and the office party has been slightly ruined.....until 4:05pm tomorrow.

Sunday, April 5

There is just something about opening day.....

A phone call with JoeMurph today got me thinking about how sacred opening day is. It's not only the start of another Red Sox season, but it seems to mark a change in overall life feelings. Seasonal depression? Maybe, but there is something about this time of year that just seems to make everything right. You can feel it from the north end, to the fens, to hyde park, the city is alive again.

I was driving down storrow this afternoon, sun roof down, 60 degree weather, people everywhere, staring at a sunny Boston skyline, Red Sox baseball just hours away...this is what it's about. During the cold winter months, I often tell people I struggle to rationalize why I live in Boston. This is why, there is nothing better than sunny spring and summer days with baseball on the mind.

It may be somewhat comparable to Fever Pitch, but my life changes when the season starts, work productivity likely goes down, my graduate school GPA plummets, and overall obsession with all things Red Sox (and subsequently, my fantasy baseball team) goes way up. You begin talking every night about the Sox with friends you haven't heard from since October. A night watching the Sox outside at Tia's sounds like perfection. The number of awkward conversations with coworkers that you don't actually know naturally decreases as discussions on Dice-k's inefficiency, or JD Drew's health spring up at any time, in any place (most often used in elevators).

Opening day in the Fens officially switches my brain from winter doldrums to summer delight. I swear I smile at least 83% more of the time during baseball season. I'm not sure what exactly it is, but everything seems to make sense again....until Tek goes 0 for 12 in this first series. The boys of summer pose as a release from the stress of everyday life....granted my obsession with them usually only adds to stress levels, but it's something I could never live without.

Either way, it's time. Opening day is upon us and ITM is going to be all over the Red Sox this season, so keep checking in.....Let's go Sox.

More Predictions

Some bare predictions, for posterity and bragging rights:

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Oakland
AL Wild Card: Yankees

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Marlins

AL MVP: Grady Sizemore
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez (David Wright, if the Marlins don't get the Wild Card)

AL Cy Young: Halladay (secretly I think it might be Daisuke, but I don't want to jinx anything)
NL Cy Young: Santana

Saturday, April 4

Red Sox Bloopers...

Every year during spring training all baseball players tape their promotional video ads and voice overs. I recently came across this video of this year's performance from the Sox.....It's really hard not to like these guys, they may not be the "idiots" of 03/04', but you've still got to love them....especially Dusty, who never lets us down in the "you're hilariously insane" department. Definitely worth a look below....

Pray that it doesn't rain on Monday as opening day can't get here soon I helped plan an entire office party surrounding the afternoon game and would be screwed if they don't get it in.....I should probably start working on a contingency plan now...Go Sox.

Thursday, April 2

Season Predictions

I'll admit it right out of the gate, I'm a homer for the Red Sox and I'm picking them to win the World Series this year. I don't think it's necessarily a homer pick this year, I have my reasons. With that said...

Division Winners

AL East - Red Sox

Everything starts and ends with starting pitching, simple fact of life. The Sox have two number one starters in Lester and Beckett. Dice K won 18 games last year, Wakefield will do his usual hot and cold through the season, and Brad Penny looks like he'll be healthy enough for the 5th spot. If it's not Brad Penny, don't rule out Buchholz or Masterson and Smoltz comes back in May or June.

The Bullpen is stacked and anchored by Pap, no worries here. Saito gives them the option to rest Pap in some save situations, and Ramirez, Delcarmen, Okijima and Masterson give the Red Sox the best bullpen in the majors.

The 2009 line up won't be the 2003 lineup, but that's okay because it doesn't have to be. The two keys are going to be Ortiz's health and Ellsbury's production at the top of the order. Ortiz doesn't have to hit 50 home runs this year, nor will he, but some where between 30-40 is probably on target. As for Ellsbury, he has to get on base more this year, his OBP was .336 last year because he never walked.

Why not the Yankees? Name one guy in their bullpen besides Mirano Riveria. Even if you were to name one guy, that guy sucks. Another concern is their line up. Arod is out until May and there's no guarantee he's makes it the entire season. Jeter is another year older and that's not a good thing, his range is awful and his WBC was brutal. Only Davey Johnson and Grady Little would play him over Jimmy Rollins. They are going to miss Bobby Abreau. Good luck Mark Texeira.

Why not the Rays? Everyone had career years last year, that will be nearly impossible to duplicate. Their bullpen is a concern, Troy Percival is their closer and he's at least 52 years old. They're still a good team and I have them finishing second behind the Sox. I wouldn't be surprised if they win the division, but I'm picking against the cowbells this year.

Onto the other predictions, not quite as long winded.

AL Central - Minnesota Twins. Young and fast team. I like Morneau, MVP candidate every year. Gardenheir is a great manager.

AL West - Anaheim Angels. I don't know what to make of this division, I think everyone sucks but at the same time I don't. Mariners could be better, Rangers will hit, Oakland is...

Wild Card - Tampa Bay Rays for reasons previously stated.

NL East - Philadelphia Phillies. They have 3 MVP candidates in Rollins, Howard, and Utley.

NL Central - Chicago Cubs. The rest of the NL Central sucks, Cubies will choke come October. Reds might make some noise, I'll drink the kool aid on them.

NL West - Los Angeles Dodgers. Signing Manny was huge for their offense. Add in Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and Rafael Furcal and they look pretty good on paper.

Wild Card - New York Mets. They finally have some help in the bullpen to get them down the stretch run.

ALCS - Red Sox over Rays. 4-3.
NLCS - Phillies over Mets, 4-2.

World Series - Red Sox over Phillies 4-1.


AL MVP - Grady Sizemore. I think he blows up this year, more so then in years past.

AL CY Young - Roy Halladay.

NL MVP - Albert Pujoles. Simply put, he's a stud.

NL CY Young - Johan Santana, the Mets actually have a bullpen this year that can hold a lead.

Rookies' of the Year, I am in no position to even make a guess, I'll admit that.

Some other predictions:

-Jason Varitek is worse offensively this year and gets booed after a 4 strike out game.
-The Rangers lead the league in runs scored and have the highest team ERA.
-Someone throws a car battery at Arod during his first series at Friendly Fenway.
-The Tigers end up trading some big contracts (Ordonez) and the city of Detroit is sold to Canada for $50 and a case of Molsons.
-Nomar gets a standing ovation when he comes back to Fenway, then attacks Rocco Baldelli for taking his number 5.
-Less then 25% of these predictions will come true.
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