Sunday, May 31

Pedey: "It's Not Early Anymore"

The Red Sox dropped their second straight game to Toronto yesterday, extending a recent trend of mediocre pitching and a struggling offense. With the loss, the Red Sox drop to 28-22, their worst start through 50 games since 2005 when they began the season 27-23. You can point to injuries and/or bad luck as reasons why a team many picked as world series bound has struggled through the first two months, but Dustin Pedroia doesn't want to hear it.

"We got four hits [on Saturday]," said Dusty "We've got to find a way to score runs. We're not winning many games right now, and we need to start. It's not early anymore. We've played 50 games. We need to start doing things, offensively."

Good for you Pedey, someone needs to tell this team to take their collective skirts off. All we've heard is "we're hitting the ball well, but right at people" or "I pitched well, but made one or two mistakes that they hit hard." Well guess what, that can suffice for a few games, but we're nearly a third of the way through the season, excuses like those won't cut it in this town. With Youk and Jay Bay coming back to reality at the plate (and I am by no means pointing any fingers at them), this offense relied on Rocco Balldelli for their production yesterday....Rocco Baldelli.....who then proceeded to run himself into a wall and nearly sever his leg from the knee down. That's just Rocco being Rocco.

We all know Papi has been hitting bombs in batting practice, that's great, but it's called BP for a reason, and players sure as hell don't get paid millions for hitting taters during practice. Sure he's put good wood on a few balls of late, but at this point it's going to take back to back months of him hitting .325, with 10 taters and 20 RBI to get him back to a respectable level.....and I don't think any of us see that happening.

Forgive me for my pessimistic rambling on this beautiful Sunday morning, but the aforementioned issues have been combined with the thought of being scared that Lester takes the mound today... and presto, I'm all worked up.

Maybe the Sox can salvage the weekend for me, perhaps Lester will bounce back and inject some optimism into my Red Sox blodline, because apparently, 75 and sunny doesn't cut it when the Sox are struggling.

Friday, May 29

Terrible 5th Inning Sinks the Sox Again

What is with the Red Sox pitching staff and their inability to get outs in the 5th inning of games? Tim Wakefield followed Jon Lester's lead and could not get through the 5th without turning what looked to be a quality start into a disaster.

It was classic Wakefield tonight, who just seemed to lose complete control of his knuckle ball in the 5th. When Wake is on, he's nearly unhittable, but when he's off, you might as well have a slow pitch softball hurler out there. Over his last four starts, Wake has a 2-2 record, a 7.40 era, and 13 walks. In three out of his last four starts, he's given up five or more runs. The good thing about Wake, he can turn it on as quickly as he can turn it off, you just don't know what you're going to get when he returns to the mound.

For the third game in a row, the Red Sox lineup couldn't muster much in the way of offense. David Ortiz put together a few good swings tonight, but only showcased warning track power with the bases chucked in the 1st. Hit the weights Papi, but at least you didn't strike out tonight. Perhaps the timing is coming back.

I look at the Toronto's lineup and say to the hell are they the best hitting team in baseball? How is Marco Scutaro lacing the ball all over the park? With a name like that, shouldn't he be doing bicycle kicks somewhere in Europe? It must be something in the Canadian water, because the names and numbers just don't line up to me. I still believe their bats will come back to reality, much like their pitching has over the past two weeks.

The lone bright spot of the boy, Daniel Bard. Bard threw 2 1/3 innings, walking one, but striking out the final 5 batters he faced. He dominated on a night when the radar gun indicated he may have been holding back at times. He was consistently around 96 mph, but did touch 99 at one point. Scary to figure those high speeds may not be his best stuff.

Thursday, May 28

That's The Ace I Know

Josh Beckett is doing something that Lester and Dice-K seemingly can't this season, pitch at a level he is capable of, which is an Ace.

The term ace is probably used too loosely in the game today, as true aces are tough to find. Josh Beckett has the competitive fire, physical makeup, and work ethic to put him in that unique category, and of late, he is certainly pitching like one.

JB allowed one run on three hits and struck out eight in seven innings today in a 3-1 win against the Twins. The W gave Boston a split in the series with the Twins and allows us Red Sox fans to breath a temporary sigh of relief.

I purposely took a late lunch for today's game, running to a local restaurant to catch an inning or two of the game. From what I saw (and subsequently saw again on NESN's replay tonight), Beckett looked like he did in 07'. He was painting the corners and challenging hitters all day. You couldn't help but feel he was in complete control of the game, and if the Red Sox were to lose, it certainly wouldn't be his fault.

While he has a ways to go before getting to ace-like numbers for the year, his recent totals indicate he could be on his way. For the month of May, JB has a 2-0 record in 4 starts (remember that he should be 3-0 if it wasn't for Pap against the Mets), with a 2.67 ERA, while holding opponents to a .240 batting average. His average start this month is close to 7 innings, more than an entire inning better than his April average.

So in a night where all the highlights will surround a young umpire who got ejection happy and Tek's two "go f yourself" taters (that phrase applying to all those in the media who continue throw him under the bus, ITM included), we should remember the most important takeaway. Josh Beckett appears to be back, and thank god, because this staff is in dire need of a stopper/leader under the age of 42.

Wednesday, May 27

Eye of the Storm

The Yankees have been on an unfortunate tear of late. They've got 11 wins in their last 14 games, burning up through the AL East standings like Sherman on his way to Atlanta (with the same sense of inevitability, if you ask the fans here). They've got one more to play tonight with the surprising AL leaders, the Texas Rangers, but after that will move on to a weekend series with the floundering Cleveland Indians. The Sox are going to have their hands full, that is, trying to defend their first place position.

At the season's beginning, ITM predicted that the Yankees upside would depend in large part on the ability of two players to bounce back. It was and has been our theory here that A-Rod and Texeira will produce, and Jeter and Damon will be workmanlike, and that those four alone will ensure that the Yankees have a competitive team. ITM's prediction was that the fate of the club would depend in large part on the success or failure of Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada. They are, the thinking goes, the real variable for the Yankees. And the club's success at any given moment can be loosely predicted based on a look at the trajectory of these two cogs.

If our general theory still holds, then things are not looking very good for the Sox on the month ahead. We didn't want to do it, but we began today with a periodic check-in with these two question marks. If you're looking for an optimistic note after a morning of sweating over Jon Lester's left arm, don't read on.

Cano is, so far, looking like his old potential-star self. He's hitting .317 on the season, driving in 27 and scoring 31 himself. He's had his troubles in the field, but all in all has been fairly solid and looks like he's covering a greater range than he did last year. The Yankees have him batting fifth, and the better he is, the more pitches A-Rod will have a chance to smack. He has not let them down. Increased patience, increased production, great balance for the lineup. All in all, he's looking scary.

Jorge Posada had a nice April himself, then pulled a groin the series against the Red Sox. But he caught a simulated game last night and is expected back with the club some time next week. With Molina also on the DL, the Yankees are down in their depth chart. Before he left, Posada was hitting .312 and slugging .584. Plop that back into the lineup in place of Kevin Cash and Francisco Cervelli, and it's unclear how pitchers are going to make their way 1-9.

Other factors will even out over the year: Mark Texeira will eventually hit a ball that stays in the park, Nick Swisher will come back to earth, Johnny Damon will stop hitting bloop homers, CC will pick things up a bit, and Matsui will start to give them something. But will Posada and Cano continue this hot streak? We'll check back at the end of June to see where they stand. But for now, ITM is predicting a tough fight at the top of the AL East in June.

This is Why LA Fans Are Dumb....

Manny Ramirez is selfish, a liar, and a cheat. Apparently all of that doesn't matter to people in LA and to the other Manny "fans" out there. How can someone who has been suspended for 50 games in the first half of the season for steroid use become an all-star starter? Because there are a lot of stupid fans out there, especially in LA, and this continues to confirm it.

Manny currently sits in fourth place among outfielders in the NL, well within reach of a starting spot which is determined by fan voting. It amazes me how popular this guy remains out there. Granted, we here in Boston put up with a lot of his antics, but I'd like to think people here are intelligent enough to know that voting for him after what transpired earlier this season would be a disservice to not only another deserving player, but to the overall game of baseball. You don't see Bostonian's lining up to vote for Ortiz do you?...and that's a totally different story.

Manny's MLB suspension is up on July 3rd (barring rain outs), about a week prior to the All-Star break, so there is a good chance he'll be stumbling around left field in the mid summer classic. If this nightmare comes true, not only would the fans be voting in a known cheater, but also someone who hasn't even had the chance to put up the numbers to warrant him being there.

It's tough to blame MLB here, given the rules of selection process, but perhaps a change is needed. The NFL changed their rules when Shawn Merriman was caught bench pressing cars and shooting himself up in San Diego, no suspended player is allowed to partake in the NFL's Probowl game.

If I was the commish, I would have forced the removal of Manny's name off of the ballet. Then again, I may have also assumed fans couldn't possibly be this dumb.

Tuesday, May 26

The David Ortiz Dilemma

Let me first say that I am glad I am not Terry Francona or Theo Epstein. Telling David Ortiz he's batting 7th in the lineup, or worse, riding the pine, won't be easy; especially after all he's done during his time with the Sox. That said, loyalty for the sake loyalty is insanity and the Sox have to do something with their DH spot.

I'm not certain Ortiz is finished, but there's very little to suggest that he's going to figure it out anytime soon. He has 1 home run, and it was a grooved fastball over the plate, 18 RBI, his OBP is .301 and his slugging is an anemic .299.

The Ortiz who would turn on inside fastballs or feast on the low and inside pitch is long gone, he probably couldn't catch up to Josh Beckett's change up right now, which clocks in around 88 mph. It's sad to say in Ortiz's case but I subscribe to the "what have you done for me lately" doctrine, and lately David Ortiz hasn't done anything.

Yesterday the Sox batted Pedroia, Youk, Bay and Lowell 2-5 in the lineup and they went a collective 11-20 at the dish with 11 runs scored and 5 RBI. That is what the Sox need out of the heart of their order, not every game because that's unrealistic, but the threat has to be there.

I understand the argument that Francona wants his line up to have balance between left and right handed hitters to make other managers use their bullpens differently. However, at some point you are sacrificing the first 6 innings of a game and possibly losing ball games because Ortiz is as close to an automatic out as it gets.

As far as a deal down the line to get another bat goes we'll have to see. For everyone clamoring for Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers I'd point out two truths; the Tigers are in first place and Theo has always been hesitant to deal his young pitchers (certainly he'll have to give 1 or 2 of them up at the very least).

The other side of the coin is the rumored Nick Johnson deal. He's off to a great start in Washington batting .338 with an OBP of .471 in 158 at bats this season, but one wonders if he can keep it up. Johnson can DH or play first and if he can bat .280 with a .380 OBP out of the 7 or 8 hole that is a significant upgrade from Ortiz right now.

Another option is to put Lowell at DH, move Youk back to third and let Bailey play every day at first base. I'm not sold on that as the answer but I'd be interested to give it a test run.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Ortiz goes on the 60 day DL or something similar here with a "knee injury" that has been nagging at him all year. Whatever the Sox want to come up with, Ortiz can't be batting third in his current state.

The perfect ending here is Ortiz gets his stride back and rebounds for a strong second half defying his critics, sadly that looks like it's not going to happen.

Lastly I'll say that there is a reason Epstein let Pedro Martinez walk away when he wanted a 4th year on his contract; players don't get better when they get older. To watch Pedro pitch mediocre in Boston as opposed to New York following the 2004 season would have been tough for Sox fans. As tough as it is on the fans, I can't begin to imagine how David Ortiz feels. If I had to guess, he feels like he's going to the plate with an oak tree and not his usual baseball bat.

Monday, May 25

In Case You Missed It...

It's been a busy and crazy memorial day weekend. We here at ITM know that those in Red Sox Nation live well beyond the reach of NESN, so we thought we'd cap off the weekend by providing the link to the now infamous "Eckism" from the Red Sox/Mets series. I must say, as much as I miss Remy, I've thoroughly enjoyed Eck's colorful commentary. Never a dull moment.

Eck doesn't hold back, there is no filter, and he'll tell you how it is....kind reminds me of one of my favorite movie characters of all time....

We've certainly got a big week of baseball in front of us. Three series on the road, Big Papigate, and the surging Yanks on Boston's heels in the AL East......let's go Sox.

Sunday, May 24

Fenway You're My Home?

The Sox lost their second game in a row at home tonight against the Mets. I was there to partake in the Papelbon loss, but of more concern to me was the insane amount of Mets fans in the Fens tonight.

Now I know they only get up here once every few years and it's a long weekend....but Christ, it was very close to 60/40, Sox/Mets fans and I've lost my voice by screaming at them in an attempt to save face for Red Sox Nation.

There is certainly more to come from ITM about tonight's game, but for now we'll put it at this: I've been disappointed for the past two years in the lack of true Red Sox pride at Fenway, and the Mets showed me why again tonight. The Mets fans were far too loud and far too "at home" in Fenway. Myself, brother, cousin, friends and I did our best to make them feel out of place, but the truth is that the Mets got the best of the Sox tonight in every way possible.......outside of the solid fight in the bathroom after the game though....the Mets fans undoubtedly lost that one.

Bone up Sox...

Friday, May 22

The Jay Bay Debate

Avg: .301, HR: 13, RBI: 44, OBP: .433, Slug: .657

Jason Bay has exceeded even our highest expectations as a baseball player...and there are those in our readership that believe ITM's own Tim Murphy is his long lost younger brother. The biggest difference being that Jay Bay is on pace for 50+ taters and a multi million dollar contract. In his defense, I've heard stories that Murphy can play organized softball with the best that West Roxbury has to offer.

Anyways, the real debate about Jason Bay rages you pursue locking him up long term now, at whatever price it takes, or see how the season and free agent market plays out before resurrecting contract talks. Currently, his contract pays him 7.88 million this year, an incredible steal at this point, but we all know that will change quickly. While he has been a fantastic added bat to the lineup (you can stack his stats against any player's at this point), his market value is also at an all-time high.

It's a tough call, but here are my thoughts: lock him into a 4 year deal ASAP. There is just no doubt about it in my mind. As a right handed pull hitter who finally has the talent around him to make him (and subsequently, his numbers) better, Boston suits him in a plethora of ways. Playing in front of a packed house every night surrounded by great baseball talent has been a welcome change for Bay, with his career essentially doing a 180 from his lonely days with the cellar-dwelling Pirates. He has clearly shown the ability to humbly accept the spotlight of Boston,while being a quiet, but positive addition to the clubhouse. He's quickly become wildly popular in New England, even without dreadlocks or childish antics, he plays the game hard and right, and the Boston fan base respects the hell out of that.

You can easily make the argument that his glove AND bat have been an upgrade over our 20 million dollar per year option which was on the table last year. He's managed to pick up for the production lost with Ortiz losing his mojo and the failed off season Teix signing. With that in mind, the Sox have the money to thank him for bailing them out, they should pony up and get it done.

Bring on the Mets.

Thursday, May 21

Now What?

(is he back? I doubt it.....but maybe, just maybe)

A direct quote from late yesterday afternoon:

Tim: What are the chances Ortiz hits a tater tonight?

Me: I actually give him negative chances, we've got a better chance of finding Bin Laden (and I hope by saying this he finally hits one tonight).

Turns out it worked. We've all seen it, Ortiz went deep last night. It required 149 at bats, insane amounts of frustration, and a meatball high fastball that I could have put in Ted William's red seat to get it done, but it happened.

The real question is, now what? Sure Ortiz hit a double in the 8th as well, but what are the real chances he'll snap right back into the Ortiz of 2007? Unlikely. The past struggles remain as facts, he continues to hint at personal issues with his old man, and I'm not going to lie, after his first two at bats last night, I was ready to draft a post calling for him to be sent down I95 to the lovely state of Rhode Island. Maybe (and hopefully) I'm wrong, and one tater is all he needs for the stress to be lifted, mechanics fixed, and revert back to his tater-hitting ways, but I'm just not ready to say all is well. Perhaps now we'll all start obsessing in his Balldelli-like OBP, or his inability to hit anything on the inner half of the plate....I'm sure we'll find something.

What is well is that the Sox are showing the Jays what it'll take to truly compete in the AL East. Sure Ortiz hit his first homer and that is getting all the ink today, but let's not forget that Penny threw his 5th quality start (just as many as our "ace" Beckett), Tek somehow has 7 homeruns, and Youk came back and ho-hum continues the multi-hit game barrage.

The Sox go for the sweep tonight with Lester on the mound. A quality start from Lester and a sweep of the Jays will go a long way for this team, and my mental stability.

And oh yeah, some pitcher named Peavy looks to be headed to the WhiteSox....the AL domination will only continue over the junior circuit.

Wednesday, May 20

Ortiz to Bat 3rd Again Tonight

(I don't think Delta will be calling back)

What else does David Ortiz have to do to get himself out of the number three spot in Boston's batting order? Does he have to kick Tito's dog?

The official lineup has yet to come out, but Tito was on WEEI's Dale and Holley show about an hour ago saying Big Papi would again be in the three hole. To quote Tito directly "If it gets to a point where I think I need to make a change I certainly will do that". My response....when the hell do we get to that point? Do we have to call his mother and get her blessing first? Joe Murph brought up some good points within the post below in regards to the ripple effects Ortiz' production-suck has on the lineup. I just don't see how batting third helps Papi at all at this continues to keep the pressure directly on his shoulders (even more so now that the B's and Celtics are out of the media's ink target), and it's certainly killing the flow of the lineup. The protection arguement just doesn't fly anymore given the way he is being pitched and the horrible swings he's taking. Maybe it's time for Ortiz to man up and tell Tito to move him down? Is that the only way it happens?

Tito also noted that Rocco Baldelli will play right field, substituting in for J.D. Drew with Toronto left-hander Brett Cecil on the we now have two guaranteed outs in the lineup tonight, with a 100% chance of a throwing error if Lugo gets penciled in as well.

That said, go Sox??

Sox take first off Jays

Tim Wakefield pitched 8 innings, giving up only 5 hits and 1 run in a pitcher's duel that the Sox squeaked out for a 2-1 victory. The win moved Wakefield to 5-2 on the season, breaking his tie with Ramon Ramirez for the club-high in wins. That's right. That's how bad the Sox starting pitching has been this season. Going into the night, only Wake and Ramirez had reached the 4 win plateau. Wake has, of course, been the rotation's rock. He brought his ERA down to 3.59, and of those 5 wins, 4 have been Quality Starts. Wake has just been an inning-eating machine, averaging almost 6 2/3 per outing.

The efficiency was on full display last night. It was one pop after another, hardly any of them leaving the infield. (Except Kevin Millar's home run, which, since it's retroactively harmless, you can kind of be happy about. Boy that guy has got Sox loyalty. Before the game he met with Papi and tried to help talk him out of the slump. That's right, before the game, Millar went to the opposing club and tried to pump up the opposing slugger. I love that guy. He doesn't care about the imagined animosity that fans and writers build up. He's just about everyone having a good time.) And because Brian Tallet was no slouch himself, cruising through most of the Sox lineup, the game came in at just a little over 2 hours total. In the 9th, Wake handed it right off to Papelbon, who finally had a stress-free save, his 11th in 11 tries, and everyone got to bed at an early hour.

The Sox lineup was not exaclty potent, but they should get a boost tonight with the return of Youkilis. The question now is how will the lineup be jiggered. Will Ortiz remain in the 3 spot with Youk coming back?

Francona has shown no inclination to bump Papi down, but after another disappointing night, he may soon find his hand forced. Ortiz went 0 for 3 last night, striking out twice. The current Sox 1, 2, 4, and 5 hitters (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Bay, and Lowell) are all hitting over or right around .300. (Not to mention the returning Youk.) How many rallies have been killed because Ortiz is in the middle of that stretch? How many runs have been lost? Is this all for a man's ego? Can't he get himself going just as well from a less vulnerable spot in the lineup? Won't he feel just as good about himself if he starts hitting in the 8 spot?

If there's any news on the Ortiz story, ITM will come back with it after Francona talks to the media today. If not, let's just sit back, enjoy the return of the prodigal Youk, and thank our lucky stars we're not gonna see Halladay this go around.

Tuesday, May 19

First Place Blue Jays Visit Fenway

The AL East was suppose to be a 3 team race this year between the Sox, Rays and Yanks, however on May 19th the Toronto Blue Jays sit atop the division 3.5 games ahead our Boston Red Sox.

This is the first look we'll have at the over achieving Blue Jays this year. The Jays look solid from top to bottom with Halladay anchoring their starting rotation and one of the best offenses in baseball. Halladay is 8-1 with an era of 2.78, probably for the best that the Sox won't face him this series.

Other then Halladay the rest of the Jays success remains a mystery, are they this years version of the Tampa Bay Rays?

Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are batting over .300 and have combined for 18 taters and 69 RBI, pretty much the Canadian version of Ortiz and Manny.

Behind Hallaway the Jays are throwing out Robert Ray, Scott Richmond, Brian Tallet, and Brett Cecil, 4 guys I've never heard of until I just looked it up. Without stealing too blatantly from Tony Mazz's article today, these guys are 9-5 with an ERA around 4 if my math is right. Not too shabby.

As for the Sox, Ortiz is back in the 3 hole tonight with Bay batting 4th in the absence of Kevin Youkilis. Youk is down in Pawtucket rehabbing his back, last night he went 0-4 with a whiff. What's important about these starts down on the farm is that Youk can swing a bat and play pain free. Getting back into the groove he was in when he went down will take some time and some major league at bats.

Dice K is due back this week as well which means Masterson is probably heading back to the bullpen. Hopefully the time off did Dice some good as Masterson has been great in the starting rotation, hate to lose a quality start even if we are beefing up the bullpen.

There's been a lot of talk that the Jay's have played a soft schedule and that when they play the big 3 in the east they will come back down to earth, I guess that starts tonight. Still, to be a contender you have to beat up on the weak teams and the Jays have done that this year.

One final thought, does it strike anyone else as weird that the Red Sox are done with their west coast trips for the year and haven't played a single game against the Blue Jays?

Monday, May 18

Red Sox Intro Music

In keeping with ITM's new found positive posting despite the Sox bumpy road trip, I thought I'd pass along some interesting info courtesy of the Red Sox Insider.....

Below is a list of songs each Red Sox player decided on for their intro music (be it stepping up to the plate or warming up on the mound). I think each song says a lot about the player...please take special note to JD Drew's choice......

Ellsbury - "Let It Rock", Kevin Rudolf (f. Lil' Wayne)
Pedroia - "Dre Day", Dr. Dre
Ortiz - "Somos De Calle", Daddy Yankee; "My Destiny" by Yomo
Youkilis - "Crank That (Soulja Boy)", Soulja Boy Tell 'Em
Drew - (no music by choice)
Bay - "Alive", Pearl Jam
Lowell - "Bombtrack", Rage Against The Machine
Varitek - "Kryptonite", 3 Doors Down
Green - "Bet That", Trick Daddy; "I Run", Slim Thug
Lugo - "Como Yo", Juan Luis Guerra
Kottaras - "Sad But True", Metallica
Baldelli - "All Along The Watchtower", Jimi Hendrix; "Strange Times", Black Keys
Bailey - "Moby Dick", Led Zeppelin
Lowrie - "The Kids Aren't Alright", The Offspring
Carter - "Stronger", Kanye West
Kotsay - "Low", Flo Rida

Beckett - "Living Hard", Gary Allan
Lester - "I Use What I Got", Jason Aldean
Matsuzaka - "The Next Door", Exile (theme to Street Fighter IV!)
Wakefield - "How Bad Do You Want It", Tim McGraw
Penny - "Lunatic Fringe", Red Rider
Delcarmen - "I'm From Boston", MAV Entertainment
Jones - "My Wave", Soundgarden
Ramirez - "Lucha", Nancy Amancio
Masterson "Rebirthing", Skillet
Saito, "Zenryaku Michino Ue Yori", Issei Fubi
Okajima - "The Oki-Doki", Tatami
Papelbon - "I'm Shipping Up To Boston", Dropkick Murphys

From the hardcoreDominican music of the hitters, to the country hicks on the pitching staff, the clubhouse sure must be an interesting place....."Dre Day" from Dusty somehow makes total sense, and "no music by choice" from JD Drew is only right....but seriously Mark Kotsay, Flo Rida? Not exactly what was expected, but I have more respect for you for doing it, now get healthy so I can laugh at it in a live format.

Take from this list what you will.....regardless, Go Sox.

In Praise of Youth

Just wanted to take a quick moment today from all the negative Boston sports stories to write something a bit more optimistic. So here's a bit of praise for the red hot Jacoby Ellsbury. Jacoby is now hitting .344 over his last baker's dozen games, each of which he has hit in.

On the season, he's now holding steady at .300. Only five other centerfielders in all of baseball lie on the other side of that threshold---Carlos Beltran, Adam Jones, Kosoke Fukudome, Torii Hunter, and Marlon Byrd. Not bad company at all for the 25 year old to be keeping. Among all centerfielders, only Beltran has more hits than Jacoby, with a 53 to 48 advantage. And in steals, none of the others is touching him right now.

Really, the only drawbacks so far have been patience and gap power. Of Jacoby's 48 hits, 40 have been singles. And over the season, he has walked only 8 times, putting him in the cellar amongst elite centerfielders and largely explaining his surprisingly low .331 OBP.

Both areas, however, seem natural for a developing 25 year old hitter. All in all, I have to say that it looks like I might be proven wrong. I was one of the Jacoby doubters at the season's beginning. I loved the energy he brought to the position and the basepath, but I thought he had moved too far away from his slap-hitting roots and was in danger of getting lost in the mysteries of the upper-cut. I just didn't see the elite hitting talent developing. But a quick look at the numbers has put me right back on board. The kid really seems to be coming into his own.

Sunday, May 17

Lineup....Sans Lugo

The Sox will be fielding makeshift lineup for today's 4pm game against the Mariners. Youk and Ortiz are still absent, no surprise there, but also out of the lineup is Julio Lugo. Lugo came out of last night's game in the 7th with what they're calling a "hip flexor/groin issue". Whatever it is, it doesn't sound pretty, but with the off day tomorrow, it's probably a wise move. Nicky Green has been able to fill in nicely for all of Lugo's issues, and doesn't make us Sox fans scream "Oh &$*#" every time a ball comes near him.....

Lugo, who in 48 at bats this season has a .333 average and continues to run like Cologino in "A Bronx Tale", said the pain was a 6 out of 10 and didn't expect it to keep him out of the lineup for long. "I need to continue to prove ITM wrong since they always make fun of me and call me a Sally on their blog." -That might not be a direct quote, but I'm sure that's what he's thinking.

Tito has slotted Mikey Lowell into the cleanup spot and moved Bay up to 3rd...I personally like the Drew, Bay, Lowell, 3-4-5, given the hands that are tied with this lineup, but I'm sure Tito's going with this to keep the right, left, right through the middle of the order.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

3. Jason Bay, LF

4. Mike Lowell, 3B

5. J.D. Drew, RF

6. Rocco Baldelli, DH

7. Jeff Bailey, 1B

8. Jason Varitek, C

9. Nick Green, SS

-- Justin Masterson, SP

Not exactly the lineup J-Masty would like to see defending him this afternoon, but let's hope it gets the job done. It's likely Masty's last start for a while, as Dice-K looks to be ready to make his next start.......either way, I want to be in a good mood to watch the Celts win another game 7, let's go Sox.

Saturday, May 16

Only Up From Here?

I didn't think it was possible, but when I fired up my blackberry upon landing at Logan at 1 am last night I realized the Red Sox have far more problems than when I left.

There was a lot of talk in spring training that the media didn't have much to work with....the lack of story lines made it difficult to decide what to dedicate ink towards. Well, times have changed quickly. Most Red Sox fans are informed and "in the know" enough to quickly come up with a long list of the stories covered by the media, all of which have seen an incredible amount of ink thus far this season, even while the Celtics and Bruins working their way through the playoffs. Now I'll let you decide if you think it's product Boston's natural doomsday attitude, or actual truth, but most of the ink has been of the negative variety, which made me ask the natural question last night.....all things considered how are we 6 games over 500?

Reading the globe, herald, and other media outlets (including this blog), you would think the Sox were 10 games under. So while the extreme struggles of Ortiz, Beckett, and Lester, and the injuries to Youk and Dice-K have dominated the message boards....the fact remains that the Sox are 21-15.

If you would have laid out all of these problems to me in March, I probably would have screamed something in Italian and assumed a 13-23 record at this point. What I'm getting at here is that I know the Sox are a talented team with problems, but given everything that has already happened in this young season, it's tough to imagine things going anywhere but up from this point. Given they are still 21-15, that certainly wouldn't be a bad thing.

Perhaps it's the West Coast attitude rubbing off on me, which is unlikely to continue, but I'm feeling that long term, this team can pick itself up do great things.....let's go Sox.

Friday, May 15

Ortiz Is Swinging Like a Twin Again

Not much to say about a terrible night for Boston sports, besides to continue to throw David Ortiz under the bus. We all know the numbers, but take a step back, remove any Boston bias you may have, and you have to agree that it's time to move Papi out of the number three spot. Think about how many more quality chances and RBI J-Bay would have if Ortiz wasn't swinging like he was in a Twins uniform again? Sure he was an amazing component to Boston winning two world series championships, and single-handily won countless games.....but at this point, he's losing plenty of games for the Sox.

Ortiz nearly left more men on base today than he has RBI for the entire season....I don't know if 12 is a record, but it's gotta be damn close. Being on the West coast this week I've had a few random baseball conversations out here at the bars. Inevitably, David Ortiz comes up pretty quickly, and most people (whether or not you want believe they have qualified opinions or not....which I generally don't) are wondering what the heck the Sox are doing. "He's killing you guys, some players have more home runs than he has RBI" - not entirely correct, but damn close, and that's according to some guy who could hardly speak comprehensible English at an Irish Pub (if you guessed there is no way he was Irish, you're right).

Throughout his terrible first 144 at bats this season, most have held out hope, refusing to believe moving him down in the lineup was needed, and believing in Tito's strategy of sticking by his players. Well I'm done with that....this 0 for 7, 3 strike out game put me over the top. Perhaps a change is what Ortiz needs, regardless, it is what this lineup needs to "keep the train moving."

I've somehow convinced myself the Red Sox, David Ortiz, and the Celtics need my presence back in Boston to turn the sports scene a result, I'll be getting on a plane tomorrow (....or it could just be because my staffed project will be done at that point). Regardless, I'm hoping things turn around upon my return...and quickly....because I just can't write about Papi's struggles anymore.

Thursday, May 14

The Bard's Debut

Daniel Bard got his first major league appearance last night, and it was an impressive debut. Bard came in with nobody out and runners on second and third in the sixth inning. He struck out Mike Napoli on three swing and miss fastballs. Bard then got two outs (though one of them was a sac fly for a run.) The next inning was a little less tidy, with a walk, a hit, and a stolen base, but Bard still plowed through and got the outs without any harm done.

The real point of interest were the postgame quotes, some of which were simply too good not to share here:

Bard, on his first appearance: "To be honest with you, I thought there was just a guy on second until the third pitch I threw. Then I looked over and saw Hunter on third. I hope Farrell doesn't see this." You gotta love it when players are too excited to hide the fact that they're kids playing a kids' game.

Napoli on the three pitch strikeout: "He kind of blew my doors off a little bit there. He’s got pretty easy cheese. He brings it up there pretty good, pretty firm." Man, baseball lingo is the best. Just the best. It's the only sport, I think, where guys still talk as though they put themselves through the minors hustling in local pool halls. I wish they still had names like "Doc" and "Smoky Joe" and "Sawdust."

Congrats, Bard. Good luck in the Show.

Wednesday, May 13

All Hands on Deck

Clay Buchholz threw another gem down in AAA this morning, going 8, giving up 0, and striking out 10. Over his last 35 innings, he's given up only 4 runs, struck out 37, and walked 10. He is, in short, dominating. And Mike Hazen hasn't minced words on what he's seeing: "He's upholding his end of the deal. He's putting the pressure on and forcing his way. It's a long baseball season. Something's going to happen."

Which raises the question. What, exactly, is going to happen, and when? This week, the hot stove has suddenly warmed a bit, and rumors have been whispered around the league that the Sox might soon consider shopping an arm or two. Which means it's our duty as Sox fans to begin the debate early, and flog this dead horse until he's really dead.

The proposition isn't ridiculous, even this early. The Sox have the worst starting rotation ERA in all of baseball (yes, in all of baseball), yet are considered to have a glut of arms. And the thing is, the worst of the bad numbers have come from what we would generally consider the surest things, and the least touchable players: Beckett, Lester, and Daisuke. Penny has been average, Masterson has been better than average, and Wakefield has been outright good.

This puts the Sox in an unusual position, but not a completely unfavorable one. No one in the organization thinks that the dry spell for the 1-2-3 arms will last all season, meaning no one would likely be quaking at the thought of relying on Beckett, Lester, and Daisuke for their wins. Meaning that the Sox best performers are relatively expendible at precisely the time when their trade value is on the rise. Add into that counterintuition that John Smoltz is due to be back in June (but is a highly unlikely trade chip) and Daisuke will soon be off the DL (as early as next week).

So, the situation comes down to this: is there any combination of Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden, Bard, and Penney that you wouldn't mind trading right now? At what price? How many arms do we give up? Just one? Two?

To my mind, the rumors starting to turn up are just that: rumors. The Sox have learnt their lesson well on starting pitching, and are more likely to live with overkill than risk a shortage. But what about Brad Penny. That's the one that gets me. Might there be any takers out there? A relatively cheap, veteran arm? He's shown that the injuries are no longer hampering him. Even if he's not going to be the ace he once was, he could be a solid middle of the rotation guy for some NL contender, and at the right price. Might the Sox be willing to move him even if just for some more outfield backup? That would still leave them with Beckett, Lester, Daisuke, Wakefield, as well as Masterson, Buchholz, and Smoltz. A backup plan, but not a glut.

So keep in mind the rumors have already started swirling, and that was before Buchholz's last two starts. And like our personnel guru said, the kid is forcing his way. "It's a long baseball season. Something's going to happen."

Excitement on Both Coasts...

It's been a tough week to be in San Francisco on business already....the Boston sports scene is overflowing with emotions, news stories, and comeback victories.

Fortunately I was lucky enough to meet up with a few friends at a Boston bar out here, and the excitement for the current epicenter of sports can be felt all the way on the left coast.

A combination of catching up, jet lag, and long hours in the office made it difficult to stay focused on the Sox game tonight, but the overall excitement for all things Boston is here too. A few thoughts I had coming away from tonight's Boston-romp are:

-This may be the first time I've been excited the Sox were playing out on the west coast, but I would never be able to live out here and have to deal with 4pm start times. I'd probbly be fired for leaving the office early in the spring and summer months....and come playoff time, forget it, I wouldn't even show up.

-Oddly enough, I didn't care that Ortiz looked to be in serious pain after taking a pitch off his bad wrist late in the scored a run when I expected double play ball to second. There was an element of relief in my stomach that should never be there when Ortiz is at the plate. As much as I hate having you in my starting fantasy lineup right now, I hope the wrist is well Papi.

-Did Jacoby really get called out at home plate? I wasn't sure that could happen, ever....I'm still not convinced he was out...and will also stick to my assumption that he'll score on a "sac fly" to deep second base at some point this season.

-How money is Ramon Ramirez? All of us were pissing and moaning when we shipped Coco Covelli out of town for a guy from Kansas City no one had ever heard of.....and I'll say it again (with the exception of Lugo), In Theo We Trust.

-San Fran's hills are ridiculous, I could never stumble home from a bar and survive, especially after a great win, or tough loss.

-Every time I think the number of heartbreaking Angels losses to the Red Sox may be ready to go into a lull, the Sox pull off a game like tonight. If I'm one of those fake fans down there in LA, I would absolutely hate the Red Sox.

How great is it to be a Bostonian these days? Nearly every night there is an amazingly important game on....and I'm not even making up the significance of the games to ITMGal just so I can watch the Sox blow out the Orioles like I've done in the past. I can't wait to get back East...just praying all three teams are still doing as well.

Monday, May 11

The Real Fenway Park Experience

It's a rare night off for all local sports teams in Boston tonight; actually that might not be true, I have no idea when the Revolution play. The Celtics and Bruins are off tonight and resume their series' tomorrow night and the Sox are traveling to Anaheim for their last west coast trip of the year.

Last night I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Red Sox game, really good seats too, section 30 box 160 on the third base/left field line. It was prime foul ball territory and two actually landed pretty close to me.

The game itself was great, good pitching from Beckett and Garza and the Sox were able to take the lead in the 8th and hold on in the 9th to take the rubber game of the series. I can't even remember the last time the Sox took a series from the Rays.

Now I'm going to get on my soap box and complain about Fenway Park, and not the small seats or the price of beer, both of which I could write volumes of books about.

The Crowd at Fenway Park sucks.

Sure, everyone is loud and cheers and knows the name of most of the players. However if that was the requirement trained monkeys would suffice. My issue with Fenway is the atmosphere during the game, it's not about the baseball anymore.

In the 8th inning the game was tied 3-3 and the beach ball was making it's third or fourth appearance in my section, never leaving a 20 foot square area. The beach ball has never bothered me before, however I don't recall it ever being contained to such a small area, it flies all around the bleachers.

A collection of drunk assholes are going back and forth with it when it lands near me, I deflated it and put it under my seat. My apologies to Cape Cod crowd but it's a tie game against a division rival and the go ahead run is on the second base, can we focus? I have expected to get jumped, but I'm a man of principle and it would have been worth the trouble.

After Bay doubled Ortiz home 50% of the park is standing and cheering for Lowell when a guy behind me dressed like the Gordon's fisherman yells for me to sit down. Again, seriously guy? First of all I'm jumping at the chance to stand up and stretch, never mind the Sox just took the lead. Of course I'm sitting in the section from hell that's only wants the beach ball and everyone sitting to have a good time.

And the highlight for every Red Sox fan who signed up in October 2004, Sweet Caroline. When this phenomenon first came about I thought this was fun, everyone gets into it and has a good time. Now Sweet Caroline embodies everything I hate about Red Sox Nation and the pink hats.

I liken last night's experience to the Cape Cod Baseball League and what it's become. When I was young I did the baseball clinics and went to just about every Wareham home game, it was free and my mom would just drop me off.

Soon all that changed, as word of the league spread and it was no longer just about the best college baseball players in the premier summer league. It turned into the "the event" for the vacationing Cape Cod crowd to go to. Attendance in Wareham went from 100 people to 2,500 easy.

In 2004 word spread about the Red Sox.

Now I'm not stupid, I know that the new Sox ownership has opened millions of dollars in new revenue streams through pink hat nation that has allowed the team to win 2 World Series this decade. The team wasn't cursed from 1918 to 2003, that just had shitty owners. You're never going to win with Pete Schourek and a 45 year Andre Dawson. As my friend Chris commented last night, thank god we aren't old enough to really remember how crappy some of those Red Sox teams were in the 90's.

I enjoy the Red Sox success as much as anybody, but did we have to sell our souls to capitalism to achieve it?

One day the Red Sox will suck again, and hopefully the pink hats and Neil Diamond give the rest of us Fenway Park back. Until then enjoy the Fenway experience and the beer prices. Look at that I found away to complain about the beer prices anyway.

(Also, I had to google Schourek to see how it was spelled, who wants to bet $10 that is the first time anyone has googled Pete Schourek?)

Sunday, May 10

Another Chapter in Beckett v. Garza

For the second time this young season, the Rays and Sox will face off with their flamethrowing righties. This is a primetime matchup that goes back to last season, and so far the results have been onesided. Some of their numbers look pretty similar, but there's no denying who's on top of this matchup at the moment.

Garza and Beckett are both 3-2 on the season, but Garza's got a respectable 3.51 ERA and a lights out .170 batting average against. Beckett, on the other hand, has got a gnarly 6.75 ERA. Hitters are a whopping .315 against him. You read that right: .315. The average hitter is right amongst the league leaders in average when facing Josh Beckett. Perhaps an even more telling number: Beckett has thrown only 34.2 innings in his 6 starts. Garza has thrown 41, giving him an average of right around 7 innings per start. Beckett is getting hit harder and earlier.

All that played out precisely in their most recent head to head start on April 30th. (Garza's earlier start against the Sox was a 4-3 win over Daisuke. Remember him?) Garza went 7.2, giving up only 1 hit and striking out 10. Beckett went 4.2, giving up 10 hits and 7 ER.

So if Josh Beckett wants to prove that he's still among the league leading righties, it needs to start tonight. If the trend continues, then the Rays just might have the dominating ace they've been looking for.

Is this guy (and Jon Lester) for real?

I've been to a handful of games already this year, and each time I'm more and more amazed with some of the "fans" out there. Take the guy above for example. My brother and I were literally running down the street to snap a photo of this clown. An unnecessarily tight outfit, pink hat, "dominator" T-shirt....turns out his was foreign, and had "Cricket Rules" on the front of his shirt...which somehow makes total sense.

From that Euro assclown constantly standing up in the bleachers, to Jon Lester getting lit up, it was a tough day at the park. Here are a few of the takeaways my brother and I discussed during and after the game.....

- Rocco Baldelli and Julio Lugo, both in limited time, now have more homeruns than David Ortiz. If you would have told me that three months ago I probably would have either laughed you out of the room, or attempted dropkick you like a Yankee fan...(not sure if you've seen the youtube video of the Yankee fan launching himself down 5 stairs to dropkick another Yankee fan, if not, you really missed out, it was my intention to link to it, but it has since been removed from youtube).

-How are the Red Sox even above five hundred with this pitching staff? Forget Dice-K being hurt, the biggest concern has to be the fact that Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny are far and away out pitching our "double aces" of Beckett and Lester (Wake is our only starting with a sub 5 ERA....that's Yankee-like terrible).

- ITM has said it before, but it's officially confirmed. Evan Longoria is a stud. He's the best young player in baseball, hands down. It feels like he's hit 35 home runs against us already, I nearly expect it every time he comes up. Add his bat to the gold glove caliber third base he plays and you can see why Peter Gammons has called him the best third basemen in the game. Gammons also thinks Longo has the capability to go down as one of the best third basemen ever....and don't forget, it's a trick question, Gammons is god.

-Tampa's lineup is more than fact, we decided we would take their 2-3-4-5 hitters over ours...which is impressive when you're talking about to two insanely-crazed Sox fans. Anyone else wonder how the Rays are beating the balls out of the Sox and Yanks, but losing to terrible teams (see Baltimore)?

-So far this season, we couldn't have been more wrong about this team's strengths....which we decided is not good for the long haul.

-Why is Julio Lugo our starting shortstop again? and can we can our hands on Jason Bartlett?
-All that and we didn't see one fight....perhaps a sign of the times at friendly Fenway, or because most people starting filing out of the stadium after the Sox went down 78-2 in the 6th.

Overall it was a very disappointing game....throw in the classic Fenway obstructed view seat (which my ticket did not disclose when I purchased it), and you can see why we may have had a few too many beverages.

Friday, May 8

Dom Dimaggio, R.I.P.

Red Sox legend Dom Dimaggio died this morning at age 92. Dimaggio played 11 years and hit a career .298. His 34 game hit-streak set the Sox record. He made 7 All-Star teams and would have gotten into a few more in there but he was part of the generation that put their careers on hold to go off to war. He was one of the best center-fielders the organization has ever seen, and one of its nicest guys.

Dimaggio was on the small side and wore coke-bottle glasses his whole career, and in my personal basseball mythology he's the quintessential Arthur Miller type---the guy who reminds you that you don't have to be gifted to bag Marilyn Monroe (Dom's own brother being the counterpoint). This is one of the greatest things about baseball. You can really believe that you don't really need to be all that much of a natural athlete to succeed. You can be known as the "Little Professor" and still hit .298 over an 11 year career. Probably Dom was a gifted athlete in his own way, but he let you think he wasn't. He didn't go for the limelight, and he never seemed particularly bothered by the flashy stars to which his own was inevitably attached (Williams and his brother, Joe.)

In this respect, the Globe did him a great injustice with the headline they temporarily ran this morning: "Dom Dimaggio, brother of Joe, dies at 92." The man was a Boston legend, but even in death the Boston paper gives him second billing? That's a damn shame. Fortunately someone had the good sense to fix that as the morning went on. The man deserves his own line.

Dom Dimaggio died this morning at 92. He was an important part of the Sox oganization and an important part of the game. R.I.P.

Thursday, May 7

Mannygate 2009

By now, we've all seen it on TV, read about it on the Internet, and heard a bunch of numskulls talk about it on the WEEI afternoon drive show. Manny Ramirez tested positive for a banned MLB substance and is suspended forever....or 50 games.

Earlier in the day, ITM decided to wait on the story...every outlet was blasting the Manny news with their assumptions, rants, and conclusions. We wanted to wait for more information on the story and give it some thought. While there is undoubtedly more information to come, here are some initial thoughts:

--Don't believe Manny's story. I've tried to separate my Boston-based hatred for all things Manny and think about this sans bias...which is difficult, but regardless of who you are and what team you root for, Manny has done nothing throughout his career to earn the benefit of the doubt. I'm not believing him, or his ass clown of an agent (who clearly wrote his statement), not for one moment.

--For fans of the game, this sucks. Coming home on the subway, I heard so many people happy Manny got caught, hive-fiving and yucking it up. But for fans of baseball, this is yet more terrible news. The top two highest paid players in baseball are tainted, and my view of the greatest right handed hitter I've ever seen has changed. It's believed the game is catching up to all the users and their advanced chemicals, and while Manny's case may be more evidence such thought, inevitably this leaves baseball with another black eye. The last thing it needed.

--Now I have to deal with ESPN, MLB Network, WEEI, etc. Nonstop Manny talk, all day, all night. I'm sick of it already. I want to hear about the Red Sox putting up a 12 spot on Cleveland's pitching, before they were even able to get an out (an AL record by the way).

--There is too much subjectivity. Everyone has their opinion on Manny, how long he (may have) been using steroids, and the affect it may have had on the two Red Sox world series rings. Let's get this one thing straight, it was an entire steroid era, more players than we'll ever realize were using it, no one team was playing fair....whether Manny was using in 04' or not, no one really knows, but we do know that plenty of other players were juicing, thus thoroughly washing out any one team's perceived advantage at the time. (ITM note: don't get me started on the 2003 ALCS and Jason Giambi though).

--Manny should come clean. It's unlikely to happen in this case, but being as honest as possible has worked in the past (see Andy Pettite, Jason Giambi etc). It's a strategy that Arod has tried to use, but too many clouds and expected lies are built into the storyline for anyone to ever truly believe what he says. The more Boras is in his ear, and he continues to use his doctor as the scapegoat, the worse it is likely to get for the lovable 36 year-old.

....and oh yeah, the Red Sox raked tonight...all J-Bay does is hit three-run taters. Given today's story, that trade is looking better and better. Good work Theo.

Wednesday, May 6

Around the Injury Horn

It's been a while since we collected together all the Sox injury woes. Unfortunately, there's plenty to talk about on this front.

---Jacoby Ellsbury, who left last night's game with a tight right hamstring, is listed as day-to-day. The Sox don't seem particularly concerned, but thought it best to sit the kid tonight and give the hammie a day to rest. So far, no one seems to be treating this as anything more than a tweak. (Knock on wood.)

---Youk and his "lower left side" are in roughly the same position. Day to day, with a possibility that he could be back in the lineup before the weekend series with Tampa Bay.

---Rocco Baldelli is anyone's guess. The Sox seem extremely hesitant to say anything definitive on his condition. So, could be a while, could be this weekend.

---Mark Kotsay has come up from Pawtucket to Boston in order to have his calf inspected by the Sox medical staff. No word yet on his progress.

---Daisuke Matsuzaka had a very encouraging start with Pawtucket yesterday, going 2 and 2/3 innings, giving up 0 runs, 2 hits, and 2 walks on 47 pitches. Sounds pretty much the old Daisuke, right?

---John Smoltz, after having his throwing regime shut down last week due to dead arm, is expected to resume throwing tomorrow. Despite the setback, he is still expected to join the club in June.

---Jerry Remy is on an indefinite leave of absence, NESN announced today, as he focuses on fully recovering from last year's lung-cancer related surgery. Since the operation, Remy has struggled with infection and pneumonia. Here's wishing him a full and speedy recovery.

Tuesday, May 5

Taking Stock of the Rivalry

After last night's flash back to the 2003-04 playoffs that featured a game that ended around 1am, it's time to take stock of the Sox/Yanks rivalry.

I know the world we live in requires the media to force feed us stories regardless of their importance or relevance, but is the Sox/Yanks rivalry really that exciting right now? Things definitely peaked in 2003 and 2004, but since then I've felt like the there's been something missing, regardless of ESPN's video montages to the contrary.

I think when these two teams get together it's still a big series because it's a division game and there is still a rivalry, but it lacks the punch from '04. That might be because the Sox ended the curse, a reason I'm more than willing to accept. I'll say this, as a die-hard Red Sox fan my hatred for the Yankees is a lot less then it use to be, again this might be a by-product of beating them in 2004.

There's now a third team (and maybe a fourth in the Blue Jays we'll see how long they hang on) in the mix in the AL East in the Rays making the division a 3 team race. This takes away from the idea that the top teams are going to trade knock out punches all season and in the ALCS until one guy does get knocked out. The Yankees not making the playoffs last season really takes away from the Yankee Mystique doesn't it?

Speaking of the Yankee Mystique, I miss George Steinbrenner. When you're a kid and your mom tells you not to ride your bike in the driveway of the crazy old man at the end of the street because he fought in 'Nam and he suffers from flashbacks you listen. However, when George's health declined they put him in a home and now your little sister draws in his driveway with colored chalk. The point of that ridiculous metaphor is playing in New York doesn't scare me anymore and I think a lot of that has to do with Mr Steinbrenner not sitting in his luxury box shaking his fist at us!

Remember how pissed Red Sox Nation was when Mark Texeira signed with the Yankees at the 11th hour? I didn't get the vibe we were ready to tar and feather his family when he stepped to the plate for the first time at Fenway last weekend. Sure we booed, but where is the hate?
Maybe the surprising early success of Mike Lowell helped soften the blow. Certainly Theo Epstein still wakes up in a cold sweat a night, Texeira was going to be the the center piece of the lineup for the next 8 years, allowing Theo to let Ortiz, Lowell, and Drew all walk after their contracts are up.

Arod's early season stint on the DL helps keep things relatively calm, I was getting all fired up for his first game at Fenway after the steroid story broke. Now, I'm just sick of Arod, he could walk to the plate with 'Like A Prayer' playing over the loud speaker and we'd have to suffer through a weeks worth of stories about his ego and how he made a Yankee club house attendant clean his cleats with a tooth brush made from real Panda bear hair, what a jerk.

I think what we really need is a bench clearing brawl to get the juices flowing again. Tonight would have been the perfect setting for it, Joba is on the mound for the somewhat Evil Empire and he could have drilled Youk in the back and the first blood could have been spilled at the new Yankee Stadium. However Youk is out again tonight with a sore back, and Posada is out for a month with a hamstring. I love to hate Posada; I had nightmares for months of his pop up single against Pedro that tied the score in the 2003 ALCS.

We'll see what happens tonight with Josh Beckett and Joba Chamberlain on the mound. Beckett really needs a good start and Joe Giradi is one more bullpen meltdown away from going Lou Pinella on us and start eating the outfield grass.

Monday, May 4

Mid-Game Note: Buchholz Voted Pitcher of the Week

Maybe it's because the Yankees just hit back to back taters, getting right back into the game, regardless, good news is always welcome within Red Sox Nation. Which is why ITM figured we'd drop in with a quick mid-game note that Clay Buchholz was just named the International League Pitcher of the Week. Buchholz went 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA, allowing just one run in 11.1 innings while striking out 13 in two starts for Pawtucket. Opponents are batting just .153 against him for the year. In a word, solid.

I find it fitting that Buchholz gets this honor on a night where his Yankee counterpart, Phil Hughes, gets cuffed around by the Sox in the New Stadium. It represents the current difference between the Sox and Yankee farm systems.....both big league clubs have faced similar injury problems, which has forced the Yankees to rush Hughes into the rotation (which they've done in the past), while the Sox have had their choice of arms to go to, enabling them to continue to work on Clay's confidence and consistency in Triple-A....a strategy that appears to be working.

Anyways, back to the game....I'm feeling Ortiz' first tater of the season tonight (or tomorrow....sometime soon...hopefully before July 4th...which one ITM writer's opinion).

Go Sox.

Finding Positives From a Rough Series

(this photo of Nasty Nobbs getting throw out of Fenway just never gets old)

The Rays continued their domination of the Red Sox this weekend, taking three of four at the Trop. At some point early last year, the "I got your timing down Vaughn" torch was passed from the Red Sox, to the Rays....I mean, even Tim Wakefield has been lit up by this young, fast, and powerful Rays lineup (anyone else a little mad that Haverhill's, Northeastern's, and the Wareham Gatemen's-own Carlos Pena has 11 taters?). Joe Murph has been a fan of this Rays team for seemingly longer than anyone (including the fake fans down in St. Pete), and the more I see them play the Red Sox, the more I understand why. Regardless of their current record, you've got to believe this team will be there in August in September. With that said, I figured it would be slightly uplifting to try to find some positive takeaways from a tough series in Florida:

-Brad Penny's quality start. In what seems like the first time since Nam', the Red Sox got a quality start out of one of their pitchers. Penny can partly blame Lugo for the loss (which he did), but we can all feel a little better that he was spotting a fastball with some velocity, and mixing in some great breaking stuff.

-Youk continues to pound the ball...Ortiz can say what he wants about not seeing good pitches, or needing another power bat behind him, but in reality he has the best hitter in the AL batting behind him right now.

-JD is healthy, and is starting to show some consistency at the plate.

-Nick Green continues his studly performance filling in at short....if only Tito could find the balls to sit Lugo for good.

-Dusty's average continues to climb, he hit .375 in the four game series with 5 runs thanks to Ortiz (can you tell he's still in my fantasy team's lineup and I'm bitter?).

Unfortunately, that's all I got right now for positives, feel free to chime in with more, had I gone with the negative list this post would be considerably longer.

The Sox head into the New Stadium tonight for what promises to be an exciting two game set against the Yanks. Early weather reports from ITM's own meteorologist on the ground in NYC (Joe Murph) show a slim chance they'll get the game in tonight, but I'm holding out hope. I'm excited to see a Lester/Hughes match up.

Go Sox, and Go C's.

Sunday, May 3


So first off, a confession. After the second inning, I was watching the Sox game somewhat haphazardly. During C's-Bulls commercials, timeouts, and even free-throws, I would flip over quick and resolve to watch an entire at-bat, but invariably I'd get nervous that I was going to miss a Jesus-3 or a Rondo scrape and I'd flip back quick, then realize I overshot the return by about two and a half minutes, flip back to the Sox, then the vicious cycle repeated itself. So that while I think I saw a pretty substantial portion of the Sox 10-6 victory over the Rays, really my impressions can't be trusted. But, here's what I gathered from the onslaught:

---Jacoby and Pedey combined for another big night, looking more and more like the 1-2 combination we're hoping is going to carry us for a long time. And once again, the 3 hole came up empty. (Papi did draw 2 walks, continuing to gradually lower the bar, so that he gets a fist pump from me everytime he watches 4 go by and brings Youk to the plate. Is this really all we need from our 3 hole?)

---Nick Green went 3 for 5, driving in 3 and improving to .304 on the season, with a .371 OBP and .464 SLG. (Uptown got its hustlers, Bowery got its bums, Red Sox got Mean Nick Green, he's a sweet-swinging son of a gun.) Only Jason Bartlett and Yuniesky Betancourt are better on the season from the SS position.

---Tim Wakefield, though he ultimately gave up 5 and got pulled after giving up a single to start the 6th, did what he had to do and held off the Rays until the Sox could build up a sizeable lead. He improved to 3-1 on the year, and is, sadly, the only Sox starter with an ERA under 3. (The closest is Masterson, on a smaller sample, at a nothing to brag about 4.37.

---Now I could be wrong about this game note, but I'm pretty sure Eddie House hit a double in the 6th to drive in Ellsbury and Pedroia. That could have been the still red-hot Youk, but I feel fairly confident this morning that it was Eddie House.

---The Sox pen had another stellar night. Oki and Ramirez combined for another scoreless 3 innings, and while Saito gave up another 9th inning run, it was the result, in part, of a defensive indifference advance. All in all, another strong night for the best pen in baseball.

---A bad sign for the Sox: Pat Burrell looks like he might finally be starting to hit. If he regains form after a slow start, the Rays are going to have a damn lethal lineup.

---Evan Longoria is a beast. I'm not going to say anything more, except that the Upton-Crawford-Longoria opener scares the crap out of me every time.

Altogether a good night for the Sox and a good night for Boston. The Sox have a 1:35 start today, and on a rainy day up and down the East Coast, that dome never looked so good.

(A final aside. Brad Penny's start today is pissing off a lot of Yankees fans. I've had 3 people ask me this week if he was lined up to start the Monday opener in Yankee stadium. I mean, I know he hasn't pitched great this year, but he hasn't been so bad as to explain the kind salivating he inspires in New Yorkers. Do they suspect something I don't?)

Saturday, May 2

The Talk of the Town for all the Wrong Reasons

Back in 2004, David Ortiz was the most popular professional sports player in Boston. Tom Brady was looking up at this guy on the list of fan favorites.....what a difference 4 or 5 years can make.

For those of you outside of the Boston area (and we know there are a some of you reading this), know and understand that the David Ortiz question is on every one's mind and tongue...and with Tony Mazz's article today, the city is on edge in regards to its number three hitter. Patience is growing thin, and the assumption that Ortiz is just in a "slump" is starting to mold into thoughts we're all dreading to hear, that Big Papi is no more.

It's currently 1:30pm, I've heard or read about questions about Ortiz in the paper, from the ITMGal, on the radio, at the gym....and I'm pretty sure if I had made it to Chinatown I would have heard it there too. A healthy amount of skepticism is necessary, but it is bordering on insanity in this city. Some people want him benched, others want him moved to the number 8 spot in the lineup....and now Tito is facing some serious questions and decisions: "I guess I’d always consider doing what’s in our team’s best interest,’’ Francona said when asked if he considered it a viable option to move Ortiz down in the lineup. "I think it does more harm than good. We’ve had pretty much a set lineup [in recent years]. Three days ago, when we were winning 11 out of 12, nobody was asking that. I don’t know that it’s the best thing to do.’’ Good point Tito, but I'm not sure the majority of people are in agreement.

Of course the steriods question is flooding into all of our minds. Let's be honest, everyone is a question mark and just because he is a Boston player, he should be no different. He's gone from smashing 54 homeruns, to sitting on a goose egg after a full month of baseball. Sure his 54 homeruns was in 2006, technically after the "steroid era", but there is still no real test for HGH. I'm not accusing him of anything, but I'm just saying we've got to at least consider it an option.....and don't get me started on the age question....both questions we may never know the true answer to, but we still need to ask it.

Perhaps he'll come out and hit a tater tonight, the Sox will win a few games in a row, and these concerning conversations will fade away.....but Big Papi has yet to give us any reason to believe. Entirely different from 2004.

Friday, May 1

In Need of a Long Outing, What Else is New

"The good thing is, we have had the luxury of having the extra arms to go to.
With the starting pitching, we just need to find a way to get some more length.
I think those things will change through time." - Tek

...yeah thanks Tek......

Justin Masterson takes the mound tonight in his third start since replacing the "kinda injured" Dice-K in the rotation. Once again he'll be called on to go above and beyond realistic expectations since both ends of the rotation are incapable of a quality start of late.

J-Masty will match up against the 0-3 Andy Sonnanstine, and a Rays lineup that absolutely made the Red Sox eat it last night (hence no ITM post talking about it). Not only will he be expected to keep the Sox in the game, but Boston needs him to go deep in the game to preserve the only thing that has kept this team above five hundred this season, the bullpen.

It's amazing how quickly overall sentiment in this town (and my head) can change about the Sox....They are 1-3 this season against the Rays, and 12-17 against them since the start of last season....doesn't it seem like the Rays get up for these games more than the Sox do? Ask me again after tonight's game, and hopefully I have a different answer.

Here is the lineup...go Sox....
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH (how much longer will he be here?)
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. J.D. Drew, RF
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. Mike Lowell, 3B
8. Jason Varitek, C
9. Julio Lugo, SS
-- Justin Masterson, SP
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