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Thursday, June 11, 2015

As Red Sox struggle vs. Orioles, fans in Boston demand refund for Sunday comeback vs. A's

Fans who missed this are crying foul.

While the Red Sox continue to seek answers for an offensive malaise that has dropped them to the bottom of the American League East, irate fans back home are jamming the ticket office on Yawkey Way demanding a refund for ducats purchased for last Sunday's game against Oakland.

Boston, you may recall, stormed back in the eighth inning of that contest with 8 hits and 7 runs -- turning a 4-0 deficit into a 7-4 wn over the A's in its most exciting victory of the season. But many fans had already left Fenway Park after the seventh, assured that the punchless Sox would continue their incredible string of non-comebacks. 

After all, Boston was 1-27 when trailing after seven innings entering the June 7 game. Why was there any reason to believe that would change?

"I paid $72 for my ticket, and these guys couldn't hit their way out of a clam chowder cup the whole day," said one middle-aged man in a "Thanks Yaz" painter's cap who was among those waiting in line to complain. "I go next door and grab a beer at the Cask, and suddenly they go nuts. I want a ticket to see THAT team."
Hey Papi, where is everybody?

Management said it had not yet decided how to respond to the overwhelming number of refund requests, but said it is considering inviting fans who could prove they left before Sunday's offensive barrage to a "We're Sorry" party in the State Street Pavilion during an upcoming game.  

"We feel their pain," said general manager Ben Cherington. "I know just what that guy means. We want to see THAT team too."

Despite adding big-money All-Star performers in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez in the offseason, the Red Sox rank at or near the bottom of the American League in most offensive categories. Entering play Thursday, June 11, Boston's 27-33 was tied with Seattle for the second worst in the AL.

"Fans should hang in there," Cherington advised. "Remember, Rodriguez is pitching on Sunday. We probably won't need to score much in that game."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Red Sox Bobbleheads we'd like to see -- 2015 team & retro set

In honor of Mike Napoli Bobblehead Night, here are some other Red Sox past and present we'd like to see similarly honored -- with a bit of revisionist history at work:

Eduardo Rodriguez following through during record 9th straight win to start his MLB career. 

Pablo Sandoval completing a RIGHT-HANDED home-run swing.
(just reverse the picture--I can't find one)

Hanley Ramirez making leaping catch against the Green Monster -- the ball snug in his glove.

Nine mini-Brock Holts manning all nine spots on the diamond.

Jon Lester shaking David Ross' hand after hurling an 8-0 shutout on Opening Day, 2015.

Nomar Garciaparra going through his between-pitch rituals.

Carl Everett petting Wally the Green Stegosaurus.

Wade Boggs pissing off Barney by drinking all the beer in Moe's Tavern.

Bill Buckner singling to finish Boston's 4-run, game-winning rally in 9th inning of Game 7 of 1986 World Series at Shea Stadium.

Carlton Fisk signing his new three-year contract after it arrives in the mail on Dec. 18, 1980.
It's a 1981 card (sigh)

Don Zimmer and Bill Lee hugging after Lee shuts down the Yankees to save the 1978 AL Playoff.
(This was taken a few innings before)

Bernie Carbo rounding the bases  after his third pinch-homer of the 1975 World Series clinches the championship for Boston.

Jackie Robinson, resplendent in his home white Red Sox uniform, congratulated by on-deck hitter Roy Campanella after Opening Day homer, 1949.
(I know, just squint and make believe)

Babe Ruth on deck in 1927 World Series for Red Sox at Fenway Park -- Boston's fifth Fall Classic of the decade in "The House That Ruth Shook."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Eduardo Rodriguez dazzles in first Red Sox start -- now Ben needs to give him another

For starters, Rodriquez lives up to the hype.

For most of two months, the Red Sox have sought the spark needed to get their season on track. Now that they may have found it, they would be smart to keep it around.

Last night, in his major league debut, Eduardo Rodriguez shut down one of MLB's hottest-hitting teams in a 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers.  Boston's much-hyped lefthander allowed just 3 hits and 0 runs in 7 2/3 innings, with 7 strikeouts and 2 walks, while performing with poise well beyond his 22 years. 

In fact, Rodriguez pitched with the type of confidence that another Red Sox lefty -- Jon Lester -- displayed so often during his long career in Boston. Beginning with a strikeout of .368 hitter Prince Fielder to end the first inning, Rodriguez was in control throughout the contest with excellent command of his 93-94 mph fastball, slider, and change-up. 
Eduardo has a grip on things.

He did a terrific job moving in and out off the plate, and in mid-game allowed just one walk in a 15-batter stretch that included three strikeouts in the fifth inning. His 106 pitches tied his career high as a professional.

When Rodriguez got the call to report to Arlington from Triple A Pawtucket, he did so with the understanding that he would be returning to the minors after one spot start -- serving as a hole-plugger during a 20-day stretch in which the Red Sox have no days off. Now, however, GM Ben Cherington may want to reconsider that strategy.

If ever a guy deserved a chance to earn a spot in the rotation, it's Rodriguez.

Just how monumental was this performance? You have to go back to 1967 and the near no-hitter by "Impossible Dream" footnote Billy Rohr to find a younger Red Sox pitcher who went further in his MLB debut.
Billy Rohr went 8 2/3 no-hit innings in his debut.

Throw in Hanley Ramirez's first home run since April 29 and three-hit nights from leadoff man extraordinaire Dustin Pedroia and No. 2 man Mookie Betts, and you have one of the most satisfying wins of the year.

Whether it also turns out to be one of the most meaningful remains to be seen. 

Knuckleballer Steven Wright -- coming off an excellent start of his own last weekend -- will do his best to keep the mojo going Friday night.

When asked before Rodriguez's start whether an especially strong outing would force the club to keep him around, Boston manager John Farrell said "we'll really, really reconsider." After the game, Farrell said the rookie would definitely be making another start -- if it was up to Farrell.

The final decision, however, will be made by Cherington. Let's hope he makes the right one.

Fielder and the Rangers had no answers.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cheer up and laugh fans with some Red Sox-themed Letterman Top Ten Lists

Ortiz gets the last laugh on Mr. Yankee Fan.

David Letterman made his love for baseball -- and the Yankees -- very clear during his 33 years as a late-night TV host, with legends from Harmon Killebrew to Bill Veeck to Derek Jeter taking a seat by his desk. He liked to have some fun with the Red Sox, however, and with the Sox currently suffering through one of the worst offensive slumps in team history, Boston fans can all use a laugh.

In honor of Letterman's retirement, here are some of the best Red Sox-related Top 10 lists (and mentions on lists) from the past 15 years:

Feb. 19, 2015 (after Pablo Sandoval reports to his first Boston spring training looking a bit hefty around the middle)

Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear From Your $95 Million Baseball Player

10.   "Are you going to finish that?"
9.     "I'm a .294 hitter, and that''s just my cholesterol."
8.     "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and a hot dog and popcorn and one of those little baseball helmets filled with ice cream."
7.     "Could have sworn the season started in August."
6.     "Can we make it to the seventh-inning brunch."
5.     "I need a few weekends off for Bachelor parties."
4.    "Do the bases have to be so far apart."
3.    "I eat like Babe Ruth, drink like Ruth Bader Ginsburg  

(Letterman joked that this list was "for Boston only; it's being blacked-out everywhere else.)

Oct. 22, 2004 (read by Curt Schilling--this one had to be tough for Dave to swallow)
Top Ten Reasons for the Boston Red Sox Comeback

10.  Unlike the first three games, we didn't leave early to beat the traffic.
9.    We put flu virus in Jeter's Gatorade.
8.    Let's just say Pete Rose made some phone calls for us.
7.    We asked Pokey Reese to be a little less Pokey.
6.    It's not like we haven't won a big game before -- it's just been 86 years.
5.    Honestly, I think we were tired of hearing about the Patriots.
4.    The messages of encouragement Martha [Stewart] sent on prison napkins.
3.    We pretended the baseball was Letterman's head.
2.    What'd you expect -- we have a guy who looks like Jesus!
1.     We got Babe Ruth's ghost a hooker and now everything's cool. 

Summer 2002 (from monologue)
"The Boston Red Sox once again, in order to avoid that costly World Series parade, will have their customary second-half swoon."
(He was right)

July 10, 2002 (a week after Ted Williams' death and the news his son and younger daughter were freezing his body)
Top Ten Little-Known Facts About Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig
3. Refuses to recognize Ted Williams as the top cryogenically-frozen ball player of all time.

May 21, 1999

Top Ten Things You Don't Want To Hear From a Fenway Park Hot Dog Vendor

10.  As my own tribute the Boston Tea Party, I spat in the mustard.
9.   These hot dogs are the real green monsters, right?
8.   If you find a Band-Aid in there -- it's mine.
7.   Try my Buckner Special -- one that was between my legs.
6.   See you in Mass. General, jackass.
5.   Hot dogs are a dollar -- backrubs are fifty cents.
4.   The meat for these things came from an MIT science project.
3.   If you eat this thing, your nickname better be "Old Ironsides."
2.   This hot dog wins the World Series of maggots.
1.   Remember:  1 if by salmonella, 2 if by trichinosis.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seeking power boost, Red Sox bring Mike Napoli's mom west

Mom's mojo: Napoli and Donna Torres

Red Sox manager John Farrell took one look at the numbers after yesterday's 6-3 win at Toronto and called GM Ben Cherington into his office. A few minutes later the pair emerged with an announcement for the assembled media before the trip to Oakland.

After Mike Napoli's 3-run homer in the first inning, just his third all season, Boston was making a roster move: Napoli's mother, Donna Torres, would he heading to California on the team charter and given a ticket to all seven games in Oakland and Seattle.

"Even with his sleep apnea issues fixed, Mike hasn't been hitting a lick this season," Farrell said of Napoli, whose average was at .165 entering Sunday. "Then his mom, shows up, and he homers his first time up. That woman is just what we need to get his bat back to where we know it can be."

With Torres on hand, Napoli was pumped again.

The statistics certainly seem to back up Farrell's confidence. Donna Torres has been on hand live for Mother's Day games in nine of the 10 seasons that her son has played in the big leagues, and Napoli has rewarded her loyalty by going 14-for-33 with three homers and four doubles on those occasions. He's 5-for-10 with two doubles and two homers in his three Mom's Day contests with the Red Sox.

"Mom is better than any rabbit's foot or lucky underwear you can find," said Napoli. "John and Ben figure if we have her in the stands all the time, maybe I'll hit like it's Mother's Day every day."

If the Red Sox expect to get back in the AL East pennant race, they will have to hope that Torres can work her magic.    


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hanley Ramirez homering at record pace for Red Sox -- will weak pitching make it moot?

That ball is gone -- and so is the helmet. (AP)

Jimmie Foxx never did it. Neither did Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, or Mo Vaughn.

When Hanley Ramirez smoked a R.A. Dickey pitch into the left-field Monster seats at Fenway Park last night, it marked his 10th home run of April. Ramirez is tied atop the majors in homers with Nelson Cruz of Seattle, and just one player in Red Sox history has ever hit that many in the season's first month: David Ortiz in 2006.

That was the year Ortiz set a team record with 54 homers, but his prodigious slugging was not enough to save a pitching-thin Boston team from a third-place finish. Ramirez may meet a fate similar to his Dominican countryman this summer.

Although Rick Porcello pitched seven two-hit innings against the heavy-hitting Blue Jays last night in a 4-1 win, Red Sox starters have the worst ERA of any rotation in the major leagues.  

Slugger's Hug: Ortiz greets Ramirez. (USA Today)

Still, while pitching remains a major concern for Boston, Ramirez has quickly become a fan favorite with his prodigious slugging.

In addition to his 10 homers through 20 games, he is also tied with Cruz atop the AL with 22 RBI, while his .659 slugging percentage and .999 OPS place him among the Top 5. To put his hot start in perspective, Ramirez hit just 13 homers all of last season, and he is already nearly one-third of the way to his career high of 33 (set in 2008).

Making his performance all the more exciting is how he's doing it. Ramirez has a robust swing that often causes his helmet to fly off, and he has run out several home runs this year -- including last night's shot -- with nothing atop his colorful cornrows but a skull cap.

He did wrap a homer around the Pesky Pole on Tuesday night, but most of Hanley's howitzers have been no-doubters that fly off his bat even faster than they are delivered by the pitcher. Ramirez's Wednesday shot was estimated to have traveled 106 mph from the plate to the Monster seats, and some are predicting he could hit 50 for Boston hitting in a stacked lineup with Ortiz and fellow newcomer Pablo Sandoval.

Will an offense be enough? (Boston Globe)

The big question is whether all of these hitters will be enough to offset an ace-less Boston rotation that has had trouble getting through the middle of games. Porcello is the only Red Sox starter averaging six or more innings per game, and the team predicted by many to be a World Series contender is a so-so 12-10.

Red Sox fans hope that Rodriguez not only keeps knocking them out, but that come August and September his home runs will still have meaning as Boston seeks a return to the playoffs.

Friday, April 24, 2015

John Farrell on new Red Sox plan: Just singles and homers

Must be runners in scoring position.

Having lost 4 of 6 games and saddled by a .196 average with runners in scoring position (RISP) -- 13th in the American League -- the Red Sox will be instituting a new offensive game plan starting with tonight's contest at Baltimore. 

No matter where and how far Boston batters hit the ball within the confides of Camden Yards, they will stop at first base -- thus preventing the next hitter from having to bat with a runner in scoring position. Farrell calls it the "RISP Revenge" offense.

Sox batters will continue to run out home runs, and once a batter gets a hit other than a homer with a man on first, the team will return to its "normal" offense and hope for the best.

Chili is red hot mad at what he sees.

"There is just something about seeing those guys at second and third that is rattling our guys at the plate," says Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We're hoping without the pressure of knocking someone in, our hitters will raise their productivity up a notch."

The unorthodox move by Farrell comes amidst growing concerns about the much-hyped Boston offense. The season is just 16 games old, but despite adding Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to their lineup,  the Red Sox have not yet seen the expected uptick in production. 

The team batting average after 16 games is .230, which Gordon Edes of points out is its lowest to this point of the season since 1992 -- when Butch Hobson's last-place club hit just .246 all year. Tom Brunansky led that punchless crew with 15 homers and 71 RBI, and the team home run total was an anemic 84. 

"I know we can hit, and we're going to hit," says Boston's first-year hitting coach Chili Davis. "When that sun is shining bright and it warms up, we'll be sitting pretty. Until then, we figure we'll try something new to get us rolling."

I'm hitting .210, but you should see my new car.