October 2009

The Zach Daeges Mystery Is Solved

One of the great mysteries of the 2009 season for Pawtucket was the early-season disappearance of outfielder/first baseman Zach Daeges.

 


Daeges and Bard re.jpg 

Daeges with Daniel Bard (photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Daeges batted fifth in the PawSox opening day lineup and was expected to be one of the team’s big run producers after batting .307 (.412 OBP) with 34 doubles in 2008 with Double-A Portland.

 

But Zach was plagued by an early season ankle injury that never got better.  After going on the disabled list in late April, he was sent to Florida on rehab but never returned to action.  Eventually we stopped asking for updates from PawSox manager Ron Johnson.

 

Well, the mystery has been solved – Daeges was born with one too many bones.

 

According to this story in the Providence Journal, Daeges is one of a rare few born with an extra bone behind his ankle, called the Os Trigonum.  Doctors determined that Daeges knocked the bone loose during a spring training game and it pressed on a tendon causing considerable pain.

 

Daeges had the bone surgically removed on September 18th and is expected to be fully recovered in time for spring training.

 

Zach turns 26 in November, so the lost season makes him a bit older than most prospects going into their first full season in Triple-A.  But Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen says Daeges can make up for lost time.

 

“As a college kid that had already done what he needed to do at Double-A, it was going to be now, at Triple-A, about getting the at-bats, and getting ready to be a major league protection player,” Hazen told the Providence Journal.

 

“He already was [ready], now it’s just going to be about going out and performing, getting the opportunity. There’s not a ton, on his overall game, that he needs to develop. Obviously there’s some work that needs to be done, mostly defensively, but from an approach standpoint, power development standpoint, he has those things. He just needs more at-bats. The thing that he lost was the at-bats,” Hazen said.

 

It’s good to know the mystery has been solved . . . and good to know that the PawSox figure to have Daeges in the lineup in 2010.

Boston Should Consider RJ For Bench Coach

Ron Johnson often jokes that he’s in the 18th year of his five-year plan to be a major league manager.

 


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(photo courtesy of Shingo Nogomi of the Nikkon Sports News)

 

Johnson has been Pawtucket’s skipper for the last five seasons and is under contract to manage the team again in 2010.  He’s previously managed in Baseball City (1992), Wilmington (1993), Memphis (1994), Wichita (1995-97), Omaha (1998-99), Sarasota (2000-2001), Trenton (2002), and Portland (2003-04).

 

As much as I like him personally and respect the job that he does, I hope that RJ isn’t back at McCoy Stadium next season – I hope that he’s the new bench coach in Boston.

 

That was the first thought that came to mind when I read the news that Brad Mills – Terry Francona’s bench coach for the last six years – was hired to manage the Houston Astros.

 

Mills’ departure has created an opening on the Red Sox coaching staff, and Francona was asked if he might select an internal candidate for the position.

 

“I hope so, I really hope so,” Francona told the Boston Globe.  “I think that’s something that’s important.  I’ve been here long enough now that it’s something that definitely needs to be considered.  That doesn’t mean that anybody’s a lock to get a job.”

 

The Globe speculated that three members of the current coaching staff – DeMarlo Hale, Gary Tuck, and John Farrell – could be candidates to switch to bench coach.  The Globe also speculated that minor league field coordinator Rob Leary could get the job.

 

The Boston Herald mentioned Hale and first base coach Tim Bogar as the logical internal candidates.  Reporter Sean McAdam also mentioned the possibility that Hale could follow Mills to Houston which would create another opening in Boston.

 

Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal was the only Red Sox beat writer to speculate that Johnson could be a prime candidate for the opening in  Boston.  However, McDonald writes that RJ might be more valuable to the Red Sox by staying in Pawtucket:

 

Could Johnson serve as a bench coach in the majors? Sure he could. He’s a professional. He’s one of the most jovial guys around the game. He’s respected and trusted. Because of those qualities there’s a pretty good chance he’ll remain the manager for the PawSox.

 

Johnson gets the idea that winning is secondary to development in the minors. As valuable as he could be sitting on the bench next to Francona in Boston, Johnson’s importance – at least in the Red Sox organization – will remain in Triple-A.

 

There’s no doubt he will be on Boston’s list of likely candidates, and he’s earned that consideration. But the Red Sox probably believe he’s more valuable in Pawtucket.

 

I hope that’s not the case, and hate to think that being an outstanding Triple-A manager could cost RJ a well-deserved promotion to the big leagues.

 

I’ve written before that I think that Johnson would make an excellent major league manager.  When I ran into Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Brandon Moss while filling-in on a Cincinnati Reds’ broadcast this summer, Moss agreed:

 

“I love RJ,” Moss told me.  “He’s the best manager I’ve ever had and it’s shame he’s not a big league manager yet.  If for some reason he doesn’t get that opportunity one day, I’m going to boycott.  RJ would definitely be the biggest memory from those two years in Pawtucket.”

 

Johnson’s chances of becoming a major league manager would be greatly enhanced if he had “Boston Red Sox bench coach” on his resume.  That title helped Brad Mills become the new manager of the Houston Astros.

 

Ron Johnson is the perfect choice to replace him in Boston.

Were More Red Sox Jerseys Buried In The Bronx?

Have you seen news reports that ramps at the new $1.2 billion dollar Yankee Stadium are already in bad shape and will cost millions of dollars to fix? (Here’s the NY Times story)

 

It makes you wonder if the Big Papi jersey that the Yankees spent $45,000 to dig out of the concrete was the only Red Sox jersey that was buried during construction.

 


Papi jersey re.jpg 

I’m guessing that my man Hyder is chuckling at the Yankees misfortune, but PawSox President Mike Tamburro is sympathetic.

 

“Having to live in a facility as old as McCoy, you understand the issues that come along with facilities,” Mike told me.  “As a facility operator, your heart goes out to people who have the problems that the Yankees seem to be having with the new Yankee Stadium.”

 

McCoy Stadium – which was erected in 1942 and renovated in 1999 – is still going strong, but the PawSox spend a considerable amount of money every year to insure that it doesn’t show its age.

 

“You have got to be dedicated to staying on top of all types of repairs in a building like this year-round,” Tamburro said.  “It’s certainly a big budget item for us, but it’s one that we’re happy to do to keep the facility in the shape that it is.”

 

“Every year we try to our very best to improve the facility,” Tamburro added.  “Right now we’re taking care of some of the concrete repair.  There is a new traffic coating in the food court area.  There’s probably going to be some painting done up and around the stadium.  And we’re adding cup holders in all of the grandstand seating area.”

 


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(photo courtesy of the Providence Journal)

 

McCoy Stadium has become the Fenway Park of the International League.  While 10 of the league’s 14 teams are playing in parks that have been built since 1995, the visiting broadcasters always tell us that no I.L. park has more charm or is a better place to watch a game.  Pawtucket fans share those sentiments.  

 

“There’s no doubt about it,” Tamburro said.  “If we go back to the late 90’s when we were talking about whether to build a new stadium or rehab McCoy, all of the surveys overwhelmingly showed that the fans in this area wanted us to rehab this stadium and that’s exactly what did.”

 

“I think there are some tremendous new facilities out there, but personally, I love this old building and I think there’s something magical about this place that makes it special and unique,” Tamburro told me.  “They can build all the new facilities in the world, but they can’t build what we have at McCoy Stadium.”

 

 In the Bronx, they can’t even build ramps.

Vin Scully On The Day He Managed The Dodgers

After the LA Dodgers clinched the NL West on October 3rd, Joe Torre allowed backup catcher Brad Ausmus to manage the Dodgers the following day in their regular season finale – a 9-5 win over the Colorado Rockies.

 

That inspired the legendary Vin Scully to weave a story into his play-by-play that afternoon of the time that he managed the Dodgers from the radio booth.

 

The folks from the “Sons of Steve Garvey” blog wrote down what Scully had to say:

 

If you don’t mind me reminiscing, thinking about Brad Ausmus being the manager. I actually managed the Dodgers during a game.

 

The pitch is off the plate.

 

Walter Alston was the manager of the Dodgers and we were playing a game right here at Dodger Stadium, and we used to have a headset in the dugout for interviews and also, when you got in a tough pennant race, guys liked to hear scores of other games.

 

One-one pitch and that’s a strike, one and two.

 

Anyway, it was like today, many years ago, about 1965, and the phone rang in the booth and it was Walter Alston. And he said, “Look, I’m going to wear the headset, and you manage.”

 

And we were on the phone during a commercial break.

 

I said, “You’re kidding.”

 

He said, “No, I want you to manage.”

 

I said, “All right.”

 

He said, “The only thing, you gotta be quick.”

 

I said, “Well, I’ll try.”

 

Two and two the count to A.J. Ellis.

 

Ron Fairly was the runner at first base and Ron had consumed a bit of champagne the night before, during the celebration. ‘Cause in those days, you won the pennant, it was really a big deal.

 

That’s a drive into center for a base hit, so Ellis will pick up a run batted in as he picks up Casey Blake, and the Dodgers lead four to nothing, and maybe this isn’t a bad time to talk about my managerial experience.

 

They get the ball now for A.J. Ellis, his first big-league hit and run batted in, so it’s a big day for him.

 

Anyway, to get back to me [laughs] and that’s a terrible way to put it, but I think you’ll understand.

 

Here is Vicente Padilla.

 

So anyway, Fairly got to first base, and now I know that Alston is listening, and so is the crowd. In those days, everybody had transistor radios.

 

And the pitch is ball one.

 

So I said, on the air, “You know, I hate to do this to my friend Fairly, and I know he’s not feeling well, he’s full of champagne, but — I want him going.”

 

And so — here’s the one-oh pitch. Fouled back.

 

And Alston flashed the sign, and the crowd now is into the game, and they see Fairly take the greatest double-take you ever saw, looking in to the manager as if to say, “Are you kidding? The day after we won the pennant, you’re going to run me?”  And so he started to run. The pitch was fouled off.

 

One ball and one strike the count, next one’s outside. Two balls, one strike.

 

And now again talking to the crowd, and I said, “You know, I just hate to do this, but Walter Alston has always taught me: If it’s a good play, come right back with it.”

 

Well, Alston again flashes to Fairly: I want you to go.

 

Pitch is inside, ball three.

 

And Fairly now absolutely can’t believe it. But, like a good soldier, he follows orders.

He takes off, the pitch is in the dirt, it gets away from the catcher, and Fairly collapses at second base with a stolen base.

 

The pitch to Padilla a strike. Three and two.

 

Now I’m looking to get off the stage. I mean, that’s enough.

 

So then I said, “Alston, I got you this far. The rest of the game you’re on your own.”

And Fairly was at second base.

 

So my one moment as a manager in the big leagues.

 

Runners go, three-two pitch swung on and missed, got the story in just in time. And for the Dodgers, they pick up a big four. And at the end of an inning, Dodgers four, Rockies nothing.

 

A great story, wonderfully told by Scully.

 

The closest I ever came to “managing” occurred back when I was the announcer for the Syracuse Chiefs and our skipper was Bob Bailor. 

 

I was young and single at the time and used to hang out in his office for hours after the games enjoying a beverage or two while talking baseball. 

 

One night I decided to chime in with some ideas on how he should change his batting order and proceeded to present what I considered to be the ideal starting lineup. 

 

The next day when I got to the ballpark, “my” lineup was posted on the clubhouse wall and I began blabbering to anyone who would listen about how I had brilliantly convinced the manager to change his lineup.  I probably even predicted an offensive explosion thanks to my genius.

 

I went to the radio booth and filled-in my scorebook with all of the names and stats and was just about to begin the pre-game show when I got word that Bob had gone back to his old lineup and my painstaking scorebook prep was useless.

 

Naturally, the team scored a bunch of runs without my help and went on to have a great season. 

 

And I learned an important lesson:  The radio guy should keep his mouth shut . . . until he’s on the air of course.

An Early Start To The Shopping Season

Perhaps it’s a little early for this, but I have a Christmas gift suggestion – albeit an expensive one – for the baseball fanatic on your list.

 

(If my wife Peg is checking out the blog these days, that absolutely includes me).

 

It’s the mega-collection of World Series highlight films that has just been put out on DVD by MLB Productions (you can check it out here).

 

I grew up in Lakewood, NY (south of Buffalo) and rooted for the New York Mets as a kid because we got their telecasts on cable TV.  I’m pretty sure that the first three songs I committed to memory were Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Old McDonald Had a Farm, and Meet the Mets.

 

One of my most vivid memories of watching Mets games as a kid in the 1970’s and early 1980’s (aside from Lindsay Nelson’s hideous jackets and Ralph Kiner’s malaprops), was how excited I would be whenever there was a rain delay because that usually meant seeing the official highlight films of the Mets’ World Series appearances in ’69, and ’73.

 

That’s how I learned about Ron Swoboda’s amazing catch, the “shoe polish” incident involving Cleon Jones, Charlie Finley’s brazen attempt to get rid of Mike Andrews in the middle of the World Series for making two errors, and – sadly – an aging Willie Mays falling down in the outfield.

 

Those World Series films were so compelling that I hated it if the Mets game resumed before the movie ended.

 

Well, there’s no longer a need to pray for rain. 

 

MLB Productions has put out a blockbuster – all 65 World Series films (on 20 DVDs) beginning with the 1943 matchup between the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.  The DVDs are accompanied by a glossy commemorative book that includes a foreward by Bob Costas.  Like I said – it’s expensive – the cheapest I can find it online is for roughly $180.

 

If I don’t receive it as a gift from my wonderful, fabulous, gorgeous, incredible wife (how’s that for a hint), I’m sure I’ll plop down the dough and buy it myself because it would be perfect for PawSox bus rides next year.

 

That way, when Manager Ron Johnson wants to watch one of his favorite movies on the bus like Open Range or Ghost Rider for the 50th time, I can pop a DVD into my laptop and relive great moments in World Series history.

 

I’ll make sure Hyder isn’t watching in the seat across the aisle when Mookie Wilson steps to the plate in the 10th inning of Game 6 in ’86.  I wouldn’t want his screams to startle the bus driver and force us off the road.

 

The prospect of watching World Series DVDs doesn’t necessarily make me eager to resume those long bus rides, but I am looking forward to Christmas morning.

 

Pretty subtle huh?

Where They Were and How They Did in 2009

Back in April, I searched through rosters to see where former PawSox during my years in the booth (2006-present) were currently playing.  I figured it might be interesting to see how they finished in 2009 (I am not including current Red Sox).

David Aardsma - Seattle Mariners – 3-6, 38 saves, 2.52 ERA

Abe Alvarez - Reggio Emilia (Italian Baseball League) – 3-8, 2.96 ERA

Craig Breslow - Minnesota Twins – 1-2, 6.26 ERA and Oakland Athletics – 7-5, 2 saves, 2.60 ERA

Mike Burns - Nashville Sounds – 8-3, 2.62 ERA and Milwaukee Brewers – 3-5, 5.75 ERA

Kevin Cash - Scranton/WB Yankees – .221, 2 HR, 9 RBI and NY Yankees – .231, 0 HR, 3 RBI

Hee-seop Choi - Kia Tigers (Korean Baseball League) – .308, 33 HR, 98 RBI

Bartolo Colon - Chicago White Sox – 3-6, 4.19 ERA and Charlotte Knights – 1-1, 3.75 ERA

Bryan Corey - Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks – 7-9, 5.34 ERA

Keoni DeRenne - York Revolution (Atlantic League) – .289, 5 HR, 34 RBI

Keith Foulke - Newark Bears (Atlantic League) – 5-4, 11 saves, 5.02 ERA

Keith Ginter - Charlotte Knights – .262, 6 HR, 33 RBI

Matt Ginter - Triple-A Nashville Sounds (perfect for his banjo playing) – 3-3, 2 saves, 3.81 ERA

Craig Hansen - Pittsburgh Pirates – 0-0, 5.68 ERA (didn’t pitch after April 20th due to injury)

Willie Harris - Syracuse Chiefs – .222 in 5 games and Washington Nationals – .235, 7 HR, 27 RBI

Lincoln Holdzkom - Double-A Altoona Curve – 0-1, 0.00 ERA (didn’t pitch after May 17th)

Travis Hughes – York Revolution (Atlantic League) 1-2, 5.93 ERA and Calgary Vipers (Golden Baseball League) 3-0, 4.50 ERA

Eric Hull - Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers – 7-3, 1 save, 6.13 ERA

Chuck Jeroloman - Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (Atlantic League) – .190, 11 HR, 38 RBI

Jason Johnson - Scranton/WB Yankees – 2-2, 5.50 ERA and Trenton Thunder – 0-2, 14.54 ERA

Bobby Kielty - Buffalo Bisons – .231, 1 HR, 3 RBI (didn’t play after April 17th)

Jason Lane - Triple-A Las Vegas – .253, 13 HR, 47 RBI

George Lombard - Long Island Ducks (Atlantic League) – .343, 11 HR, 49 RBI (With Pawtucket before I was doing the games)

Alejandro Machado - Rochester Red Wings – .222, 0 HR, 5 RBI, New Britain Rock Cats – .200, 1 HR, 6 RBI, Ft. Myers Miracle – .277, 0 HR, 3 RBI and GCL Twins – .556, 0 HR, 0 RBI

Edgar Martinez - Newark Bears (Atlantic League) – 1-3, 6.09 ERA.  El Guapo Lives!

“Super” Joe McEwing - Manager of Class-A Winston-Salem Dash – Went 73-65 to win Southern Division.  Lost in the playoffs to the Salem Red Sox.

Cla Meredith - San Diego Padres – 4-2, 4.17 ERA and Baltimore Orioles – 0-0, 3.77 ERA

Corky Miller - Chicago White Sox – .205, 0 HR, 5 RBI, Cincinnati Reds – .179, 1 HR, 10 RBI, Charlotte Knights – .143, 0 HR, 0 RBI, and Louisville Bats – .286, 0 HR, 8 RBI

Brandon Moss -  Pittsburgh Pirates – .236, 7 HR, 41 RBI

David Murphy - Texas Rangers – .269, 17 HR, 57 RBI

Jeremy Owens - Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (Atlantic League) – .240, 28 HR, 80 RBI.  (Was actually with Pawtucket in 2004 before I was doing the games, but his name caught my eye)

David Pauley - Norfolk Tides – 9-12, 4.37 ERA

Wily Mo Pena - Buffalo Bisons – .276, 5 HR, 21 RBI

Joel Pineiro - St. Louis Cardinals – 15-12, 3.49 ERA

Alex Prieto - Long Island Ducks (Atlantic League) – .240, 7 HR, 31 RBI

Josh Pressley - Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League) – .314, 15 HR, 72 RBI

David Riske - Milwaukee Brewers – 0-0, 18.00 ERA (pitched in 1 game on April 9th)

Bobby Scales - Triple-A Iowa Cubs – .278, 5 HR, 39 RBI and Chicago Cubs – .242, 3 HR, 15 RBI

Jimmy Serrano - Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (Atlantic League) – 0-2, 6.09 ERA

Chris Smith - Triple-A Nashville Sounds – 2-0, 17 saves, 1.27 ERA and Milwaukee Brewers – 0-0, 4.11 ERA

Kyle Snyder - Buffalo Bisons – 3-8, 1 save, 4.23 ERA

Chad Spann - Triple-A Round Rock – .246, 1 HR, 8 RBI and Double-A Corpus Christi – .129, 0 HR, 2 RBI

Junior Spivey - Camden Riversharks (Atlantic League) and Tucson Toros (Golden Baseball League) – .366, 3 HR, 22 RBI

Adam Stern - Double-A Huntsville Stars – .280, 3 HR, 32 RBI and Triple-A Nashville Sounds – .310, 1 HR, 8 RBI

Jon Switzer - Buffalo Bisons – 1-3, 4 saves, 3.29 ERA and NY Mets – 0-0, 8.10 ERA

Michael Tejera - Tigres de Quintana Roo (Mexican League) – 3-1, 3.83 ERA and Sultanes de Monterrey – 2-0, 3.04 ERA

Joe Thurston - St. Louis Cardinals – .225, 1 HR, 25 RBI

Michael Tucker - Newark Bears (Atlantic League) – .231, 0 HR, 0 RBI in 12 games.

Beau Vaughan - Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks – 4-2, 4.62 and Double-A Frisco RoughRiders – 3-0, 8 saves, 2.35 ERA.  Check out his blog here!

John “Way Back” Wasdin - Seibu Lions (Japan Central League) – Way before my time with Pawtucket (1998-2000), but interesting no?

Josh Wilson - Arizona Diamondbacks – .231, 0 HR, 2 RBI, San Diego Padres – .105, 0 HR, 1 RBI, Seattle Mariners – .250, 3 HR, 10 RBI, Triple-A Reno Aces – .260, 1 HR, 10 RBI, and Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers – .245, 1 HR, 3 RBI.  Also pitched in lopsided games for both Arizona and San Diego     

Let me know if I missed anyone!

Did That Really Happen?

So let me get this straight.

 

Suddenly Jonathan Papelbon can’t protect a 2-run lead in the 9th inning of a playoff game and Alex Rodriquez is Mr. October?

 

I’d better call Hyder and make sure that he’s not around any sharp objects.

 

I’ll get to Papelbon in a moment but first, kudos to Clay Buchholz.  He was a little bit shaky with a 5-1 lead in the 6th inning, but he gave the Red Sox five solid innings in his first postseason start and would have been the winning pitcher if his pen pals didn’t blow the lead.

 


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Clay won’t have to worry about beginning 2010 in Pawtucket – he’s earned his spot in the Red Sox rotation for next year.  Now he can turn his attention to his mid-November wedding to Lindsay Clubine.  Since she’s one of the hosts of the travel show Get Out! on HDNet, they’re bound to have a spectacular honeymoon. 

 

Jonathan Papelbon might want to take a nice vacation too, because I’m sure he’s going to be going over every pitch he threw in Game 3 for weeks if not months.

 


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Prior to Sunday’s disaster, Papelbon had not allowed a run in 17 postseason outings covering 26 innings.  It was an incredible streak, but it was bound to end eventually.  Mariano Rivera had not allowed a run in more than 30 consecutive postseason innings when he took the mound with a 1-run lead in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.  Rivera promptly gave up two runs to the Diamondbacks to cost the Yankees the championship. 

 

In other words, hits happen.

 

The Yanks have not been back to the World Series since, but if A-Rod continues to hit the way he did in New York’s sweep over Minnesota, I have a hard time believing that the Angels are going to keep the Yanks out of the fall classic.

 


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Rodriquez batted .455 in the series (5-for-11) with 2 HR and 6 RBI and the home runs were both huge.

 

In Game 2, his 2-run blast off closer Joe Nathan tied the game in the 9th inning.  In Game 3, the Yankees were trailing 1-0 in the 7th when A-Rod homered off of former PawSox Carl Pavano to turn the tide in what became 4-1 New York win.

 

Rodriquez entered the 2009 postseason 0-for-27 with runners in scoring position dating back to the 2004 ALCS.  His is rapidly exorcizing his playoff demons.

 

As shocking as the end to the Red Sox/Angels series was, I can’t say that I’m surprised that Boston did not make it to the World Series.  When the Yankees swept the Red Sox in that 4-game series in the Bronx in August, I think most of us got the feeling that this just wasn’t Boston’s year.

 

Sometimes it sucks to be right.

 

* * * * *  

 

I was amused to see Dustin Pedroia take a shot at the Fenway Park grounds crew after Sunday’s loss.

 

A tricky hop prevented Pedroia from turning a potential double play in the 8th inning and he didn’t mince words after the game.

 

“Our infield sucks,” Pedroia told reporters, “it’s the worst in the game.  I’m not lying about that.  That is true.  Took a bad hop.  I just tried to put my body in front of it to get an out.  I think about those things, too.  That stuff upsets me.  Like my job is to take 1,000 ground balls today and the other guys’ job is to get the field perfect so we can play baseball.”

 

That’s classic Pedroia.  During his time with the PawSox, Dustin was a chronic complainer – but not in a mean-spirited way.  He gives maximum effort at all times and demands the same from everyone around him.

 

That’s why he’s made himself one of the most unlikely superstars in the game.

A Bad Night In Any Language

So I watched Game 1 of the Red Sox/Angels series from a hotel room in Montreal.

 

The telecast was in French.  Good vacation planning huh?

 

Since the announcers didn’t used the words “bonjour,” “merci,” or “croissant,” I didn’t understand any of the commentary.

 

I suspect I wouldn’t have enjoyed it much anyway considering Boston’s 5-0 defeat.

 

Two things were obvious despite the language barrier.

 

1.  First base umpire CB Bucknor was atrocious.  As the Boston Globe put it today, “The New Buckner is Bucknor.”

 

2.  It really stinks that 9-inning playoff games routinely end after midnight.

 

I just finished reading the book “The Machine” by my favorite author Joe Posnanski.  It’s an in-depth look at the 1975 Cincinnati Reds – arguably the greatest team in baseball history.

 

The book has some great anecdotes from the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox, which was one of the first World Series I remember watching as a kid.

 

Back then, only Game 6 required a fan living in the Eastern Time zone to stay up really late to see the finish.  Carlton Fisk’s game-winning home run struck the left field foul pole at Fenway Park at the 4 hour and 1 minute mark (that’s about the bottom of the 8th of a typical Yankees/Red Sox game these days).

 

There were five 9-inning games in the ’75 Series (Game 3 also went to extra innings) and all of them lasted less than three hours:

 

Game 1:  2:27

Game 2:  2:38

Game 4:  2:52

Game 5:  2:23

Game 7:  2:52

 

Those times are not why the ’75 World Series is often called the most exciting in baseball history but it certainly didn’t hurt.

 

I’m sure Sox fans will gladly stay up late on Friday night if it means a Boston win to even the series at 1-1.

 

We’ll see if Josh Beckett adds to his reputation for being one of best postseason pitchers in recent baseball history.

 

Here are some great nuggets about Beckett’s playoff prowess from the Red Sox P.R. staff:

 

Josh is 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 13 career postseason games (12 starts), including a 1-1 mark and 2.14 ERA in 3 Division Series contests (all starts).  He has not lost in the playoffs since Game 3 of the 2003 World Series, going 6-0 with a 3.04 ERA in that time.  In MLB history, only Orlando Hernandez (8), Bob Gibson (7), Orel Hershiser (7), and David Wells (7) have longer postseason winning streaks.

 

I’ll be rooting for Beckett to be “magnifique.”

Following The Sox From Afar

Greetings from Shelburne, Vermont.

 

October is traditionally the best time of the year for my wife Peg and me to take a vacation (preferably before the World Series) and this year is no exception.  The 8th-ranked University of Cincinnati football team has a bye this weekend, so we’ve decided to take our 3-year old son Sam out of the country for the first time and drive to Montreal.

 


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Since five hour car rides aren’t ideal for Sam, we stopped slightly past the half-way point and spent a night at Shelburne Farms.  It’s a magnificent old inn with a gourmet restaurant that’s located on a sprawling farm so it’s great for adults and kids.  Sam spent a few hours playing with the animals and the farm equipment while we relaxed.  If you live in New England and have small children, I highly recommend it.

 


Sam chasing chicken re.JPG 

 

Before Sam was born, we traveled far and wide in October which can be tricky for two fanatical baseball fans – especially when the Red Sox qualify for the playoffs.  Peg is a life-long member of Red Sox nation.

 

In 2003 for example, we were in Tokyo visiting Peg’s brother (who worked there for a few years) when the Red Sox met the Yankees in the ALCS.  That meant getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the games on Japanese TV.

 

The most amusing part of the experience was what took place during the commercial breaks.  Instead of showing the advertisements, a camera would spend those two minutes locked in on Hideki Matsui since he was the only Japanese player on either team at the time.

 

When the Yankees were getting ready to hit, we saw Matsui in the dugout, fiddling with his bats, talking to teammates, picking his nose, etc . . .

 

When the Yankees were in the field, we got to see Hideki play catch in outfield the entire time (isn’t that exciting!) until the first pitch was delivered.

 

I imagine now, if we watched a Red Sox playoff game in Japan, we’d see a ton of Daisuke Matsuzaka between innings with small doses of Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito mixed in.

 

That series, of course, ended with Aaron “Bleeping” Boone’s home run off of Tim Wakefield in Game 7 that sent the Yankees to the World Series.  I’m here to tell you it hurt just as much 13 time zones away.

 

In 2004, we were on a safari in South Africa when the Red Sox and Yankees met again in the ALCS.  This time we had no access to a TV which seemed like a good thing when the Sox fell behind three games to none.  But we were able to see the scores on a computer, and as the Red Sox began their historic comeback we became increasingly determined to keep up with the latest news.

 

But here was the problem.  Remember the first time you ever looked at the internet and how long it took to download material?  Well, imagine that only 50 times slower!  Simply getting the score took about 90 minutes, so we would start the download before going out in the bush to observe elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes, and zebras in their native habitat and then hope that the score was on the screen by the time we got back.

 

It was quite possibly the most spectacular trip we’ve ever taken, but I’m happy we were back home in time to see Boston win its first World Series title in 86 years.

 

We’ll watch the first few games of this year’s ALDS between the Red Sox and Angels in Montreal (I wonder if they’ll show Canadian Jason Bay during the breaks?), but we’ll be back home in time for the ALCS and World Series if the Red Sox advance.

 

I wouldn’t want Sam to be out of the country if the Red Sox win their second World Series title in his lifetime.

Prince Albert and a Grande Exit

I don’t know if you noticed it on Sunday when the regular season came to an end but Albert Pujols won the National League Triple Crown.

 

Not for the season . . . for the decade!

 

This year, Pujols led the NL in home runs with 47, finished third in batting average at .327, and finished third in RBI with 135.

 

For the decade of the 2000s, Pujols ranked first in the National League in average (.334), home runs (366), and RBI (1112).

 

Now that’s impressive.

 

Pujols became just the third player in history to win a decade Triple Crown joining Ted Williams (1940s-AL), Rogers Hornsby (1930s-NL) and Honus Wagner (1900s-NL).

 

I mention that stat for this reason.  One of my goals as a sports fan is to see the superstars of my lifetime perform in person at least once.

 

Off the top of my head, here are some of the legends I’ll be able to tell my son Sam that I’ve been able to see in person:

 

Baseball:  Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn, Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Ramirez, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, and Pujols.

 

Football:  OJ Simpson, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, John Elway, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Bruce Smith, and Lawrence Taylor.

 

Basketball:  Michael Jordan (in college and the NBA), LeBron James, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Charles Barkley, Pat Ewing, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, and OJ Mayo (as an  8th grader).

 

Golf:  Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer.

 

My biggest regret is never making the effort to see Wayne Gretzky in person.  I’ve been to quite a few NHL games, but never saw “The Great One” in action.  That’s the gaping hole on my sports fan resume.

 

Who are some of the legends that you’re proud to say you watched in person – maybe even at McCoy Stadium!  Let me know in the comments section.

 

* * * * *

 

One of my mentors in sports broadcasting announced that he will not return to the Cincinnati Reds TV booth next season, as George Grande opted out of the final year of his contract to spend more time with his family in Connecticut.

 

There truly is not a nicer person on this earth than George Grande, and I could write a book about all that I learned from him during the years that I hosted the Reds pre-game show on FSN Ohio.

 

The most important lesson I learned was how to make use of your time in the hours leading up to the first pitch.  George was constantly on the move, striking up casual conversations with players and coaches from both teams.  By the time the game arrived, he had a notebook full of fresh material that he would sprinkle through that night’s broadcast.

 

For years, George has been the Master of Ceremonies every summer at the Hall of Fame Inductions in Cooperstown.  One day soon, he’ll step to the mic as a recipient of the Ford Frick Award and he takes his place in the broadcaster’s wing of the Hall of Fame.

 

By the way, George was kind enough to join Steve Hyder and me on an episode of “PawSox Insider” this summer.  You can listen to it here.  It’s Episode 18, Part 1.

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