July 2009

Big Papi and the Crystal Ball

I’m going to save you some time.


Instead of waiting anxiously to see how the David Ortiz crisis is going to play out, allow me to tell you exactly what’s going to happen.


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


In the near future, Big Papi will tell us that in 2003 he took some sort of supplements or protein shakes without knowing they included performance enhancing drugs. 


Perhaps he purchased them from A-Rod’s cousin.


Most of us won’t really believe him, but Ortiz will apologize and – outside of the Bronx – his mea culpa will be accepted.  And life will go on . . . along with the Red Sox streak of consecutive sellouts.


Here’s where I stand on the revelation that Big Papi’s name is on “The List.”


I’m interested in all 104 names because it was supposed to be a secret and now it’s not.  It’s like when someone starts to share some dirt and then says, “No, I promised I wouldn’t say anything!”  The correct response is to push and prod until they fess up.


But at this point, there are very few names on that list that would surprise me . . . and sluggers who enjoyed huge leaps in their performance level are not among them.


I loved to hold out hope that Ortiz was clean, but I’m not shocked that he wasn’t. 


Were you?  Really?


It was six years ago.  Players weren’t being tested and the temptation to cheat was overwhelming.  That doesn’t make it right, but if your livelihood depends on being better than the other guy and the other guy is using ‘roids, your moral compass has a hard time pointing north.


I put much of the blame on the clean guys.  When it became obvious that steroid use was rampant, they should have demanded that the union institute a testing policy.


Then again, maybe the non-users represented the minority.


I believe David Ortiz is clean now – that’s where he and Manny Ramirez are different.  Manny got busted with a testing policy in effect and a 50-game penalty (40 if you include minor league games) for a first-time offender.  He deserves every bit of ridicule he receives.


I suppose David Ortiz deserves some too, but Red Sox fans will soon forgive even if they don’t forget.


I’m fine with that.  Go ahead and give him a standing “O” and accept his apology.


 As long as you eliminate the terms “A-Roid” or “A-Fraud” from your vocabulary.

Anderson Changes Sox

When the Red Sox traded Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Brian Anderson on Tuesday, I did a quick internet search for some stats and background info and stumbled upon a rather strange tidbit.


According to an “Inside the White Sox” blog, Anderson collects monkeys.  More specifically, stuffed monkeys.  Naturally, I had to find out if that nugget is legit.


“I guess we were playing the Dodgers last year and Vin Scully mentioned something like that,” Anderson told me.  “I don’t know how much I actually collect them, but for awhile there, my family would see those stuffed animal monkeys that kind of clamp down and hang on things and they would pick me up one.  I don’t think I’ve gone out of my way to collect them, but at the same time, I guess I have a pretty decent collection.”


Suffice to say, the Red Sox didn’t acquire Brian for his monkeys.


Brian Anderson resize.jpg 

Anderson was a first round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and was their top-rated minor league prospect in 2005.  While his big league career hasn’t gone as well as hoped so far – a .225 average in 334 games – Brian gives the Red Sox a solid defensive centerfielder in Pawtucket who provides organizational depth.


“Obviously you want to live up to the hype, but at the same time, just making it to the big leagues is an accomplishment,” Anderson told me.  “The next step is being consistent, becoming an every-day player, and getting better every year.  That’s what I’m working toward, and hopefully being traded to this team will give me a chance to get to where I know I can be.”


Getting dealt did not come as a surprise.  After the White Sox sent Anderson to Triple-A Charlotte on July 20th, he requested a trade.  But he didn’t expect to change Sox.


“I kinda had an idea that something might happen, but I hadn’t thought about Boston because their team is so good and they seem to be set at all of their positions,” Anderson said.  “But when I talked to Theo Epstein he seemed very excited, and that got me excited.  It showed me that he has faith in my ability and I hope to help the Red Sox this year.”


When Brian joined the PawSox, he was greeted by a familiar face – his former high school teammate Chris Duncan, who was obtained from the Cardinals five days earlier in exchange for Julio Lugo.


“That was the first thought that went through my mind, ‘Holy cow, I’m going to be playing with Chris again,’ Anderson said.  “Sure enough, his brother Shelly sent a text to both of us saying how jealous he was and that it’s not fair that we get to hang out and play on the same team while he’s stuck by himself.  You never know, crazier things have happened – maybe we’ll play with him as well.”


They’ll play against Shelly Duncan soon enough.  The PawSox play five straight games against Scranton/WB beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday night.


* * * * *


There were two bright spots in Thursday afternoon’s 4-1 loss at Buffalo.


Anderson had a pair of doubles in his second game with Pawtucket, and Michael Bowden had his third straight outstanding start.



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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


The 22-year-old righty was given a 12-day break from July 7th to 18th, and it has definitely produced the desired result.  Bowden’s velocity is up and his pinpoint control has returned – in 3 starts he’s allowed 3 ER in 19 IP for a 1.42 ERA and has not issued a walk in his last 14.2 IP.


Unfortunately, that hasn’t been enough for Bowden to earn a win due to the PawSox lack of offense.  Pawtucket has scored 2-or-fewer runs in 10 of his 19 starts this season.


* * * * *


Look for Jeff Bailey to return to the PawSox early next week at McCoy Stadium.  Bailey has been out of action since July 4th due to an ankle injury, but he’s recently been taking batting practice and doing fielding drills.


Bailey ST resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Remarkably, Bailey ranks third on the PawSox with 7 home runs, even though he has only played in 36 minor league games this season.


Pawtucket is 20-16 with Bailey in the lineup.  That projects to a 80-64 record over a full International League season.


* * * * *

Pawtucket will try to avoid a 4-game sweep in Buffalo on Friday night at 7:35 with Billy Traber on the mound.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with pre-game coverage at 7:20 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.


A Win For Chuck The Knuck

Charlie Zink began experimenting with the knuckleball when he was 12 years old, after seeing a rookie for the Pittsburgh Pirates throw the pitch in a 1992 playoff game.


Some kid named Wakefield.


17 years later, Wake is throwing the knuckler as well as ever while Zink is struggling to control one of the game’s biggest mysteries.


Zink fenway resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


On Sunday, Charlie won his first game in nearly two months as Pawtucket beat Columbus 3-2.  For the season, he’s 5-11 with a 5.49 ERA. 


Zink certainly earned the victory as he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits in 6 IP against the International League’s top scoring team.


But it wasn’t easy.  Charlie issued 6 walks and hit a batter without recording a strikeout.  Since whiffing Syracuse’s Jorge Padilla to begin a game on July 11th, Zink has issued 18 walks and hit 7 batters without recording a strikeout. 


From his first start of the year in which Charlie walked 6 batters and hit a pair, he’s had trouble keeping the butterfly in the strike zone. 


Last year when he was the International League’s Most Valuable Pitcher, Zink only walked 49 batters in 174.1 IP – an average of 2.5 walks per 9 innings.


This year, Charlie has walked 73 batters in 101.2 IP – an average of 6.5 walks per 9 innings.


So what happened?


Perhaps we should look back at that Wakefield kid.


As a 25-year-old rookie with Pittsburgh in ’92, Wake was 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA and averaged 3.4 walks/per 9 IP. 


The following year with the Pirates, he was 6-11 with a 5.61 ERA and averaged 5.3 walks/per 9 IP.


The year after that, Wake was 5-15 with a 5.84 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo leading to his release.


Wakefield figured it out the next year and picked up the first of his 175 wins (and counting) in a Red Sox uniform.  This year, he was an All-Star for the first time at the age of 42.


Charlie Zink is 29.  Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro pitched until he was 48 and won 208 games after turning 35.


Here’s hoping the best is yet to come for Chuck the Knuck too.


* * * * *


I will not be behind the mic for Monday’s game against Columbus.  I am heading to Cincinnati for another fill-in stint on the Reds radio network.


I’ll call tonight’s game against the Padres with Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman before rejoining the PawSox on Tuesday when they open a 4-game series in Buffalo.


If you would like to catch some of tonight’s broadcast, tune in to WLW radio.  It’s 700-AM and can be heard just about anywhere in the US.  On a clear night, it reaches 38 states!


I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

Denker Had A Feeling

Ever get a song stuck in your head that won’t go away?


(I already know the answer – it happens to everyone)


Well, right now, that song for me is “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.


It’s #1 on the Billboard Top 100, but if you’re not familiar with the tune, you can listen to the song and watch the video here.


I bring it up because it came on over the stadium loudspeakers while the PawSox were taking batting practice on Saturday and Travis Denker began singing along with his own lyrics.


The actual lyrics are:


I gotta feeling.

That tonight’s gonna be a good night.

That tonight’s gonna be a good night.

That tonight’s gonna be a good, good night.


Denker’s version went something like this:


I gotta feeling.

That tonight’s gonna be a good night.

The PawSox will score 13 runs tonight.

We’ll do high fives after a good, good night.


(If you sing along, it fits quite well.  And if you haven’t watched the video yet, Fergie looks quite good)



Denker smile resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Incredibly, Travis Denker nailed it!  The PawSox scored 13 runs – with Denker driving in 4 – in a win over the Columbus Clippers.


Unfortunately, it was too-close-for-comfort.  Pawtucket led 10-1 after the third inning and had to hold on for dear life before winning 13-11.


There were plenty of offensive standouts.  Denker had a pair of doubles and 4 RBI.  Chris Carter crushed a 3-run HR to center field and also finished with 4 RBI.  Ivan Ochoa hit a 2-run HR and wound up with 3 RBI. 


It’s just the second time the PawSox have scored 10-or-more runs in a game.  They scored a season-high 15 runs in the game played at tiny Doubleday Field in Cooperstown on June 14th.


The series is even at a game apiece with Game 3 coming up Sunday at 1:05.  Hopefully, Denker will weave some more lyrical magic before the game.


* * * * *


Yesterday I blogged about the loss of our pal Jonathan Van Every to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 



JV AB resize.jpg

Today I received the following e-mail from his folks:

Thanks for the nice goodbye tribute to JV.

We had a fine old time with the Sox, both at Pawtucket and in Boston. 

It was a wild, fun ride, and we’ll always remember the people we met. 

The Pawsox family is the greatest, most hospitable bunch of minor 
league folks we’ve encountered while trailing around behind Jonathan – a real class act. Please share that with the group since we won’t have a chance to thank them for all their kindness.

We’ll miss visiting up there and we’ll especially miss the “radio 
guys”. Thanks again and take care,

Gene & Paula Van Every


Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Van Every for the kind words and for taking the time to write.  We look forward to rooting for JV with the Pirates next year.

* * * * *

I received a few responses about my previous post in which I asked the following question:  “If you could have any piece of sports memorabilia in history, what would it be?”

Hyder said it would be the part of the left field foul pole at Fenway where his childhood hero Carlton Fisk hit his game-winning HR in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

E-mail suggestions included the footballs that Adam Vinatieri kicked through the uprights to win Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII for the Patriots.

George Brett’s pine tar bat.

Wilt Chamberlain’s black book (it had to be pretty thick to include 20,000 names).

Any more suggestions?  Add them to the comments section or e-mail them to me at dhoard@pawsox.com.

* * * * *

This series continues on Sunday afternoon at 1:05.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 12:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

In the words of Aerosmith . . .

It’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend.


Those are Aerosmith’s words, not mine, but Friday’s 3-1 loss to Columbus followed a painfully familiar pattern.


Pawtucket’s pitching was good enough to win, but the offense sputtered.  After back-to-back singles by Chris Carter and newcomer Chris Duncan produced a run in the first inning, the PawSox managed one hit and no runs over the final 8 innings.


Ready for an unbelievable stat:  It marked the 16th time (in 96 games) that the PawSox have finished with 3-or-fewer hits.




There was a silver lining – another great start by Michael Bowden.


Bow stretch resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Bowden pitched 7 innings, allowing 4 hits and 2 runs with no walks and 5 strikeouts.  He hit 94 mph on the stadium radar gun and threw several good sliders.  In two starts since his midseason “sabbatical,” Michael has allowed 4 hits and 2 runs in 12 IP for a 1.50 ERA.


For the season, he’s 3-5 with a 3.09 ERA.  Realistically, he should probably have about 9 wins.  Not too shabby for a 22-year-old in his first full year of Triple-A.


* * * * *


The word going around the clubhouse is that Jonathan Van Every has decided to leave the Red Sox organization.


JV in dugout resize.jpg 

Van Every’s season ended in mid-June due to knee surgery.  Boston took him off of the 40-man roster on July 8th to make room for Jed Lowrie, and released Jonathan 10 days later when the waiver period ran out.


The Red Sox wanted to bring him back next season, but we’re hearing that Van Every has agreed to a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  If that’s the case, let’s hope that JV is 100% healthy when he arrives in spring training and that he and Brandon Moss are teammates in Pittsburgh next year.


Van Every led the team with 26 HR in 2008, and is one of the most graceful centerfielders we’ve had the pleasure to watch in recent years in Pawtucket.  Kelly O’Connor took this great photo of a HR-stealing catch than JV made last season.


JV catch resize.jpg 


Best of luck to a great guy and a terrific player. 


I was also bummed (but not surprised) that Mark Kotsay was the odd man out, when the Red Sox activated Adam LaRoche. 


I nicknamed Kotsay “The Fonz” during his rehab stint with the PawSox and it seemed to stick.  (you can read about it here)


* * * * *


Saturday night should be rockin’ at McCoy Stadium for Jon Lester Bobblehead Night.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.


I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.


And if you Twitter, you can follow my “tweets” at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Chris Duncan Makes a BIG First Impression

Chris Duncan has arrived.  He’s in the PawSox starting lineup tonight batting cleanup.


C. Duncan resize.jpg 

He’ll wear the #32, but if you come out to McCoy Stadium you won’t need a uniform number to pick him out.  He’s huge – 6’5, 230 – and ready to show what he can do in the Red Sox organization after being obtained for Julio Lugo.


“I’m excited,” Chris told me.  “I’m looking forward to getting out there tonight and playing and it should be good to get a fresh start.  It’s been a rough year for me and hopefully I can come over here and start fresh and do a lot better.”


Duncan was batting .227 with 5 HR and 32 RBI with St. Louis this year after having surgery last August to repair a herniated disc in his neck.  He belted 22 HR as a rookie for the Cardinals in 2006, and ripped 21 HR in 2007.


The trade will allow Chris to compete against his older brother Shelly, who is having an MVP-type season with Scranton Wilkes-Barre.  The PawSox face the Yankees 8 more times beginning on August 1st.


“He’s excited,” Chris said.  “We’re playing them soon and we’re both looking forward to playing against each other.  We haven’t been on opposing teams since the Florida State League in 2003.”


There are a couple of things Duncan will miss about playing in St. Louis – most notably being around his dad Dave (the Cardinals pitching coach) on a regular basis.


He’ll also miss watching “The Machine” Albert Pujols every day.  So what will Chris tell his kids and grandkids some day about playing with Pujols?


“I think I’ll say that I had a chance to play with the greatest hitter who ever played,” Chris told me.  “Being on the same team as him and playing with him day in and day out, you realize that you’re playing with someone really special.  He’s up there with some of the elite players to ever play the game.”


Let’s hope Chris gets off to a great start with the PawSox tonight.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.


I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

Thank You Al Gore

More proof that the internet is the greatest invention ever.


(followed closely by the toaster oven and VCR/DVR)


I’m on the 6-hour bus ride last night from Rochester to Pawtucket when I read that Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game for the White Sox.


Furthermore, the masterpiece was saved by an incredible catch by Dewayne Wise.


In the past, that would mean making sure you were in front of the TV at the top of the hour to see the highlight at the beginning of Sportscenter.


Now it means finding the video online.


MLB.com didn’t disappoint.  In fact, today they have a page that shows all of the great defensive plays in recent no-hitters including Jacoby Ellsbury’s diving catch to support Jon Lester in 2008, and Dustin Pedroia’s remarkable stop to save Clay Buchholz’s no-hit bid in 2007.


They even have footage of Mickey Mantle’s great running catch that saved Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.


Here’s the link for when your boss isn’t looking.  Enjoy.

They lied

10 minutes after a front office employee walked into our booth and said the game wouldn’t start until noon, the GM just announced that we’ll begin as scheduled at 11:05.

So much for breakfast.

FYI — Chris Duncan will join the team on Friday at McCoy Stadium.

Rain In Roch

Today’s 11:05 am game in Rochester is going to be delayed by rain (if it’s played at all).  The tarp is covering the infield and we were just told they are hoping to play at noon.

Not exactly what we were hoping for on getaway day.

If it starts, we’ll have it for you on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Help Is On The Way

In the midst of a horrific month of July that has seen the PawSox go 3-14 with a team batting average of .210, the team desperately needs help.


How fast can Chris Duncan get here?


Chris Duncan resize.jpg 


The Red Sox traded Julio Lugo to the Cardinals on Wednesday for Duncan and a player-to-be-named later (how ’bout Pujols?) or cash.


Duncan is having a tough year.  He was batting .227 with 5 HR and 32 RBI in 87 games with the Cardinals, and has 1 hit in his last 31 at-bats.


But he hit .293 with 22 HR last year and .259 with 21 HR the year before.  Call me crazy, but I think we can find a spot for him on a Pawtucket team that’s gone 2-14 in its last 16 games while averaging 2.9 runs. 


According to this story and this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris had been the target of harsh criticism from Cardinals fans – due in part to the fact that his father Dave is the team’s pitching coach.  It sounds to me like he needs a fresh start.


And while I’m sure he’s bummed that he won’t get to see his dad every day, he will get to see his brother Shelly eight times when the PawSox face Scranton/WB.


Who knows, if he really hits well for Pawtucket, maybe they’ll even name a chain of Donut shops for Duncan.


* * * * *  


Ready for a Nostradamus-like prediction?


If the PawSox continue to struggle, Manager Ron Johnson will get thrown out of a game by the end of the weekend.


It’s really not a bold call on my part.  RJ admitted he might do that in hopes of lighting a fire under the team.


“Yea, you start looking for stuff,” Johnson said.  “I’m sure that the way things have been going – you may see an act here in the next few days.  If there’s a play that comes along where you look at it and say, ‘there may be some value in going out and putting on a little show for the boys,’ then you do it.  I’ve done it before where it didn’t work, and I’ve done it at times where we’ve wound up winning.  We’ll play it be ear, but yea; I’m definitely thinking about it.”


RJ apparently blew off some steam in the clubhouse a few nights ago, when he closed the door to reporters for a few minutes to address the team after a particularly shoddy performance.


What was his message?


“Professionalism . . . hustle . . . it’s all about effort,” RJ said.  “I told these guys in our first meeting of the year that they’ll never be yelled at for wins and losses.  What will cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up is if I see a less-than-100% effort.”  


I suspect the next time Mt. Johnson erupts, the explosion will be directed at an umpire.


* * * * *


He played baseball and hockey at Trinity College.


He was the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2006.


He does an outstanding job with his “At Bat With Nat” interviews.


And yes, Jeff Natale even makes pasta.


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And least when his girlfriend tells him to.


Thanks to Leigh for sending the photo.  Her company is Nella Pasta and you can check it out here.


* * * * *


Don’t forget to join us bright and early on Thursday for the 11:05 am start in Rochester.  The pre-game show starts at 10:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.


I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.