Results tagged ‘ red sox nation ’

And then there were four…

Here are my thoughts as we gear up for the ALCS:

1) The day
that the Mets lost and the Brewers won, on the last day of the season
(breaking their first place tie), was one of the most exciting
baseball-viewing experiences I’ve had in the last few years. My son and
I were watching the Mets game on the TV and the Brewers game on MLBtv
(Internet), and even though I’m not a Brewers fan, I could feel their
hunger to make it to the postseason (for the first time in 26 years).
Sabathia pitched like a God. And the pain that Mets fans feel, having
lost the division on the last day of the season TWO YEARS IN A ROW,
might be their payback for games 6 and 7 of the 1986 World Series. What
comes around goes around…

2) The Cubs’ problems were clearly
mental. You don’t finish the season with the best record in MLB and
then drop three in a row in the Division Series unless you’re psyched
out. And you don’t make three errors in one inning with your ace on the
mound unless you’re psyched out. What did the Red Sox do after game 3
of the 2004 ALCS (down, three games to none) to gain the momentum
they’ve had ever since? They didn’t suddenly get BETTER. Something
clicked in their heads. Oh, what would the Cubs give for the formula
for that “click?”

3) I enjoy watching the NLCS games almost as
much as I will enjoy watching the ALCS games. It’s baseball. Playoff
baseball. Every at bat, every pitch is one of the most important in
each player’s career. This is what these players dreamed about, playing
wiffle ball in their driveways growing up. The thousands of hours of
practice, the hundreds and thousands of games they have played in their
lives, have all led to playing in baseball’s “final four.” Every
starter, every bench player, every relief pitcher, even the managers
and third base coaches could be part of a moment that will define their
careers — and it could happen at any time. Plus, these are great
players, many of them future hall of famers — Howard, Utley, Rollins,
Hamels, Lidge, Ramirez, Furcal, Maddux, Lowe, and of course, Joe Torre.

4) I sent out a new poll to the Red Sox Nation governors this evening. Here are my answers to my own questions:

a)
I expect the Red Sox to win the ALCS in four games. That’s right, a
sweep of the mighty, precocious Rays. Yes, it’s hard to really imagine
sweeping, but I have difficulty imagining a Red Sox loss — in fact, I
refuse to imagine that. So, I predict a sweep.

b) The National
League team that I would prefer to face in the World Series is the
Dodgers. Why? Boston-L.A. is a raucous rivalry, and it would be a blast
to “beat L.A.” twice in one year. It would be a classic battle of
coasts, a battle of cultures, a battle of climates, a battle of styles.
It’s two teams with incredibly rich baseball traditions.  It would be a
reunion of the 2004 Red Sox, with almost as many members of that Red
Sox team on the current Dodgers squad (Manny, Lowe, and Nomar, though
Nomar was only on the Sox for the first half of 2004). You know they’d
show lots of highlights of the ’04 Series if the Dodgers were our
opponent — and that would be fine with me. Even the Manny highlights.
I still love the guy and what he brought our team.

c) When I
can’t be at Fenway, my preferred mode of watching the Red Sox in a
playoff game is to watch in my living room, sitting half the time and
pacing the other half of the time, drinking a Polar Orange Dry soft
drink, either alone or with my nine year-old son. (I’m not the best
company during a Red Sox playoff game…. “anti-social” would describe
me well during these three hours….)

5) I love that Francona is
showing such faith in his pitching staff by keeping them in order…
Daisuke, then Beckett, then Lester, with Tim Wakefield thrown in for
good measure.

Trop time!

The Sleepless Veep

I wish I had the energy to write everything I’m thinking about the last two games of the Sox-Angels series, but like most of Red Sox Nation, I am operating today on about 5 hours sleep (and that’s the TOTAL amount of sleep I’ve gotten over the last TWO nights), and like most of Red Sox Nation, I have a full-time job that continues to demand my time and brain power regardless of how late I’m staying up, and I have a slew of young children who claim every other waking minute, around the clock. Suffice it to say, WHAT A BALL GAME LAST NIGHT. And what a gutsy call by Angels manager Mike Scoscia is for trying the suicide squeeze with one out in the ninth in a crucial playoff game that’s tied. And will the Red Sox please re-train Jon Lester to think like a nine-inning pitcher? Or at least an eight-inning pitcher? He CAN’T come out of that game. GO SOX!!

Gotta go.

The Yankees Make Life Sweeter

Derek Jeter in on-deck circle.jpg

The Yankees are in town for a weekend showdown, and Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen has written a well-timed article
making a case for the forced extinction of the chant, “Yankees Suck!” I
couldn’t agree more with Kevin, and his article reminded me of a piece
I wrote in March, 2008 for the Sox and Pinstripes blog, about why Red Sox fans actually love the Yankees more than we hate them. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

I’m Vice President of Red Sox Nation, and I love the New York
Yankees. Are you a Red Sox fan who’s shocked by this statement? Guess
what, you love them, too. In fact, the longer you’ve been a Red Sox
fan, the greater your love is for them.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world without the
Yankees. Imagine there’s no rivalry between the Boston and New York
baseball teams; in fact, there’s no legitimate “rivalry” between the
Red Sox and any other team. Goose Gossage was never a nemesis and David
Ortiz never hit those dramatic
walk-off homers.

Goose Gossage.jpg

Mariano Rivera played for the Reds so we hardly knew
him, and George Steinbrenner owned the Phillies so his name merely
rings a bell. 1978 never happened, but neither did 2004.

Do you find this vision enticing? Nah. Like me, you appreciate the
way things have turned out so far (the painful times made the jubilant
times more jubilant), and you’re dying of anticipation as you think
ahead to future seasons of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.
You’ll never root for the Yanks, but you’ll be happiest when they’re a
top-notch team that buys whatever superstar they want…. then loses to
the Red Sox in games that really count. And you’ll give Derek Jeter a
“standing-O” in his last at-bat at Fenway Park because, like me, you
deeply appreciate what he has contributed to your enjoyment of The Game
– as a Yankee.

To read the article from Sox and Pinstripes in its entirety, click here.

Disconnected, But Still Connected to the Sox

Agwu section 25.jpg

I found out that the Sox have seven all-stars in the Monday morning Boston Globe,
which I had to drive six miles to buy. And I heard Manny Ramirez tie
the game in the 8th inning with a home run on Tuesday night via a
small, black transistor radio, the AM station maddeningly fading in and
out during the most crucial pitches of the game.

I’m on
vacation deep in the woods of Northern New England in a non-winterized
cabin that has a section 25 sign hanging from the rafters
(commemorating my family’s favorite standing-room-only location).
Without Internet, cell phone, or TV access, following the
Red Sox is a whole different ball game up here. Down in Boston, it’s
all about NESN and your

Agwu cabin.jpg

couch. You watch the pre-game show, you watch
the game with Remy and Orsillo, and you fall asleep either during or
right after the post-game show. The sports sections in the morning
papers are read more out of habit than anything else, and few new
nuggets show up there that weren’t shared by Tom Caron, Eck, Lou
Merloni, or Kathryn Tappen on Sportsdesk after the game.

But up here
in the woods, following the Sox is all about two things: 1) Getting
good reception on your radio (and having a backup station that carries
the Sox in case your #1 choice fades out), and 2) Driving to the
nearest gas station soon after waking up in the morning to buy the
Boston papers, and hoping they’ve been delivered to the gas station
before you get there, and then hoping that the late scores made it into the local editions.

Agwu radio.jpg

When I’m in a
remote place like this, it seems like a miracle when I can find the
game on the radio. There’s something about hearing the familiar voice
of Joe Castiglione crackling over the airwaves that gives me goosebumps
and plasters a big old smile on my face. And I get the feeling that Joe
KNOWS he’s broadcasting all the way up here to my distant location, that
he KNOWS how important his responsibility is: to bring the pictures of
the game to life for all of us fans who are stranded miles and miles
from Fenway Park (or even from a town with a stop light).

And reading The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald
sports sections takes on a whole new meaning when I’m up here. Driving
to the nearest gas station at dawn to buy the newspapers

Agwu newspapers.jpg

is as much a
part of my morning routine as a cup of coffee. It’s pure joy when I see
the pile of crisp Globes and Heralds sitting there next
to the counter as I walk in the gas station convenience store’s door.
The cash register lady charges me a buck-fifty for the pair, and I’m
grateful that she has no idea she could charge me twenty bucks. Sitting
in my car in front of the gas station reading about the Red Sox, and
the box scores of other games, is truly one of the day’s highlights.

I do love
this “information era,” where news comes at us moments after it has
occurred and we can follow every baseball game simultaneously on Baseball Tonight,
ESPN.com, or MLBtv. I mean, I REALLY love the information era. But for
this Boston baseball fan, there’s a singular pleasure that comes from
getting away from TV and the Internet (and the chattering
argumentativeness of our sports radio talk shows) and being a baseball
fan in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees at the end of a
mile-long dirt road.

Agwu road.jpg

I guess it forces me to become an even more active
fan. Listening to the games on the radio requires more attention and
involvement that watching the TV. Every three minutes, the radio voice
of Castiglione or O’Brien or Arnold rises in excitement and we all yell
Shhhhhhhhh! and lean our heads towards the radio, holding our
breath, “seeing” the game in our heads and hanging on the announcer’s
every word. Likewise, gleaning information and analysis from the
NESN pre-game and post-game shows – or from the newspaper sitting on your
front step — is passive compared to the deliberate act of driving six miles to the newspaper store and the active process of reading Masserotti’s and Shaughnessy’s and Ryan’s columns – I mean, really reading and savoring them, in the same way one would savor a hot meal cooked over a campfire after hiking 20 miles in the rain.

It’s almost
like I came all the way up to this cabin in the woods to enjoy the
sublime experience of following the Red Sox in the “old school” way.

(So, how
did I post this blog article if I’m disconnected in the north woods?
The public library across the street from the local gas station has
wireless Internet access…. as I write this, it’s nighttime and the
library is closed… I’m parked on the street in front of the library,
listening to the Diamondbacks-Nationals game on the radio, heading into
the 11th inning…. it’s an off-night for the Red Sox, and the A.M.
signal from D.C. is strong ….)

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Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

 

When I first heard that Schill would be out for the season because of shoulder surgery, I felt a cold shiver go down my spine. Deep down, I was expecting him to return just in time for the playoffs and play a key role – even if it meant pitching one important inning in the ALCS. Curt Schilling in the postseason is like Michael Jordan in the Finals and Tiger Woods in the Majors. Think that’s an exaggeration? Check the stats (or just trust me, he’s MONEY when the games are big — even when his body is broken).

Over the last two weeks, there have been several opinions expressed about Schilling’s case to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. My gut tells me he’s Hall-worthy, but one of the main lessons of Michael Lewis’s excellent book, Moneyball, is that you can’t always trust your gut — you’ve got to do the analysis. So, I did the analysis and now it’s obvious to me that my gut isn’t lying to me — Schilling belongs in the Hall of Fame. So, here are my rebuttals to the three most common arguments against Curt Schilling’s candidacy:

The Bert Blyleven Argument: Several writers and commentators have pointed to Bert Blyleven’s failure to garner 75% of the vote, reasoning that since Blyleven isn’t in the Hall, Schilling shouldn’t be in the Hall either. But an in-depth look at Blyleven’s career makes it clear that he, too, belongs in the Hall of Fame and that the sportswriters who vote have really blown it by not electing Blyleven. Only Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens have more career strikeouts, and when he retired, Blyleven was third all-time in this category. All-time! Can you imagine if the guy who’s #5 in career hits wasn’t in the Hall yet? (That’s former Red Sox star outfielder, Tris Speaker, with 3,514 hits). It would devalue the Hall to leave out Tris Speaker (who, like Schilling won three World Series, two of them with the Red Sox). Blyleven’s also top-ten all-time in career starts, and his 60 career shutouts rank 9th on the all-time list. Every other pitcher among the top-20 in shutouts is in the Hall. Why not Blyleven? Beats me. He’s 13th all-time in innings pitched (4,970) and all twelve of the pitchers ahead of him in this category are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, as well. And while he didn’t have 300 career wins (which seems to provide a ticket to the Hall), he came damn close with 287. Plus, Blyleven was excellent in the postseason too — in three postseasons, he was 5-1 with an E.R.A. of 2.47, and his teams won the World Series TWICE. Both Blyleven AND Schilling belong in the Hall of Fame. So let’s stop using Blyleven as a barrier to Schilling.

And anyway, it’s just as easy to find players whose inclusion in the Hall of Fame support Schilling’s case — Phil Rizzutto (in 13 seasons, his lifetime B.A. was .273, but he won 7 World Series with the Yankees), Ozzie Smith (.262 lifetime B.A. and 94th all-time with 2,460 hits, but won 13 Gold Gloves and played in 3 World Series, winning one of them); Tony Perez (in 23 years his lifetime B.A. was .279 and he had 2,732 hits, which places his 50th on the all-time list; but his real claim to fame is that he played in five World Series and won two of them as an integral member of the Big Red Machine). I believe that all three of these guys belong in the Hall of Fame, but none of them has a case that’s stronger than Curt Schilling’s.

I know, those are hitters and you want to compare Schilling’s career to other pitchers who are in the Hall, right? OK. Here are four great comparisons: Hal Newhouser, Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, and Catfish Hunter.

Hal Newhouser won only 207 games in his 17-season career (with an E.R.A. of 3.06), but during the seven year span of 1944 to 1950, he was dominant, going 151-80. He won the MVP award in 1944 and 1945 (the only pitcher in history to win the award in consecutive years), and he was second in MVP voting in 1946 (this was before the dawning of the Cy Young Award, in 1956). For his career, Newhouser pitched 212 complete games, and during his dominant seven years, he completed 136 of the 240 games he started (57%). Newhouser pitched in two World Series, winning one of them, but his performance wasn’t Newhouser-esque — he went 2-1 with an E.R.A. of 6.53 in 20.2 innings. And during his long career with the Tigers, he had a winning record in only seven of his 17 seasons. Take away those seven winning years, and his record during the other ten seasons was a mediocre 56-70. Still, all baseball historians know that Hal Newhouser belongs in the Hall of Fame. And if Newhouser’s a Hall of Famer, then so is Curt Schilling.

Jim Bunning was 224-184 with an E.R.A. of 3.27 during his 17-year career. He won 20 games only once, never won a Cy Young Award (though he did place second in the voting once), and he never pitched in the postseason. He did play on nine all-star teams, and he led the league in strikeouts three times (he’s 17th on the all-time K list with 2,855, which is 261 less than Schilling, who is 14th on the career list with 3,116, one shy of Bob Gibson’s 3,117). Jim Bunning belongs in the Hall of Fame, but his stats reveal that he was a lot like Curt Schilling – without the rings. So if Bunning’s a Hall of Famer, then so is Curt Schilling.

Don Drysdale was 209-166 during his 14-year career. He won 20 games twice, won the Cy Young Award once, and like Schilling, played in five postseasons, winning the World Series three of those times (he, too, was a winner). During his five World Series, Drysdale was 3-3 with an E.R.A. that mirrored his career E.R.A. of 2.95. He played on eight all-star teams and led the league in strikeouts three times (his 2,486 career strikeouts place him 30th all-time). Drysdale’s career was relatively short, so his career numbers don’t rank him among the all-time leaders in any category. But he was GREAT during the period he did play, and he played a major role on THREE World Series-winning teams. Does Don Drysdale belong in the Hall of Fame? Yes. And his inclusion means Schilling belongs in the Hall, as well.

Jim “Catfish” Hunter was the ace pitcher of the A’s dynasty, compiling a career won-lost record of 224-166, with an E.R.A. of 3.26 in fifteen seasons. His 2,012 strikeouts place him 60th on the all-time list. He won 20 games five times (in consecutive years, 1971-1975), was an all-star eight times, and he pitched in SIX World Series, winning FIVE of them (three as a member of the A’s, and two as a Yankee). His World Series record was 5-3, with an E.R.A. of 3.29, and his overall postseason stats are 9-6, 3.26. Hunter won one Cy Young Award and placed second in the voting once, third once, and fourth once. He pitched one of only 15 9-inning perfect games (ever, including Don Larsen’s WS perfect game) on May 8, 1968. And even with fellow Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage as his team’s closers, Hunter still completed 181 games, or 38% of the games he started. Schilling’s Hall of Fame case is very similar to Hunter’s — their collection of World Series rings and their individual impact on these teams lead their resumes, and when their career stats are added to their postseason success, you just can’t keep them out of the Hall.

Here’s a summary of how Schilling compares with these four pitchers, plus Bert Blyleven, in various statistical categories:

Wins

1. Bert Blyleven – 287 (27th all-time)

2. Jim Bunning – 224 (67th all-time)

2. Catfish Hunter – 224 (67th all-time)

4. Curt Schilling – 216 (79th all-time)

5. Don Drysdale – 209 (95th all-time)

6. Hal Newhouser – 207 (99th all-time)

Winning %

1. Curt Schilling – .597

2. Hal Newhouser – .580

3. Catfish Hunter – .574

4. Don Drysdale – .557

5. Jim Bunning – .549

6. Bert Blyleven – .534

Postseason Record and E.R.A.

1. Curt Schilling – 11-2, 2.23

2. Bert Blyleven – 5-1, 2.47

3. Catfish Hunter – 9-6, 3.26

4. Don Drysdale – 3-3, 2.95

5. Hal Newhouser – 2-1, 6.53

6. Jim Bunning (no postseason appearances)

World Series Championships

1. Catfish Hunter – 5

2. Don Drysdale – 3

2. Curt Schilling – 3

4. Bert Blyleven -2

5. Hal Newhouser – 1

6. Jim Bunning – 0

Strikeouts

1. Bert Blyleven – 3,701 (5th all-time)

2. Curt Schilling – 3,116 (14th all-time)

3. Jim Bunning – 2,855 (17th all-time)

4. Don Drysdale – 2,486 (30th all-time)

5. Catfish Hunter – 2,012 (60th all-time)

6. Hal Newhouser – 1,796 (95th all-time)

20-win seasons

1. Catfish Hunter – 5

2. Hal Newhouser – 4

3. Curt Schilling – 3

4. Don Drysdale – 2

5. Jim Bunning -1

6. Bert Blyleven – 1

Placing Top-5 in Cy Young Award Voting, and Cy Young Awards

1. Catfish Hunter – 4 (1)

1. Curt Schilling – 4 (0)

1. Bert Blyleven – 4 (0)

4. Hal Newhouser – 3 times top-5 in MVP voting (2 MVPs)

5. Don Drysdale – 1 (1)

6. Jim Bunning – 1 (0)

All-Star Teams

1. Don Drysdale – 8

1. Catfish Hunter – 8

3. Hal Newhouser – 7

3. Jim Bunning – 7

5. Curt Schilling – 6

6. Bert Blyleven – 2

200-Inning Seasons

1. Bert Blyleven – 16

2. Jim Bunning – 13

3. Don Drysdale – 12

4. Catfish Hunter – 10

5. Curt Schilling – 9

6. Hal Newhouser – 7

Strikeout to Walk Ratio

1. Curt Schilling – 4.38 (2nd all-time, behind Tommy Bond, who pitched from 1874-1884)

2. Don Drysdale – 2.91 (39th all-time)

3. Jim Bunning – 2.86 (43rd all-time)

4. Bert Blyleven – 2.80 (47th all-time)

5. Catfish Hunter – 2.11 (200th all-time)

6. Hal Newhouser – 1.44 (643rd all-time)

Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)

1. Catfish Hunter – 1.13 (42nd all-time)

2. Curt Schilling – 1.14 (44th all-time)

3. Don Drysdale – 1.15 (59th all-time)

4. Jim Bunning – 1.18 (92nd all-time)

5. Bert Blyleven – 1.20 (125th all-time)

6. Hal Newhouser, 1.31 (488th all-time)

The “He Was Never a Dominant Pitcher of his Era” Argument: This is the most frustrating argument of all, because Schilling has been a dominant pitcher during his era. True, he has never won a Cy Young Award, but he has placed second in the voting three times (in 2004 he placed second behind Johan Santana, and in 2002 and 2001 he placed second behind future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. In 1997, he placed fourth in the voting behind Pedro Martinez of the Expos, Greg Maddux, and Denny Neagle). Schilling has been selected to six All-Star Teams (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004) and has had three 20-win seasons (2001, 2002, 2004). His career ERA of 3.46 is better than that of Tom Glavine (3.53, and Hall-worthy), Roy Halladay (3.58, and on-track for the Hall), and Josh Beckett (3.75, and on-track for the Hall). He’s 13th all-time in strikeouts (one behind Bob Gibson) and his strikeout to walk ratio (4.38) is the lowest of any pitcher since 1900! And, of course, Schilling is one of the most dominant pitchers in postseason history… more about that below.

The “216 Wins Isn’t Enough” Argument: Now I understand this argument, and taken all by itself, it does have some merit. Schilling is 79th all-time in wins, and there are 30 pitchers with more wins who are Hall-eligible and have not gained enshrinement. These include Tommy John (288), Bert Blyleven (287), Jim Kaat (283), Jack Morris (254), Frank Tanana (240), Luis Tiant (229), Jerry Koosman (222), Joe Niekro (221), and Mickey Lolich (217). There are several active pitchers who are in the same zone as Schilling: Jamie Moyer (237), Kenny Rogers (215), Pedro Martinez (211, and Hall-worthy), John Smoltz (210, and Hall-worthy), Andy Pettitte (209). Like I said, if career wins was the sole indicator of Hall worthiness, Schilling probably wouldn’t make it.

But it surprises me when writers say, “He needs one more 15-win season to make it,” or, “Forty more wins, and he’d have my vote.” Why does this surprise me? Because I would expect educated sportswriters and historians of the game to understand that two more 15-win seasons wouldn’t change the monumental impact of Schilling’s career. Yes, they would help him compare more favorably with other greats on a list of career statistics, but that’s all. All the things that make Schilling a Hall of Famer have already occurred in his career. Anything he does from now until he retires is just stat-piling (unless, of course, he wins another World Series — which is possible). Some guys are in the Hall because their longevity and consistency helped them amass amazing career stats. And some guys are in the Hall because of the undeniable impact of their careers on Major League Baseball (Newhouser, Drysdale, and Hunter are the best examples among pitchers). If Schilling heals and pitches a couple more seasons, he’ll rise in the “longevity” category, but he’s already an elite force in the “impact” category.

The Greatness Factor: The evidence that pushes Schilling into Hall of Fame territory is the key role he played on three World Series-winning teams. THREE. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, without Schilling on those three rosters (2001 Diamondbacks, 2004 Red Sox, 2007 Red Sox), NONE of those teams would have won it all. We all know about his clutch performance in the “bloody sock” game – the critical sixth game of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium, when he pitched with fresh sutures holding together his ankle. But let’s not forget that Schilling was the co-MVP of the 2001 World Series (as a Diamondback), in which he pitched 21.1 innings, striking out 26 Yankees and walking only two. His World Series E.R.A. that year was 1.69. All in all, during the 2001 postseason, Schilling was 4-0 with a 1.12 E.R.A., and he had 56 strikeouts and 6 walks in 48.1 innings.

“So that’s only one postseason,” you say. “Lots of guys get hot in one postseason. That doesn’t make you a Hall of Famer.” Fine. So let’s look at Schilling’s performance on the 2004 and 2007 World Championship Red Sox teams. During these two postseasons combined, Schilling went 6-1 with an E.R.A. of 3.20. He won the critical sixth game of BOTH ALCS series (2004 vs. Yanks, 2007 vs. Indians) with the Sox facing elimination, and in BOTH games he won with heart more than velocity. In the 2004 and 2007 World Series combined, Schilling started two games (remember, both series were four-game sweeps) and went 2-0 with an E.R.A. of 0.79. In total, Schilling’s postseason record is 11-2 with an E.R.A. of 2.23. He played in the postseason five times, and his team won the World Series in three of those appearances (amazing, given that in the Wild Card era, each playoff team should have a one-in-eight chance of winning it all).

Curt Schilling is one of the greatest “winners” in the history of Major League Baseball. Sure, he won less than half as many regular season games as Cy Young won (512), but he’s among the elite in terms of winning BIG games. And when it comes right down to it, isn’t winning BIG games what it’s all about? Isn’t winning the World Series what it’s all about? Pitching greatness has several forms, and not all of them include 300 career wins. Hall of Fame members would be diminished by the omission of Curt Schilling. Not everyone loves the guy’s schtick (personally, I love his honesty and his determination to be himself), but no one can deny that he pitched his guts out every start, that he was among the most prepared and cerebral pitchers in the game’s history (who else returns to the dugout and immediately takes notes on the inning he just pitched?) and that he was one of the all-time greats when the pressure was most intense and the stakes were highest.

So, baseball writers, do your job and cast a Hall of Fame vote for Curt Schilling. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to put a check next to Bert Blyleven’s name, too.

Curt Schilling spent eight years as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies (1993-2000), and it was as a pitcher for this team that he showed the first signs of greatness. For a Philadelphia Enquirer writer’s take on why Schill belongs in the Hall of Fame, click here.

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Race to See a No-Hitter

JonLester.jpg

I
have always wanted to witness a no-hitter in person. Tonight, I finally
did. Did I have a ticket to the game? No. Did I watch the whole game?
No. In fact, I slept through a couple of innings. But I was at Fenway
for the last two outs. Here’s how I experienced Jon Lester’s no-hitter.

From 7:30 to 8:00pm, I got my boys (9 and 6) ready for bed and read
aloud to them. As they fell asleep, I also fell asleep in my chair with
the book on my lap. At about 8:30pm, I sat on the couch next to my wife
and we spent perhaps 15 minutes perusing digital photo albums of our
kids with the Sox game on TV in the background. I noticed the Sox were
winning 5-0, but it wasn’t until the middle of the seventh inning that
I noticed the zeros in the Royals’ hit column. “He’s throwing a
no-hitter!” I said to my wife. “I have to drive down there!”

Wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, I bolted for the car and began my
speedy 12-mile sprint down Route 9 to Fenway Park. Listening to the
game on the radio, I was distressed when the Sox went down quickly in
the bottom of the seventh. “Come on guys!!” I yelled, imploring our
hitters to give me some time to get to the park. The top of the eighth
flew by too as the Royals went 1-2-3, and it was at that point that I
arrived at the section of Route 9 where there is ALWAYS a speed trap.
Reluctantly, I slowed down to the speed limit (prudent — the car
behind me got pulled over).

As the Red Sox batted in the bottom of the eighth, I hit another
sand trap: construction that narrowed the road to one lane of
slow-moving traffic. “NOOO!” I screamed. But I hit mostly green lights,
and as Lester took the mound for the top of the ninth, I turned onto
Boylston Street and searched frantically for a parking spot. Lester
threw ball four to the leadoff hitter, Esteban German, at the same
moment that I found an empty parking space at the McDonald’s opposite
Yawkey Way.

redsoxfans.jpg

A
sprint across the street and down Yawkey Way to Gate B, a flash of my
Red Sox Nation VP credential to the security dude, and I was in the
bowels of the park. Continuing to run at full speed, I headed for the
ramp on the first base side and emerged into Fenway at the same moment
that David DeJesus grounded out to Kevin Youkilis for out number two.
“Wooooo hooooo!!” I had just arrived, but I was immediately in synch
with the rest of the crowd that had been there for three hours.

As I walked along the main aisle towards right field, fans jumped up
and down, screamed, prayed, clapped, smiles on all their faces. Several
people reached out to me with high-fives as I walked by. What a
feeling. THIS IS FENWAY PARK, I was thinking. I found an empty box seat
just beyond first base and planted myself there to watch the last few
pitches. “This is it, I’m finally going to see a no-hitter!” Strike
three to Alberto Callaspo! Then, bedlam. Absolute bedlam. The crowd
noise completely drowned out “Dirty Water” as it blared through Fenway.

I was there. After all these years, I can say I was there.

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To download the songs, “I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation” and “Opening Day” for free, please visit my other blog, Crawdaddy Cove.

Red Sox Nation Loves The Yankees

The
rivalry is back, with the Yanks taking the first of their 18 regular
season meetings this year. 17 more games before October? That’s the
equivalent of an entire New England Patriots season. Almost an
overdose. And with the rivalry stoked by that construction worker who buried a Red Sox t-shirt
in the foundation of the “new” Yankee Stadium, we’re all assured
another century of emotionally charged competition. Would you say that
“the rivalry” is the best aspect of being a Red Sox fan? I would.

Along those lines, I wrote a guest post at the Sox and Pinstripes blog about why most of us who profess to hate the Yankees actually love them. Here is an excerpt:

I like to think that, before I was born in
August of 1968, God let me choose the circumstances of my life: “Well,
being a rabid baseball fan seems like a lot of fun,” I told Him, “So I
think I’d like to live sometime during the 19th, 20th, or 21st Century, on Earth.”

“All right,” said God, “but please be more specific. When and where, exactly, would you like to be born?”

I thought about it and replied, “I hear that
sports rivalries are charged with emotion and excitement, so please put
me in a city whose team has a fierce rivalry with another team – the
fiercest in all of baseball – and let me be born at a time in history
that will allow me to experience that rivalry at its peak, OK?”

“Consider it done,” said God. “But one more
thing – would you like to become a fan of the team that wins more
championships than any other during the 20th Century? Or
would you like to become a fan of the team that wins the first World
Series in 1903, but later on experiences a championship drought
virtually unparalleled in professional sports?”

“Hmmm.” I pondered my options. “Just make me a
fan of the team that gives its fans the lowest lows and the highest
highs. I want to experience the greatest possible range of emotions as
a baseball fan during this lifetime.”

“No problem,” said God as He cracked a knowing smile.

To read the entire guest post at Sox and Pinstripes, click here.

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To download the songs, “I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation” and “Opening Day” for free, please visit my other blog, Crawdaddy Cove.

Fantasy Baseball in Red Sox Kid Nation

fantasy-baseball.jpgI
started playing online fantasy baseball in about 1995 or so, and it’s
now an annual tradition. Draft day has become a holiday on my calendar
and is as eagerly anticipated as any day of the year. This year’s draft
— my son’s first — will go down in history as my favorite of
all-time, for it demonstrated the emotional hold that our beloved Red
Sox players have over us, especially when we’re kids.

A Co-Manager Comes of Age

The last two years, my almost-nine year-old son has “co-managed” my
fantasy baseball team with me (I’m in a 12-team Yahoo! league with my
brothers, sister, father, and several close friends). The main impact
of his co-management has been the reliable presence of Nomar
Garciaparra on the roster and also in the starting lineup whenever he
has been healthy. (“Daddy, put Nomar back in the lineup!”) Although my
son was only five years old when Nomar was traded, #5 remains a god in
our house.

backyard-and-hes-off.jpgThis past fall, my son managed his own fantasy football team against his dad, uncles, aunts, and grandparents and WON the league. He established himself as a draft wizard, grabbing Peyton
Manning, Randy Moss, and Adrian Peterson with his top three picks. So,
riding a wave of pride and optimism, in February he asked to manage his
own fantasy baseball team. Confident that he was ready to compete with
the big boys, we expanded the league to 13 teams.

The Draft: It’s Emotion vs. Analysis

We bought all the fantasy baseball magazines and studied them
closely for a month. The day of the draft (7:30pm start time), I
hurried home from work to be sure he was ready, and when I arrived, I
was treated to a wonderful sight. He had created a information cockpit
for himself at the computer. Surrounding his seat on all sides were
stat sheets, handwritten draft lists for every position, articles about
sleepers and busts, and various pages ripped out of magazines. “Daddy,
I know who I’m going to pick if I get the first pick,” he proclaimed
eagerly. “Jake Peavy!” (Peavy scored the most points in our league last
year — so he was a logical choice.)

A few minutes later, the draft order was revealed on our Yahoo!
draft site. My son had pick #3, and I had pick #4. “I really hope Peavy
will still be there at number three!” he prayed. I set up shop at my
laptop in a room adjacent to his cockpit.

jake-peavy.jpgAt
7:30pm sharp, the draft went live. Suddenly, A-Rod was gone. “Yes! He
took A-Rod!” The second pick was… Hanley Ramirez. And the clock
started ticking on my son’s pick, number three. He had 90 seconds to
click on Jake Peavy. But he froze. Pick Peavy, I urged. “I don’t know,
Daddy,” he said, struggling with a decision. “Maybe I want Josh
Beckett.” Peavy’s a great pick, Beckett’s a great pick, I told him. 20
seconds left. Make your pick! “I want Josh Beckett.” Click.

Emotion trounced Analysis. How great is that??

Fast forward to the second round. My son had spent the rest of the
first round studying his notes to figure out who to take next. “If he’s
still available, I’m going to take Grady Sizemore with my second pick,”
my son announced. Good choice, I assured him. Then came his turn to
draft. And he froze. Pick Sizemore, I urged. “Daddy, do you think I
should take Grady Sizemore or Manny Ramirez?” he asked. You’ll be able
to get Manny in the next round, I assured him. Go for Sizemore this
round. “Don’t tell me what to do!” he said curtly. And suddenly,
Ramirez was Beckett’s fantasy teammate.

Emotion 2, Analysis 0.

Let’s jump to the third round. “I think I’m going to take Jonathan
Papelbon,” he said. “Do you think that’s a good pick, Daddy?” He’s a
great player, I told him, but no one’s going to pick a closer until the
fifth round at the earliest. You can get him in a later papelbon-wins-series.jpground.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” Click. Papelbon joined his Red Sox
teammates on a roster that was looking more and more like a tribute to
the posters on my son’s walls.

Emotion 3, Analysis zilch.

Fourth round — analysis had been totally abandoned and emotion had
taken over. He wanted to pick Dustin Pedroia but I convinced him that
Mike Lowell would be a better pick. And in the fifth round, he picked
his first non-Red Sox player: Torii Hunter. By the end of the draft,
his team included Tim Wakefield, Johnny Damon, and of course, our
favorite player of all time, Nomar Garciaparra (secured with his 24th,
and final pick).

Clearly, my son drafted a good team. With Beckett, Ramirez,
Papelbon, and Lowell anchoring his roster, he’s got as good a shot as
anyone to win the league. But I’ll always remember all the research he
did, all the logical planning and rational reasoning his left brain
performed, and how the loyalty and emotion of his right brain – the
side that loves the Red Sox – swooped in at those moments of truth and
buried his analytical, stat-focused left brain. He’s eight. What a
fantastic age to be a Red Sox fan!

And for the record, my first pick (#4 overall) was Johan Santana,
and the only Red Sox player I secured was Coco Crisp. (My left brain is
counting on him being traded, batting leadoff for a National League
team, and winning the N.L. batting title…..)