Saturday, October 30, 2004
Today I don’t as much, in part because I read things all day in law school and studying for the bar, and in part because I don’t have the time anymore to devote to sitting down and actually bothering to flip open a book. There are a few writers I consider to be worth my time: Christopher Buckley is one whose every book is a joy to read.
Buckley, the son conservative intellectual William F. Buckley, is a terrific writer of satirical novels about the tobacco industry (Thank You For Smoking), the alien-abduction community (Little Green Men), and political memoirs (The White House Mess). He just got done writing Florence of Arabia, a satirical novel about the Middle East, not exactly a subject of humor these days ... I’ve read the excerpts in The Atlantic Monthly (Part I here, Part II here), and they are hilarious. Buckley has a wryly cynical writing style that locks onto people pompous and self-important and blows them out of the water.
I've honestly never laughed as hard as when I read Thank You For Smoking for the first time and got to the part when the villians attempted to kill the hero, a tobacco lobbyist, by putting nicotene patches on his body. (Read the book.)
Check out the excerpts or buy the book. I will when I get a chance. (Or money.)
Friday, October 29, 2004
So far the big news for the Phillies has been that Kevin Millwood filed for free agency yesterday. Millwood’s 2004 numbers:
Salary: $11 Million.
I was surprised when the Phillies re-signed him after the 2003 season given how he faded down the stretch. His ERA climbed nearly a full run over his career average in 2004, so I can’t see the Phils wasting their money re-signing him.
I’d love to see the Phillies chase after the Sox’ Derek Lowe or Twins hurler Brad Radke, but both are older than Millwood (29 vs. 31 & 32 respectively). Radke made $10+ million in 2004, so I have to wonder if he’d be worth the financial risk. Lowe made $4.5, so he might be a cheaper pickup. The downside to pursing Lowe is that his agent is Scott Boras. (Hiss!)
Carl Pavano, the Marlins pitcher, is also eligible for free agency but hasn’t filed. He's young (28) and has pretty good numbers:
Salary: $3.8 million
He might be worth pursuing: strengthen the Phillies rotation and weaken a division rival's …
Babe Ruth won game one in Chicago with a six-hit shutout, 1-0. The Cubs evened the series at 1-1 with a 3-1 victory, but the Red Sox won games three and four to take a 3-1 series lead. Ruth won game four for the Red Sox 3-2. A terrific pitching effort allowed the Cubs to stay alive with a 3-0 victory in game five, but the Red Sox put it away with a 2-1 triumph in game six, the sole Red Sox series victory celebrated at Fenway Park. It was a classically low-scoring dead-ball era World Series: in six games the Red Sox and Cubs combined for 19 runs.
Then Red Sox fans had to wait a while ... On to Phillies news...
Thursday, October 28, 2004
I spent a lot of time over the last few weeks watching and blogging about the baseball playoffs. I typically don't: I didn't really bother to watch the 2002 playoffs, and my interest in the 2003 playoffs ended when the Red Sox and Cubs fell short in their respective LCS. But I was glued to the tube in the ALDS, the ALCS and the World Series because something deep down told me that this was history in the making. Something was different about the 2004 Boston Red Sox. No more curse, no more Yankee dominance, no more wandering through the forests of defeat for Red Sox Nation. The playoffs were exciting, interesting and utterly unpredictable in a way that they hadn't been since 2001 ... or 1993. It made for great television, great baseball, and I was hooked. MLB's marketing department should be thrilled, but a little saddened this morning: unless the Cubs make a run at the Series in 2005, there won't be any compelling stories left in baseball.
So how did the Red Sox do it?
1. Chalk up a victory for Moneyball: the Sox were one of four teams whose management openly embraced sabremetrics. (The Sox even had Bill James on staff.) This team was built around walks and slugging, the station-to-station baseball that the purists derride, but has been so successful by the teams that employ it. The Sox bled opposing pitching, working the counts over and over again. (A reason why the playoffs games drug on for hours and hours.) The Red Sox also focused on defense, the latest area Moneyball teams have been focusing on, making the mid-season deal for Cabrera and Mienkiewicz [sic] that sparked the team to their August run that propelled them into the playoffs. Moneyball baseball (for lack of a more appropriate phrase) propelled the Red Sox to the top.
The Cardinals were the ultimate small-ball team: they run, they bunt base-runners over, etc. It got them a humiliating four game sweep.
2. Chalk it up as a victory for fate: after they came so close in 2003, you'd figure that the Red Sox would eventually win it. Hard to believe that a team with players like Yaz, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Roger Clemens and Nomar wouldn't have won it all.
3. Chalk it up as a victory for smart management: most of us probably raised our eyebrows when we heard that a guy in his twenties had been hired to be the Red Sox GM ("What are these guys thinking?"), but Theo Epstein rescued the Red Sox. True, he had the second-largest payroll in baseball after the Yankees, but he was working against eighty-six years of history, the Yankee mystique, an angry media and fan base, and many brusied egos. This was a team uniquely designed to win the World Series. Epstein deserves a lot of the credit for this.
So celebrate Red Sox fans. Live it up, because 2004 was your year. Let's hope you guys don't have to wait until 2090 to win it again.
Read all about it ... Aaron Gleeman has some thoughts at Hardball Times. Ben Jacobs, Sox fan, muses about history here ... Peter Gammons credits the Red Sox rotation of Lowe, Pedro and Schilling for the Red Sox triumph. Johnny Pesky, who may or may not have cost the Red Sox the 1946 World Series when he failed to throw home on Enos Slaughter, has some closure. I think it speaks highly of the Red Sox organization that they made a special point of including Pesky in their celebration. Poor guy. Imagine carrying around that burden for 58 years ... Bill Simmons has some thoughts for Red Sox Nation.
I have some thoughts on last night's victory by the Red Sox but first, the 1916 World Series, the Red Sox 4th title ...
The Red Sox third World Series title was won against the Brooklyn Robins, later the Brooklyn Dodgers. Babe Ruth played a larger role than the previous year, winning a tremendous victory in game two with a fourteen-inning complete game where he surrendered just one run on six hits and three walks. The Red Sox won games one and two, and closed the series with victories in games 4 & 5 as well. The Red Sox were more dominant than in '15, scoring 21 runs to the Robins 13. Again, as in 1915, the Boston games were in Braves Field.
I have some thoughts but I have things to do until this afternoon. Check back later.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
As I said yesterday, Grady Little’s interview with the Phillies didn’t go well, which leaves me thinking that Charlie Manuel will be the Phillies skipper in ’05, given his ties to Thome and his work in the organization in ’03 and ‘04.
Jim Fregosi is apparently in the running too, which doesn’t leave me happy: Fregosi was a good coach for the 1993 team and he might be a good coach now, but doesn’t this smack of something the Washington Redskins would do? … Bring back the last guy who had success?
Apparently Jim Leyland, formerly the Pirates and Marlins skipper, will interview for the job on Monday: he, ironically, might be the best candidate if the Phils are looking for a laid-back guy to manage. You don’t get more laid-back than Jim Leyland.
More tomorrow, along with thoughts on Game 4 of the World Series…
I admit that I’m surprised to see the series poised to end tonight. I expected the Cards to win last night and extend this to five or six games. Suppan’s base-running mistake was probably the nail in the Cards coffin: unable to score, the Cardinals hitters looked utterly baffled by Pedro after that. He seemed to be blowing fastballs by them (or having them chase curves in the dirt) all evening. It was a masterful performance to watch.
Game Three’s MVP was either Pedro or Manny:
- Pedro hurled seven shutout innings, surrendering just three hits and two walks.
- Manny hit the solo home run in the first inning and threw out Larry Walker at home, an impressive defensive play from a guy who made two boneheaded errors in Game One and misplayed so many balls in left in the ALCS.
Speaking of defense … Ortiz played a good game at first. Worries that the Red Sox would be looking at a downgrade defensively with Millar on the pine look to be unfounded.
Meanwhile, the Cards suffered. Of their eight position players, four got a hit or a walk. The Big 4 continued their futility: they were 2-for-13 last night, to run their record to 10-for-45. (.222 BA) In contrast, seven of the Red Sox eight position players had a hit or a walk.
The Cards pitching wasn’t bad, but the Red Sox pitching looked sterling last night too.
So tonight is Lowe v. Marquis. Advantage? I have no idea, but psychologically, you’d have to think that the Red Sox have the edge with Lowe on the mound. He helped them win Game 7 of the ALCS with a gutsy performance on the mound. Sweep? Probably. But, we’ll see …
The Phillies, playing for the first time in the World Series (they wouldn't go again until 1950), fell four games to one, despite winning game one at the Baker Bowl behind the pitching of Grover Cleveland Alexander 3-1. The series was a close one: the Red Sox would win Games 2-4 each by the score of 2-1. Ultimately, the Red Sox won game five at the Baker Bowl 5-4 to capture the series. In five games the two teams combined for just 22 total runs. The Phillies Alexander allowed just three runs in 17 and 2/3 innings of work.
Interestingly, the Red Sox didn't play Games 3 & 4 at Fenway: they played them at the much larger Braves Field to accomodate the larger crowds.
I'll have some thoughts on Game Three and tonight's likely end to the series later on today...
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
At ESPN, the always excellant Peter Gammons makes the case that "intelligent baseball" is the reason for the Red Sox being fifty-four outs from erasing 86 years of history. Gammons is a terrific baseball writer not only for his prose, but for being one of the few pundits open-minded enough to poke his head out of the sand, something Joe Morgan and the rest of the "Moneyball doesn't work" crowd is unwilling to do. (Gammons also says that Grady Little's interview didn't go well: Fregosi or Charlie Manuel will be the next Phillies manager.)
Off-topic: In case anyone is interested, I found a clip of Jon Stewart's performance on CNN's Crossfire from last week. I saw an abbreviated clip on Best Week Ever over the weekend, but you have to watch the whole thing to really appreciate the public service Stewart did by pointing out that garbage like Crossfire turns politics into threatre and makes a mockery of the media's mission to inform the people. Have the American people ever been any less informed than in this election? I don't think that we've ever had an election less devoid of context than this one. The last four years have seen extraordinary changes to America, and yet the media can do little but talk about polls, swing states and what John Kerry did or did not do in Vietnam. The media is a farce: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Still, I think you'd have to categorize tonight's game as a must-win for the Cardinals: they don't want to fall behind 0-3, and it would probably be devistating for their morale to lose a playoff game at home, something they didn't do in the NLDS or NLCS. For them to have success the Big 4 will have to start hitting: they are a collective 8-for-32 so far. Rolen in particular has struggled, going 0-for-8 against the Red Sox pitching. They'll also have to drive Pedro from the game: Suppan v. Pedro is a mis-match and the Cards will have more success against the Red Sox bullpen than their starters, as Schilling proved in Game Two.
So who has the advantage? Probably the Cardinals. While it is true that their pitching was better at home than away (3.54 ERA / 1.24 WHIP at home; 3.96 ERA / 1.26 WHIP away), the key factor will be the Red Sox discomfort at playing on the road: the Red Sox were a sterling 55-26 at Fenway and 43-38 on the road. The Red Sox were terrific offensively at home (.304 BA, 517 runs, .504 SLG) and ordinary away (.250 BA, 432 runs, .441 SLG). No team in baseball probably benefitted as much from homefield advantage than the Red Sox, although it is worth noting that the Red Sox led the AL in road WHIP at 1.30 ...
The NL factor has to be discussed too: Red Sox pitchers hit in ten games in '04: they went 2-for-21 (.095 BA), with 10 strikeouts and one RBI. Without the DH the Red Sox will be forced to start David Ortiz at first over Kevin Millar: not only will they be losing Millar's bat (.297 BA, .383 OBP, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 74 runs, 36 2B), but they'll have to deal with a downgrade on defense*, a troubling prospect as the Red Sox committed a whopping eight errors in Games 1 & 2. The offensive / defensive production loss may be difficult for the Red Sox to absorb. So far in the series their depth on offense has enabled them to bog down the Cardinals pitching and score runs. The Cardinals will lose a lot less with their pitchers swinging the bat.
*Though I would note that according to ESPN, Ortiz has a better Range Factor and Zone Rating for 2004:
Ortiz: .797 ZR; 9.47 RF; .989 FP
Millar: .789 ZR; 9.21 RF; .986 FP
So advantage Cardinals. The Red Sox hopes to win will rest squarely on the shoulder of Pedro, who pitched much worse on the road than at home:
Away: 7-6; 4.61 ERA
Home: 9-3; 3.22 ERA
If Rolen, Edmonds, Pujols & Walker can drive Pedro from the mound early, they should probably win. I predict: Cardinals 5, Red Sox 3.
The Red Sox won three of the first four decided games. Every game was close: 4-3, 3-1, 2-1, & 2-1 ... Down 3-1 and facing elimination, the Giants rallied for big wins in games six & seven, but in game eight they fell apart. Tied at 1-1, the Giants scored and went ahead 2-1 at the top of the tenth inning. Centerfielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine flyball, putting the tying run on second base. After a walk, Tris Speaker singled to tie the score at 2-2. A sacrifice fly would score the series winning run, giving the Red Sox a miraculous 4-3 series victory. The Red Sox won despite being out-scored 31-25 and out-hit .220 to .270 ...
The fact that a defensive miscue gave the Red Sox a World Series is ironic, given the fact that the Red Sox committed eight errors in the first two games of the 2004 World Series.
I'll have an update later on today giving my thoughts on tonight's Game Three.
Monday, October 25, 2004
The 1903 World Series was actually the first in history. The fierce rivalry between the AL and NL was put aside to see what league had the stronger team. The NL sent the Pittsburgh Pirates. The AL sent the Boston Pilgrims*, which was what the Red Sox were known as from 1903-1906. (They didn't become the Red Sox until 1907.)
* I got this from Baseball Reference.com's page on the Red Sox. According to them, the Red Sox were the Americans in 1901, the Somersets in 1902, the Pilgrims from 1903-1906, and then they became the Red Sox in '07. In contrast, Baseball Alamanac states that they were the Americans from 1901-1907.
The series was a best-of-nine, with the first three played in Boston at Huntington Avenue Park, Games 4-7 in Pittsburgh's Exposition Park, and Game 8 in Boston. The Pirates won two of the first three games in Boston and took game four at Exposition Park, but the Pilgrims responded with four consecutive victories to win the series 5-3. Cy Young would win games 5 & 7 for the Pilgrims after losing game one. He and Bill Dineen threw 69 of Boston's 71 innings pitched.
Pirates great Honus Wagner hit just .222 in the series.
Tuesday’s night’s game in St. Louis will be interesting. If the Red Sox win it will make a Cards comeback difficult … but as the ALCS taught us, not impossible. If the Cards pull it out we’ve got ourselves a series. They’ve been formidable at home in the post-season: 6-0, 1-6 on the road; but you have to sense that this series has been different from the Cards victories in the NLDS and NLCS. They seem outmatched, rather than simply being outplayed like they were in Houston. I think that the Cards will win game three, but I’m starting to think that this looks like a five game series, and not a six.
-The Big 4 were 3 for 15 with one run and one RBI. Pujols got all three hits. So far Walker, Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds are a combined 8-for-32 (.250 BA) with four runs and three RBIs. Pretty pathetic stuff. They'll have to step things up in St. Louis in a big way.
Meanwhile, seven of the Red Sox nine starters got hits, and the hit-less Millar and Ortiz combined for three walks. The whole Red Sox lineup has been contributing.
-The defensive miscues for the Red Sox continue. If you are Theo Epstein you have to be having a heart-attack: the big defensive upgrade and this is how your team plays?
It was mildly funny to see Pokey Reese, Gabe Kapler and Mientkiewicz enter the game. Nothing says: “We don’t trust our defense” like mass substitutions.
-Another terrific game from Schilling. Can Pedro follow up in St. Louis? I can’t imagine the fans there chanting “Who’s Your Daddy”. They have too much class. One thing is for certain: the Red Sox had a decided edge in the pitching matchup. Suppan v. Pedro? Who’d take that matchup?
Links … Redbird Nation's Brian Gunn has some thoughts on the World Series. ESPN's Jim Caple is unimpressed by the Red Sox defensive miscues. Jayson Stark adds useless information ... More like old news, but Steve Silver forecasts Yankee doom for 2005 and beyond at Hardball Times.
Thoughts on tomorrow's game ... tomorrow.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
I’m thrilled to see two teams with as much history as the Cardinals and Red Sox fighting it out: seeing teams like the Marlins and D-backs win the series detracts from the game’s history somehow to me. Maybe it is my background as a history guy coming out, but baseball’s history, its link to America’s past, is its best asset. Seeing teams as ancient as the Cards and Red Sox in it is good to me. It makes the game better.
Last year’s Yankees-Marlins clash bored me to no end: was Steinbrenner going to buy the Yanks 27th world championship? Or were the no-name, no-history Fish going to win their second? (I think the '97 Series was the dullest in memory.) There was little-to-no passion from the fans in South Florida, and the Bronx faithful seemed bored, more interested getting home in time to watch Survivor.
Well, there’s passion galore in ’04. There’s history. There are teams that actually have recognizable players: Rolen, Ortiz, Pedro, Schill, etc. (Quick, name three Marlins. Let me guess: you can’t.) This is a great World Series matchup. Baseball couldn't have asked for a better one.
-And Game 1 was pretty great too. Lots of runs, lots of pathos. If the rest of the series is anything like this then we’ve got a real treat: it will be close, hard-fought and very, very exciting to watch.
-Commentary from observers that the Red Sox had the more balanced attack was born out last night: of the Red Sox nine starting position players, eight had hits. Larry Walker, in contrast, had four of St. Louis’s 11 hits. He also had three of their five extra-base hits. The Red Sox depth is emerging as their decisive advantage.
The Big Four were 5 for 17, with three runs and two RBIs. While Larry Walker had a monster evening (4 for 5), Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen had scant success.
-What was the deal with LaRussa having Tony Womack sac bunt in the second? Trailing 4-0, runners on first and second with an out, and you play for a run? That is the problem I have with the Cardinals strategy: they steal bases with their power hitters up and they bunt the runners over when they are on the verge of a big inning. National League small ball won’t win, especially in an American League park.
Everyone gives LaRussa the edge in managerial skills, but I wonder if that it true.
-I wonder what effect facing Wakefield will have on the Cardinals hitters. Knuckle-ball pitchers are often difficult for hitters to recover from because they lose their focus later on: I remember reading in George Will’s Men at Work that LaRussa didn’t bat Mark McGwire against knuckle-ball pitchers when they were with the A’s because it would take days or even a few weeks to get him back in the groove.
-David Ortiz is making a run at Series MVP with his four RBIs in game one.
-Game two: Morris v. Schilling. If Schilling’s ankle holds up, advantage Red Sox. The fans in Boston will be pulling hard for him, so he should be able to grit it out and stay in the game.
2-0 going into St. Louis?