Tag: John Lester

Best Team

Before you go citing 2011 . . .


We’re still awaiting official confirmation of the Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signings in Boston. But let’s get out in front of this one in the meantime:


Yes, that was about the 2011 Red Sox after the Carl Crawford and Adrain Gonzalez signings, and yes, I’ve already seen some of you talk about how the Sox signing Ramirez and Sandoval reminds you of that. Which, OK, I get the association. But let’s also remember a couple of things about all of that.

The Crawford and Gonzalez signings committed the Sox to seven years and $296 million. The Sandoval and Ramirez signings, if accurately reported, would be five years and less than $200 million. So already it’s nothing like that in terms of the dough.

The bigger issue, I think, is that offense is growing ever more scarce and the Sox have a better foundation with younger/upside guys like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo to hedge against shortfalls from expectations on the part of Sandoval and Ramirez. Also worth noting that a big problem for the 2011 Sox was that the pitching didn’t meet expectations. The current Red Sox have some pitching needs to address, but it’s also just November 24, and one has to assume they will address it, either with cash to someone like John Lester or Max Scherzer or via a trade with what is now a surplus of outfielders and other position players.

None of which is to say that these moves guarantee that the Sox will compete in 2015. We all remember how such predictions have gone for the teams which have made the big splashes in the past, be it those old Sox, the 2012 Marlins, the 2013 Blue Jays and a host of other teams.

But simply pointing to the 2011 Sox and saying “it didn’t work before, so it won’t work again” is no more sound than going all-in on a prediction of guaranteed success.

Gearing up for Game 6 at Fenway


BOSTON — Your first baseball experiences inevitably shape your tastes. My first baseball experiences were in the late 70s and early 80s so I like lower scoring games. And I’m more tolerant of pullover jerseys than many people are. The first ballpark I ever went to — and I went there a lot — was Tiger Stadium.  So, when it comes to ballparks, my tastes skew old too.

I love the intimacy of the old places. I love the smell. I love that they fit rather nicely in the neighborhood as if they have always been there because, for all practical purposes, they have always been there. I know there are 50 things or more that are made more difficult or more inconvenient in places like Tiger Stadium used to be, but I don’t care. It’s just a personal — a deeply personal — preference. Today is the first time I’ve ever been to Fenway Park as a fan or as a writer. And while we’re still a couple of hours from game time, I don’t think it’s too early to say that it has immediately become one of my favorites.

In an age where ballparks tend to be the focal point of the neighborhoods — and I use that term loosely — in which they sit, and in an era when ballparks skew toward the gigantic, Fenway’s modesty in those regards are almost shocking. Indeed, it sort of snuck up on me as I walked toward it. It’s quite different after all of the people show up and walk all up and down Landsdowne Street and Yawkey Way before game time, but several hours earlier it’s a quiet, human-scaled place that just belongs where it does. It does not insist upon itself and draw attention to itself as so many ballparks do. It just is.

I got my credentials and set down my stuff and then walked around a bit. Here’s some of the stuff I saw.


The Red Sox have essentially leased Yawkey Way and Landsdowne Street next to the ballpark for about a decade, allowing them to shut them down to traffic and set up all manner of revenue-generating attractions. It’s hard to imagine that it’s only been that long and harder to imagine what it’d be like if they didn’t. The Cubs are trying to do this with Sheffield and Waveland around Wrigley. The biggest thing teams trade off with these human-scale, neighborhood-appropriate parks are big revenue and excitement-generating promenades. Letting them have the nearby streets on game days — streets that locals avoid on game days anyway — seems like a no-brainer. Even if it did take close to 100 years to figure out.


Of course, open promenades do attract, um, interesting people. I’m not sure what’s scarier: Jonny Gomes actually having an army or this guy being one of the soldiers. For what it’s worth, minutes before I took this picture John Farrell announced that Gomes would be in the lineup. I told the General here about that and he said “hot damn!”


I really would love a picture of the guy with the “I need tickets” sign here, but he wouldn’t let me take one. The conversation started out amicably enough. I went up to him and said “how much you willing to pay?” He said “whaddaya got?” I thought I should identify myself as media before I got him on record with some tale of desperation. When I did he rolled his eyes and said “forget it, not talking to you.” As I walked away he said “I’ve had more reporters come up to me than people with tickets!” He was disgusted, it seems. Can’t say as I blame him.


I don’t know if this door to the ballpark on Yawkey Way has always been there, if it’s a reproduction of one that had been there or if it’s some kind of nostalgic homage that came along as the park was renovated. I don’t know if that’s the door John Henry and Ben Cherington use when they walk into work each day or if it’s just a useless old totem. And I don’t care. All I know is that I love it.


This is me trying to convey a sense of the scale. Team offices are just a few stories right above the sidewalk. It’s the opposite of the suburban office park feel so many more modern ballparks have.


Effort at scale of a different kind. I’m standing next to the park as I take this. That’s the famous Citgo sign you can see over the Green Monster. The one that, if you’ve only seen games on TV, you’d think was right over the fence. When I was a kid and I’d watch SportsCenter highlights I always expected to see a guy hit a home run into it Roy Hobbs-style. Unfortunately, it’s really far away, There’s a freeway and train tracks and a city block between it and Fenway.


Speaking of famous.  If John Lackey wins Game 6 tonight, I hope he and John Lester run across the street to this place and hold a personal champagne, chicken and beer celebration.


Back inside the park and watched some workouts. Here’s Will Middlebrooks taking infield. He remained upright the entire time.


Maybe it is. And maybe, as the banners in Pittsburgh say, PNC is its most beautiful park. And maybe Cardinals fans are The Best Fans in Baseball. It’s all a matter of taste and conjecture and argument. But I also think it’s pretty tacky to put that label on yourself, no matter who or what you are.


A couple of hours before what could be the biggest game in Fenway Park history and they’re still giving tours, just as though it was any other day. I gotta say: if I was on that tour I would give serious consideration to slipping away, hiding out in a bathroom and then walking out for some standing-room action once the game starts. There’s enough activity going on right now that I think you could pull it off.


Game time is less than two hours away. I’m not sure what it will be like when the place fills up and people go crazy, but I can’t wait to find out.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

Yasiel Puig

Dodgers 6, Phillies 4: Six straight wins for the Dodgers as Yasiel Puig singled home the tying and go-ahead runs in the seventh inning. Puig also smacked into the scoreboard in right field, so he’s basically Bryce Harper in multiple respects. That seventh inning rally was occasioned by the bases being loaded on a walk, a bunt which Ryan Howard muffed to allow the bunter to reach and then another walk. Then Puig did his stuff.

Cubs 7, Brewers 2: Series like Cubs-Brewers are, at this point, primarily scouting combines in anticipation of the trade deadline. And Matt Garza was the equivalent of that defensive end wearing Under Armor spandex while creepy dudes like Mel Kiper talk about their “long-bodies” and “great wingspan.” He struck out ten in seven innings while allowing one run on eight hits with a walk.

Diamondbacks 3, Nationals 2: Remember that scene in “The Natural” where Roy Hobbs’ winning blast caused the light tower to explode in spark and flame? Well, that happened at Nats park yesterday except (a) the road team won; and (b) the winning hit in the ninth 11th was a bunt. Two bunts actually won it. Miguel Montero hit a ground rule double, Cody Ross bunted his pinch runner to third and Didi Gregorius “knocked” in the go-ahead run with a bunt single. Then he was transported to a wheat field where he played catch with his illegitimate son as Glen Close watched over them lovingly. Or something.

Angels 3, Tigers 1: Albert Pujols with an RBI double in the tenth that provided the winning margin. The Angels have beat the Tigers for the ninth straight time. Guys Tigers fans love to hate did well. Jeff Weaver — who got all plunky with Tigers hitters last year — allowed one run in seven innings. Mike Trout — who many Tigers fans have decided to hate because how dare someone suggest Miguel Cabrera have competition for the MVP last year?! — was 4 for 5 yesterday and 8 for 16 in the series with a homer, two doubles and five RBI.

Orioles 7, Indians 3: Down 3-2 in the fifth the O’s scored five of their own. Manny Machado was ejected arguing that a third strike was really a foul ball. That ended a streak of 1,206 innings played, which was the longest active streak in the bigs. Lonnie Chisenhall on the O’s quick strike for five:

“It happened so fast, same thing last night,” said Chisenhall. “It’s the way the AL East plays. Runs just show up on the board.”

Damndest thing, that.

Mets 3, Rockies 2: The makeup game from a snow-out back in April. Marlon Byrd hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning and threw out a runner from right field in the ninth. The guy he nailed on the base paths? Michael Cuddyer, who was trying to stretch a single into a double. He still had three hits on the day, though, and extended his hitting streak to 24 games. That’s a Rockies record.

Rangers 2, Yankees 0: Derek Holland with the Maddux, shutting out the Bombers — if we can call this lineup the “Bombers” — on 92 pitches.

Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 4: John Lester got a much-needed win — only his second in eight starts — but left the game in the eighth when he jammed his hip. A seven-run second inning for the Sox pretty much sewed this game up early, however.

Twins 3, Royals 1: Samuel Deduno allowed one run over seven innings, walking only one. Which is a big deal for him, because he’s usually walktastic.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Orioles 10, Rays 6: Time to re-bookmark Matt Wieters Facts. The Chosen One’s grand slam in the 10th gives the O’s their 17th straight extra innings win.

Diamondbacks 6, Yankees 2: Frankie Cervelli hit a homer to tie it in the ninth. He also had two — not one, but two — catcher’s interference calls. Don’t see that everyday. Oh, and the AP game story spends a lot of time talking about how a guy named Zack Hample caught two homers in the game. It’s the same Zack Hample who has written a book and filmed videos about snagging baseballs at ballparks. He’s a professional ball hound or whatever.  Which makes this passage funny:

Even though he lives in Manhattan, Hample was wearing a Diamondbacks cap because he’s been a fan of Bell’s since 2004.

“Zack’s crazy. I know Zack from when I was a rookie with the Mets,” Bell said. “He probably was a Padres fan when I was a Padre, a Marlins fan when I was a Marlin.”

If you’ve seen his videos and things you actually know that he wears the cap of whatever team he happens to be visiting because he believes players on the field and in bullpens are more likely to give him a ball if he’s a local fan. But whatever.

Mariners 2, Tigers 0: Of course a Mariners offense that is struggling to score runs gets two off Justin Verlander, who otherwise struck out 12. Meanwhile, Hisashi Iwakuma and two Mariners relievers handcuffed the Tigers on getaway day.

Brewers 7, Giants 2: Yovani Gallardo hit a homer and gave up only one run over six innings. I’m guessing some Brewers blog somewhere will call this “redemption” or something. If they do, I highly suggest you not read that Brewers blog anymore.

Cubs 6, Rangers 2: Everyone I know who lives in Chicago said it was biblical-level rain there yesterday so I have no idea how they got this one in. Anthony Rizzo hit one 475 feet. Alfonso Soriano notched his first homer and RBI of the year.

Red Sox 6, Indians 3: Six in a row for Boston. More great pitching too: John Lester gave up two runs on four hits in seven.

Rockies 11, Mets 3: The Mets finally get the hell out of Colorado, and not a moment too soon. It was 28 degrees in Denver yesterday. Snow outs in Minnesota than a couple snow outs in Denver along with cold games. I don’t think anyone has ever been as happy to see Queens as the Mets likely were when they got home last night.

Cardinals 4, Phillies 3: Carlos Beltran with the go-ahead homer in the eighth. Yadier Molina was 3 for 4 with 2 RBI. Adam Wainwright has now pitched 29 innings without walking a batter. Cole Hamels, meanwhile, hasn’t won a game yet this year. I guess you want him to emulate Cliff Lee in some ways, but maybe not in this way.

Blue Jays 3, White Sox 1: R.A. Dickey had to leave early with neck and back tightness but he pitched well while he was in and got the win anyway. Dickey is around my age and I get neck and back tightness for no reason sometimes. I wonder if he makes big, exaggerated noises when he stands up and sits down and if he gets unexplained ear hair and stuff like I do too.

Braves 6, Pirates 4: Evan Gattis had a two-run pinch hit homer in the eighth. Both Uptons and Chris Johnson homered too. If the Braves were in New York columnists would be wringing their hands and wondering if the Braves hit too many homers as if that were actually a thing someone should ever worry about. For my part, I get blacked out of Pirates games here in Ohio so I couldn’t watch it. Thankfully, though, there’s a useful Twitter feed to follow in such situations.

Reds 11, Marlins 1: Shin-Soo Choo singled, doubled and scored twice, helping Tony Cingrani win his first big league start. Here’s hoping he keeps up the momentum for next time so he can get his first win over a big league opponent.