Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Posts Tagged ‘Major League Baseball’

Red Sox make crucial mistake in parting ways with Francona

Posted by bdowd625 on October 1, 2011

We’re going to miss you, Tito.

I’ll start out by saying that I don’t think Terry Francona was always the best in-game manager. Some of his decisions on the field left me scratching my head, whether it be the insertion of a pinch runner for Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh inning or his extra-long leash when it came to leaving tiring starting pitchers in the game. But I think every fan feels that way about their manager at one point or another, and second-guessing is a part of the job that Francona has always understood.

With that in mind, I think the Boston Red Sox made a monumental mistake yesterday when they parted ways with Francona after eight very successful seasons. Francona’s greatest strength has always been his ability to protect his players in a rabid sports town, a quality I think many of the Red Sox took for granted after a while. Plain and simple, Boston took advantage of its manager this year, as high-priced prima donnas like Carl Crawford, John Lackey and, yes, even my boy Josh Beckett drove the team into the ground. Sure, Francona should share some of the blame for the team’s historic September collapse – no one gets a free pass in that regard – but it was evident that many of the Red Sox had given up on him and the season.

And so Francona became the fall guy yesterday after bringing Beantown not one, but two World Series titles in his tenure. He said his players were tuning him out and that he couldn’t get the team to move together in one direction. It’s a shame it had to come to this after all Francona has done here, but that’s how it works with these millionaire crybabies. You can’t fire 25 players, but you can fire the manager. Boston’s new leader certainly has his work cut out for himself – whomever it may be – and I find it hard to believe he’ll handle these players half as well as Francona did in his eight-year run. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, though, I want to thank Francona for all his hard work. He gave this fan base a reason to believe when we thought that elusive championship would never come. I can confidently say his place in Red Sox history is safe.

And now, with the Red Sox season over, I leave you with an excerpt from an essay by A. Bartlett Giamatti, former commissioner of Major League Baseball. If this doesn’t perfectly sum up the beauty of baseball then nothing does.

“The Green Fields of the Mind”

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the
spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer,
filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come,
it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to
buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive,
and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains
and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.


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Umpiring controversy strikes MLB playoffs — again

Posted by Bill Koch on October 9, 2010

Another night, more umpiring fiascos and an addition to the list of ejected managers have stolen the attention away from the action on the field.

Welcome to the 2010 Major League Baseball postseason.

Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves were the victims again as they locked horns with the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series. The call in question had very little to do with Game 2’s outcome – no runs were scored and Atlanta’s late comeback was far more entertaining – but it brought more attention to a problem that is threatening the credibility of these games.

Alex Gonzalez was called out on a grounder to deep short, a mistake made by first base umpire Paul Emmel after he missed Aubrey Huff’s foot slipping off the bag. It was the second time in as many nights that Emmel had screwed the Braves, and Cox added to his all-time lead in ejections by getting sent to the showers early. Television replays showed that Emmel was wrong and Cox was ejected for arguing something that he never should have had to contest, the same type of injustice that has already happened twice previously in these playoffs.

Cox joined Joe Maddon (Game 2 of the Tampa Bay-Texas series) and Ron Gardenhire (Game 2 of the Minnesota-New York series) in the group of managers who have been ejected since the postseason began. The cause of all three ejections, upon video review, was a blown call. Michael Young’s three-run homer (which followed a disputed check swing that should have been strike three on a slider in the dirt) and Lance Berkman’s RBI double (which followed a 1-2 fastball from Carl Pavano that clearly caught the inside corner and should have been strike three) never should have been allowed to happen. It was a call that Cox didn’t argue that hurt even more in Game 1 – Buster Posey was out at second on a stolen base attempt and Emmel missed it, allowing Cody Ross to knock in Posey with the game’s only run in a 1-0 Giants’ victory.

Defending the umpires is easy enough. You can insist that their respective calls alone didn’t decide the respective outcomes of the games, and you’d be right. Not many teams are going to win games striking out 14 times and scratching out just two hits like the Braves did in Game 1. Chad Qualls shouldn’t have thrown a fastball down the middle to Young on his next pitch. Pavano should have buried his changeup in the dirt instead of leaving it ankle-high to a low-ball hitter like Berkman. I’ll concede all of those points.

But it shouldn’t come to that. We shouldn’t know Emmel’s name. Video replay is so accurate and could be implemented so easily that Major League Baseball has to act sooner rather than later. As usual, Bud Selig and the rest of his cronies are dragging their feet and will be forced to kick and scream before they do anything proactive. They sat back and watched when steroids and performance enhancing drugs shredded the record book and while the gap between rich teams and poor teams grew to the point where baseball has become irrelevant in places like Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

Selig should have learned his lesson when Jim Joyce was thrust into the national spotlight after he blew a call at first base on what should have been the final out of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. The Detroit Tigers’ righthander had history and the crowning moment of his career taken away when Joyce ruled that Jason Donald beat out a grounder to first on what should have been the 27th and final out. Replays showed that Joyce was wrong and pressure was put on Selig and the rest of MLB’s executives to reward Galarraga after the fact in the record books. Selig chose not to do that (and we agreed with him, because that would open Pandora’s Box), but he didn’t take any steps to make sure it would never happen again.

The umpires themselves, a historically stubborn group, also share the blame. They insist that nobody hurts more than they do when a call is missed. If that was truly the case, they’d be pressuring MLB just as hard as the fan base to reform the current system and take advantage of all that technology has to offer. It took forever for umpires to agree to conference on the field in the name of getting calls right – they’re extremely reluctant to overrule a colleague. You think they’d take kindly to replay? No shot. What’s left unsaid is that the umpires want to get it right – on their terms. They don’t have the true best interests of the game at heart, and we’ve never thought that Selig has been the man to protect baseball during his time as puppet commissioner. This postseason is proving those points for us yet again, and it’s a shame.

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Diaz makes his way into Ramble On’s heart

Posted by Bill Koch on September 21, 2010

We’ll admit that we’ve been slacking a little bit on our baseball coverage here at Ramble On, and that’s mainly because a certain team that plays its home games at Fenway Park has fallen out of the American League postseason chase. (It’s also due to my own self-imposed embargo on anything Red Sox-related until the season is over.)

That changes today thanks to Matt Diaz, the Atlanta Braves outfielder who sealed his place as a Ramble On favorite on Monday night by taking the law into his own hands in Philadelphia. Diaz helped security at Citizens Bank Park take down some jerk that had the balls to run onto the field in the bottom of the seventh inning.

What Diaz did wasn’t all that spectacular – he simply stuck out a leg and tripped some idiot wearing red spandex that covered his body from head to toe. We were hoping for a clothesline that snapped the guy’s neck or a sucker punch that broke the guy’s jaw, but we’ll settle for action of any kind and love it. Security took care of the rest and hauled the guy off to jail. Diaz received a standing ovation from the crowd and plenty of love from his teammates when he got back to the dugout for making the move that he did.

Apparently Philly fan will never learn. It was Phillies’ security who used a Taser to take down some other moron earlier this summer – by comparison, this most recent loser got off cheap. And it’s not like this was a game between two teams just playing out the string. We could almost understand if someone slid into second base at Fenway during this series between the Red Sox and the Orioles. The Phillies and the Braves are essentially starting the postseason early, with Philadelphia holding a three-game lead in the National League East when the series began and Atlanta clinging desperately to a wild card berth. The focus should have been on baseball – and, thanks to Diaz, it got back there in a hurry.

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A-Rod, Boras divorce

Posted by Bill Koch on September 3, 2010

Alex Rodriguez dumped Scott Boras. End of story.

We don’t understand why this is such a big deal. Rodriguez already signed his final professional contract – that 10-year, $275-million heist that he perpetrated on the New York Yankees. That deal takes Rodriguez until he’s 42 years old, and he’s not playing anymore after that. He’s got enough money to live 10 additional lifetimes, but six more G4s and a fleet of Bentleys that would make the Sultan of Brunei jealous. Boras got his standard eight percent cut of the deal, threw it in the bank and went back to hanging in his field box at Angels Stadium and at his waterfront lair in Newport Beach, Calif.

Was there any reason to think that this relationship would last? Both men are mercenaries out to make the most money possible over the course of their lives. That’s why Rodriguez signed with Boras in the first place, and that’s why Boras pursued and signed Rodriguez as a client. Rodriguez has no loyalty – his jump from Seattle to Texas to The Bronx was entirely driven by greed and ego. His personal life is dotted with cheating, broken relationships, a failed marriage, PED use and general alienation of most of the people around him. Boras, to Major League Baseball’s owners and general managers, is a living, breathing, negotiating version of Satan himself. These guys were destined to end up together and destined to drift apart. There’s no story here to tell.

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Time to stick a fork in the Red Sox

Posted by Bill Koch on August 30, 2010

This will be the last Boston Red Sox post that you’ll see on Ramble On from me this year.

I make that decision today because the season is now officially over. Boston’s 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday night dropped the Red Sox 6.5 games behind the Rays and the New York Yankees with just 31 to play, an insurmountable deficit when you’re looking at two teams of that caliber. Those guys aren’t the New York Mets. They’re not choking after rolling through their first 130 games a full 30 over the .500 mark.

The true shame is that Boston didn’t have to lose two out of three games at The Trop Dump this weekend. The Red Sox could have won all three. They were there for the taking. We already told you how we think Boston fumbled away Saturday’s game. Sunday brought more embarrassment, only this time it came on a national stage for all to see.

— Fate dictated that John Lackey would start this game. The most disappointing member of the 2010 Red Sox was the only fitting man to preside over their funeral, and he did it in typical Lackey fashion. He blew a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning and had his declining stuff exposed yet again when Carl Crawford hit a two-run homer that was on its way toward the Gulf of Mexico before it slammed into the right field bleachers. Lackey was left out there to rot like fish in the blazing sunshine in the seventh before leaking another run, sealing Boston’s doom for the night and the season.

— We thought that the Little League World Series game was over before Boston battled Tampa. Apparently, the Red Sox are operating under the Williamsport guidelines that everybody on the team has to play. Starting Yamaico Navarro at second base instead of Jed Lowrie was an asinine decision. Yes, Navarro drove in a run with a single, but he also struck out twice against James Shields and had no business being in a game of this magnitude with Lowrie having hit safely in 11 of his last 14. If Lowrie isn’t healthy enough to play three or four days straight, release him and get someone who can get the job done. We already saw what happened last year when Rocco Baldelli and his mitochondrial disease/HIV virus/ebola-type symptoms ate up one of Boston’s slots on the 25-man roster for six months.

— This Manager was at his worst in this series when the Red Sox needed good decisions the most. His blundering continued into Sunday when he penciled Navarro into the lineup, stayed with Lackey way too long and failed to make the correct pitching changes yet again. Lackey should never have been allowed to start the seventh inning after giving up the lead in the sixth. Replacing him with Hideki Okajima to face Carlos Pena was just fine – lefty-lefty is a very good idea against Pena, a strikeout machine – but leaving Okajima in to face Evan Longoria was like turning Ron Jeremy loose on a house full of nymphomaniacs. Boston was lucky that Longoria only lined a single to center field. Most of us were expecting a three-run homer that would have busted the game wide open. And stop before you insist that Okajima was left in so that he could face another lefthanded hitter. Felix Doubront could have come out of the bullpen to replicate the lefty-lefty matchup one more time and keep it a one-run deficit. It’s decisions like these that have dropped the This Manager and the Red Sox to 7-22 in games against the Rays decided by two runs or less since 2008. Two of those games this weekend are the reasons why we won’t see you again until the offseason.

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This Manager strikes (out) again

Posted by Bill Koch on August 29, 2010

If you watched the Boston Red Sox last night, you now understand why I’ve never been a fan of This Manager.

He was up to his usual tricks as Tampa Bay pulled out a 3-2 win against the Red Sox in 10 innings at The Trop Dump. Dan Johnson’s solo homer off Scott Atchison to lead off the bottom of the 10th ensured that Boston wouldn’t sweep the three-game series and put the Red Sox right back where they started the weekend – 5.5 games behind the Rays and staring at fading postseason hopes.

This Manager made poor decisions with his pitching staff yet again, and yet again he’ll go unquestioned by the lemmings in Pink Hat Nation because of his past success. Leaving Clay Buchholz out there to rot into the eighth inning, limiting Daniel Bard to just the ninth and putting Atchison in the game in a key spot were acts of lunacy.

Let’s start with Buchholz, who entered the eighth with his gas tank just about on ‘E’. Boston had just taken a 2-1 lead thanks to a solo homer by Victor Martinez, his third bomb in two games of the Red Sox biggest series of the season. Everything was set up perfectly to use Bard in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, giving both pitchers a clean start to his respective inning. Instead, Buchholz was trotted back out there after seven strong to give it up to B.J. Upton.

This Manager didn’t stop there. He brought Bard in for the ninth in a 2-2 game and the electric righthander set down the side on 10 pitches. If there was ever a position that screamed for Bard to work another inning, this was it. Instead, Atchison was summoned from the bullpen to pitch the 10th and the predictable ending played itself out. Maybe This Manager didn’t want to overwork Bard, and that’s his own fault as well. If he didn’t appear in half of Boston’s games through the first 100 the organization might be a little more lenient about putting some extra miles on his golden arm. It’s a cumulative effect that people don’t usually remember, and that’s why we’re pointing it out here.

Last night’s game sheds some pretty bright light on why This Manager is just 7-21 against his counterpart, Tampa manager Joe Maddon, in games decided by two runs or less since 2008. It’s yet another example of why This Manager isn’t the God among men that so many people in Pink Hat Nation think he is. Decisions like these are why This Manager is so hated in Philadelphia after guiding the Phillies to four straight sub-.500 seasons before being fired and why he’s so lucky that the Red Sox front office handed him a Rolls Royce team in 2004 and 2007. He can’t be expected to make the difference in big games thanks to his own decision-making ability. You’ll all be watching the postseason on television this year in New York, Tampa, Texas and Minnesota while the Boston market remains silent, and you don’t need to look back any further than Saturday night to find out why.

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Sad times for Strasburg, baseball

Posted by Bill Koch on August 27, 2010

We woke up to some sad baseball news today, and for once it has nothing to do with some off-field scandal that threatens to stain the game’s integrity.

No, this has to do with the game’s immediate future. One of its brightest young stars, Stephen Strasburg, now faces an uncertain professional future after a second MRI revealed a torn ulnar-collateral ligament in his right (throwing) arm. Yes, that means what you think it means – Dr. James Andrews is currently being paged and Strasburg will require Tommy John surgery.

My man BDowd and I were both pitchers during our playing days, so we couldn’t do anything but sit and be stunned every time Strasburg took the mound. His blazing fastball, clocked at 98-101 miles-per-hour, coupled with his filthy array of offspeed pitches paralyzed the best hitters in the world. At times Strasburg looked like an overgrown kid mowing down the Little Leaguers in Williamsport, and you almost had to pinch yourself to remember that it’s not supposed to be that easy. Now it looks like we’re going to have to wait 12-18 months to see Strasburg again, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever be the same. Baseball is worse off today because of that.

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Boston’s Idiot on the verge of return

Posted by Bill Koch on August 23, 2010

We’re just as surprised as anyone to hear that the Boston Red Sox have claimed Johnny Damon on waivers today. We’ve been thinking pretty hard about what Boston might be up to in making this move, and we’ve come up with a few suggestions for those outside of Pink Hat Nation who don’t just want their Idiot back. Theo and The Trio usually have something up their sleeve when it comes to adding payroll while appearing to be already out of the pennant race.

— Damon can help this team win some games down the stretch. He’s a better option at the plate than Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald and Eric Patterson, even at this point in his career. If the Red Sox weren’t already out of time and barely treading water – if this deal had gone through on Aug. 3 instead of Aug. 23 – we’d have more reason for optimism.

— Boston is obsessed with finishing the season starting a 37-year-old in center field. Damon will hit that age in November and the Red Sox started the 2010 season by shoving Jacoby Ellsbury aside for the aging Mike Cameron. We all know how that turned out.

— Michelle Damon, Johnny’s absolutely stunning wife, is wanted back in the Bay State. We’re totally cool with claiming her husband on waivers just for a month’s worth of crowd shots featuring her and the mandatory pack of smokeshow friends that she would bring to the Fenway Park box seats.

— The Red Sox need to sell tickets. This economy sucks, Boston still charges some of the highest ticket prices in the league and its front office in nowhere near as loaded as the New York Yankees. That sellout streak will come to an end, as will some of the Red Sox revenue stream from failing to qualify for the postseason. Damon could convince Pink Hat Nation to put off panting over Tom Brady for another month.

— Boston is playing defense out of spite. The Red Sox are ahead of the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in the pecking order thanks to their inferior record and maybe they’re just looking to keep Damon from making his way to The Bronx or the Trop Dump. It wouldn’t be beyond Larry Lucchino, he who coined the phrase The Evil Empire when describing the Yankees, to instruct Epstein to do everything he could to make life miserable for the other American League contenders.

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