Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Brock Holt: A Breath of Fresh Air for Red Sox

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like watching the Red Sox this season is somewhat painful. They are definitely not that same bearded team we watched celebrate a World Series Championship last fall and frankly, it's just plain depressing. This group of guys can't seem to get out of their own way and it's hard to tell which team is going to show up day in and day out. They've got a whole Jekyll and Hyde thing going and it's not even remotely cute.

What Boston needs is a swift kick in the ass. I think that kick in the ass is called Brock Holt. Who? Honestly, I don't recall ever hearing his name before he was called up to the Red Sox earlier this season. In the 38 games with the Red Sox, Holt has 51 hits, 12 of those doubles, and a .329 batting average. Not bad for a 26-year-old who began his season in Triple-A Pawtucket.

Not only has he been producing at the plate, he's been a real trooper defensively. He has filled in at third base, first base, and most recently, the outfield. While he's not the greatest glove on the field, he's persistent and not afraid to throw his body around. And Jonny Gomes should be thankful for Holt's style of play because it totally bailed his ass out the other night.

Check out the best catch I've seen in a very long time...


Almost makes you want to hop back on that Red Sox train again, doesn't it? Maybe this acrobatic and somewhat impossible catch, coupled with the recent release of Grady Sizemore, are just the ingredients this team is looking for to help turn this season around. I have hope. It might be just a glimmer, but it's there.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Rest in Peace, Tony Gwynn... Mr. Padre.

Photo from HERE
Baseball lost a special person today. The greatest San Diego Padre to ever wear that hideous uniform, Anthony Keith "Tony" Gwynn, Sr., lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 54. Folks who knew him said he was also a pretty awesome guy which is nice to hear, especially with some of the douchebags in the game these days.

Having grown up a Red Sox fan, I never really got a chance to follow guys in the National League. But I knew he was special during the 1999 All-Star game at Fenway Park when he helped Ted Williams throw out the first pitch... making sure the old guy didn't fall over.

The Hall of Fame outfielder was a magician with the bat. In his 20 seasons, all with the Padres, he amassed some rather ridiculous numbers.

  • 3,141 hits (good for #18 all time)
  • 15 time All-Star
  • 7 Silver Slugger Awards
  • 5 Gold Gloves
  • 8 National League batting titles
  • 7 time National League hits leader
  • .338 lifetime batting average (good for #16 all time)

Gwynn also hit .394 in the strike shortened 1994 season which was the highest season average since the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

ESPN.com had a couple of other pretty cool stats too:

  • Over his 20-year career, Gwynn's .338 lifetime batting average was the highest of any player whose career started after World War II—no one with 5,000 or more plate appearances has even gotten close. 
  • No hitter born after 1900 reached 3,000 hits in fewer games (2,284) or at-bats (8.874) than #19. 
  • No 3,000-hit man who was born after 1900 had a higher lifetime batting average than Gwynn.
  • No hitter who has played his entire career since the invention of the designated hitter has accumulated as many hits as Gwynn (3,141) without spending a large portion of his career in the American League. (I love this stat.)

For the last four years, Gwynn has been battling salivary gland cancer, most likely from using smokeless tobacco. He underwent multiple surgeries, but the cancer forced him to take a leave of absence from his head coaching job at San Diego State, his alma mater, where he had coached for 12 season.

Tony Gwynn never wanted your sympathy... so instead of feeling sad, let's celebrate the life and achievements of an amazing ballplayer and person. Rest in peace, Mr. Padre.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Oh Red Sox... Where has the Magic Gone?

I think it's safe to say that for a Red Sox fan, the 2013 season was just plain magical. It was a season where things just fell perfectly together — like you just knew at some point late last summer that this team was destined to win it all. Every game was fun. Every game was an adventure. And every game felt winnable.

Maybe it was that fateful event that occurred on April 15th that sparked this group of men to give their all for every inning of every game for the rest of that season. They did have that Boston Strong rally cry to live up to, after all. What kind of team would they have been if they couldn't boost the spirits of this city with win after dramatic win? They really had no choice but to excel. They were a team fueled by hometown spirit and pride.

It was just magical. I know that sounds corny, but for me, it's true. And I'm going to venture a guess that I'm not the only sappy fan out there that feels that way.

Was it the facial hair that carried that winning mojo? Or was it a particular player? Maybe it was David Ortiz's heartfelt speech on April 20th that sparked something that can never again be had. I have no idea what special force caused this ragtag group of guys to succeed when no one gave them a chance, but I do know this... that magic has left the effing building, my friends.

In April of 2013, the Red Sox were third in Major League Baseball in batting with a .271 team average. They had hit 26 home runs collectively, had an on-base percentage of .347 and slugged .446. In April of this season, their team batting average was .246 — good for 19th overall. Well that sucks. Orioles' left fielder, Nelson Cruz, has more home runs this season (21) than the Red Sox hit as a team in May (20). Seriously?

So needless to say, I'm annoyed. Sure there have been multiple injuries to key players like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks. And the starting rotation has had some hiccups... like Clay Buchholz who went 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA last April... and this year, he was 1-2 with a 6.66 ERA. I'm not even going to tell you what the difference is year-to-year between opponents batting average because it will make you want to throw up.

What I do know about this team is that Stephen Drew is NOT the answer. He wasn't the answer in the off-season at $14 million a year, and he's sure as hell not the answer for $10 million after sitting out the first two months of the season. He hit a whopping .111 in the entire 2013 postseason, and is batting a big fat ZERO since he's returned to the lineup. (Ok, so it's only been a couple games but I don't care!)

Something needs to happen and it needs to happen tout de suite. If you don't know, that's French for RIGHT THE EFF NOW! This season is slowly slipping to the point of no return. SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING!!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

So I Took a Little Balls Break...

Blogging is hard. It's as simple as that. And it's especially hard when you decide to do something as utterly ridiculous as... oh, I don't know... saying that you're going to write a blog post a day for 365 straight days. That's some serious pressure.

Some days I want to say, "eff it..." and call it a day. But I didn't and that's why I've been pretty much MIA for the past nearly two months. I was burned out. Every time I looked at my laptop sitting on the table beside the couch, I wanted to vomit. It was mocking me. My laptop was being a total a-hole. And it's not like there wasn't shit to write about. The Bruins were epically failing... the Red Sox were epically failing... you know, riveting subject matter.

Plus, it's really hard to write about the Red Sox when they're dead to me. DEAD. Although with this most recent three-game winning streak... they might be twitching just a little. Where did the magic go? (Personally, I think AJ Pierzynski sucked all the magic out of the team, but that's another story.)

Courtesy of the Boston Globe.
But what kind of blogger would I be if I didn't mention MANNY RAMIREZ'S HAIR!!! What in the deep depths of hell is going on there? I don't even know what to say. And from the looks of it, neither does Big Papi. In fact, he can't even keep a straight face. He looks like he's about to pee his pants. I think Papi liked those stupid dreadlocks better. Now he just looks like he was viciously attacked by a rogue Flowbee.

I've never been a huge Manny fan. The dude is just a total douche nugget. A lazy, 'roided up, meany. He pushed down old folks. He let his team down when the needed him most. And he likes to hit girls. I'm glad his hair looks stupid.

So this morning I tweeted about Manny. I don't tweet much which is something I really need to be better at if this damn blog is ever going to go global. And because I'm a big loser, I had to make sure my morning talk show buddies saw it because I thought it was pretty funny.


And GUESS WHAT?? Gerry Callahan RETWEETED it!! Why do I find such joy in shit like that? It's the little things, really. This is how Twitter is like golf. You could hit 97 bad shots but if you sink that one 35 foot putt, that's what you remember. Most of my tweets pass like a ship in the night. But when one gets a little attention, it makes me want to spend my whole day on the Twitter.

So I guess I'm back at it. Don't expect something every day because you'll just set yourself up for disappointment. What I recommend is signing up to receive an email when I do post... just a suggestion.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One Year Ago Today...

April 15, 2013—just another Patriots Day (for Maine and Massachusetts, at least.) That day when the Red Sox play early enough that you can watch while still clad in pajamas. (Isn't everyone still in their PJs at 11am on a day off from work?) That day that I mark as the deadline to get all that crappy raking done—that is if the snow has melted. And every Patriots Day, the Boston Marathon snakes through the streets as Fenway comes alive with the sounds of baseball.

But April 15, 2013 was anything but just another Patriots Day. At 2:49pm, as runners and spectators crowded the Marathon finish line, an explosion rocked a city.

One year ago today... a tragedy shook the Boston Marathon. A vile, terrorist act that took the lives of three innocent souls and injured over 260 others. When you think of how gravely many of those were hurt, it's a miracle there weren't more casualties.

One year ago today... we learned of a young man named Jeff Bauman who viciously lost both legs in the blast, but perseveres. He's not angry, he's thankful. He's thankful for the people who rushed to his aid, the people who saved his life, and the people who cheered him on throughout his recovery. Jeff played a pivotal part in the identification of the terrorists.

One year ago today... we learned of a man named Carlos Arredondo who, like many others, rushed towards the blast to provide help to the injured. He was the first to get Jeff Bauman and saved his life.

One year ago today... we learned about the Richard family. They stood closest to the backpack. Mother Denise lost an eye. Father Bill suffered damage to his eardrums. They lost their 8-year-old son, Martin. Their daughter Jane lost her leg, endured 14 grueling surgeries and had to learn to walk again.

One year ago today... changed the lives of hundreds of people, their families and the city. Two backpacks. Two bombs. Two loathsome and deplorable monsters. A day the people of Boston and the country will never forget.

One year ago today... a city came together to become Boston Strong.

I don't live in Boston. I didn't run in the Marathon. I didn't know anyone injured in this horrific act. I'm not going to pretend to know what the people involved went through or are still going through. But like many, I'm inspired by the stories of those who refused to give up in the face of adversity.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 365: Party's Over... Said the Girl.

Opening Day (yay, baseball) is one of my most favorite days of the year—right behind Christmas (oooh, presents) and Thanksgiving (hmmm, food). The beginning of six months and 162 glorious games that will make me happy and sad and angry all in the span of nine innings.

Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, on Opening Day of the 2013 baseball season, I began a quest. That quest was to start a blog and post at least once a day about sports for a whole year. I wasn't sure I would have enough topics to write about. I wasn't sure if my discipline was strong enough to complete the task. And I certainly wasn't sure if people would read what I was putting out there. Well, that quest is now completed and now I sort of feel empty. Please hold me.

The Boston sports scene gave me more subject matter than I knew what to do with. I honestly don't think I could've written about a better year. Even though I started writing a week earlier, it really all started with my very first trip to Opening Day at Fenway Park—a gorgeous, sunshiny Monday afternoon that concluded with a Red Sox win. That day was full of promise and possibility after what had happened the previous disastrous year. And it just steamrolled from there.

There was the Boston Marathon bombing that unsettled an entire city and enlisted the sports community to rally Boston Strong around the tragedy. The Aaron Hernandez arrest for murder and the Patriots' subsequent release of the talented yet brainless tight end. The Boston Bruins incredibly determined run to the Stanley Cup final and heartbreaking loss. Let's not forget the magical World Series Championship season put forth by those lovable, bearded Red Sox—a worst-to-first miracle. And then there was the Patriots making a postseason run even after Wes Welker's departure and a yet again injured Rob Gronkowski—leaving Tom Brady with virtually no targets.

What I loved most about writing every day was the freedom to include whatever I wanted. There were no real rules—just as long as the post was about some type of sport. I loved being able to write about a good deed done by a baseball player, or a killer play made by a tiny person, or a sport that I knew absolutely nothing about, like sailing. I also loved being able to pay tribute to my parents on their birthdays for their part in this obsession and posting videos that made me giggle.

I also wanted to thank everyone who loyally followed Balls of All Sizes and didn't get annoyed that I spammed your Facebook timeline every single day. I know it was quite a commitment and I completely understand if you missed a day here and there. Thanks to those non-sports fans that supported me by reading even when, at times, you had no freaking clue what the hell I was writing about. And, even though he'll never read this post, thanks to my extremely understanding husband who could've gotten really annoyed at the hour plus I spent on putting forth what I hope was a somewhat intelligent blog post every single day for the past year.

Balls of All Sizes isn't going away... it's just taking a little siesta. There will be occasional posts, probably once or twice a week, after a little well-deserved break. I'd be lying if I said some days weren't just a bit stressful. I suffered from writer's block and brain cramps and drunky writing and oops, I almost forgot days. And there was that one time I thought it was over because I was on my way to Fenway for a evening game and I hadn't written anything—thank you iPads with 3G!!

And just like that... game one of 2014 is in the books. Unfortunately, unlike their Opening Day win a year ago, the Sox lose to the O's 2-1, leaving 12 men on base and wasting a perfectly good outing by Jon Lester. I was hoping to maybe end this quest on a high note. I'm trying to be optimistic that this isn't indicative of the season to come, but I'm a Sox fan—glass half empty, remember?

Anyway... the party's over. Elvis has left the building. The fat lady has sung.

PS: Bonus points if you can tell me what movie the title of this post comes from!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day 364: And Like That... Baseball is Back!

The 2014 Major League Baseball season officially kicks off tonight as Sunday Night Baseball returns featuring a matchup between National League West rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. But the real action doesn't start until Monday. At 3:05pm EST, the Red Sox open their season at Camden Yards to take on the Orioles for three.

If the weather reports are correct, it looks like a spectacular day for baseball with sunny skies and temps right around 60˚—a little better than the 39˚ and rain expected in Boston tomorrow. Winter really mistreated the northeast over the past several months and it doesn't appear to be in too much of a hurry to surrender and let spring take over. But after the deep freeze we've experienced, 45˚ sounds downright balmy!

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited for Monday and that doesn't happen very often. Monday is usually reserved for a belly full of dread as the impending work week looms with piles of shit to do. But I've already got my name on the calendar indicating I will be OUT of the office for the afternoon to park my ass on the couch and bask in the glow of yet another Opening Day.

The Orioles will send Chris Tillman (16-7, 3.71 in '13) to the hill against the World Series workhorse, Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 in '13). I'm guessing the lineup will look a little something like this (let's see how close I get): (1) Grady Sizemore, CF; (2) Daniel Nava, LF; (3) Dustin Pedroia, 2B; (4) David Ortiz, DH; (5) Mike Napoli, 1B; (6) Shane Victorino, RF; (7) Xander Bogaerts, SS; (8) Will Middlebrooks, 3B and (9) AJ Pierzynski.

Victorino is a question mark for Opening Day after suffering a strained hamstring in the final spring training game, so if he's not available, it could be Jackie Bradley Jr. in right and I would guess he would bat 9th. My pick for Sizemore to lead-off is a shaky choice... so I'll be curious to see who John Farrell puts in that spot to replace the speedy and recently departed Jacoby Ellsbury. Sizemore has been known to have some speed and his numbers in spring training were pretty good.

The best thing the Red Sox could do at this point is to get the thought of repeating as World Series Champs completely out of the conversation. This is a new year, with some new faces and, most certainly, some new challenges. They need to play it one game at a time like they did in 2013. They need to play as a team... and grow those gnarly yet magical beards like their lives and wins depend on it.

As the team's spring training t-shirts read: Turn the [Bleep]ing Page. If they can focus on making a fresh start, I'd say there's a pretty good chance it will be another fun season to be a Sox fan.