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.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 363: Fastest Hat Trick Ever?

Growing up, I spend a lot of time at the hockey rink. I didn't play (helloooo... contact sport!), but my younger brother did so naturally, we all made the various treks to ice arenas all over the state to cheer him on. It was fun to watch all the little kids skating around—and while some could barely stay upright, others skated circles around the competition.

So today I read about a kid from Canada named Brayden MacIntosh who did something no other hockey player at any level has ever done. He scored three goals—a hat trick—in 10 seconds. Pretty efficient work by the eight year old. The fastest hat trick in the NHL happened 62 years ago when Chicago Blackhawks' Bill Mosienko scored three goals in 21 seconds. This kid completed his in less than half that time. But aren't Canadian kids pretty much born with hockey skates on?

Do you need to see it to believe it? There are probably a few NHL teams that could use his services right now...

There's still a question of the game clock and if the goals were all scored within 10 seconds but either way, it's a pretty impressive display by this youngster. Oh and in case you were wondering, MacIntosh has scored a staggering 107 goals this season.

Remember this name, hockey fans... Brayden MacIntosh should be ready for the NHL draft somewhere around 2025.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 362: Grady Sizemore Wins Opening Day CF Job

Opening Day is in four days. You know what else happens in four days? I will have officially reached the Balls of All Sizes goal of 365 straight days of posting... Opening Day of 2013 to Opening Day of 2014. And I have loved every single moment. You know what else I love? I love surprises. I especially love surprises like Grady Sizemore.

If there was one guy I was rooting for this spring, it was Grady Sizemore. The 31-year-old former Cleveland Indian hasn't played a big league game since September 22, 2011. Yes, 2011. He has been out of major league baseball for more than two full seasons. And now? Well, Red Sox skipper John Farrell has just named Sizemore as the starting center fielder for Opening Day.

Sizemore beat out Jackie Bradley Jr. who started last season's Opening Day, but never fared as well in regular season, big league action than he did in spring training. And Bradley has yet to bounce back and was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket prior to today's game. Sizemore is having an outstanding spring with a .333 batting average in 39 at bats and a home run and he's also made some pretty spectacular catches too!

I feel sort of bad for Bradley though. With the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury, that center field job was most certainly his for the taking. But what a difference a year makes. After batting a staggering .419 in spring training back in 2013, Bradley is batting just a .158 this spring. He never hit over .200 in his short time with the Red Sox last year—it's like something just broke him.

And who knows... maybe Sizemore won't be able to handle the strains of playing every day. I mean shit, he's had like seven surgeries in the past few years and his knees are going to be the issue—if there is one. But if Bradley can't prove he can successfully hit on the major league level, the Sox will have to use someone like Jonny Gomes to take the pressure off Sizemore.

Whatever the case may be... I'll be rooting for Sizemore to do well and stay injury free. This guy truly does deserve a break.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 361: Vince Wilfork is Staying in New England

There are some players that just belong with the New England Patriots. Some that you can't imagine wearing any other colors... a never donning a helmet that doesn't display the Flying Elvis. Tom Brady is one of those guys. I would probably die of heart failure if I ever saw him in a different uniform. And Vince Wilfork is one of those guys too, having been a huge (literally and figuratively) presence on this team since they drafted him in 2004.

The past few weeks have been tumultuous times between the New England Patriots and Vince Wilfork. A couple weeks ago, under the cloud of contract restructuring rumors, Vince decided he wanted to be released. He wanted no part of that restructuring crap—making less money was not appealing to him. But coming off an injury-shortened 2013 season, the Pats were looking to alleviate some of his $11.6 million due in 2014. And then it got real quiet... there was no word from either side... shit was eerily silent.

Then, earlier this week, there was a rumor that Wilfork cleared out his locker and angrily ripped his nameplate off at Gillette Stadium. Whut? What does that mean?? Sounded like Vince was pissed off at everyone and for fans, it appeared his departure was near.

But then... good news today! Recent reports say that the Patriots and Mr. Wilfork have finally found some common ground and have reached an acceptable restructured deal good for both sides. Although the particulars are not available, initial word says it's a 3-year deal worth $22.5 million. That's a pretty good gig for a big fella who turns 33 in November. Just hope that repaired achilles can hold up!

It just wouldn't have been the same without the hulking nose tackle. I'm glad he'll be back... and I think he is too. Vince issued this statement via Twitter:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 360: My March Madness Bracket Blows Up.

There was a time when I felt pretty good about my March Madness bracket. Even though I didn't have any money involved, it was nice to see some of my picks turning out as well as they did—at one point I had 27 wins and only 7 losses... not bad, right? I managed to pick a few upsets correctly which helped, but then we got to the Sweet Sixteen, shit just fell apart.

If you remember correctly from my last March Madness post, my final four consisted of Michigan State, Syracuse, Wichita State and Creighton... yeah, now you know what happened. I basically have one team left in my final four—Michigan State—and I definitely didn't have them in the final, let alone winning it all.

I knew I was in trouble when Syracuse lost to Dayton. There's always that team that goes a little further into the tournament than they're supposed to and this year, it's Dayton. The #11 seed upset #6 Ohio State in the first round, then they sent #3 Syracuse packing in the next round, thereby killing one half of my final two. So now #11 Dayton will play #10 Stanford for a trip to the Elite Eight. But I love an upset so much that I don't even care if it blows up my bracket.

And then there's Wichita State. The #1 seed had quite a season and entered their game against #8 Kentucky at an impressive 35-0. But this tournament isn't called March Madness for nothing. Kentucky beat Wichita State 78-76 to shock the Shockers and force them to realize they're not in Kansas anymore. I will say that the Wichita State pick to win it all was a bold one, but it had to be done. There's no place like home.

Since my final two matchup was Syracuse and Wichita State, my bracket is officially nothing more than a shit catcher in a bird cage. Once I heard the Shockers lost, I immediately stopped watching. Although I'm sure once the basketball comes back on this week, I'll get sucked in again. I'll continue to root for the underdogs but in the end, I just want a great game—one that preferably comes down to the final fraction of a second.

Three of the four #1 seeds are still left in the tournament... I just happened to pick the one that couldn't pull out the win! *sigh*

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 359: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #10 - You're Ready!

Well... it's the final week of the Baseball for Beginners series and here we are at Lesson #10. Hold me. {{sniff sniff}} You've learned about the following areas: Pitchers, Catchers, Infielders, Outfielders, the LineupSome Basic RulesLingoMore Lingo and What Not to Wear. I've tried my best to prepare you newcomers to the game of baseball for all aspects of the game.

My goal at the outset of this series of posts was to hopefully get someone who's never been a fan of baseball, to at least considering giving it a shot. Maybe by knowing more about the game—some of the rules, equipment and, of course, the lingo, you might feel more comfortable heading out to your local team's stadium to take in a game.

You don't have to go to a major league ballpark... some of the best fun you'll have is at a minor league ballpark. The setting is more intimate and it costs a lot less. The minor league players are usually a lot more accessible, especially if you have kids. These still humble guys are cutting their teeth and have yet to be ruined by a big contract. There's no mistake that these guys are working their asses off to try and make it to "the Show"—there's not a ton of money to be made in the minors!

McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI, the home of the Red Sox Triple-A team, has a unique feature. Because their dugouts are built into the wall under the grandstands, fans looking for autographs actually go "fishing." They'll lower the item they would like signed in a bucket and the players can sign the item, tug on the line, and the fans then pull up their newly autographed memorabilia. That would never happen at a major league park.

Be patient with the ballgame though. Baseball isn't the speediest sport around. But the slow pace of the game gives you a chance to enjoy the sights and you also don't run the risk of missing a big play like you do if you're watching hockey or football live. Games can be long. If there's a lot of offense, or the game is tied and goes into extra innings, you might be there for a while—you should set aside a good three to four hour block.

Buy a program so you can get to know the names of the players and can recognize them from their numbers. Try your hand at keeping score for a couple innings on the scorecard provided in the program. It will force you to pay attention to the action, as well as getting you more comfortable with the terminology.

So I think you're ready... grab a beer, some peanuts and cracker jacks, and maybe even a big 'ol sausage bomb (I like to eat a lot at the ballpark) and enjoy the game. And learn this song because most likely, you're going to be required to sing it!
Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd; buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don't care if I never get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don't win, it's a shame. For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out, At the old ball game.
If you do get to a game, let me know how you like it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Day 358: Deal is Done: Ortiz Will Finish Career in Boston

Well, David Ortiz got his way, like he always does. After a bit of a snippy spring where Ortiz, once again, voiced his desire to stay in Boston...for the right price, the Red Sox signed him essentially through 2017. If you're keeping track, Ortiz would turn 42 on November 18, 2017. But they haven't promised the money with no strings attached.

In 2014, Ortiz will make $15 million in the final year of his current two-year contract that was signed in 2012. The original total was $26 million, but with him spending fewer than 20 days on the DL in 2013, he'll earn an additional $4 million for a performance clause. The $15 million due to Ortiz this season ranks as the second highest salary behind Mike Napoli who signed a two-year, $32 million deal in December. The new deal signed on Sunday will pay Big Papi $16 million for the 2015 season. A club/vesting option is in place for 2016 that will kick in if he achieves a certain number of plate appearances, and then there's a club option for 2017.

It helps that the Red Sox will most likely have a number of low-paid players in the line up in 2014—Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks won't even be eligible for salary arbitration until after 2015. Frees up lots of moola for the big man.

I've been in that boat that doesn't necessarily agree with the way the Red Sox front office treats Ortiz differently than other players when it comes to negotiating contracts. In a time when teams just don't offer up $15 million deals to single-faceted players, Big Papi is bucking the trend and getting that big payday. But there's no denying that he's an integral part of the organization and the city of Boston. And it doesn't hurt that his contributions have had an immeasurable impact on the value of the team. Ortiz is the only player on the team who has been a part of all three of the most recent World Series Championships.

Who knows if Ortiz can maintain the same level of performance through the 2017 season, but at least there will come a time where he'll need to achieve some numbers in order to get paid. Maybe he'll even see this move by the team as a sign of respect and he'll stop moaning about it. Now let's just hope the current .057 spring training batting average is just a minor aberration.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 357: 2013 Red Sox Recap: Bearded Band of Brothers

October 30, 2013: "Ninth inning of game six. Two balls, two strikes, two outs. Red Sox lead the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1. Koji ready. He turns on the rubber, the 2-2 home..."

We all know what happened next... something that hadn't transpired in Fenway Park since 1918—a World Series Championship clinching win. It's a moment that gives me full body chills even now five months later.

NESN put together an amazing compilation of the 2013 season's events and subsequent Championship called "Bearded Band of Brothers" that is a must-see for any Red Sox fan. I've had the DVD for months and finally just watched it today. Maybe it's because the start of the new baseball season is just over a week away and the 2014 Red Sox haven't done anything too exciting in spring training. I needed a little pick-me-up, a reminder of what can happen to this team.

I know it's asking a lot for a repeat of the fairytale magic that occurred last year and I know the chances of winning the World Series in back-to-back seasons are somewhat slim, but watching that DVD just reaffirmed what a special team this was and could be again. As long as they continue with the same team-unifying attitude and positive outlook, it could happen.

This video covers everything from those dark days of 2012, to the blockbuster deal with the Dodgers, to the unconventional and controversial players signed in the offseason. Then from that special walk-off win on Patriots Day, to the darkness of the events that happened on the heels of that win, to the week that followed leading up to the capture of the bombers and David Ortiz's heartfelt declaration.

And in the wake of that tragedy, this video documents the never-say-die, fight-till-the-end outlook this team displayed for the rest of that extraordinary season. It seemed like every other night, there was some heroic feat that catapulted them to yet another win. Whether it was a lights out pitching performance, a diving, run-stealing catch, or yet another walk-off win, each and every player contributed to the team's successes at some point.

It was also a season that was defined by many different themes. When Will Middlebrooks innocently hashtagged a tweet following the Marathon bombing with #BostonStrong, it became the motto for the entire city. And let's not forget Koji's post-save high five parade... or the massive horde of players who waited at home plate to excitedly (and sometimes violently) greet every guy responsible for a walk-off win. But most of all, it was the year of the facial hair with beards so long there was quite possibly small, woodland creatures inhabiting them... and where the handshake or ass slap was replaced by a beard tug.

And of course, October and all its glory.

Like most things related to that amazing worst-to-first performance, the DVD made me cry, it made me laugh and it made me smile. I smiled a lot. If you need something to get you pumped up for 2014 Red Sox baseball, click HERE to buy this DVD. Go Sox!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day 356: Yankees Get Taste of Ellsbury's Injury Antics

Baseball players can be real sissies. In my opinion, Jacoby Ellsbury might be the president of that club. I'm not saying all players are wimps. I know plenty that play hurt—hell, Dustin Pedroia seems to be always playing with some type of injury. Or how about Cincinnati Reds pitcher, Aroldis Chapman who was blasted in the eye socket by a line drive last week? They're now saying he'll pitch again this season which blows my mind after seeing the replay. The guy had a steel plate inserted into his head and reports are that he could be throwing a ball in a couple of weeks.

And then you have players like Ellsbury. One of my biggest problems with him when he played for the Red Sox, was his inability to return in a timely fashion from an injury. There is absolutely no sense of urgency for this guy to get back in the lineup which tells me, he's more interested in what's best for him than what's best for the team. Maybe that will do something for his longevity in this game, but dude, come on.

When he hit the free agent market after the 2013 season, I really wondered what type of pay day a guy like him would score. He had two seasons with the Red Sox that were significantly shortened by an injury that I'm convinced wasn't debilitating enough to warrant missing that much time. But then again, I'm not a doctor so who am I to judge... just a sneaking suspicion, I guess. So after the Yankees signed him to seven year, $153 million contract, my first thought was, good friggin' luck getting your money's worth out of that pansy.

The regular season hasn't even started yet and ol' Jacoby is up to his old tricks. He hasn't played in a spring training game since March 14th because of tightness in his right calf. He had an MRI late last week and then tested it out the following day by doing some light running and hopes to be back in the lineup on Tuesday. He hopes... you know, if there's absolutely not even one tiny little twinge of pain. Although there were reports that he said if it was the regular season, he coooooould play. Douche.

Oh Jacoby, I'm sorry you're such a wuss. But I'm not sorry you're playing for a different team this year. Your their problem now.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 355: They Don't Call it March Madness for Nothing.

Every year I claim that I won't give two minutes to March Madness. I don't like basketball and I don't care about this tournament. I say I won't fill out a bracket or enter a pool. Come mid, March, I plan to shun all things college hoops. I don't watch it during the regular season and I know nothing about any of the teams, so why would I watch now?

But I was just fooling myself.

Like several millions of other crazies, I got sucked into that stupid Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge on Yahoo. I foolishly thought I had a chance of winning Warren Buffett's $1 billion prize. (Ok... I didn't really, but a girl can dream, right?) I'm not going to lie, I didn't spend more than two or three minutes filling out the bracket—since I have no idea about any of the teams, it was all a great big crapshoot. But obviously, that first loss stung... my dreams of being a billionaire were dashed by Ohio State. Jerks.

So now... I'm obsessed. But I'm obsessed with watching just the last two minutes of the games. Since I'm not really a fan of the game of basketball, the thought of watching a game early in the first half when the score still sits in the single digits, makes me sort of want to kill myself. I'm happy if I can turn it on with two minutes or less in the game—and it's even better if the game is close. At this moment, the Cal Poly vs. Wichita State game is on and boy is it booooo-ring. It's not even a wee bit close. Guess I'll switch over to North Carolina vs. Providence match up...

I've had some moments that have been lucky guesses, perhaps. I did pick Harvard to beat Cincinnati and Stanford over New Mexico. That Mercer win over Duke this afternoon was awesome—even though I didn't pick them. Duke is annoying. And with Tennessee's commanding win over UMass, well, that bracket is pretty much blown and can only be rescued by Michigan.

My final four: Syracuse vs. Michigan State AND Wichita State vs. Creighton

My final two: Syracuse vs. Wichita State

My National Champion: Wichita State

Let's see how this all shakes out. I have absolutely no chance at winning any money and usually, the only way you can get me to watch basketball is to dangle cash in front of my face, so I'm not sure what's wrong with me! It's MAD I tell you!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 354: Slugger the Sea Dog Plans a Walk for Tourettes

Slugger, the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs furry, seafaring mascot is taking his act on the road. If you're a fan of the Sea Dogs, you're familiar with Slugger's antics—his resounding rendition of YMCA, his never ending failure to beat those little kids in a race around the bases, and his general presence at the ballpark during every home game. He's sort of a wise ass too. I can't tell you how many times he's stuck his grimy paw (flipper?) into my french fries rendering them inedible.

On May 7th, Slugger turns 20... it's hard to believe that the Sea Dogs have been in Portland for 20 years! Seems like just yesterday I was standing in line in the wee hours of the morning in front of an unfinished Hadlock Field, desperate to score some inaugural Opening Day tickets. (I did... it was cold.) But it's been two decades and two major league parent teams, but Slugger hasn't aged a bit.

To commemorate his 20th birthday, Slugger is planning a bit of a walk. On May 4th at 12pm, just before the Red Sox host the Oakland A's, he'll depart Fenway Park and begin his walk back home to Hadlock Field. Boston to Portland. 114 miles. He plans to arrive back home by May 8th in time for that evening's game.

But Slugger isn't doing this just for the exercise. He's not doing it because he can't drive. He's embarking on this walk to raise money for Tourette's related non-profits including Tourette's Syndrome Association for their Youth Ambassador Program and Camp Twitch and Shout. Tourette's is a neurobiological disorder characterized by involuntary sudden movements and vocalizations, known as tics. Slugger's goal is to raise $20,000 in honor of his 20th birthday.

If you would like to help him reach his goal, donations can be made by clicking HERE, and everyone who donates will receive a special gift from Slugger.

If you would like to follow Slugger's journey in early May, you can follow him on Twitter at @Slugger_SeaDog. And no worries, some radio folks will be catching up with live interviews with his trainer during the walk. I just hope he doesn't become weak being out of the water for that long...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 353: Bruins On a Roll... Winners of 10 Straight.

I'm going to apologize right now to all you die hard Bruins fans. All of you who religiously watch each and every game and live and die by the black and gold. I'm apologizing because I'm afraid by writing of their recent winning streak, I'm going to jinx them. But I can't help myself—they've been so awesome, they deserve to be revered.

I do love Bruins hockey, but I haven't been as loyal as some of you—I can think of a couple of family members for sure who rarely miss a B's game. I do enjoy their passion on social media while watching. It wasn't until this morning that I actually realized what was going on. The Bruins have won 10 straight games and are 10-1 in the month of March—the last time they won 10 straight was November of 2011. They've outscored their opponents 41-15 (if I've added correctly) in those 10 wins and sit comfortably atop the Atlantic Division with 99 points. The stand second in the NHL behind only the St. Louis Blues who have 101 points. Color me impressed.

Tuukka Rask is tied for second in the NHL with a 2.07 goals against average as well as in save percentage with a .929 average. Rask leads all goalies in shutouts with six. The Bruins have four players in the top 10 overall for plus/minus with Patrice Bergeron #1 at +34, followed by David Krejci at +33, but only Krejci cracks the top 10 in scoring, sitting with the tenth most assists. He leads the team in scoring with 60 points. Sounds to me like this team likes to spread the wealth! It's good not to rely on just one guy, right?

Jarome Iginla, who passed up a chance to play with the Bruins last season and went to Pittsburgh instead for a better chance to win the Cup, continues to build on what was already a Hall of Fame career. On March 17th, he played in his 1300th career game where he scored two goals and recorded his 14th 25-goal season. A night later he scored to reach 556 goals tying him for 25th on the all-time goals list and is one of only six Bruins to play in every game so far this season. I wonder what would've been if he had joined the B's last year instead...

And it's not like they've had an easy schedule. Tuesday's game, their 10th straight win, was the fifth game in seven days. They played three games in four days and two games in a row. That has to be exhausting! They get a bit of a two-day breather this week with their next match not scheduled until Friday when they'll travel out to Colorado to face the Avalanche. I guess I know what I'm doing Friday night.

Friday's game will be the real test of my jinxing abilities. If they win, I'm in the clear. If they lose, I will no longer be allowed to write about the Bruins. Don't poke the bear... DON'T POKE THE BEAR!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day 352: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #9 - Dress the Part

Just two lessons left which means that the Balls of All Sizes quest is nearing its finale—just 13 days left. Up until now, Baseball for Beginners has covered the following areas: Pitchers, Catchers, Infielders, Outfielders, the LineupSome Basic RulesLingo and More Lingo. I'm sure I could do another half dozen posts on baseball lingo, but I figured you have enough to get you started and make you sound like you know what you're doing.

One of the most important lessons for new female baseball fans is the wardrobe. And we're not so much talking about what the players are wearing on the field. They were uniforms, by the way... not costumes or outfits. What I'm talking about is what you are wearing to the ballpark.

If you plan on attending a few games, please just purchase a hat. It's a pretty inexpensive item and can serve dual purposes. The hat can show your allegiance to your team, but also keep the sun out of your eyes if you're enjoying a day game in the bleachers. However... please, PLEASE never, EVER purchase a pink hat. If you're not under the age of five, this is not allowed. There's not much that screams "I have no friggin' idea what I'm doing" more than the pink hat.

Sometimes you might hear someone referred to as a "pink hat." This is not a compliment. Urban Dictionary defines a "pink hat" as "an over zealous, typically female fan of a recently successful local pro sports franchise. Characterized by the brand spanking new, officially licensed pink team hat. Typically spends the majority of the game chatting on cell phone, waving to TV camera, asking idiotic questions, and being a stupid, annoying nuisance in general." If you're trying to be a respectable, new baseball fan, steer clear of the pink hats. Don't let this happen to you!

There's no law that says you must wear a team-inspired t-shirt. But if you're next purchase happens to be a shirt, the choices are endless. I try to stay away from shirts with players' names on the back strictly because it bugs the shit out of me when you see a person sitting in Fenway Park wearing a NIXON jersey when Trot Nixon hasn't played for the Red Sox since 2006. The only exception are #8 Yastrzemski or #9 Williams shirts—or anyone else who played the majority of their career AND retired while with the Sox. (If you're not a Red Sox fan, this applies to your local team too!)

However... I would rather have you buy a shirt with someone's name on the back than a shirt that has any type of embellishment or bedazzles. Victoria's Secret has a PINK sports gear line that is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life. Click on the link HERE to view the absurdity, but please refrain from purchasing anything from this website. If the shirt sparkles or glitters, put it down and walk away from it... fast. I know there's a lot of gear made specifically for women. If you must buy it, go ahead. Just please make sure it won't blind someone when the sun hits it, and it displays the team colors.

Just follow these simple rules in clothing yourself for a trip to the ballpark and now one gets hurt. And I'll definitely let you sit next to me!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 351: Sox Score St. Paddy's Day Spring Win

Opening Day is exactly two weeks away. TWO WEEKS! Is it just me or has this spring training absolutely crawled by? Or wait, maybe it's because this winter has been never ending and all I want is to see some green grass and some dirt and some friggin' baseball. The temperature is supposed to bottom out at -2˚ overnight. That's just ridiculous. RIDICULOUS! It's mid-March for crying out loud. I'm not sure the snow is going to melt in time for baseball to happen in northern New England.

But I digress... the Red Sox have won six of their last ten spring training game so thing are looking up... sort of.

The Red Sox celebrated St. Patrick's Day with green uniforms and a nice 10-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. And there were even a few fireworks. Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Lavarnway all launched home runs, while Grady Sizemore went 3-for-4 in the leadoff position making a bid for a starting job come March 31st. Napoli and Pedey both had three RBIs to lead the scoring.

It's nice to see Sizemore have success with the Red Sox—he's currently batting .381 in Grapefruit League play. If you remember, Sizemore has struggled with injuries over the past few years which forced him to sit out of baseball completely in 2012 and 2013. In addition to his strong offensive outing, he also made two spectacular catches—one as he crashed into the wall, the other a diving catch that saved what would surely have been a run-scoring double. Click HERE to see both catches!

Unfortunately, Sox starter John Lackey did not have the best day on the mound. In five innings, he game up five earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts and two walks. He managed to walk away with the win (saved by the bats), but in the spring, his ERA is a whopping 9.39. The bullpen held the lead and Koji Uehara continues his scoreless spring. (Ok, so he's only pitched four innings...)

Well... I can't wait for this season to start and I've already marked myself off on the calendar at work for the afternoon of the 31st so I can sit back, relax and enjoy the Opening Day festivities! 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Day 350: Patriots Sign Edelman and Two Brandons

Geez, I go away for the weekend and what happens? The Patriots start signing guys left and right. And here I was up in the boonies with no laptop! Oh well... more good news out of Foxboro so I guess that's the important thing.

When I heard that Julian Edelman was meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, I broke out into a cold sweat. I had horrible visions of a repeat of last off-season when Tom Brady's favorite target, Wes Welker, left the New England Patriots for a Rocky Mountain high. Edelman had taken over Welker's role as that pesky slot receiver that Brady just loved to hit over the middle. They couldn't lose Edelman too. He caught 105 passes which was the fourth most in the NFL last season, and led the NFL with 53 catches over the final six games of the regular season.

But fear not, there won't be another Welker drama. The Patriots and Julian Edelman agreed to a new contract on Saturday, but as it stands right now, the details of the deal have not been made public. I thought I saw somewhere that it was a three-year deal but I can't actually confirm that anywhere and I possibly just made that up. Who cares... I'm just happy they got a deal done and we're not faced with another situation.

I reported in Friday's post that there were rumors that the Pats were interested in signing Seattle Seahawks corner, Brandon Browner—a recent member of that Legion of Boom thingy. Those rumors are now the truth. New England signed the former Seahawk on Saturday to a reported three-year, $17.5 million contract. Browner, who just came off a Super Bowl Championship season, will be serving a suspension to start the 2014 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. But all in all, he seems pleased with the opportunity to play in New England.
Today, I am proud to announce that I am a New England Patriot. I am honored that the Patriots are making me part of their legendary organization, and am grateful for the opportunity Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, Nick Caserio and the entire team have given me. I intend to diligently work with the same passion and dedication that I have displayed since coming into the NFL to uphold the great traditions and qualities that are embodied by the Patriots. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Seattle Seahawks for giving a CFL player the once in-a-lifetime opportunity to return to the NFL, making a young boy's dream come true. To Coach Pete Carroll, GM John Schneider, John Idzik, Coach Richard, Rocky Seto, the LOB, my teammates, the training staff, the equipment guys the Seahawks organization as a whole and most importantly the 12th Man, I say thank you for everything you have done for myself and my family. I am a truly blessed person.
The Patriots also locked up another target for Tom Brady, signing former Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell. At 6 feet 2 inches and 210 pounds, LaFell will give the Patriots' receiving core some much-needed size. He caught 49 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns while starting all 16 games. He caught more passes than Kenbrell Thompkins (32) and Aaron Dobson (37) so I think if he studies that Patriots playbook hard, he could be very successful in New England.

It also doesn't appear that the Patriots are stopping just yet. They're scheduled to meet with former Tennessee Titan wide receiver, Kenny Britt. The 25-year-old Rutgers product caught just 11 passes for 96 yards in 12 games in 2013. Britt was with Tennessee for five seasons and in that time, caught a total of 157 passes for 2,450 yards and he was a first round draft pick in 2009. More importantly, Britt has size—at 6 feet 3 inches and 215 pounds, he would be the biggest wide receiver on the team by about six pounds.

Things are looking good for the Patriots for the upcoming season—now we just need to keep all these guys healthy! And if Gronk comes back in good shape and doesn't get broken again... oh, boy!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 349: A Most Incredible Buzzer Beater

For those of you who have been loyal readers of Balls of All Sizes, you know I'm not a big basketball fan, so it must have been pretty damn cool for me to want to write about it. So here's something you just have to see to believe. Two high schools in Michigan squared off for their Class D regional final and what transpired could be the best buzzer beater I've ever seen. I dare you to watch it just once!!

With just 0.8 seconds left on the clock, the Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart team was down by one with almost no chance to pull out the win. And I'm sure the opposing team, Middleton Fulton High was thinking they just needed to get a finger on that ball to ensure their victory—surely nothing crazy could happen with less than a second on the clock. But oh how wrong that assumption would be.

Just the in-bound throw was impressive enough, so for the whole play to work without a hitch was pretty freaking amazing.

If you're not quite sure what you just witnessed, here's a recap. The player inbounding the ball fired it towards the backboard where it ricocheted off the glass, bounced once off the floor falling right into the hands of one of his teammates who waited just beyond the 3-point line. He grabbed the ball and immediately fired up a hail Mary that just barely went in. Mt. Pleasant wins 49-47.

And the crowd goes bananas!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 348: Hello, Mr. Revis... Good-bye, Mr. Wilfork?

Lots of things happening with the New England Patriots right now—some good, some not so much. So do you want the good news or the bad news? I guess I'll start with the good so you'll be all happy and won't care when I drop the bad news bomb on you. We all know that in the past few years, the Patriots have struggled to field a respectable secondary. Sure, Aqib Talib provided strength on the left side, but in his season and a half with the Pats, he failed to play in every game.

So in an effort to do a better job taking away that deep threat for the opposing teams, the Patriots were able to get at least one big name and they could possibly get two. Darrelle Revis is the good news. I never thought I'd ever be writing those words. When he played for the Jets, I despised him and his Revis Island. I wanted nothing more than for him to disappear. But then he showed up on the radar—a free agent, looking for a home—a home that would give him a chance to win and get his name back in the spotlight. He signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Pats.

There's also a rumor that the Patriots have been in talks with former Seattle Seahawks corner, Brandon Browner. The recent Super Bowl champion had previously been with Seattle for two seasons and played a big role in the Legion of Boom with Richard Sherman. No deal has been reported as of this posting, but Twitter is all a buzz with whispers that he cancelled his trip from Boston to DC to talk to the Redskins. Hmmm... Patriots... Redskins... is there really a question?

Now for some bad (or maybe it's just sad) news. Long-time Patriots' tackle, Vince Wilfork, has asked to be released. Wilfork has been with the Patriots his entire 10-year career and is currently in the last year of his most recent five-year contract and the Pats are asking him to restructure his deal to make room under the salary cap to sign some more big names—essentially some help for him. It's obvious that the Pats are putting forth their best effort to get Tom Brady another Super Bowl victory before he retires but Vince isn't interested in restructuring. So now he just wants to go...

It's understandable that he would feel slighted and wants to see what else is out there for him. He's coming off an injury-shortened season and he's 32 (old for a tackle). He's not at his most marketable right now. But he's been a run-stopping machine before and some other team might value his past performances enough to give him what he wants. We shall see where he lands.

Reports today also say that Patriots' wide receiver (and Bay area native), Julian Edelman, is currently meeting with the San Francisco 49ers. I don't like this. There has been no sign of any free agent receivers making the trip to New England so I'm sure I'm not the only Pats fan a bit nervous right now that we're going to see another Welker-like situation that leaves Brady with very few targets. Both Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks are available, but neither have been seen talking with the Pats. I think one of those guys would make a great addition to the receiving core that also includes Edelman so let's not screw this up, Bill.

So there's still a lot of work to be done and, for the most part, it looks like the Patriots can't and won't make everyone happy. You know what would make me happy? That elusive, fourth Super Bowl win. Let's get that done.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day 347: David Oritz... Get Over Yourself.

There's a pretty telling article written by Rob Bradford on today where Rob sits down with David Ortiz. Ortiz is evidently feeling some pressure to perform these days. At 38 years old, the Red Sox still continue to put an enormous amount of faith and trust into Ortiz's ability to still crush the ball and make opposing pitchers very afraid. That's why they also keep on paying him a pretty hefty salary for his designated hitter services—something that most teams don't do anymore.

Lately, Big Papi has been quite vocal about his current contract status. He's entering the final year of a two-year, $30 million contract and is concerned that if he doesn't come to some kind of agreement with the team either during spring training or early in the season, the front office's lack of respect is going to force him to entertain other offers. As a fan, I despise public contract negotiations and disputes and whining. One side of me says just pay the guy what he wants—he's not going to be playing for that much longer. But the other side of me just wants the team to call his bluff and not bow to his demands.

So back to this article that Bradford wrote... if you don't feel like reading it, the gist is that Ortiz feels like the Red Sox are not doing anything to protect him in the line up. He's not getting ample opportunity to hit the ball. Last season, he was intentionally walked a career high 27 times in the regular season due mainly to the fact that there wasn't a big deep ball threat behind him. Or in front of him for that matter.
"It's not always going to be about me. I saw last year. Last year, game on the line, late in the game, go to first base. They pitch around you to see if you chase. Nope? Go to first base. I've been through that since Day 1. But last year was even more different. How long am I going to be able to do what I do and be that locked? I don't know. It wears you out -- in my case, I know I do nothing but hit, but to stay that focused and not try to get out of the strike zone."
It sounds to me like maybe Ortiz is setting us up for something. Maybe if he voices his worries about not having more threatening batters around him, when he fails, it won't be his fault. Or how about this? I think this is yet another ploy in his contract negotiations. The team puts so much pressure on him as a player and a leader to carry this team that if they don't back that up with a hefty raise, maybe he'll get a little tired in July, pull a Manny and take a couple days off.
"I'll give it a try, but I don't think there's a baseball player that has lived through this pressure at my age. Think about it. Guys my age are supposed to be complementary players. Nobody signs guys my age to be 'The Man.' If you look at every team, 'The Man' are guys in their prime. Because it's hard. It's hard. I don't take anything for granted. I go at it every day. But living through the pressure, having to be the man every day, at this stage, when everybody is asking you when you're going to retire ..."
If I were his teammates, I think I would take offense to this interview. He has basically said that he's the only guy out of the nine that can produce—that all the pressure is on him. Ok... so maybe that was true in the World Series last year where he essentially carried the team by batting a staggering .688 but bitch, please... let's not get too big for your already too big britches.

Oh, I don't know. Maybe I'm being too hard on him. Maybe I'm reading too far into this recent diatribe. Or maybe I'm just tired of all the money talk in sports and these grown men who play for a living and make millions of dollars doing it, just bitch and whine over money and respect. (I wonder if that would work for me?)

I still love the guy and if anything, the last 11 seasons have been more enjoyable because of him. Except 2012—there was absolutely nothing enjoyable about that season.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 346: NFL Free Agency: It's Not Good for the Blood Pressure

All day my guts have been in a twist. I've been anxious and short with people and just sort of an all-around douche. At first, I couldn't figure out what was eating at me. And then I realized it was the stupid NFL free agency that's got my undies in a bundle. It's just downright nerve wracking.

It's even more of a killer when your favorite team *cough* New England Patriots *cough* has been virtually silent and has only managed to lose players. I was never a real Aqib Talib fan but shit, if they're going to let a guy like that go, they damn well better have someone just as good, if not better in the wings. That did NOT happen last season when Wes Welker jetted off to Denver and Tom Brady was left with a collection of mediocre receivers. So you can totally understand why I'd be a little gun shy.

So with Talib gone and Julian Edelman also hitting the free agent market, I'm definitely shaking in my boots. Despite winning the AFC East (which basically a team of chimps could've done last year), the Patriots are still riddled with holes. Edelman needs to be a priority. He was the only solid, consistent receiver last season with 105 catches. He managed to escape serious injury and provided Brady with a pretty stable (albeit vertically challenged) target. Even if they manage to get him to stay, they could still use another durable receiver to take some pressure off. Why are the Pats not on the radar for Eric Decker? Spend some money, for crying out loud!

But honestly, what's really making me crazy is the Darrelle Revis situation. The Tampa Bay Bucs released Revis today making him the #1 free agent right now and there are a lot of teams looking at him. The Patriots, Eagles, Jets, Giants and Falcons have all expressed interest in the five-time Pro Bowler. I just hope that Revis is taking into consideration which team he'll have the best chance of getting to the playoffs with (hint, hint)—in addition to the money, of course. Can't forget about the cashola!

Please oh please Mr. Belichick and Mr. Kraft... bring Revis Island to New England!!

THIS JUST IN: DARRELLE REVIS TO THE PATRIOTS!! ONE YEAR, $12 MILLION!! They must have heard my pleas!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 345: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #8 - More Lingo!

Only a couple weeks left to learn (almost) everything you need know to be the best baseball fan ever! So far, Baseball for Beginners has covered the following important areas: Pitchers, Catchers, Infielders, Outfielders, the LineupSome Basic Rules and the Lingo. Let's be serious here... if you haven't been following right along, you might be screwed. The baseball season opens in approximately 20 days (depending on where you live) and you've got some reading to do!

There's really so much slang in baseball that one post just barely scratched the surface. Every aspect of the game—from pitching to hitting to fielding—has some special term associated with it. From a simple single, also called a base knock, to a frozen rope or hard hit line drive, to a shot up the middle (through the middle of the infield), there are a variety of different types of hits. A gapper hit between two outfielders could mean two bases, and sometimes even three.

But there's no hit in baseball that has more awesome names than a home run. If you ask me, it makes it that much more fun when you're sitting in the stands and the guy up to bat hits a dinger—it might even be a moon shot (a high, towering shot.) You could hear fans around you refer to it as a four bagger... you know, because the player gets to run around the bases or four bags. Or they might say, "he went yard."

One of the most dramatic round-trippers in baseball happens when the bases are juiced or loaded, meaning there's a runner on each bag. That's called a grand slam or grand salami! My favorite recent grand salami happened last October... watch and enjoy! Ahhhhhh... While it wasn't a tape measure shot (a very long home run), it was certainly a special one. Even that cop in the bullpen thought so.


That long ball by Big Papi didn't win the game, but it did tie it up giving them a fighting chance. The Red Sox ended up winning this one with a walk off single (a hit that wins the game in the final at bat for the home team.) It really was one of the best games ever!!

Here's hoping for more of the same in 2014!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 344: This Pistorius Dude is a Total Faker

Not too long ago, I admired Oscar Pistorius when he became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics... and I'm talking the regular Olympics, not the Paralympics. Some claimed his special prosthetic legs called the Flex Foot Cheetah (shit, that even sounds fast) gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes. While he's a six-time gold medalist in the Paralympic games, he failed to medal in the 2012 London games so they can't be that much of an advantage. 

Just over a year ago, in the wee morning hours, Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend. If you remember correctly, he claimed he thought she was still in bed and it was actually an intruder in the bathroom. The prosecution stated that he got out of bed, put on his prosthetic legs and walked to the bathroom door and shot several times, knowing that it was his girlfriend in there, making the murder premeditated. Witnesses say they heard a woman screaming followed by more gun shots. Pistorius says he never put this legs on but the angle of the shots fired tell a different story.

So now over a year later, the murder trial is under way in his home country of South Africa. It has been reported that Pistorius has spent the majority of the trial with his hands over his ears like a petulant three-year-old who has been asked to eat his green beans. I have a little bit of advice for the "Blade Runner"... if you don't want to hear about how and where your girlfriend was fatally shot, maybe you shouldn't have offed her in the first place.

If the covering of the ears wasn't comical enough, this week it has been reported that Pistorius has been weeping and even vomiting as the pathologist recounts the autopsy findings. I'm convinced he's not crying and puking because he feels bad about what has happened to this poor woman. Nope... he's carrying on like this because he knows he is totally screwed and he's going to have to spend the rest of his life in some vile South African prison—a thought that would make anyone vomit.

From the sounds of it, the evidence is piling up fast on the gun-toting, 27-year-old runner which is probably another reason why he's been sobbing uncontrollably. I'll be surprised if he gets out of this one. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 343: The Rarely Seen Locker Monster

I had a movie date with my nearly three-year-old niece today and we watched Monsters, Inc. I haven't seen this film in a long time and this was a first time for her so it was quite fun to watch it again and watch her reaction. So needless to say, I've had my fair share of scary monsters today.

Then I'm perusing the interwebs and happen across a video taken in the LA Dodgers' locker room. In the video, Juan Uribe falls victim to a prank by his teammate, Hanley Ramirez. You might wonder why I'm talking about an animated movie about monsters and a couple Dodgers players. Well, watch the video and you'll know. Looks like Ramirez could give James P. Sullivan a run for his money.

It also looks like Uribe wasn't the only one punked. The camera man, who know exactly what was going to happen, got in on the action. I probably would've peed my pants. My favorite part of the video is Uribe's reaction...


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 342: Baseball's Bad Habit: Smokeless Tobacco

Chewing (or smokeless) tobacco is some bad shit. These days there aren't many people who don't know this. With all the health warnings and education on its dangers, it's surprising that anyone would be stupid enough to put this crap in their mouth. Plus, it's just gross. Despite an effort a couple years ago to ban it from major league baseball completely (which was shot down by the player's union), it's still quite prevalent among players—including over a third of men reporting to Red Sox spring training this year.

There are 28 cancer causing carcinogens in smokeless tobacco. Many of those ingredients are quite recognizable—and most certainly are not things you would normally put in your mouth. So it just boggles my mind why people still use it? Arsenic and Cyanide are both poisons. Cadmium is found in car batteries. Formaldehyde is used to embalm the dead. Uranium 235 is used in nuclear weapons and Polonium is a nuclear waste product. Fiberglass and sand are included to help rough up the inside of the mouth and get the nicotine into the bloodstream faster. And let's not forget sugar because why not make it taste sweet too... you know, for the children.

Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe wrote an article this past week about why it's so hard to shake this disgusting habit. It's a really interesting and telling story and on one hand, you feel for the Boston players who are locked into using it because it's part of their routine. But on the other hand, you just want to smack them for being so ignorant and stubborn. Some guys picked up the habit years ago while in the minor leagues and can't seem to shake it. Now, smokeless tobacco is banned in minor league baseball, but according to some current MiLB players, that ban is only loosely enforced.

Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is one veteran who can't seem to shake his dependency. The pinch of tobacco in his cheek is as much a part of his at-bat routine as spitting in his batting glove and slapping his hands together before digging in to the batter's box.
“I use it as a stimulator when I go to hit,” Ortiz said. “But the minute I finish my at-bat I spit it out. It keeps me smooth and puts me in a good mood. I don’t do it in the offseason. I don’t really like it that much, to be honest with you.”
It's a nasty habit and no member of the Red Sox will tell you otherwise. Most of the players that are suffering from addiction to smokeless tobacco say that they would quit if their family asked them to or if they thought they could without it affecting their game. Now it's silly to say that the use of smokeless tobacco actually can determine how well a guy plays the game, but some say it would be hard not to blame a slump on giving up the chaw.

There is one Boston player who said he didn't want to quit using chewing tobacco—outfielder, Jonny Gomes. He told Peter Abraham that he would quit if his family wanted him to.
“The kids aren’t old enough to realize what’s going on," Gomes said. "People are baffled I don’t do it in the offseason because I do it all the time when we’re playing. But I don’t have an addictive personality. There’s just something about it that goes with baseball. There’s something attached to hitting. I can’t describe it. Once I stop playing, I’ll never do it again. I know it’s a bad idea.”
Like Gomes, most players interviewed said they use smokeless tobacco only during the season and also claim that once they're done playing baseball, they'll never touch the stuff again. They all know how damaging it is—just ask former San Diego Padres star Tony Gwynn who battled mouth cancer back in 2012. My hope is that all these guys quit in time to avoid any long-term effects.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 341: Marlins Moan Over Lack of Red Sox Stars

This might be my most favorite story from spring training so far. We learned some things about the Miami Marlins organization this week. We learned that they're a bunch of whiny bitches. And we learned that they're greedy and like to cheat their fans. And we also learned that they are a pretty horrible team.

Why are they whiny bitches, you might ask? The Red Sox traveled to Jupiter, FL on Thursday for a game against the Marlins. Now this is a pretty far drive for an exhibition game—about two and a half hours—and the organization did not send one starting player from the 2013 team to play. The closest they got were two minor leaguers that saw some time in Boston—Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ryan Lavarnway. The Marlins were pissed that they didn't get at least the MLB-required minimum of four major league roster players. Miami brass took to the press to express their displeasure with the situation which made them look like, well, you know, whiny bitches.

And how could they be cheating their fans? Because the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox were coming to town for a game (an exhibition game, mind you), the Marlins thought this was their chance to make a few extra bucks. They charged their fans "super premium pricing" for the tickets which means that fans were paying $8-$12 more than the regular pricing. All for the chance to see David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia or Shane Victorino play for a couple innings? Well, none of those stars showed up and now it just looks like the Miami organization is a bunch of money grubbers that like to gouge their fans. But if you ask them, it's Boston's fault.

The Marlins were a pretty horrible team in 2013. Their 62-100 record was only better than one other team in all of baseball. Basically, they have no stars to attract fans so they need to rely on their opponents to draw in the crowds. But then they bitch and complain that the Red Sox didn't hold up their end of the bargain when they sent their minor league squad. So here's the deal... if the Sox sent what essentially turned out to be Pawtucket to play, and the Marlins fielded their required four major leaguers, how is it that the game ended in a 0-0 tie? I guess the Marlins must just plain suck.

Basically, the only guy on the field who played regularly on that 2013 Championship team was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and he plays for the Marlins now. I feel bad for him... he now works for a bunch of chumps. And will probably never hoist another World Series trophy for the rest of his career—at least not if he stays in southern Florida.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 340: Will Stephen Drew Be Missed?

I've spent most of this winter wondering what was going to happen to poor Stephen Drew and where he was going to land. If you remember, Drew was advised by his douchebag agent, Scott Boras, to turn down Boston's one-year qualifying offer of $14 million. Boras was sure that Drew could land a multi-year deal somewhere else and off they went. Well, the start of the 2014 season is less than a month away and Drew remains unsigned.

Wondering why I'm talking about a guy who's not even on the team? To be honest, I could care less about Stephen Drew. He was never one of my favorites—and maybe that stems from how much I despised his brother, JD. I always felt he didn't belong on this team, never appearing to have the same attitude as the rest of the bearded band of brothers. Sure, he was pretty great in the field and even more so defensively in the postseason, but he was lacking as an offensive player and eked out just six hits in October.

So what? Drew doesn't return to the team and that'll be ok because there's a slick, 21-year-old Aruban waiting in the wings to take that position for himself. In his short time with the Red Sox in 2013, Xander Bogaerts split his time between third base and shortstop. He played just 17 games at the big league level during the regular season but it feels like he's been there forever. Bogaerts was called up in late August, but played such an integral role in both play down the stretch and the postseason that it's hard to imagine him not succeeding this season.

By not signing Stephen Drew, the Red Sox have put their trust in two youngsters to patrol the left side of the infield. Will Middlebrooks, who was born the year I graduated from high school, struggled last year through slumps and even spent some time in Triple-A to deal with his issues. Sure, he's put on 30 pounds of muscle, but will that translate into more consistent hitting and better range in the infield? And Bogaerts, who was born the year I graduated from college (god, I'm old), is having a pretty solid spring so far but if you remember, Jackie Bradley Jr's successful spring in 2013 didn't carry over when the team headed north.

But there's still a few weeks of spring training to go and you never know, some other young infielder could impress the coaches and find themselves trotting out onto the field at Fenway Park on April 4th. I know I run the risk of sounding greedy by saying this, but it would be very cool to see a young phenom make a big name for himself in a Boston uniform this season. Maybe it will be Xander and we'll all be asking, "Stephen who?"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 339: Should I Be Worried, Red Sox?

When the 2013 season started for the Boston Red Sox, I was genuinely worried. I had no idea what was going to happen after such a horrific previous season. I didn't expect much—and would've been happy with a .500 record and for them to regain some semblance of class and team chemistry. So to say 2013 exceeded my expectations would be an understatement.

Now that the start of 2014 is just around the corner, I have to wonder what this year will bring. The returning team is missing a few key players from the '13 campaign, but has also gained a few guys that could make a difference. They're ready to put their World Series Championship behind them and move forward—turn the page and put their focus solely on the task ahead. That task? Repeating last year's outcome.

If the first six games of Grapefruit League play are any indication of how the regular season will go, they're in trouble. The Red Sox are just 1-5 so far in Spring Training play. But maybe this is just me being a paranoid fan. Maybe I'm just a little gun shy, afraid that those demons of years past will wrap their dirty hands around this team and choke the life out of them. Or maybe I'm being completely ridiculous and I just have to have confidence that the guys on this team would never let something like that happen.

I do have a little concern with the number of runs they've been giving up in these preseason games, averaging just over seven runs per game. I feel silly nitpicking about this—I understand that spring training is all trial and error. Guys need a chance to prove themselves and the staff needs a chance to evaluate the talent. But geez... it's a little nerve wracking.

I just need to pull it together and have confidence in the team, I guess. This team is confident. I should trust them to get the job done. Positive thoughts!! World Series or bust? Forget I said that, I don't want to jinx anything!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 338: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #7 - The Lingo

Greetings future baseball fans! If you've been following right along, you know that Baseball for Beginners has covered the following areas: Pitchers, Catchers, Infielders, Outfielders, the Lineup and Some Basic Rules. If you're not all caught up, then you better set aside some reading time!

This week, I'm going to be discussing the lingo. Baseball is full of slang and funny words that the average non-baseball person might not understand. I'm here to help. There's a ton of baseball lingo so I'm going so start with terms pertaining to the pitcher and catcher—or The Battery. (That was your first term right there!) These baseball folks have a word for everything!

While the pitcher stands on The Hill (pitcher's mound), he's often said to be Toeing the Slab. His mission: to get those pesky batters out. If the pitcher is left handed, he's a South Paw. While some would think it's an insult to yell "pitcher's got a Rubber Arm," it's actually not because that just means his arm never gets tired.

Pitchers are often said to have a Gun... and I don't mean a firearm. It's just a strong throwing arm. A Hurler who has a Live Arm can throw Smoke (high velocity pitches) until the cows come home! He'll throw the Heater (fastball) right by a batter. But sometimes he might throw some Junk (sinker, forkball, screwball) or Take Something Off The Pitch to keep the batters on their toes. Other times, if the pitcher is ahead in the Count (number of balls and strikes), he might try to Waste a Pitch and throw some High Heat (high fastball) attempting to get the batter to swing at a pitch out of the strike zone.

My favorite of all the pitches is the curveball. It's an Uncle Charlie, a Hook that basically drops out of the strike zone 12-6 (like on the clock)—not the easiest pitch to hit. A good Bender will fool the best of the hitters when the Bottom Drops Out. And then there are those times when his stuff just isn't working and he ends up throwing a big, fat Meat Ball that ends up in the stands for a home run. Meat Balls are bad.

Sometimes pitchers are forced to pitch defensively to keep the guy at the Dish (home plate) honest. Maybe he's leaning in too far and Crowding the Plate... the pitcher might throw some Chin Music (a pitch that buzzes a player's face) to back him off. Or he might Handcuff the batter to make it difficult for him to make a full swing. There might also be a situation when maybe a player has been a little too good at the plate and the guy on the mound if forced to either Pitch Around the Hitter (intentionally throw bad pitches so he has nothing to hit) or he might Drill or Plunk (hit by pitch) that batter to teach him a lesson.

Getting Shelled is bad. It means the pitcher has given up a lot of runs. You don't want this to happen. His main purpose is to get guys out and the best way—a Punch Out (no, not fisticuffs, it's a strikeout.) And hopefully he can Ring Up three guys in a row by making them Whiff (swing and miss) and Strike Out the Side (strikeout all three batters in one inning.)

See? Lots of lingo to learn and there's still so much more to go. Try watching some spring training baseball games and see if you can put your new found vocabulary to good use!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 337: Red Sox New Sideline Reporter: Elle Duncan or Sarah Davis

NESN seems to go through female sideline reporters for the Red Sox broadcasts about as fast as Zsa Zsa Gabor goes through husbands. Not sure what it is about that position—possibly the lure of all those fit, good looking men sitting in the dugout not to far away? Or are Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy both a couple of despicable tyrants as coworkers? Maybe the trick is just start hiring trolls and maybe there will be no temptation.

We all know why Jenny Dell left the Red Sox broadcast team. Oh wait, she didn't leave, she was reassigned because she did fall to the temptation of one of those dugout dwellers. It was revealed a few months ago that not only were Dell and Boston third baseman, Will Middlebrooks dating, but they even lived together and things were clearly more serious than just a silly fling. I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny and she was really nice so I feel bad she got ousted from her post on the sidelines.

So now there seems to be a competition (although NESN claims it's not) for the recently vacated spot between two recent hires, Elle Duncan and Sarah Davis. NESN hasn't ruled out platooning the two women on the sidelines.

Davis, who most recently worked for Rogers Sportsnet in Toronto, has most recently hosted Soccer Central and Fox Soccer News for the network. Her other assignments included hosting UFC pre-fight programming and serving as the game-day host for the indoor lacrosse team, the Toronto Rock. She has also hosted pre-game shows for both the Maple Leafs and the Raptors. Impressive resume but there seems to be one thing missing—baseball.

Elle Duncan comes to NESN from 11 Alive in Atlanta where she was a traffic reporter but also worked the sidelines for the Atlanta Hawks. She also has eight years of radio experience and has contributed to the Atlanta Falcons pre- and post-game radio shows. Duncan also brings with her to Boston a criminal record. She was arrested in April 2013 for driving under the influence and reckless driving. She blew a 0.099 on the breathalyzer—just barely over the legal limit. Good thing Boston has public transportation.

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing what these two can do in baseball since neither one of them has any experience reporting it. And also how each of them interacts with Don and Jerry. And if either falls under the spell of some single ballplayer. We shall see...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 336: Paula Creamer's Amazing Putt.

So it's March. This is officially the time when I start to really hate winter. This is when I cry, uncle! and declare my utter hatred for being cold. I'm over dressing in layers every day to combat the frigid temperatures, I'm over paying buckets to heat my house, and I'm over tiptoeing around my driveway so I don't crack my skull open on the ice. And despite my hatred for hot weather, I'm longing for spring and green grass right now.

Plus, I'm excited to play golf. Wait, scratch that—I'm totally pumped to play golf. I've got my sights on a brand new golf bag and some snazzy new kicks and I'm ready to hit the links. I'm not sure why I'm so excited. It's not like I magically got awesome over the winter. Although in my head, I've gained 30 yards on my drive and my short game is unstoppable. But what's in my head and what actually happens on the course are two completely different animals. I might still suck but I'm going to look good doing it!

Now here's something that will get you giddy about playing! It's been a long time since LPGA star, Paula Creamer, has won a tournament—not since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open. She has played in 79 tournaments since then and finally won this weekend in Singapore. But how she won was a thing of beauty. In a playoff, she drained an ugly, hilly 75-foot putt to take the top prize.

Now I'm pretty realistic in my golfing abilities and making a putt that long, under those circumstance, will never happen to me. But oh my, even if it did and I wasn't playing for the top prize on the pro tour, it would be a-friggin-mazing! And I would be talking about it for the rest of my life!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 335: Baseball's Opening Day a National Holiday? Yes, Please!

Baseball is the one sport where its Opening Day always seems fall on a weekday and the games are played in the afternoon—you know, when people are at work and kids are at school. So naturally, that day sees in an increase in workplace sickness and kiddos playing parent-approved hooky. Because seriously, who doesn't want to be at the ballpark on a crisp spring day in April?

It's a true sign that spring has sprung and summer is fast on its heels. The pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, the buzz of a ballpark, the sights, the sounds, the smell of popcorn and hotdogs. And how do they get the grass so green so early in April? It's a special day that deserves special recognition.

Baseball is America's Pastime. What would be more friggin' patriotic than if Opening Day was a national holiday? Well, Budweiser (now officially my new favorite beer for their part in this) launched an ad campaign featuring Hall of Fame shortstop, Ozzie Smith to get people to sign the petition. All we need is 100,000 signatures by March 26th. I would even be willing to trade in a holiday to make this happen. Take back Patriots Day and give us Opening Day. It's even in the same month!!

If that video doesn't get you pumped for calling in sick on Opening Day, I don't know what will.

Just think, no more having to make up some lame sickness in order to get the day off—even if you're not going to make it to the actual ballpark and you're just planning to sit on your couch and watch the game. And then you feel bad the next day when people ask how you're feeling and you have to come up with a reason why you're miraculously better the next day. *cough* Not that I've ever done this before, so I'm only assuming this is what happens. *cough*

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION TO MAKE OPENING DAY A NATIONAL HOLIDAY!! Doooooooooooo it!! All the cool kids are signing!