Monthly Archives: May 2010

Five insanely stupid things that Tony Massarotti managed to work into one (online) column

Now that the embers are dying down in the media’s “David Ortiz vs. Mike Lowell” saga, Tony Massarotti is a bit strapped for true controversy. When that happens, there’s only one thing a Boston columnist and radio show host can do. Conjure another one up.

1. “Has Jacoby now become to the Sox what “Medical” Bill Cartwright once was to the New York Knicks? Is it Ellsbury – or DLsbury?”

Tony is off and running. Completely random cross-sport reference? Check. Lame attempt at nicknaming the player in question? Check. Implication that a certain player doesn’t want it bad enough to play hurt? I think we got a controversy brewing…

2. “Last year, during a rock-solid season in which Ellsbury batted .301, stole 70 bases, and played in 153 games, manager Terry Francona spoke of how Ellsbury was beginning to understand the “responsibility” of playing in the major leagues, which was a nice way of saying that Ellsbury had an obligation to his manager and teammates to play through minor issues and be in the lineup.”

Well, Tony. You’ve attributed one word (“responsibility”) to the Sox manager and then proceeded to explain, in your own words, what Terry Francona was actually saying about his outfielder. Want to know how many times Francona used the word “responsibility” when discussing Red Sox players last season? Over 900 times. Yeah, we made that number up. Just like you made up a read-between-the-lines explanation of a beyond-obscure quotation that Terry Francona may or may not have ever said.

3. “At the moment, nobody should dispute that Ellsbury is in some level of discomfort. The greater question concerns if and when he can play through it. Ellsbury already has said that he expects to deal with the problem all year – an alibi if he plays poorly, no doubt – and it is worth noting that he is 1 for 14 since coming off the disabled list.”

No, it’s not worth noting 14 at-bats. Tony learned nothing from the trials of Ortiz earlier this season in which the media waited even less than 14 at-bats (eight to be exact), before declaring something was wrong with Big Papi. Ellsbury did make a nice diving catch in center field last weekend in Philadelphia. But one catch is merely anecdotal. Fourteen at-bats, though? That’s plenty enough data to employ when trying to make a flawed argument.

4. “Ellsbury, of course, is merely 26. While it is always dangerous to wonder whether players are capable of playing through injuries – the Red Sox would be wise to remember the cases of both Scott Williamson and Matt Clement – the issue here is clearly much bigger. In the minds of the Sox – and others – Ellsbury has a reputation, something only he can be responsible for.”

Well, something for which only Ellsbury or any other jackass looking to fill out space in an online column can be responsible. Don’t end sentences with the word “for,” Tony. It makes you sound like you don’t really care about your readers. It hurts our feelings and makes us wonder if you’re really cut out to be a part-time writer.

5. “Earlier this month, Mike Lowell openly wondered whether he still had a role on the Red Sox, but at least Lowell’s remarks were motivated by the desire to play, something that hardly makes him different from the majority of athletes.

In Ellsbury’s case, the problem seems to be the opposite.

Does he want to play or doesn’t he?”

Back when Tony was trying to intimate that Ellsbury’s 2009 may have been an aberration in terms of playing time (153 games), he conveniently neglected to mention that Jacoby also played in 145 the year before, an up-and-down 2008 that was also his first full season in the majors. In 2007, he logged 528 plate appearances over 104 games in Triple AAA and in September as a member of the Red Sox. At the risk of sounding like some “pink hat in Camp Jacoby,” as Tony would say, it certainly seems like a guy who doesn’t want to play wouldn’t have, you know, played so much over the last three seasons. One could probably safely assume that had Ellsbury not collided with Adrian Beltre on a fluky play in Kansas City, he would again be on track for 600-plus plate appearances, a benchmark he reached in both of his first two full seasons in the major leagues.

Whatever Jacoby’s reputation may have been back in 2005 or 2006 is completely irrelevant now. People change and so do their reputations. For example, five years ago, some people may have accused Tony Massarotti of being a respectable writer who covered the Boston Red Sox. Opinions and outlooks can change.

Don’t bother advance-booking your flight out of Boston on Sunday, Joe West

Eat a big brunch on Sunday morning, pal. You should probably take a big dump just prior to game time, too. You’re gonna be on the field at Fenway Park for quite a bit longer than three hours.

Isn’t that cute…You’re trying to soften your well-publicized gripes about the Red Sox and Yankees “embarrassing” the game with their slow, deliberate play. The real embarrassment is that somebody (you) employed by a money-making enterprise (Major League Baseball) could possibly complain about the two components of the business (Boston and New York) that generate the most revenue for this said enterprise, thus facilitating paychecks for its employees (including you, Joe).

The damage is done and now the Sox have a golden opportunity to stick it up your craw, if it can be found amongst your many chins.

See who’s starting for the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon? Gil Meche. He walks over six guys per nine innings (6.29 BB/9)—worst in the Major League. He allows, on average, about two base-runners per inning (1.85 WHIP). He has been damn near the definition of terrible all year. In his first start of the season, in fact, the Red Sox managed three walks against him in just 3.1 innings.

And Pyro Gil gets the ball in Fenway Park on get-away day of what promises to be an orgy of runs for the Red Sox this weekend.

The Red Sox lineup is clicking on all cylinders right now, Joe. They have been having their way with some of the league’s best pitchers over the last week. Working counts, drawing walks and driving guys in with timely base hits.

Guys like Dustin Pedroia haven’t hidden how miffed they were by your ignorant, misplaced criticism. So, really, what incentive in the world will they have to swing at all? Ol’ Pyro Gil has already proven he can’t throw strikes to save his life this season. Let’s see how many strikes you can get away with calling while MLB undoubtedly scrutinizes your crew’s performance this weekend.

The Sox are going to drag Sunday’s game out for as long as possible. Forget about hitters getting the green light on 3-0 counts, Joe. This is one game where the Red Sox owe it to you to prolong every at-bat. Bill Hall doesn’t even plan to take a bat with him to the plate. Kevin Youkilis is going to send about 50 fans home with souvenir foul balls. Marco Scutaro’s tennis elbow is going to make it mysteriously easy to fight off 3-2 pitches with weak grounders into the KC dugout. J.D. Drew? Well, he isn’t going to change a damn thing about his approach at the plate.

If all else fails, the Sox can pull their scheduled starter, Jon Lester, after six innings and put in Jonathan Van Every for a couple innings of long relief.

Anyway, enjoy Daisuke Matsuzaka’s start tonight. You should be in bed by about 2 a.m.

Lingering Concerns After 47 Games

About 29% of the season is over, which means it is time to start asking some tough questions.

Are we still pretending Heidi Watney missed the first four weeks of the season with a concussion? Lies were told and no one seems all too anxious to flesh out the truth. The whole concussion story never made much sense and people were crying BS from the get-go. Watney isn’t an NFL quarterback. Even if she was, she wouldn’t have missed four weeks of the season with a head injury sustained in some kickboxing class at the local gym. NESN could have cut most of the speculation/dick jokes off at the root by just explaining what exactly, you know, concussed her. All they had to do was make up some story. Instead, they gave an alibi that was intriguing enough to make us want to know more.

When will it be enjoyable to cheer for John Lackey? He looks like Sloth from The Goonies, he is inexplicably married to a hot blond woman and his fastball consistently sits at an underwhelming 90-91 MPH. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy, but sometime over the next year or two, he’ll need a J.D. Drew 2007 ALCS grand slam moment™ to defibrillate his big-contract status on the team. In reality, that moment can’t happen before autumn. Until then, Lackey’s starts are the anti-Pedro starts: can-miss games in which fans can feel free to turn on the game around the sixth or seventh inning as Manny Delcarmen warms in the pen.

Does anyone actually read articles like Peter Abraham’s effort in Wednesday’s Boston Globe headlined Rays refuse to hit panic button? Apparently, when beat writers aren’t trying to dig up quotes from the Red Sox about whether the season is over in May, they try to incite Boston’s opponents to admit bleakness. Perhaps this approach is some backward notion of impartiality. Rather than reporting on a non-story, maybe these reporters should work on writing apologies for attempting to portray the season as a lost cause before the team finished a quarter of its schedule.

Is Joe Nelson going to bother explaining his choice for Fenway entry music, Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”? Is it a joke? Payoff for a lost bet? Ritual hazing? Was Daisuke Matsuzaka upset he didn’t think of it first? Talk, Joe. Fans deserve to know.

Scouts: Papelbon Is Tipping His Pitches

Several major league scouts confided in Fenway Pastoral earlier this week that Red Sox reliever Jon Papelbon’s struggles this season are due to his tipping pitches during key moments of games.

Three respected industry scouts were consistent in identifying the problems:

–       When Papelbon purses his lips into what looks like a puckered swollen anus, he plans to throw his 91-MPH fastball with little or no movement.

–       When Papelbon rolls his eyes up into the tops of their sockets and tilts the bill of his cap downward to glare at the hitter? That’s prelude to his 92-MPH fastball with little or no movement.

–       When Papelbon takes a deep breath, squints his eyes, puckers his lips and takes a sip of a Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast iced coffee, hitters brace themselves for his 93-MPH fastball with little or no movement.

No consensus has been reached as to when the pitch tipping may have begun, but two of the three scouts providing the information for this story believe the practice started sometime last season. The numbers seem to back up the claims as Papelbon’s K/9 rate in 2010 (6.75) is well below his career average (10.22). Meanwhile, swing-and-miss rates against Papelbon have steadily fallen since his epic 2007 season in which batters whiffed at nearly 18% of his offerings.

“Hitters are swinging and missing at only 11% of his pitches this year,” explained one scout. “Hitters see him balloon-knotting his mouth before his windup and know they can just tee off.”

MLB Should Consider Eliminating Pitcher Position By Placing Baseballs on Tees

The pitchers have become too good. The hitters have become too patient—all too willing to strike out or take walks in pursuit of the perfect home run pitch. Meanwhile, the fast-paced athleticism required in football continues to present a formidable challenge to baseball’s distinction as the national pastime.

It is high time baseball hit back, so to speak. It is time to increase the action and make the game manlier and more entertaining to a wider range of fans.

It is time to let hitters hit off tees and eliminate the effeminate motions of modern pitchers’ deliveries.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci danced around the solution in a recent essay:

“…we are missing an essential part of the game’s allure and romance: the crack of the bat. You hear it less and less in today’s game. Hitting and pitching have evolved in ways that mean the baseball is put into play less frequently than ever before.”

Sure, the league could legislate that young players must be instructed to be less selective at the plate, thus eliminating what Verducci calls the modern hitter’s maddening “passive/aggressive pursuit” during “a game of attrition.”

Basically, today’s ballplayers are a bunch of contact lens-wearing dandies overly concerned with exercising plate discipline, making pitchers tired and winning a bunch of baseball games.

Verducci points to Red Sox hitters as some of the worst offenders of Mark Bellhorn’s disease:

Some teams, such as the particularly influential Yankees and Red Sox, are especially patient. The Red Sox, for instance, in April chose not to swing at 41 percent of pitches that actually were in the strike zone.

Pitchers could be forbidden from throwing the Devil’s fastballs otherwise known as the “cutter,” a pitch that some of Verducci’s sources (the Yankees hitting coach) have blamed for the decrease in balls put in play and thus the pleasing crack-of-the-bat sound in ballparks. However, the rule would be difficult to police due to the large room for interpretation and potential grip modifications that could be employed to get around any newly implemented rules.

A tee is really the only way to make the game more interesting while also keeping it fair. On top of all that, cumbersome statistics such as pitch counts and pitch F/X data would be a thing of the past.

For their part, players asked about the debate in the clubhouse prior to Tuesday night’s game at Fenway Park were skeptical.

“I’d stare at it for a few minutes to see if it fell off the tee, but I guess eventually I’d swing at a baseball if it were set on a tee,” said Marco Scutaro, who was 13th in the American League in pitches per plate appearance in 2009 (4.07).

“Other guys on this team might be a bit more stubborn, though. Do you really think J.D. Drew or Kevin Youkilis would swing at a ball just because it happened to be placed on a tee in front of him? Those dudes are so stubborn I bet they wouldn’t swing the bat for a month just on general principle.”

Bringing ‘Dirty Water’ Back into the City of Boston

Depending on who you ask, it was either one disaster or one catastrophe after another for Bostonians over the weekend. A ruptured metal collar caused a large breach in the pipe system that supplies the city with its drinking water. Meanwhile, the Red Sox put the finishing touches on allowing a disastrous sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.

All this happened while two million residents adhered to “boil water” orders and a hellishly cruel halt on sales of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee—a quality of life issue that is the baseball equivalent of being forced to cheer for the Kansas City Royals.

Some parallels of Beantown’s double-headed crisis:

Adrian Gonzalez and bottled water: The people clamoring for Theo Epstein to mortgage the club’s future in a panic trade for Adrian Gonzalez are the same morons overbuying cases of Poland Springs water as they brace for an impending apocalypse in which—horror of horrors—they may be forced to boil drinking water for a couple of days. Meanwhile, taking into account the current makeup of the major league roster and the bulk of future talent in the minor leagues, at least half the clubs in major league baseball would gladly trade positions with the Red Sox. Overreactions to one month of mediocrity are as embarrassing as the bomb-shelter mindset of many Greater Boston residents over the last two days.  The people in underdeveloped third world countries without running water would drink Chestnut Hill Reservoir’s so-called pond water as though it were the nectar of the Gods. They would nurse those cartoonish 45-ounce bottles of Fiji water like it was 50-year-old Scotch.

Yankees fans and rat bastards living in Cambridge: These people always find some way to be obnoxious. While residents in the Back Bay drink tinny-tasting water out of spaghetti pots, those Fresh Pond-drinking liberals across the Charles smugly hydrate themselves worry-free as though it were some sort of birthright. They aren’t getting any of the bottled water that Boston hoarded if the same thing happens to them this summer. Similarly, let’s see how good the Yankees look when injuries start assaulting their old, brittle starting lineup later this summer.

Darnell McDonald and bleach: Sprinkling a few drops of bleach into the water sanitizes it just enough to make it usable for washing dishes or dirty hands. Psychologically, it’s about as desirable as starting a 31-year-old journeyman in center-field, but it will do the trick in the short term. A few months from now, if the Red Sox right the ship, we’ll be able to laugh and say “remember when Darnell McDonald was getting big hits in high leverage situations and we had to boil our drinking water?

Advocates of Daisuke Matsuzaka and people who drink tap water: Tap water drinkers who thumb their noses at people who “waste” money on bottled water should stick to their guns and ignore all those signs warning against drinking from the faucet. There’s only something like 3-5% more fecal matter and bacteria in the backup supply compared to the normal levels in Quabbin’s main pool. Similarly, those hanging onto the hope that Dice-K still has something left to offer his team may be tempted to re-evaluate their opinions based on his feces-like performance on Saturday (4 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 2 HRs, 3 BBs, 4 Ks). But that would be extremely shortsighted and hypocritical. Drink your poop water and hope the Dice Man turns it around on Thursday night.

Aramark and price gouging retailers: The state is vowing to crack down on local businesses who try to take advantage of the relative spike in demand for bottled water versus a quickly diminishing supply. Based on these standards, fans in Fenway Park for the upcoming 10-game home stand shouldn’t expect to pay more than $10.00 for a 20-ounce bottle of Aquafina. Any price higher than that will be considered overcharging customers for the sake of profit.

The local media and…the local media: Nothing bolsters ratings and newspaper sales like a good, old-fashioned poor start to the baseball season coupled with some relatively minor inconveniences that can be overblown by the media under the guise of providing a public service.