Monthly Archives: May 2011

Caught Looking: The J.D. Drew Fantasy Pitch Forum

Hi everybody, I’m J.D. Drew of the Boston Red Sox. I don’t care how old you are, how advanced your skill level is or whether you’re a man or a woman. We all dream about a pitcher tossing us that perfect pitch when the bat is in our hands. Sure, maybe it’s a naïve pipedream in our modern world, but I don’t think we should let the fantasy die.

I love hearing stories about other conquests at the plate. It’s heartening to hear from all my fans out there who, like me, appreciate plate discipline, even if it means watching flat sliders and grooved fastballs pass over home plate while standing in the batter’s box.

After all, our ability as human beings to exercise restraint is what separates us from the animals…or at least the Baltimore Orioles. They swing at everything.

I thought you might like to know that I filled in for a friend in an adult coed softball league a few weeks ago. I got five plate appearances in three innings (the game was called on account of darkness), drew five walks and scored five runs. I made sure the bat never left my side by using it as a makeshift cane to prop myself up like the Planters Peanut guy.

-Mary from Peabody

Wow, Mary, that’s pretty impressive. That story reminds me of something: in 2010, I actually took over 200 pitches in a row over the span of several weeks without swinging the bat once. Luckily, it was sometime in late April when Boston fans were pretty wrapped up with the Celtics and the Bruins. Otherwise, I’m sure there would have been a good deal of heckling and jeering. Of course, Jason Varitek hasn’t been able to look me in the face since.

My four-year-old just started playing tee-ball last month and I told him I’d buy him a Dairy Queen Blizzard if he didn’t swing the bat at all when it was his turn at the plate. After the first two or three minutes of gentle prodding and encouragement, all the parents got annoyed and started screaming and yelling at him to swing the bat, but he just kept his eye trained on me the whole time as I nodded my approval from the first-base line. Eventually the coach had to drag my son out of the batter’s box and sit him on the bench for the rest of the game. I let the air out of the guy’s tires on the way through the parking lot on our way home and my wife doesn’t give his wife the time of day when they run into each other at Hannaford.

-Tom from West Bridgewater

Tom, you did the right thing. I wish more parents had your courage. Just because a baseball is sitting fat on a tee at home plate doesn’t necessarily mean the batter should just take some haphazard swing—particularly if there is something like eight kids manning the infield like most tee-ball games I’ve seen. Rate stats like on-base percentage and slugging percentage have a way of regulating themselves to the player’s skill level over the course of a full season. Even in tee-ball. Especially in tee-ball.

My friends and I recently went to some batting cages off Route 1 for a bachelor party celebration and I saw this unbelievably fat pitch that immediately made me think of you. This thing came out of the machine so flat yet not too fast and not too slow. It was a perfect meatball. I lifted the bat slightly off my shoulder but I checked myself and let it pass unharmed.

-Brian from Malden

That’s the difference between you and me, Brian. You lifted your bat off your shoulder momentarily and thought about swinging. I would never show even the smallest level of interest in some medium-speed pitch coming out of a poorly calibrated machine at some amusement park. Awkward check swings are exponentially worse in batting cages. I wouldn’t touch one of those pitches if I was up there with Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s bat.

I played backyard wiffleball during a neighbor’s barbecue last weekend. The pitch movement on those things is crazy. Either the pitcher’s arm slot is some sort of strange sidearm motion that makes the ball dive unpredictably or the wind disturbs the path of the pitch, effectively ruining any chance of a fastball dividing the plate into two neat halves. I wasn’t about to take my chances looking foolish swinging one of those cheap, yellow plastic fungo-bat shaped contraptions they pass off as lumber in a game of wiffleball, so I told everybody I was too dizzy to play from all the beers that I had drank throughout the morning and early afternoon.

-Judy from Plympton

Actually, Judy, I really enjoy wiffleball because the bat is so light you can easily stand up there with the thing on your shoulder for hours on end without even breaking a sweat. Of course, the pitches you see probably wouldn’t be anything worth swinging at, anyway, but at least symbolically wiffleball can help promote good plate discipline.

Witnesses say MBTA bus driver completed a full route stone sober

Passengers riding an MBTA bus from downtown Boston to Kenmore Square for the Red Sox game on Thursday afternoon were surprised to learn that the vehicle may have been navigated by a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.00.

Contacted earlier today, city officials said they were aware of the accusations and that they were in the process of working with law enforcement personnel that may have video of the driver operating the bus in a safe, responsible manner.

“If there is definitive video evidence of abnormal behavior such as heeding to stop signals and safely avoiding pedestrians by more than a few inches, we will take the appropriate disciplinary actions,” said an MBTA official.

In defense of the employee in question, a spokesperson for the MBTA labor union argued that the video should not be the sole determining factor in the investigation because ultimately it could prove to be of little or no use.

“We are all well aware of the existence of so-called ‘functional alcoholics’ who show up to their occupations and perform at a high level on a daily basis despite being legally impaired in terms of blood alcohol content,” said the spokesperson for the MBTA labor union. “Let’s give this driver due process until we have gathered all the facts as part of a thorough investigation.”

Ironically, because the bus’ final destination was Kenmore Station near Fenway Park, where the Red Sox hosted the Angels on Thursday afternoon, many of the riders were too intoxicated themselves to stand scrutiny as viable witnesses.

“The Red Sox at Fenway for a day game on ‘Cinco de Mayo’? What did you expect?” said Owen McDonald, 25, of South Boston. “I can’t even remember if the driver was a guy or a girl. Tequila shots black me out every time…”

“Cinco de Mayo is such an important day in another nation’s history, so naturally I began drinking very early in the morning,” said James Bilson, 23, who boarded the bus at its origin in Government Center.

Catcher Saltalamacchia’s life is an ugly mess

Back in February, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was receiving a lot more than just pitches on some backfield of the Fort Myers spring training facility. He was also receiving* praise from club officials and coaches, who anointed him as their No. 1 guy. Salty was, literally, sipping champagne and enjoying the thought of the prospective limelight.

*’Receiving,’ in this particular instance, is synonymous with ‘catching.’ Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a catcher for the Boston Red Sox.

“The guy looked like a power forward in the NBA,” remembers one scout. “You know, some height but also some bulk. No one really knows how hard he really worked, but we all kind of think he must have worked pretty hard. I mean, we assume he did…based on what his friends and family told us.”

But, then April rolled around, and that same limelight that came along with all that once-welcomed attention began burning Jarrod’s retinas. They destroyed him like a poorly positioned light tower shining in his eyes while he attempted to throw out base-runners swiping second.

“I can see something’s changed in his eyes,” one player confides. “He is obviously pressing way too hard.”

Stuff About His Personal Life

While no one expected the process of becoming an everyday catcher to be without complication, the 26-year-old Saltalamacchia is off to a bad start of epic proportion—even by Boston Red Sox standards.

Suddenly, people are avoiding Jarrod like he is an adulterer living in Puritan New England. His teammates have distanced themselves from him, manager Terry Francona is no longer writing him into the lineup as frequently and, perhaps worst of all, women refuse to talk to him in social situations—even when he uses fellow teammates as wingmen.

To put it plainly and simply, Saltalamacchia commands zero respect.

The results have not been pretty. A backup catcher at the beginning of the season, Jason Varitek could soon surpass Salty in plate appearances as their roles have seemingly been reversed.

To his credit, V-Tek has fulfilled his part as team captain admirably by supporting Salty in the media, working with him on improving his confidence and providing him with helpful hints on how to score ready and willing women.

“Unfortunately, Jarrod already fumbled away his chance at Heidi Watney well before Jason could offer him any, um, ‘insider’ advice,” laments one club source.

The source would not reveal exactly what transpired other than saying, “Look, I don’t want to turn this into some puff piece about an athlete’s personal life…But let’s just say Saltalamacchia might have been a little too blunt about his expectations of how far exactly being anointed Boston’s starting catcher would get him with Heidi.”

And, so, Jarrod Saltalamacchia continues his embarrassing tailspin.

Some Anecdotal Evidence

“I can’t say it’s very inspiring for any of us to see him like this,” says one teammate who wished to remain anonymous. “In fact, it can be pretty depressing. Our pitchers argue over who gets Varitek as their ‘personal catcher’ because, frankly, nobody wants to be tossing pitches to the other dude.”

Another clubhouse insider relates similarly emotional scenes.

“Jarrod was in one of the batting cages underneath the stadium a couple weeks ago trying to work on hitting breaking balls. Just swinging and missing at everything. All of a sudden, one of V-tek’s daughters shows up and just takes the bat out of his hands, literally. He relinquishes it and Varitek’s kid chokes up on the bat a bit and starts knocking liners right back at the machine like it was nothing. Incredible.”

And incredibly embarrassing for Saltalamacchia, who was later seen trying to conceal a good deal of weeping while at his locker.

Trite Statements about the Future

Nobody wants to hazard a guess as to where Salty goes from here. While some may be quick to point out that Varitek’s production (.128 AVG / .227 OBP / .154 SLG) at the plate is even more anemic than Salty’s (.207/.258/.276), club officials believe the captain is simply trying to minimize the pressure on the “starter” by declining to overshadow him.

Says a scout: “In the past, Jason probably would have at least started, you know, slugging higher than his playing weight by now. But, he’s at a place in his career where putting up numbers at the plate isn’t a priority. Sure, some extra base hits would be nice. But he’s got a bunch of other stuff going for him right now. Too bad we can’t say the same for Jarrod. He’s just bumming everybody out.”

Fenway grounds crew works overtime after spunky Pedroia leaves a mess all over the field

They were everywhere. At first, the Fenway Park grounds crew didn’t know what to do with all of them. Donate them to charity? Take photographs of the ones that had their seams split open from being squared up so perfectly? Try to salvage the ones that weren’t warped from being laced down the left-field line? Hire Curt Schilling as a consultant to ensure a proper burial?

Dustin! Pedroia’s 13-pitch virtuoso performance in the fifth inning Monday night against Anaheim’s Jered Weaver that resulted in a two-RBI single was only the beginning, according to witnesses.

After Boston’s 9-5 victory over the Angels, the Red Sox second baseman convinced NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley to throw him “some cool-down” batting practice on the diamond.

What resulted over the next several hours was an absolute explosion of baseballs all over the outfield (BAM!), the infield (POW!), in the grandstands (SPARK!), ricocheting off the dugout protective fences (HEART!) and chopped down the third-baseline (SOUL!).

The frenzied riot of projectiles blanketing the field in the wee hours of the morning provided yet more confirmation of Dustin!’s epic resolve…and also six hours of overtime work for three grounds crew members asked to clean up the mess.

Media members at Fenway were too busy thinking up new adjectives to describe Dustin!’s latest performance and thus missed the—ok, fine—laser show. However, various club officials witnessed the show with awe.

“That was amazing,” said one front-office executive. “Pedey is really unique—and I’m not saying that because he’s not as tall as some other guys on the team. But, I’ve gotta admit, it just comes off as annoying when guys like Carl Crawford ask us if he can do the same thing.”

Eckersley, meanwhile, will be evaluated later this afternoon to determine the extent of damage to his shoulder inflicted by the three-hour BP session.