Category Archives: Sports

Pathetic Red Sox Brawl with Indians, Attempt to Avoid Irrelevance

Yawn. Does this team really think instigating a benches-clearing, bullpen-emptying brawl will bring the fans back? Against the Indians?

Really, this is one of the most transparent attempts at salvaging relevance that a local sports team has constructed in a long, long time. It took Cleveland pitchers something like eight pitches over the course of seven innings before a Boston hitter even conjured up the nerve to pretend to be angry.

Adrian Beltre wasn’t even that upset when he took several steps toward the mound still wielding his bat. It’s a contract year, though, so of course he wants to look like a “team guy.” Total phony.

Facts are facts. Youk and Pedroia are on the DL. Ratings are down. Ambivalence is up. Casual fans (and NESN employees!) think Bill Hall is Mike Cameron and vice versa.

It’s over, everybody. The Red Sox are so passé. Worse yet, they’re 5.5 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card race. Fan interest has made its inglorious return to the pre-Pedro days (officially dubbed by historians as the Days When You Could Get $20 Bleacher Seats An Hour Before the Game Without Having to Give A Scalper A Handjob).

A Tuesday night brawl against the Cleveland Indians ain’t gonna change that. Boston has roughly a 27% chance to make the playoffs after last night’s win. A 127% chance would sound a lot better.

What? Nobody else noticed that Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t even throw a punch? Reminds us of Nomar in Yankee Stadium that one time.

John Lackey made sure he challenged his big goofy white dude doppelganger, Shelley Duncan. Was that a toothpick in his mouth? C’mon…

It was vexing enough watching this team string together several late-inning comebacks over the past few days. Who wants to watch the team win if it’s going to take three and a half hours? The economy might be in the dumper, but we still have things to do. Either jump out to a quick lead or don’t bother winning at all.

Mike Lowell’s home run is a nice story. But if he keeps swinging at the first pitch, he’s not going to be much help down the stretch. Work the count full next time, Mike. Let the drama build a little for crying out loud. Reminds us of Nomar in Yankee Stadium that one time.

Everybody keeps talking about this guy Ryan Kalish. He is certainly no Jason Bay. (He hasn’t even hit a dinger yet.) The Trot Nixon comparisons are equally as ridiculous. Moles inside the organization have already confirmed that he has, indeed, had his uniform washed multiple times since his call up only four days ago.

Boy is it depressing to see the Devil Rays in first place in August.

Reminds us of Nomar in Yankee Stadium that one time.

Get off our lawn: Sox owners again engaging in world’s oldest profession

Tickets were still available less than 24 hours before Wednesday night’s soccer match at Fenway Park between two European soccer clubs you have never heard of before.

It is encouraging to see demand stagnate—even just a little bit—for such a contrived event.

Understand: this isn’t about the presence of a sport other than baseball being played at Fenway Park. (There’s probably been, like, other sporting events hosted at Fenway over the last 100 years or so…Someone oughta make a list.)

But the excessive whoring out of Fenway over the last five years speaks to a new sort of organizational arrogance that John Henry and Co. has established in the Back Bay. Even Scott Brown can see that the current ownership group routinely engages in thinly veiled prostitution of what should be treated as a sacred asset.

Thanks to the immense success, high revenues and national interest generated by their baseball team, these owners assume people should be willing to pay to witness just about anything that takes place on the hallowed Fenway grounds.

Piggybacking on the popularity of the 2010 World Cup, Wednesday night’s soccer match was aimed at striking before the sport’s popularity goes into hibernation for another four years. The only problem is that this particular pairing of two minor league soccer clubs would be like the Portland Sea Dogs taking batting practice in Wembley Stadium. It is an insult to fan intelligence disguised as something other than a recycled idea.

This isn’t a new trend by any means. Lately, the owners have been overplaying their hand when it comes to extracurricular entertainment. Fenway has gone from hosting hall-of-fame acts like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Rolling Stones to shows from the likes of Phish and Jimmy Buffet. At least there’s the local angle for next month’s Aerosmith / J. Geils Band bill.

Sure, all the aforementioned bands are washed up. But at least the first two carried some small semblance of Beatles in Shea Stadium cache. It’s just embarrassing when the outfield gets chewed up because the organization books some overrated act that peaked in the mid-1990s (Dave Matthews Band). In 2025, are we going to be watching commercials advertising “classic rock sensation” Kings of Leon: Live at Fenway Park?

Fine, it’s just a soccer match. The Red Sox owners certainly deserve every bit of praise they have received for all their renovations and updates that creatively keep a landmark alive and profitable, to boot.

Some of these extracurricular events at Fenway are a necessary evil in order to stay profitable. We should all tolerate the various “initiatives” that transform portions of Yawkey Way and its surroundings into a cross between a country fair and a de facto amusement park absent the Ferris Wheel (for now…). After all, Boston’s provincial vice-grip on the past will never come cheap.

One can’t help but wonder, though: How many blatant money-grabs are too many blatant money-grabs?

Even after his father reached ill health, Ted Williams’ son exploited his father’s legacy, imploring him to make appearance after appearance at various events, insisting he sign autographs for significant fees. It was a sickening revelation to many that was brought to light after the fact because his son’s selfishness before and after his father’s death was excessive enough that Ted’s well-being was undoubtedly jeopardized.

This space isn’t accusing the Henry ownership group of anything that perverse yet. After all, John Henry bagged a trophy wife all his own last summer. Some point soon, maybe he’ll be compelled to stop cultivating another.

Jon Lester’s thoughts on pizza with Hanley Ramirez say absolutely nothing (unless you are an idea-starved Boston Herald sports columnist)

Here’s hoping the financially strapped Boston Herald pays Steve Buckley by the word rather than by the magnitude of his idiocy.

After last night’s All-Star game, a reporter attempted to extract a throwaway quote from Jon Lester regarding his days in the minors with former Sox farmhand-turned-superstar Hanley Ramirez. As Buckley puts it, “If, by some miracle…had they perhaps gone out for pizza one night and talked about someday playing in the All-Star Game…”

Lester’s response: “I’d have a better chance of being struck by lightning than me and him getting a pizza together,” he said. “You can take that for what it’s worth. But there was no chance on God’s green earth that I was getting a pizza with him.”

Translation: OK, then. Clearly, the two weren’t buddies. They played a few seasons together in Portland and Augusta, but perhaps had little in common other than the uniform they wore at the ballpark every day.

Time to investigate other possible story angles.

Unless you’re Steve Buckley. If you’re an old Boston sports columnist, this is a good time to write about how guys like Lester are “throwbacks” in the Bob Gibson mold because, in Ramirez, the Sox ace “saw somebody with whom he’d never step out for a pizza. And there’s absolutely nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is that Lester would say so.”

Is it really unusual? Maybe some enterprising reporter ought to take a survey of who is eating pizza with whom. What if guys are lying about who they eat pizza with? Would the Players Association agree to some sort of testing procedure to find out?

This is an embarrassingly stupid premise for a column. At best, it is a lame, backwards attempt to point out that Jon Lester is having a pretty good season. People already know this. At worst, this is the type of silly anecdote that twists an innocuous answer to a lame question and trivializes the hard work put into perfecting the cut fastball.

About the only saving grace for this “column” is that is wasn’t written by Gerry Callahan. Because everybody already knows that only white guys eat pizza and care about winning.

The Youker Files: 4th of July Fireworks Safety Tips

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis

Setting off fireworks is a part of Americana that I’ve always truly enjoyed. The anticipation of a lit fuse, the loud explosions, the high-pitched whistle of a fiery projectile shooting into the evening air en route to illuminating the sky with smokey color. I take a childish delight in the whole scene.

We were lucky enough to have this past Memorial Day off this year–the Monday breaking up our homestand against the Royals and Athletics. So I figured I’d take advantage of this blessing from the scheduling Gods and have a barbecue at my home in a nearby Boston suburb.

Honestly, what BBQ is complete without fireworks? To honor our veterans, I decided to have a buddy go up north to the New Hampshire border and purchase a very large amount of explosives to set off in my backyard once dusk rolled in.

I’ve gotta say, the idea seemed pretty flawless at the time. But I did learn some valuable lessons about the proper usage of fireworks that I hope everyone will keep in mind this weekend as we celebrate the Independence Day of our great nation.

Rule 1: Stay back
I guess we can all learn something from Dustin Pedroia, who got his own foot a bit too close to his own Laser Show for his own good out in San Francisco. In all seriousness, once a firework is lit in your vicinity, get out of the way immediately. Fuses require differing lengths of time to burn through and just because your M-80 doesn’t fire out of its launch pad immediately doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get a closer look to see what’s going on.

Rule 2: Watch your aim
Don’t point your fireworks at other people. Don’t point your fireworks at other houses. Don’t point your fireworks in any direction which might have flammable substances or wooded areas. This might seem like a no-brainer to most people. But I’ve actually been hit in the head by several ill-fated bottle rockets. Those things can come at you quicker than any line drive down the third base line and they can leave more permanent marks than just a baseball-sized bruise.

Rule 3: Wear protective armor
I know, I know. You probably think you’ll look ridiculous wearing a helmet, safety goggles and a non-combustible jumpsuit, but just pretend you’re stepping into the batter’s box against Joba Chamberlain after he’s been drinking heavily. Do you really want to risk a fast-moving projectile speeding at your head so quickly that you only have a split-second to react?

Rule 4: Be patient
I haven’t always exhibited the same amount of patience in my fireworks escapades as I usually do during at-bats. I like buying a lot of different types of fireworks, loading my mortar up with several explosives and setting them off at the same time. But the risks of haywire aren’t always worth the reward. Rather than trying to impress your barbecue guests by lighting 10 projectiles at the same time, set off your M-80s and Roman candles one after another and just enjoy the experience. It’s pretty embarrassing when all your friends leave your house early because you thought it would be cool to try to light your whole arsenal with a blowtorch.

Well, I hope these safety tips are helpful. An amateur fireworks show can be one of the most absolutely awesome forms of entertainment, but unlike baseball, injuries can only be avoided by using common sense. Stay safe on the Fourth, everybody.

Clay Buchholz’s Love Doctor Mailbag: Red Hot Summer Edition

Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is on a roll thus far in 2010. He’s 10-4 with a sub-3.00 ERA and appears to be putting together an All-Star-caliber season. Using his instinctive guile, Clay is tearing through batting orders the same way he used to plow through women before marrying model Lindsay Clubine last fall. Even amidst preparations for the birth of his firstborn child, Buchholz found some time to impart some of his pimping wisdom to his faithful fans at Fenway Pastoral.


Clay, what’s the deal with NESN Sportsdesk anchor Jade McCarthy’s mole located above her top lip? At times, I’m able to rationalize it as a Cindy Crawford-esque beauty mark, but just as often it just seems like a regrettably-placed distraction. Help?

– Andrew from Plymouth

I’m not a big fan of facial blemishes, Andrew. Whenever I turn on NESN and Jade and Her Mole are on the screen, I imagine that she is wearing one of those sexy silver stud rings some girls have pierced onto their faces. Usually, when you see a chick who has a weird piercing like that on her lip or nose or (obviously) her tongue, it means she’s gonna be pretty wild when you get down to rolling around in the hay with her.

Clay, you managed to impregnate your wife within a couple months or so of marriage. But Sox owner John Henry was married to his wife/muse for nearly a year before he was able to slip one past the goalie. What gives?

– Lynn from Chatham

Well, Lynn, I can’t say for sure, but it’s probably all the energy drinks and protein shakes. Also, there are certain positions that I like my partner to be able to contort herself into that are more conducive to getting a broad pregnant. Honestly, Mr. Henry is kinda old, so I hope he didn’t try any of my moves.


Clay, I’m 17 years old and pretty new to the … “dating” scene. Whenever I’m in the throes of the moment in the bedroom, I find it useful to think about baseball when delaying arrival at the finish line. This method must not work for you since you’re probably always thinking baseball all the time anyway, right?

– Brett from Lexington

Brett, I spend six-plus months in a major league locker room. I see a lot of dudes parading around in towels on a daily basis and they’re not all svelte guys in their primes. I’ve got plenty of ammunition to slow down the clock if I really need it. But in all honesty, dude, why are you trying to delay the inevitable? You’re young. Relax and let the game come to you. You can’t move onto the next batter until you’ve gotten the one at the plate out. Also, throwing a few side sessions in the “bullpen” in between starts might help a young player like yourself find the proper rhythm.

What, exactly, did Jason Varitek get himself into with Heidi Watney? The guy romances her a few times and the next thing he knows, the chick is scurrying over to him every time she needs a player to toss her a bone with some throwaway quote on camera.
– Jeff from Manchester

All I can say about that situation is I feel bad for poor ‘Tek. Generally speaking, a man should always make it clear to a female from the get-go whether he sees her as a full-time starter or just a situational reliever.

Clay, I was at a gentleman’s club in Austin last week getting a lap dance when I noticed that the woman taking care of me had a small tattoo of the New York Yankees logo just to the left of her landing strip. I, uh, immediately wilted like A-Rod in October and actually cut the dance short before the end of the 20 minutes I’d paid for. What’s the etiquette in that situation? I already paid for about twice the amount of time she was with me, but she seemed peeved I didn’t give her a tip on top of my wasted up-front fee.

– Gerald from Bangor

You did the right thing cutting the dance short, Gerald. But really, it sounds like your laziness lead to some buyer’s remorse. You should always make sure you get a good overview of the lady offering you a private dance before shelling out any dough. Next time, have the dame do a few twirls in front of you to get a better idea what you’re getting into. It’s OK to say no and if any other strippers are around, they’ll appreciate your discerning tastes.

Click here to read the Valentine’s Day edition of the Love Doctor Mailbag

Click here to read last October’s edition of the Love Doctor Mailbag

Scu-Scu-Scutaro Fever Invades Greater Boston Area

Chances are, at this very moment somewhere in the Boston area, someone is practicing his or her Scu-Scu-Scutaro flex pose a la Patrick Bateman.

A business man, noticing his reflection in a train window as his Red Line T heads underground, risks tearing the stitching on his designer suit to do a flex-and-point—all the while holding his briefcase and folded copy of the Wall Street Journal. A seemingly timid intern steps into the ladies’ restroom of a Cambridge-based research laboratory to flex her pose in the mirror after MLB’s Gamecast indicates that the Red Sox shortstop has drawn a base-on-balls, igniting a key rally. A Boston Police officer reroutes traffic down a dead-end street because he refuses to change the positioning of his right arm, which points at his reflection in a building’s facade as he thrusts his hips to and fro while blowing his whistle erratically.

Boston’s slick-fielding, sure-handed, at-bat-extending, fundamentally sound shortstop’s popularity continues to skyrocket as quick as the team’s place in the standings.

Last week’s release of the Scu-Scu-Scutaro video on YouTube has the city awash in fans humming the parody, set to the tune of the 1985 Phil Collins hit “Sussudio.” The original song, which has been a staple on generic easy listening stations for more than two decades, has invaded the subconscious of Red Sox Nation.

“Sussudio” served as the soundtrack to Patrick Bateman’s psycho-sexual, nocturnal blood lust in the movie American Psycho. Similarly, “Scu-Scu-Scutaro” has quickly become a fitting ode to a player who murders the opposition’s pitching staff with his pesky hits, plate discipline and sure hands in the field.

Of course, there are some unintended consequences that have sprung up as a result of Scu-Scu-Scutaro Fever.

For example, a six-inning Little League game this past weekend in Belmont lasted well over four hours due to the mounting number of 11-year-olds who have begun emulating Scutaro’s selectivity at the plate.

“Back when Nomar was king around here in the late ‘90s, I coached a game that only took an hour and fifteen minutes because everyone wanted to swing at the first pitch,” said longtime coach Ed Stevens. “But I’ve never seen anything like this…These kids are doing the flex-and-point and high-fiving each other when one of their teammates foul chops a bouncer into the dugout to keep an at-bat alive.”

Stevens echoes the concerns of many youth baseball coaches in the area who have observed similar obsessions with the Scu-Scu-Scutaro way.

“I’m in a tough spot because I know I should be rewarding these kids for their plate discipline,” reasons the coach. “But I feel a little silly paying for a kid’s Mr. Misty at Dairy Queen just because he made another kid throw him seven pitches in one at-bat.”

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.”