At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, April 17, 2006

Strange Things Are Happening!

The Red Sox are off to one of their best starts in history, the Yankees are struggling, the weather in New England has been uncharacteristically warm for this time of year, and all seems right with the world. But that doesn’t mean everything in baseball-land has been going swimmingly, and it somehow seems right that a few bits of weirdness be highlighted here, if for no other purpose than to provide a few object lessons.

Baseball as a Contact Sport: The West Michigan Whitecaps – the low A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, where our Cape League friend Will Rhymes is hitting a robust .350 – somehow saw fit to invite scores of children to participate in a “cash drop” on the outfield grass yesterday, only to see two seven-year-olds emerge with injuries. The promotion involved pushing about $1000 worth of bills out of a helicopter and letting the contestants keep all they could grab. Unfortunately, it appears there was little effort to separate the little kids from the big ones, and perhaps predictably, a small boy was taken to the hospital after being trampled, and a small girl was left with a bloody lip after being pushed to the ground. Team spokeswoman Katie Kroft was quoted as saying, “This is why we have everybody sign a waiver,” but this sure doesn’t seem to be the right response. Never mind the utter lack of responsibility this embodies: just how excited does anyone think those children will be the next time their family suggests they all go to the ballgame?

One Run for the Price of Two: Baltimore Oriole Javy Lopez yesterday proved it is possible to hit a home run with a man on base and to come away with just one RBI. Coming to the plate following a Miguel Tejada single, Lopez smashed a ball to deep center field, and Angels’ defender Darin Erstad leaped to make the catch. For a few critical seconds, no one was sure whether Erstad had come down with the ball. In the confusion, Lopez ran and Tejada retreated, and when Lopez passed his teammate on the basepath, he was duly called out. However, since it turned out Erstand was unable to make the play, Tejada came around to score on what started out as a homer, but became an official RBI single. Now, there’s something you don’t see every day!

Just How Dumb Do You Have to Be? It’s hard to imagine, but apparently there are four minor leaguers who didn’t get the memo about baseball’s new, tougher, drug policies. Last week, the commissioner’s office announced that farmhands from the Reds’, Mets’, and Royals’ organizations were being suspended for 50 games for violating the terms of the new program. By name, they are Ramon Ramirez and Justin Mallet (Reds), Waner Mateo (Mets), and Ryan Rafferty (Royals), and they are listed here as a send-off of sorts because we’ll probably never hear of them again.

Left, Left; Left, Right, Left: Assuming no last minute changes are made, the Red Sox will end up facing six left-handed starters in the 10 games on the current home stand. points out that this echoes a stretch last July in which the Sox opposed starting southpaws in six consecutive games. It’s hard to say whether this is just the luck of the draw or part of an orchestrated plan, but it clearly hasn’t affected the club’s ability to win – instead, the early returns indicate it is the Sox’s ability to pitch well that makes all the difference. And for baseball purists like me, isn’t that really how it ought to be?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Observations from Opening Week

Kudos to Terry Francona for not succumbing to the temptation to show his support for Keith Foulke by using him to close the rubber game of the Texas series … no doubt, he’s pulling for Foulke to regain his former effectiveness (aren’t we all!), but there are games to be won. With the score at only 2-1, Jonathan Papelbon clearly was the better choice, even if he had blown the save.

And by the way? Wins in April are worth just as much as wins in September. So for all of you who are comforted after defeats by the thought that “it’s OK; it’s early,” remember that a single victory last season was the difference between winning the East and not.

How exciting is it to watch Coco Crisp play! The guy hustles all the time and seems to be enjoying every moment. Imagine actually having fun while playing baseball for a living – and daring to let it show besides!

It occurred to me the other day that should the Red Sox’s new third baseman find himself in need of a minor league rehab assignment (perish the thought!), he could possibly find himself wearing “Lowell” on both the front and back of his jersey. I’ve got an imaginary $20 bill for anyone who can contribute another example of this same bit of silliness.

With minor league rosters mostly set, I was able to locate most of the two dozen players I profiled in my Cape League book who subsequently went to the pros. To see the current list, click here – and if you know of other such sightings, please let me know!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Faith Springs Eternal

– BoSox Open Today! –

The Red Sox open their season in Texas this afternoon, and members of the Nation are poised and ready to help the club win its first World Series in, well, two years.

Fever Pitch is in the DVD player, and has been watched and rerun for a week to recapture that championship feeling … Barrett jerseys and Brunansky T-shirts have been liberated from storage and made ready to wear … faded Sox painter’s hats are hanging on the porch, paying homage to Dewey, Rooster, and the rest of that late ’70s show … The Impossible Dream is on the old turntable, the dulcet tones of Ken Coleman evoking for many a feeling of youthful innocence …

It’s Opening Day, and This Could Be the Year.

Play Ball!