Red Sox and Yankees: September 2013

Sox fans always worry about a big fold in September.  I’m beginning to breathe a little easier after yesterday afternoon when they had a huge lead, started to give it up, stopped the bleeding and added a run.  The Sox last loss was six games ago and they will, before September is done, lose again.  But probably not often.  Not more than a game here or there.  The losers from last year are now the team to beat.  The only possible rain cloud is the injury to Jacoby Ellsbury which may mean he has already played his last game for the Sox.  As another fan tweeted, “Let the Bradley [Jackie Jr.} era begin.”  But I think the air has gone out of the Sox-Yankees games that remain.  The Sox have a replacement for Ells, but the Yankees can’t really replace Derek Jeter who appears to have re-injured himself after missing most of the season.

The different coverage from the Boston Globe and the New York Times this morning tells the story.  First Tyler Kepner from the Times.

Before this weekend, the Yankees had never lost three games in a row while scoring at least eight runs every time. Now it has happened, against the surging Boston Red Sox in the Bronx, and if that were not sobering enough, Derek Jeter aggravated his fragile left ankle Saturday and departed Yankee Stadium for a hospital.

His CT scan was negative, according to the Yankees, who sent the test results to Jeter’s ankle surgeon in Charlotte, N.C., anyway. There is a reason only one player in Jeter’s lifetime (Omar Vizquel) has played 100 games at shortstop at age 39 or older.

Alex Rodriguez missed Saturday’s game altogether. Rodriguez has helped the lineup during his appeal of his drug suspension, and he had no injury on Saturday, Manager Joe Girardi said. He is simply 38 years old and has played a lot lately. A day game after a night game was too much for Girardi to ask.

So it goes for the Yankees, who have fewer quality starts than the Mets this season and a bullpen ravaged by injuries. Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan are out, and the indispensable David Robertson will miss at least a few more days with shoulder soreness.

The Yankees are old and have no pitching, but they can still insult the Sox.

The Red Sox, quite clearly, made the most of their bailout by the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. They gave short-term contracts to professional, if poorly groomed, hitters in their primes. The newcomers Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and especially Mike Napoli have taken turns drilling big hits all series, and Xander Bogaerts, the 20-year-old shortstop, clubbed his first career homer on Saturday, a rocket over the bullpen in left.

Bogaerts connected off Jim Miller, who made his Yankees debut in relief of David Huff. Huff had been impressive in relief, but his first Yankees start was a fiasco. It was the first time since 1941 that a Yankee starter allowed at least nine earned runs to the Red Sox in fewer than four innings.

Poorly groomed?  I guess Kepner means they have beards.  And Drew, by the way,  is clean-cut enough to be a Yankee.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield (left) congratulated Xander Bogaerts after the 20-year-old’s first major league home run.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield (left) congratulated Xander Bogaerts after the 20-year-old’s first major league home run.

What is Nick Cafardo saying in the Globe?

If I were Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi, what would bug me the most about Saturday’s 13-9 loss to the Red Sox was seeing Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., Ryan Lavarnway, and Xander Bogaerts occupying the 6-9 spots in the Boston order and having them go 6 for 17 with four RBIs, a home run, and six runs.

Here we are in the middle of a September pennant race and the Red Sox have four of their guys from the farm system providing that type of production. The Yankees have nothing resembling that, and are in fact a very old team, albeit a team that has lost three straight to Boston and still managed to score 25 runs. Which is why, folks, the Yankees still have a chance to make the playoffs.

I think Xander speaks five languages and thinks he would be teaching school if he couldn’t play baseball.

Bogaerts, who is the youngest player (20 years, 341 days) to homer for the Red Sox since Dwight Evans (who was 20 years, 322 days old on Sept. 20, 1972), claimed, “I wasn’t sharp at all. I was bad in batting practice so I went back to my leg kick. I’ve always had a leg kick so I went back to that. I got some new bats, so I tried them out and it worked good. Give credit to the bat.”

On the barehanded play on Cano, the shortstop said, “I saw Cano hustle down the line so I didn’t know if I had a chance. So that was real good that I got him.”

Plus the kid got his first homer on his mother’s birthday.  I bet he gives her the ball. [The Yankees got it back for him.]

Will the Yankees even make the playoffs?  Kepner thinks they aren’t ready for the fork just yet.

The Yankees are far from finished. The Rays’ slump — they have lost 11 of 14 after Saturday’s loss in Seattle — has kept the race close. But a deep Boston lineup has exposed a thin and weary Yankees pitching staff.

“Our guys are battling,” Cashman said. “They’ve been battling all year. We’re obviously up against a really good team. You can’t afford to make mistakes, or you can’t afford to not be at full strength, or you can’t afford to not be firing on all cylinders, or they’ll take advantage. And they’ve been taking advantage of every extra inch you give.”

To be fair, the Red Sox are not at full strength, either. Their center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, is in Colorado for a second opinion on his injured right foot. If further tests reveal a broken bone, the Red Sox would lose a major catalyst at the top of their lineup.

Of course, they have not needed Ellsbury to thump the Yankees the last few days. The Yankees have been too old, too young or too overmatched to hang with the Red Sox, no matter which players they use.

And Cafardo pointed out that Yankees still scored 25 runs in the last three losses which makes them ever dangerous, especially with the Tampa Bay Rays beginning their own collapse.

These are two teams that seem to be headed in opposite directions.  The Sox have their veterans and youngsters, while the Yankees have mostly old guys – and are likely to lose Alex Rodriguez during his suspension next year.

Cafardo writes

The Yankees are going to try to rebuild their team this offseason similar to the way the Red Sox did with strategically placed veteran players. What they can’t do is come up with a Bogaerts, Bradley, or a Middlebrooks, because they don’t have any of those types in their system.

Their young catchers haven’t come around as they had hoped and their young relievers such as Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne have hit walls. Brett Marshall pitched well in 4⅓ innings Saturday after starter David Huff allowed nine earned runs in 3⅓ innings. But Boston’s answer to Marshall, Brandon Workman, has been successful in high-leverage situations.

It was doubly good for the Red Sox — they beat up the Yankees for a third straight day and showed them a glimpse of the future, which right now, the Yankees have no answer for.

According to Kepner, the Yankees have used 54 different players this year, most of whom I’ve never heard of and likely won’t again.

Give credit to Girardi for extracting a winning season from these 54, whether or not they reach the playoffs. It has been a noble run, but on days like Saturday, it seems destined to collapse before October.

So my question is this:  Who is the manager of the year?  John Farrell or Joe Girardi?

Photograph:  Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

And the race is on!

The Red Sox begin the second half of the season tonight facing steamy heat and the somewhat diminished, but always dangerous, New York Yankees.  The real race for the American League East title begins.  The Boston Globe story by Julian Benbow lays out the facts.

Whenever Jonny Gomes would glance at the standings, he got an idea just how much of a tug of war the American League East is.

The fact that four of the five teams are above .500 was overshadowed by what the division did against the rest of the league.

In the first half, the AL East went a combined 70-54 against the Central, 53-39 against the West, and 35-19 in interleague play.

“I’ve actually looked at our standings and you saw the whole AL East win,” Gomes said. “It seems like the only time a team loses is when we play each other. It’s a big division. It truly is.”

Which is why the Red Sox’ first 10 games out of the All-Star break will be a grueling and critical test.  They start with a three-game set this weekend with the Yankees, then play four with the second-place Rays, and then hit the road for three games against the Orioles.

The Sox enter Friday with a major league-leading 58 wins, but 38 of their final 65 games are against division foes.

So how did they do against the division so far?  According to Steve Melewski who writes about the Orioles

Boston is 4-2 this year against the Yankees and 9-3 against Tampa, but just 2-5 versus the Orioles.

My father used to say about the Atlanta Braves who had trouble with the Mets, “It never matters how bad or good the teams are, the Mets win.”  I hope this isn’t true about the Red Sox and Orioles.

Clay Buchholz needs to get better without rushing his recovery and Jon Lester needs to get his head straight and start winning.  Lester started out the season pitching quicker than he had before, but now he seems to have slowed again.

More from Gomes and Benbow

The Sox know how crucial the final months of the season can be. They’ve gone into the break with the division lead in five of the last seven seasons, but have won the division just once over that span.

“It’s going to be a scrap,” Gomes said. “It’s a tough division. You see last place here could be third or second in other divisions. So that speaks for itself. At the same time, the Sox aren’t going to sneak up on anybody on the road.”

The Sox were able to navigate injuries and issues in the first half in large part because of depth and some deft decision-making by Farrell.

But with a daunting schedule ahead in a tightly packed division, returning to full strength will play a large part in sustaining success and returning to the postseason.

“Where we’re at right now, we’re not going to sneak up on anyone,” Gomes said. “So we just have to simplify — win each game, win each inning, stay healthy and keep going north.”

Many Sox fans, including me (I predicted a .500 team.) were surprised by the first half.  Now we are ready to be surprised by the second.  Let’s start by beating up on the Yankees.

The Red Sox head into the post-All-Star Game portion of the season with a 2.5-game lead in the AL East.

The Red Sox head into the post-All-Star Game portion of the season with a 2.5-game lead in the AL East.

Photograph:  Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Red Sox: 50 wins

I remember a few years ago when Josh Beckett (traded to the Dodger and now out for the rest of the year) boasted that the Sox could win 100 games.  They didn’t.  That was 2011, the year of the great September swoon.  The year that Terry Francona was fired.  Not a good year.  Fast forward through last year and the Bobby Valentine debacle to 2013.  This is a year for those who love baseball.  There are no superstars, no celebrity players.  What you have is a bunch of guys who play ball.  Christopher Gasper summed it up well in his Boston Globe column this morning.

Red Sox

If you have tuned out the Sox over the first three months of the season because of disinterest or lingering resentment from the past two seasons, you have missed a good time and a good team.

At 50-34, the Sox have the best record in the American League. They’re one of only two teams in baseball to spend the entire season above .500 — the other is the Atlanta Braves. They have a plus-80 run differential, second only to the St. Louis Cardinals in all of baseball. They’ve won in walkoff fashion seven times, including against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, when they triumphed on an error at first base by a converted catcher, Josh Thole.

It’s one of those games you win when your team has good karma, instead of a toxic dump of a clubhouse. The personality makeover Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington gave the clubhouse in the offseason has taken, and the manager, John Farrell, is a source of stability, instead of a source of insurrection.

John Farrell, former pitching coach for the Red Sox under Francona, has done what the owners thought he would do for the team.  He stays out of the spotlight and does his job.

The Sox lead the majors in runs scored (431), OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) at .793, and pitches seen per plate appearance (4.06). Traditionally a team that runs the bases at the pace that ketchup drips out of a new bottle, the Red Sox entered Monday tied for second in the majors in stolen bases.

It’s increasingly difficult to say that what is happening in the Fens is just a fluke, that Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, and Jose Iglesias, who is hitting .409, are all wearing glass cleats and the clock is about to strike midnight.

The poster boy for these revitalized Red Sox is John Derran Lackey. That’s right, I said John Lackey.

Like his team, Lackey was written off, derided and despised. He was unlikable and unwatchable. He missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery.

This year, I have even seen Lackey smile.

But, Gasper asks, won’t people come out and root for the team.  Why is the buzz still about the Bruins and the Celtics?  I have to admit that I haven’t been to Fenway this year.  I only go every 3-5 years (have to save up my money)  and I went last just as the Sox were hitting their 2011 dive.  But I do watch them, listen to games and follow them closely.

Maybe Boston sports fans believe the team is going to fray and show its holes like a pair of mittens that keep getting caught on a fence. Fenway Fatalists assume Clay Buchholz won’t be able to return from the pain in his neck that has kept him out since June 8 and the team’s closer carousel will keep spinning without an answer. Koji Uehara is the latest to try the role.

Maybe they just find the team a bit hard to identify with. They’re no eccentric savants, long-haired idols, or free-spirited frat boys.

No gimmicks, just gamers.

Whatever it is, the Sox don’t have the buzz befitting a first-place baseball team more than halfway through the season.

Maybe those who derided the “new” fans as the pink hatters were right:  people were attending because it was the in thing to do, not because they loved the game.  Me?  I will watch any game.  I’ve even been known to watch a women’s tournament in Vermont.  They were playing to raise money for a women’s shelter.  But Gasper is right.  This is an exciting team.  Watch Uehara when he completes a successful inning.  They play hard every game and never quit until the last out.   And they may just bring us another American League Championship.  Maybe I should break my rule and go to a game.

The BSO and the Red Sox

I loved Seiji Ozawa when he was the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and part of what I loved was that he was a regular part of Boston life, including going regularly to Red Sox games.  The new music director, Andris Nelsons has indicated that he would like to see a Bruins game – being from Latvia I would guess that ice hockey would be his thing – but one can’t say he isn’t game.

27namespedro1 Nelsons who said he had only seen a few baseball games threw out the first pitch Tuesday night.

The first pitch at Fenway capped a full day for Nelsons.  The Globe story had the details

As night fell, Nelsons headed into Gate C at Fenway for perhaps his most difficult assignment.

Early in the morning, over breakfast, he told Volpe he had watched some baseball but was concerned. He didn’t know how he was going to throw a pitch past a batter. Volpe explained that nobody would be at the plate except a catcher.

Later, while chatting with BSO concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, Nelsons made two different throwing motions, one sidearm, one more overhand.

“It is this way or this way?” Nelsons asked as he made a pair of throwing motions.

At Fenway, after getting a uniform with number 15, Nelsons ran into Red Sox great Pedro Martinez, who offered advice.

“Just don’t bounce it,” he said, smiling.

Nelsons didn’t. A few minutes later, on the mound and in uniform, the maestro let the ball go hard. It sailed through the air, arcing a good 25 feet over the catcher and into the hands of a photographer.

“At least he didn’t bounce it,” Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg chuckled as fans cheered, another signal the Nelsons era had begun.

I suppose we have strange rituals here in Boston where our symphony music directors are initiated by throwing out the first pitch at Fenway, but Andris Nelsons seems to be adapting.  I haven’t seen him conduct yet, but as a BSO subscriber I’m sure I will soon.  And I love the fact that Pedro is back with the Sox.  I wonder if he can still pitch and fill in for Clay Buchholz.

Photograph: Stu Rosner

Red Sox, Celtics and Pride Week in Boston

Jason Collins spent time last season with the Boston Celtics (and he might be back next season) before he came out in a now famous Sports Illustrated story.  Last night Collins helped the Red Sox celebrate Pride Night by throwing out the first pitch to Manager John Farrell.  It should be noted that managers rarely do this.

The Boston Globe ran this story from the Associate Press

The 7-foot center was greeted with a nice applause when the PA announcer read the opening of the SI article: ‘‘I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.’’

Wearing a Red Sox jersey with the No. 98 on the back, Collins threw out the first pitch to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz feels everyone should support each other based on how they act.

‘‘Nobody knows what is perfect and what is not,’’ Ortiz said, sitting at his locker about three hours before the game. ‘‘If you are respectful and you do what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t matter what you are and what you come from, people should respect you and love you the same way.’’

Collins wears 98 on his jerseys to honor Matthew Shepard who was killed in 1998, a decision welcomed by Shepard’s parents.

2015 Pride Night at Fenway

2015 Pride Night at Fenway

Hey Danny and Doc, bring him back to the Celtics!

By the way, the Sox won on a walk-off 3 run homer by – David Ortiz.

Photograph Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Play ball! The 2013 season starts

Like Red Sox fans all over, I was extremely happy that we won’t be starting the season with another losing streak.  Well, at least we won’t be 0 for whatever.  And having the first win against the Yankees was icing.  I will have all summer to write about the team so I will just leave it at that and turn to more general baseball spring subjects.

Yesterday, Neil Genzlinger wrote a wonderful piece in the New York Times warning owners of souvenir baseballs to take care of them well.

Baseball’s opening week seems a good time to issue this public-service advisory: If you own an autographed baseball with significant financial or sentimental value, be prepared for it to be destroyed unless you take drastic action immediately.

That cautionary announcement is inspired by television and the movies, which love a good baseball yarn, especially if it involves an autographed ball that comes to a gruesome end. For decades, the big and small screens have been sprouting stories about beloved balls that have been ruined, usually by a child who has not been properly schooled in the importance of sports memorabilia. And in these tales we can find vital lessons for this time of year.

Two of his advisories are my favorites.  First is from “Leave it to Beaver”, a show I watched as a child and later in re-runs.  I don’t remember this episode but it is typical.  Genzlinger advises you live in a roadless neighborhood.

That is the lesson of an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” first broadcast in April 1960, during the show’s third season. Ward, the Beaver’s father, discovers a prized baseball from his childhood in a trunk and puts it on display in his den, a foolish thing to do given Beaver’s already well-established knack for wreaking havoc.

How valuable was this baseball? It had been signed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Kiki Cuyler, Augie Galan, Bill Dickey and Grover Cleveland Alexander, which means it could have paid for the Beaver’s college education.

Others can research whether those players were ever in the same locker room at the same time, as Ward attests. Our focus here is what happens to the ball. The Beaver’s nitwit friend Larry persuades him to play catch with it, Larry heaves it over the Beaver’s head and into the street, and a passing truck squashes it. So if you own a ball with those autographs on it — or, really, with any one of those autographs on it — find a roadless place to live. No road, no trucks.

The second favorite piece of advice is to get rid of the family dog.  Easy enough for me since I have cats who just roll things around the floor.  Baseballs are much to big for them to bite.

It’s the family pet that does the damage in an episode of the sitcom “George Lopez” first broadcast in October 2002. The son in the fictional Lopez family, Max, is being pressured by his father to improve his baseball skills, which are abysmal, and he practices with one of George’s most treasured possessions, a ball signed by Steve Garvey, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer and Rod Carew. The family mutt nabs it and reduces it to a gooey lump.

The episode, by the way, features four of the daffiest athlete cameos in television history. Garvey, Morgan, Palmer and Carew appear or, more accurately, their heads do, as George’s bobblehead-doll collection lectures him after he yells at Max.

I thought my picture of the day from opening day would be Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s catch of the day for the Red Sox, but then I saw this of my first favorite player beginning when he was a Brooklyn Dodger, Sandy Koufax, who still bleeds Dodger Blue.

Sandy Koufax threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Monday.

Sandy Koufax threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Monday.

Baseball is all about making memories.  Time to make some new ones.

Photograph Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

More on the Storm of 2013 – with Dustin Pedroia

We have a lot of snow here in Boston and the hot discussion is whether the T or train system could have reopened faster – not until tomorrow morning for the Monday commute.  For those of you who don’t know, the train is partially underground and partially above.  I can hear them working on the orange line which runs down the hill from our house and is above ground where we are.  And while our street has been plowed there are places where the wind has blown snow back across it and people are getting stuck.

But Brendan Lynch at public radio WGBH is trying his best to look forward to spring.  He is measuring the snow in Dustin Pedroias.  Dustin is the shortest member of the Red Sox.  I think that Brendan is working on the official Major League height and Dustin is actually shorter, but here is what was posted yesterday morning.  There have been so new totals since then so you can do your own math.

Spencer (which is near Worcester, MA) is now reported at 34.5″  clearly half a Pedroia.  Logan Airport (which will be the official Boston total) is 24.9″   And Jamaica Plain, a section of Boston right across those Orange Line tracks from us, is 25.5″  These totals are from David Epstein’s Weather Wisdon blog.

So while we aren’t quite half a Pedroia here in Boston, that is still a lot of snow!

Highland Park 2-9-2013

Another view of the park across the street.

Francona and the Red Sox

I finished reading Francona last week and have been listening and reading to what people are saying about it.  In case you don’t live in Boston, follow the Red Sox, or follow another baseball team, Terry Francona was the manager of the Boston Red Sox from 2004 through the 2011 season.  Quite a long time in baseball years, particularly in Red Sox years.  He managed the team to their first World Series win (2004) in 86 years breaking the infamous curse of Babe Ruth.  And then one a second Series in 2007.  I loved seeing him in the corner of the dugout chewing his tobacco which he pretended was gum or maybe is was sometimes the other way around.  And I felt terrible as the 2011 season imploded in September.  I think we all knew that Francona wouldn’t be back for 2012.

Terry in the dugout.

Terry in the dugout.

So now there is the book, Francona. by Terry and Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe.  Some people don’t like it because they think it completely trashes the owners which makes me wonder if they have actually read the book.  Or maybe they are responding on behalf of the owners.  I had read some of the advanced reviews which said that he was not nice to the owners so I guess I looked for those parts in the book.  (for a nice interview with Terry by Emily Rooney, click here.)

The controversy appears to stem largely from his statement that the owners didn’t like baseball.  Taken out of context, this is a rather silly statement.  Why would you spend millions to own a team if you didn’t like the game?  But if you read the book, you learn that in Francona’s  world, where one lives and breathes baseball from a very young age, the owners are different.  They have other interests, like making money, and bring in fans.  Why else would they bring in a showman like Bobby Valentine after Terry?

There is a delicate balance between the purity of the game and the game as business.  Francona is on one side of that fine line, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino are on the other.  And that is the essence of the the matter.  In the end, Francona and Theo Epstein were on the wrong side from those that paid them.  I don’t think they were surprised.

I love baseball.  I like going to minor league games without all the show of the bigs to distract me.  I guess I’m like Francona in that tiny way.  If you love baseball and want an inside picture, read this book.

Red Sox pitchers and catchers report on the 12th; everyone else on the 15th.  I read that most of the pitchers have already arrived in Florida.  Bobby V. is thankfully gone.  New manager John Farrell is a baseball guy.  Maybe John Lackey will redeem himself.  Maybe we can give the young kids a chance to play and grow.  Maybe the Sox will have a winning year.  Francona is managing the Cleveland Indians and Theo is with the Cubs.  It’s spring time for baseball and anything can happen.

Photograph sportsofboston.com

The hall of fame, drugs, and baseball

The question being asked by many as we wait for the votes to be announced tomorrow is will any one be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame this year?  I am of two minds about the whole performance enhancing drug business.  Should we be looking at records before and after and, if the before record is Hall worthy go ahead and elect them?  Or should drug use be a total disqualifier?  And what of people we suspect but have never been caught?

I have seen detailed analyses of the records of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens.  I think they were so caught up in the idea of being ball players they did what they thought they had to to prolong their careers – at least that is true of Roger.  Should they not get into the Hall because they were stupid and lacked character?  The first person elected was Ty Cobb with his reputation for dirty play and racism.

Back in December, Bob Ryan wrote in the Boston Globe

I am in possession of the toxic ballot.

It is the Hall of Fame ballot voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) have dreaded for the last five years. Our feet are finally being held to the bonfire. How will we as a body judge the candidacy of the all-time home run leader, the only man to win seven Cy Young Awards, and a man with 609 career home runs who is the only person to homer 60 times or more in three seasons?

Absent, shall we say, a complicating factor, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa would be ultra-mortal locks. Based on the numbers, there wouldn’t be the slightest hesitation in checking the box next to their names.

For years I have been saying, publicly and privately, that some day I may wake up and decide that all this agonizing over how to judge admitted or strongly suspected PED users is fruitless, that there was a period of time in baseball’s recent history when juiced pitchers threw to juiced batters and we will never know how many PED-aided home runs would have landed on the warning track or how many fewer strikeouts someone would have had if the people in question had been clean. I might acknowledge that it is an impossible task to act as judge and jury, that I should simply let them all in and not worry about the ethical question posed by the use of PEDs in athletic competition.

I, for one, just can’t do it. Some day, maybe. Or maybe not. I’ve got 15 years to decide what to do with the Toxic Trio.

I know this much: They’re not getting in, at least not this year. Steroid-tinged Mark McGwire­ has had six chances and he’s actually going backward, peaking with 23.7 percent of the vote (75 percent is needed for election) in 2010. Last year, he slipped to 19.5. Admitted user Rafael Palmeiro, he of the 3,020 hits and 569 home runs, got 11 percent of the vote two years ago and 12.6 last year. There will be no need for either to prepare an acceptance speech.

But we’re all curious to see what the vote will be. I’m betting that Bonds and Clemens will come up with something between 40 and 50 percent of the vote, while Sosa will be lucky to crack double figures.

Ryan believes that no one will be elected this year, a opinion echoed by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.  Kepner points out that a player needs 75% of the ballots which even in year untainted by PED’s is hard.

Historically, this has not been easy. In 1971, when Yogi Berra made his debut on the ballot, he collected only two-thirds of the vote. That’s right — 118 of 360 writers did not vote for Berra as soon as they had the chance. Fifteen players on that 1971 ballot eventually made it to Cooperstown, but that year, the voters could not reach a three-quarters consensus on any of them.

Since then, only one other writers’ ballot has produced no new inductees. That was in 1996, when Phil Niekro, Tony Perez and Don Sutton got more than 60 percent but less than 75. They and three others from that ballot — Ron Santo, Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter — eventually elbowed through the crowd and into the Hall.

So who else is on the ballot?  One of my all time favorites, Dale Murphy.  I first saw him play for the Richmond Braves when he was a catcher.  Bob Ryan writes

This is it for Murphy, Year 15. His son, Chad, has created a petition and has bombarded voters with e-mails. Murphy is a rare back-to-back MVP (1982-83) with 398 career homers. He made an admirable transition from catcher to five-time Gold Glove center fielder. But he has never passed the Hall of Fame I-know-one-when-I-see-one Smell Test, his vote percentage ranging from a low of 8.5 in Year 6 to last year’s high of 14.5. It’s not going to happen.

Curt Shilling is also on there.  When I can put aside my distaste for his politics and for his hypocrisy – belief in smaller government while seeking lots of government economic development money from Massachusetts and then getting it from Rhode Island – he could pitch and if I had a vote would check him off.

But it is likely that no one will break th 75% barrier and the plaque will look like this.

We will find out tomorrow.

Illustration by Sam Manchester/The New York Times

Bye, Bye Bobby

Mercifully, the Red Sox season came to a close yesterday.  Daisuke Matsuzaka ended his run with a loss.  Poor fellow, he never adjusted to American baseball or maybe to Red Sox baseball.  The same for Bobby Valentine who was fired today.  Peter Abraham wrote this afternoon

The Red Sox moved swiftly after ending their season Wednesday night, telling Valentine that he would not return for the second year of his contract to manage the team.

The Sox finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and finished in last place in the American League East for the first time since John Henry and Tom Werner became owners 11 years ago.

“I’m disappointed, yeah,” Valentine said in an impromptu meeting with reporters after he first eluded them as he started a bike ride Thursday afternoon. “This is not the press conference that I was expecting at the end of the season.”

Not since 1934 had the Red Sox fired a manager after only one season. But the 62-year-old Valentine was a controversial choice to replace Terry Francona, and his tenure proved rocky.

“A lot of things didn’t go well, but an experienced manager is supposed to put his finger in the dike and keep the water on the other side,” he said.

Of course we had seen this coming for sometime now.  Bobby falling off his bike was symbolic of the season.

So now it is time to move on.  Sign Cody Ross.  Sign David Ortiz.  Hope that Ellsbury can stay healthy.  Ditto Pedroia.  And who should he the next manager?

Red Sox Lose - Getty.jpg

The Obnoxious Boston Fan  posted this advice for the new manager.

Dear Next Red Sox Manager:

Congratulations. Managing the Red Sox is a dream job for anyone who doesn’t have it. You will be the most scrutinized boss in New England, especially now that the FBI is no longer “tracking” Whitey Bulger.

Good luck, sir, you’re going to need it.

Every Red Sox fan – at least once or twice a game – knows that he or she can do the job better than you. Every move you make will be second-guessed, criticized, analyzed, applauded or jeered, depending on the result. You will almost always be wrong. We will almost always be right.

Very few of us know first-hand the challenges of managing multi-millionaires with guaranteed contracts and the massive talent and ego helped them earn those multi-million dollar deals. The Red Sox team that you greet on Day One in Fort Myers cannot bear any real resemblance to the team that sulked off the field in humiliating defeat Wednesday night in the Bronx.

Many of the core players will or perhaps should be the same – the cheerful Cody Ross, the surgically-repaired Dustin Pedroia, the hopefully re-signed and content David Oritz, the genuine Texas-Could-Be-Tough-Guy Will Middlebrooks, the-ever-consistent Clay Buchholz and the glad-this-season-is-over Jon Lester. This core has as much potential to win the coveted first or second-wildcard as does the Orioles or A’s and is strong enough to even reach the ALCS. There is neither enough firepower at the plate nor octane on the mound to win a division nor survive pair of seven-game series and win a World Series championship.

And he ends with this

You are fortunate to be replacing Bobby Valentine. It would be nearly impossible to do any worse in 2013 than he did in 2012. Valentine didn’t lose control of the Red Sox, he never had it, nor ever cared to. His presence was all about Bobby Valentine from his introductory press conference to final, whining farewells this week. This is not about you, it’s about them. If you can get through your first press conference without being the star of the show, that will be considered progress.

Simply doing a better job than your predecessor won’t be good enough. Everyone will demand a championship every year. But Red Sox fans as a whole are a patient lot and will give you and the organization a chance as long as they are treated like adults and not a bunch of six-year-olds who still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the second wildcard when the team is 12 games out in August. My parents both lived and died their entire lives without ever seeing a World Series parade in Boston. Most of their grandchildren, on the other hand, don’t remember a time when the Red Sox hadn’t won a championship  Trust me on this one, Mr. New Manager, Red Sox fans are a patient and forgiving, if given the chance.

Reasonable Red Sox fans – no that’s not an oxymoron – know this team is at least two years away from serious contention, if not three. You’ll have a guaranteed contract, probably at least three-years in length. So act accordingly.

Take charge.

Be the boss.

Lead.

Neither accept nor dispense bull—-, especially when dealing with the players.

Do not follow and get everyone else the hell out of your way. Dealing with the media is a part of the job, but they are not your core audience nor do they generate the bajillions of dollars needed to sustain the Monster and all whom work beneath its spell. Be professional and they will/should act accordingly. Don’t play them off one and another and don’t, under any circumstances, allow yourself to become the story with foolishness and faux threats to punch them in the nose. And you’re free to ignore what idiots like me say once you’re done reading this letter.

Simply put: “Do your job.”

The pressure is on, Ben Cherington.  Pick well.  We are waiting.