June 24, 2010

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LONGSHOTS: And baseball season finally kicks off
by Dave Long

We’ve been vacationing of sorts for the last month writing about the Celtics’ run in the NBA playoffs. And while we were doing that, a lot of stuff was piling up, mostly from the most under-the-radar beginning to the local baseball season since at least before the Duquette administration was in charge. So in an attempt to catch up, here’s a quick take on things that have been taking place while hoops was the center of my attention.

The Sox Are Back In It: After being written off in early May by many panic-stricken, out-on-the-ledge folks in The Nation, the Red Sox are alive and kicking. As I write this they are tied for the wild card with the D-Rays and just a game behind the hated Yanks for first in the AL East after roaring back with the best record in baseball since April 20. And they made that climb with a host of injuries that at various times cost them J.D. (er, I mean) Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Dice-K (twice) and Josh Beckett, while surviving horrendous starts from Big Papi, V-Mart and Jon Lester along with a cavernous six-week slump from Dustin Pedroia that brought to mind the first six weeks of his rookie season. And even though he’s 8-3 John Lackey still quite hasn’t found his groove as his ERA is still above 4.00. Yet even with the great start from the D-Rays — who many thought were invincible (admit it — you did) after their red hot start in April, it is just the latest example of how (and if you had them dead on May 1 please repeat after me) Baseball is a Marathon and Not a Sprint.

Run Prevention Has Worked — Sorta: I say that because the guys brought in to spearhead the new mantra have done great, but not the way Theo planned. At the head of that class is Adrian Beltre — who was supposed to bring Brooks Robinson to mind at third. With 12 errors already that hasn’t happened, but he’s fourth in the league in hitting at .334 and leads the team in RBI — so he’s been terrific. And even with those errors, which are the most at his position in baseball, the hallowed Evan Longoria has 10 and he has improved the range in that spot.

Marco Scutaro has nine errors and that’s second worst among AL shortstops and his power number lag far behind Alex Gonzalez, who he replaced, but he’s been solid and not the usual free agent disaster at short of the Theo regime. Especially since Gonzalez leads AL shortstops in errors. As for the outfield defense, who knows, since Ellsbury and Cameron have played so little? And with the 37-year-old Cameron getting hurt as expected, the Ellsbury-to-left experiment will be called off if he ever gets back in the line-up.

The other blip was stolenbasegate, which had many loopy in early spring. But after a little work on his mechanics by Victor Martinez and with the pitching staff actually paying attention to keeping runners from running that’s subsided quite a bit. And while his .191 caught stealing percentage is nothing to write home about, the Yanks’ Francisco Cerevelli is at just .143 and people are managing to not jump off the Throgs Neck Bridge over that.

The Hitting: The big worry coming into the season was power — thus the push for Gonzalez. But you can put that worry to bed, as with a second-best-in-the-AL 93, the Sox are projecting to hit 212 homers. They are also first in doubles, slugging percentage, RBI and RUNS.

Alumni News: The reason for the worry about power hitting came from losing Jason Bay, who hit 36 homers and drove in 119 last year. This year he’s tied with Marco Scutaro with four homers and his 27 RBI are just four more than the Sox shortstop, reminding us all Fenway inflates everyone’s numbers.

Adrian Beltre to the Pats: Name any Patriots defender who fractured the ribs of one player on any play last year, let alone two. Right now it’s 10 ribs and counting that Beltre has splattered in collisions on bloopers behind third base, making him the most-feared defender since Mike Greenwell routinely crashed into outfielders in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s sent Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida to the DL and the only question left is how long before it happens to Daniel Nava?

Still Want to Trade Buchholz for Adrian Gonzalez? Remember all the folks who were begging for this deal last winter? Not me, though — as I said Clay Buchholz will be better than Lackey by next year. Turns out he’s ahead of schedule, as after Sunday’s win when he pitched 6.2 shutout innings against the Dodgers he’s tied for the American League lead in wins with 10 and his 2.47 ERA is third best. That puts him on pace to win 23, which is four more than Lackey has ever had. And best of all, he no longer has a panic attack when a guy reaches first. Meanwhile, San Diego is one of the baseball’s big surprises in leading the NL West, where Gonzalez is having a nice season by hitting .310. But to steal a line from Lou Gorman, where would they play him? Because while his 15 and 47 power numbers are solid they are mirrored by the players Gonzalez would need to displace. So as they say, sometimes the best trades are the ones not made, as Buchholz is only going to get better.

The Return of David Ortiz: The first clue Papi was going to come out of it was that Dan Shaughnessy wrote in the Globe that it was over and Theo needed to release him — lending credence to the notion that, outside of picking the C’s over Cleveland, he’s ALWAYS wrong. Admittedly it was gruesome on May 1 when he was hitting .143 with one home run and four RBI. But it turned around almost immediately after the Globe pronouncement by hitting .366 with 10 homers and 27 RBI in May — which was good enough to put him back in the three hole that was once his exclusive property. The power numbers are now 15 and 47, which project to a lot better than the 25 and 85 I had him before the season.

Reminder of How Good Tito Really Is: Almost everyone had an opinion about Ortiz, yet Tito stuck with him. Just as he did with Dustin Pedroia three years ago when most said he was too small and couldn’t play at this level. Throw in the Mike Lowell saga, the aforementioned injuries and the issues created by the six-man rotation and he’s had his hands full. So for all my complaining about being mother Francona and babying the pitchers, this year reminds how perfect he is navigating the ship amid the insanity of Red Sox Nation.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


6/17/2010 NBA Finals schedule causing reporting issues

6/10/2010 Mood swings wildly in NBA finals
6/3/2010 LEssons learned from days gone by this week
5/27/2010 seven days in May filled with action
5/20/2010 The C’s saw something most didn’t prior to current playoff run
5/13/2010 Anniversaries remind Reed and Russell were two of a kind
5/6/2010 Sox have holes in early going
4/29/2010 Whirlwind weekend leads to whirlwind thoughts4/22/2010 NFL draft winds blow through Foxboro this week
4/15/2010 Five stories for the price of one on That Was the Week That Was
4/8/2010 The Nation makes a pitch for having best staff in baseball
4/1/2010 Offense the biggest question as Sox open 2010
3/25/2010 Dancing withthe stars in the NCAA tournament
3/18/2010 Mixed bag on Nomar's Red Sox retirement
3/11/2010 Are Sox spinning on the new move to defense
3/4/2010 Mail bags talks of Pats, Celts and the Olympics
2/25/2010 Tigers tail between his legs amid vast public attention
2/18/2010 This and that as the curtain goes up on other stuff besides football
2/11/2010 This and that as the curtain comes down on football
2/4/2010 Peyton's place in historical pecking order on the line Sunday
1/28/2010 The all-decade choices — Part II
1/21/2010 The 2000s decade gets a last blast from the past
1/14/2010 Patriots marching toward an off-season rebuild
1/7/2010 Questions abound as second season arrives for Pats
12/31/2009 Numbers tell the story for 2009 in review
12/24/2009 Holiday presents for the sports naughty and nice
12/17/2009 Life can be like riding a tiger by the tail
12/10/2009 The mailbag beckons in a busy week
12/3/2009 Is hot stove turning into ho seat for Theo?
11/26/2009 Thanks and turkeys are the usual holiday fare this time of year
11/19/2009 Belichick's fourth-down cal lconfounds Patriot Nation
11/12/2009 the mid-year report for the NFL
11/05/2009 Ducks on the pond as Oregon drowns USC title hopes
10/29/2009 Run for the title looks in store for Celtics
10/22/2009 Mt. Rushmore of Patriots moments
10/15/2009 Changes I'd like to see happen
10/8/2009 Predictable ending to 2009 baseball prediction game
10/1/2009 Bay watch on for Sox MVP
9/24/2009 Pitch count police trigger another dreamlike episode
9/17/2009 The mailbags open for business
9/10/2009 Pats now see more clearly what needs to be done for '09
9/3/2009 On the shrink's couch in a near francoma
8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets
8/20/2009 Sixty-one years later and Ruth's still in the conversation8/13/2009 Empire strikes back during annual visit
8/6/2009 Ortiz and Manny's steroid story tests fans as well
7/30/2009 Trading places not as simple as "I'll take the old guy"7/23/2009 Mailbag delivers some interesting questions and answers
7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
7/9/2009 Season's second half is when it'll get interesting for the Sox
7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics
6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat