Friday, April 30, 2010

The 3-1-6

Baseball's got tons of numbers. There are the stats - batting averages, ERAs, RBIs. Then each player is known by name and number (every stadium has a zillion tv screens, are those numbers really necessary anymore?). The bases are numbered. At Fenway Park, you find your seat by section, row, and... number.

And then there are the baseball positions. Yup. There are nine fielding positions in baseball,* and each has a number. You might think, if you were a pinkhat or just somewhat logical, that number 1 would be first base, number 2 would be second, and so on, but this is not the case. The numbers start with the pitcher (1), then go to the catcher (2), around the bases (3,4,5), to the shortstop (6) and then across the outfield from left to right (7,8,9).

This will shock you, but I actually knew about fielding position numbers before this commitment to watch every game and blog about what I learned. During a rainy extra-inning game at Fenway, my father entertained me with a quiz on the number assigned to each position. Of course, I had long since forgotten the numbers, and I'm not sure I ever knew their purpose.

Unfortunately Wikipedia doesn't explain why the positions are numbered, but after Wednesday's game against Toronto, I think I have an idea. Early in the game Jerry Remy or Don Orsillo announced a 1-3-6 put-out. Pitcher Jon Lester (1) threw to Kevin Youkilis at first (3) and had the runner picked off.** The runner knew he was out if he returned to first, so he tried to make it to second. The shortstop Marco Scutaro (6) was covering second base and tagged the runner out.

Why say all that when you can say 1-3-6 put-out?

With so many numbers in baseball, the Sox should just keep things simple. Like when the pitcher sends the ball to Pedroia and he hits a homerun as he did tonight in the 6th... wouldn't that just be a 1?***

*Plagiarism Alert!!! This sentence is exactly the same as a sentence I read on Wikipedia. If you can think of a different way to say this, let me know so I can plagiarize you instead.

**This doesn't sound like proper English to me, but Dave is reading over my shoulder, and every time I write this differently he says, "okay, but that's wrong."

***Nope, according to Dave it most certainly would not. The numbers are used for scoring and are often accompanied by letters. For example F9 would be a flyout to the leftfielder, and P6 would be a pop-up to the shortstop. And homeruns are annotated with HR- no number, but a diagram to shade on the scorecard.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Today it hit me. In just one year I've become a wife, mother, and dedicated baseball watcher. It was a nice realization, and I was inspired to write a post about reinvention. I even had plans to loop back to Catcher Jason Varitek and the unexpected success he's been having this year.

It didn't take long for inspiration to fade and for me to realize how little I've changed. I promised Dave hours ago I'd find him something to eat because I haven't been to the grocery store in weeks. Don't get me wrong, he could cook his own meal and help with the food shopping. I just can't gush about how nicely we have settled into married life.

And then there is the baby. For months we've blamed her poor sleeping, excessive drooling, general crankiness, and a bunch of other unpleasantries on "teething," even though she doesn't have a single tooth. She is currently laying in my arms because she refuses to sleep in her crib, which is obviously another symptom of teething.* This means I am typing with one hand - not very conducive to inspired writing and a reminder that I need to hit the parenting books before posting about our easy adjustment to life with baby.

Finally, the baseball watching. Guess how excited I am for Thursday (Sox travel day)? I have plans to watch eight reality television shows, hit the gym, go to a restaurant without sports on TV, and somehow get to bed around nine. Yeah, not much different in this arena either- at least I'm working on it.

So, in the hopes of retaining a little inspiration tonight, I'm turning to Varitek. There was a good article about him by Nick Cafardo in Sunday's Boston Globe. The 38-year-old didn't expect much playing time this year after a suite of injuries and the signing of Victor Martinez. But he's already got four homeruns and some other nice-looking offensive stats. His hard work is paying off.

I might have enough inspiration left to try putting down my snoring daughter and whip up an omelet. Just not sure we have any eggs.

*Isn't this a nice excuse? I can just see the police showing up at my door with my teenage daughter... and me explaining to them, "Officers, of course she was skipping school [shoplifting, smoking a doobie], she's teething."

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Shift

I'm still kind of stuck in my pinkhatted way of watching games. Focus on the batter, rely on the scoreboard or TV header for the count, cheer when I hear the crowd erupt.* Until yesterday I had not thought much about defensive positioning and strategy in baseball.

We're listening to the game in the car, and I hear Joe Costiglione announce that Ortiz hit one "through the shift."

From what I have learned, Ortiz is a pull hitter, which means that he hits the ball towards the same side of the field as his feet. Ortiz bats left-handed, thus standing on the right-field side of the plate, and "pulls" the ball towards right field. I guess this is so predictable that opposing teams apply a defensive shift when he steps up to bat.

Every team plays the shift differently, and it matters whether there are runners on base. If nobody is on base or there is only a runner on first, they might employ a full shift where the second baseman and shortstop move towards right field and the third basemen covers second. If there is a player on second, a modification might be made to the shift so that only the second basemen moves towards right field and the shortstop covers second.

According to Jerry Remy,** the shift might work in one of two ways: either the batter hits into it for the out or the batter tries to hit the ball differently resulting in a less productive swing. Remy also states that the (Ted) Williams Shift, as designed by the Cleveland Indians, is the "most famous".

I am watching tonight's game to figure out how the teams communicate alignment and movement such as defensive shifts. Maybe the daily rotation of outfielders is partially to blame for the slow start to the season. I memorized the original starting lineup (S is for Scutaro and shortstop) so I know that four of tonight's nine starters are different than the regular lineup. Bill Hall is in left field for Jacoby Ellsbury, Darnell McDonald is in centerfield for Mike Cameron, and Jason Varitek is catching tonight.

Of course the score is currently 13-10, so it might be the wrong night to focus on defense.

*Sad, but embarrassingly true.
** If this is your first reading, you should know I rely heavily on Jerry Remy's Watching Baseball: Discovering the Game within the Game. Thus far I've only used it to discover the game, but hopefully my baseball learning will pay off (or I'll meet Yoda) and attain the game within the game.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Save Situation

The score is 7 Red Sox, Orioles 4. Jonathan Papelbon touches the ball to his glove, lifts his leg, draws back his arm....

Hold on a second. I thought Pap was the closer, the pitcher only used in a save situation. The Sox are winning by 3. What gives?

If the tying run is on base, at bat, or on deck, it's considered a save situation.

Because a save is an official scoring term, even when meeting this criteria, its only a save situation if the final pitcher of the game is brought in.

The Sox just won 7-6. Papelbon only pitched two thirds of one inning and allowed two runs.

But somehow he saved the game?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Batting Order

Ortiz is back at designated hitter (DH) after going on a Francona-enforced hiatus that he uncharacteristically admitted today was an "embarrassment". What, no expletives for us, Ortiz?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Ortiz's Britney Spears-esque episode earlier this season. (I might not have cursed so much, but the media and some fans were too critical, too early.) I'm just wondering if Big Papi is also on some Francona-enforced sedatives?

Whatever he's on, it's working. He just hit a homerun into the monster seats.

We're listening to the game on the radio in the car,* so I've had lots of time to notice new baseball terminology. Joe Costiglione and Dave O'Brien keep saying batting first, second, third, etc. for the Red Sox is.... They've also used the term "batting cleanup".

Ortiz is batting sixth for the Red Sox. I ask Dave if there is any rhyme or reason to his place in the line up (batting order). He says Francona likes to alternate right and left-handed batters, but that it's a complicated topic.

Thanks, Dave. Again, I'm in the car and without my reference material, so I'll have to ask my NEW husband, Wikipedia.

The first thing I learn is that batting order is set before the game, and it's a violation to go out of order. I guess that makes sense- it wouldn't be fair if Francona could have Dustin Pedroia hit a homerun and then step back up to the plate.

Next thing I learn is that there are a few other terms I missed. The first batter is referred to as the leadoff hitter. Batting in the ninth position is batting last. I would have thought batting cleanup meant batting last, but it actually means batting fourth; the batter hopefully cleans the bases of the baserunners before him by sending them across home plate.

Here's a few general notes about each position in the lineup.

1- Fastest runners, get on and around bases to capitalize on later hitters' power.
2- Contact hitters (as in make contact with the ball) that can get the leadoff batter into scoring position.
3- Best all-around hitter, but not necessarily the fastest. Sets things up for the cleanup hitter.
4- Often the hitter with the most power.
5,6- RBI (runs batted in) hitters, often hitting sacrifice flies to allow baserunners to score.
7,8- Less powerful hitters with lower RBIs. 8 might be a contact hitter.
9- According to wikipedia the ninth hitter is "like" the second leadoff. Often fast, with good on-base percentages.

Of course it's much more complicated than this, but we've reached our destination. I'm going in to watch the rest of the game on TV.

*I'm also writing this post in the car on my iPhone, so please forgive the formatting errors. The grammatical, spelling, and stylistic issues are still my bad.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Nope, not changing my mission, as big a relief as that would be. Evening runs without the speakers strapped to the baby jogger blasting the Sox.* Freedom to flip between Bravo, Food Network, and HGTV, and not just on NESN commercial breaks. Going to bed before 11 pm. Ahhhh.

Snap out of it, Pinkhat. You're watching game 16 of 162. That means 146 more to go!

Okay, Off-speed. Circle change. Dead fish.** I'm not listing mobster monikers here. I'm talking about the illusive pitch, the change-up. It's apparently the slowest pitch most pitchers throw, but when done right, it can be the hardest to hit.

According to Jerry Remy in Watching Baseball Smarter, the arm action, speed of the arm, and the angle of release are the same as for a fastball. That's what makes the change-up so tricky for batters. They think they're getting a fastball, so they swing way too early.

Throwing a change-up is all about grip. A fastball is whipped towards the batter with spin put on it from two fingers at the top of the ball. A change-up is slower than a fastball because it is released from deeper in the palm with fingers covering more of the surface of the ball. A circle change-up has a different grip then the change-up. The thumb and pointer finger make the okay sign.

Former Sox Pedro Martinez won three Cy Young awards due much to his circle change-up. At one point in his career he threw 95-97mph fastballs and change-ups in the neighborhood of 75mph.

Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz threw some nasty change-ups tonight. I tried to tell the difference in his pitches, but I guess I'm not there yet. I only know they were nasty because Dave kept screaming "Did you see that change-up?", thus inspiring this post.

Before that I was going to blog about the recycling emblems on the Sox jerseys in honor of the 40th annual celebration of Earth Day. I was concerned about the environmental implications of jerseys that would be worn only once, so I have about eight browser windows open with google searches like "do the Red Sox wear new uniforms every game?"

All searches are pointing towards no. And to a documentary I would love to track down about Red Sox laundry,** although my suspicion is this documentary has to do with the colloquial dirty laundry rather and not dirt-stained jerseys and pants.

If I happen to find out that the Sox are a bunch of greenwashers, I'll let you know. Maybe we'll even start a pinkhat campaign to get the Sox to change-up their ways.

*Don't believe anything I say. That only happened once, and it was only about a mile.
**Dave's never heard of a dead fish. Have you?
***If this isn't a documentary, remember it was MY idea, but I'll sell it to you for a mil or two.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where's the Picture?

The Bruins playoffs are on NESN, so I'm old-timing it with the radio tonight. I think listening to some games is great for my baseballucation, but tonight I am wishing I had a visual.

One, I have a bad cold and my ears are stuffed up.

Two, it's a close game. The Texas Rangers took the early lead, the Sox went ahead, then the Rangers tied it up 7-7 in the seventh. Daniel Bard pitched two perfect innings (no batters got on base) in the eighth and ninth. I would have loved to see that... not to mention Ranger's pitcher Neftali Feliz's 100 mph fastballs, for the sake of learning baseball of course.

Now it's the bottom of the twelfth, the score is still 7-7, and I'm still listening on the radio because the Bruins are in overtime too. I have the Bruins game muted on the TV, and I did get a glimpse of Fenway when they showed the Green Monster scoreboard being updated as the Bruins went into double OT.

Woohoo! Youkilis just hit one off the wall to bring in Marco Scutaro. The Sox win 8-7.

Double woohoo! I'm going to bed where I hope my desire for a visual results in a peaceful night dreaming about baseball.

*Hitting a double means each runner advances two bases. I'm planning a post on "ground rule doubles," but not tonight. This deserves it's own post and a much less muddled mind.

A Few Things to Smile About

Last night's Red Sox game was more dramatic than an episode of Jersey Shore.... On second thought, maybe I should bank that analogy for a Sox-Yankee brawl. It's a long season and I don't want to use all my good material on an early game against the Texas Rangers.

Stream of writers consciousness aside, here's my list of a few things to smile about.

1. At some point last night I realized that, if the Sox kept sucking, I might be watching the games alone come August. Let's smile that Boston stopped the losing streak and that this pinkhat might not be so lonely.

2. This doesn't exactly bring smiles to the faces around Fenway, but the Rangers were certainly grinning as they stole nine bases from the Sox, basically making a mockery of Pitcher Tim Wakefield and Catcher Victor Martinez. Even though Wakefield got charged with a balk (tried
to throw out a runner after initiating his pitch), we can smile that at least the Sox started attempting to hold runners (basically tossing the ball around warning runners that an attempt would be made to get them out if they went early) the second half of the game.

3. To quote Project Runway: "One day you're in, the next day your out." This is what makes baseball (and crappy TV fashion?) so exciting. Bill Hall was not exactly eliciting smiles in his past few games filling in for Mike Cameron. Last night, however, his bunt set the Sox up for the win.

4. Dave was switching to the Celtics playoffs on commercials. What self- respecting man, let alone professional athlete, refers to himself as "Ticket Stub" and "Big Baby" in the same sentence, no less. Not sure whether to smile or groan. Okay, scratch number 4, definitely groaning.

5. The last and most obvious. Ever heard of Darnell MacDonald? Now you have, after he hit a two-run homerun to tie up the game and a second to win it.

I bet he's still smiling too.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On the DL

Let's just say it was not a pretty weekend for the Sox, and move on.

Of course moving on means heading into tonight's series against the Texas Rangers without the Sox left or center fielders. Jacoby Ellsbury is still suffering from sore ribs after his on-field collision with Adrian Beltre. Mike Cameron passed kidney stones Friday (gross- did we really need to know that? ) but was back at the hospital last night with more pain. An announcement was made today that he has an abdominal tear that may require surgery.

All you bluehat readers need to watch me closely. Last week I wrote that both these players on the disabled list (DL). Not so, at least not then.

Like all things baseball there are specific rules about the DL; it doesn't just mean you are hurt. And again like all things baseball, understanding one rule requires knowledge of another, in this case 25-man (active) and 40-man (expanded) rosters.

The 25-man roster includes all the players who dress for every game and accompany the team on road trips- the Major League equivalent of the varsity team? The 40-man roster includes those in the 25-man roster, plus anyone on the 15-day DL, plus contracted players said to be on "optional assignment" in the minor leagues.

Sidenote: This is the set-up for the Rule 5 draft, but I am not going there today.

Back to the DL. If a player is injured, a team might place him on the 15-day DL to free up a slot on the 25-man roster. Teams must consider how long the player is expected to be out and the back-up options, because once a player is listed he cannot come back until the 15 days are complete. If teams can handle playing "short-handed", they might wait awhile before placing a player on the DL because the assignment may be made retroactively (up to 10 days). This is what could occur with Jacoby Ellsbury, if he isn't recovering and Francona gets as fed up with Bill Hall* as the rest of Red Sox Nation.

The 60-day DL seems reserved for more serious injuries/health issues. A player may be moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL (and have the days already spent on the 15-day DL count towards the 60 days), but once a player is put on the 60-day DL, that's it. And literally that is it, at least for the season, if a player is placed on the 60-day DL after September 1.

So Cameron was placed on the 15-day DL today. Josh Reddick will be brought up from Triple A to play centerfield for awhile.

Let's hope Ellsbury and Cameron have speedy recoveries, or at least that Reddick is some kind of good luck charm for the Sox. If I have to watch every game, it would be nice if they could win a few here and there.

*In fairness to Hall, I read somewhere that he hasn't played centerfield in years and that it is a tricky position (imagine that).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Too Much Sox

Way too much Sox this weekend.

I should have know I was in for it when Friday's game was suspended due to rain, with eight and a half innings against the Tampa Bay Rays complete and the game tied 1-1. It was picked up Saturday night, sans closer Jonathan Papelbon who was welcoming his second child Gunner to Red Sox Nation and the rest of the outside world. Three and a half innings later, the Rays beat the sox 3-1.

So Saturday's game didn't begin until sometime after 9pm and was only in the seventh with the Sox losing 6-1 when I went to sleep sometime after 11pm. Had I stayed up through the bottom of the seventh, when the Sox rallied (really when Dustin Pedroia rallied with another 2-run homerun), I probably would have made it to the end of the game. Instead I woke up Sunday morning and watched the replay. The Sox lost again 6-5.

This meant it was only a matter of hours between the end of Saturday's game and the beginning of Sunday's. We were headed to a parade and a barbeque, so I took in the game in a combination of iPhone app, television, and am radio. So even though I know the Sox end up losing 7-1, I didn't really pay enough attention to the game, so now I'm watching Breakfast with the Sox.

Which really sucks for two reasons. One, watching the replay when you know the negative outcome of the game is not fun. Two, it's Patriots Day which means another game starts in two hours.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Batting Average

Tonight I'm going to rip off the band-aid and learn about batting averages. There has been too much talk about how terrible Ortiz is* and who stinks even more (J.D. Drew) to ignore the stats any longer. If it has to happen before I graduate to bluehat, it might as well be now.

Most batting averages are somewhere around .300 (pinkhats, say three hundred). Batting average is the ratio of hits to at bats, calculated by dividing the number of times a player gets a hit by the number of at bats. So a .300 means that a player gets 3 hits for every 10 times he steps up to the plate.

Um, what? Don't these guys get paid for this?

Ortiz has a .154. J.D. Drew has a .143. They are both said to be below the Mendoza Line, which is a batting average at or below .200. The Mendoza Line was named after Mario Mendoza, who played for the Pirates, Mariners, and Rangers from 1974-1982. I guess he was good at defense and not so great at batting because he had a career average of .215 (and because he has a not so great batting statistical marker named after him).

And then there's the good. Dustin Pedroia is batting a .405, and Jason Varitek is batting a .500. Before tonight's game, Varitek had only been up to bat four times and gotten two homeruns, making for some easy math to practice calculating batting averages. So far tonight Varitek has been up three times, gotten one home run (the score is 1-1 in the 9th), and out twice. 3 divided by 7... his batting average should be .429.

That was relatively painless. Not like ripping off a bandaid at all... they claim doing it fast helps, but I cry every time.

*For the record Dave thinks he's doing great, but he might just be holding off on the Ortiz-bashing so he can say "I told you so" in July again.

Scoring Position

It was brought to my attention, in a comment by Dave, that my last post contained an inaccuracy. I'm sure more could be found (think "what's wrong with this picture?" from Highlights magazine), but this blip changed the meaning of an *important* baseball definition.

When describing on-base percentage, I loosely wrote "anytime a player gets in scoring position" to differentiate between players getting credit towards OBP vs. hits. I wrongly assumed scoring position meant anytime a player got on base.

Nope, in baseball scoring position means a player is on second or third base- bases a player could reach home from on a single.

It's somewhat ironic to be defining this after the Red Sox were shut out yesterday by the Twins, even with two men on base in the first, runners on the corners in the second... and bases loaded in the eighth. Hopefully the Sox won't leave as many runners in scoring position tonight, but it's probable that they will be playing sans base-stealer Jacoby Ellsbury. Mike Cameron, who hasn't exactly been driving in the runs this season, also seems to be headed for the DL with a mysterious abdomen ache. Left and center fielders out... ouch.

Back to my own shortcomings. I was well aware that beginning this blog would provide another forum for Dave to comment on my pinkhattedness. However, I didn't realize that the public nature of the forum would require him to be so nice about it.

I'm tempted to write about whether this puts Dave in scoring position. I even thought about titling this post "that's what she said," but I really would love to write an entire post on baseball

Let's just say I like the way he put it.

That's what she said?

*Yes, I'm aware of the two different uses of this term.

**I'm not sure it will happen though, as my mom-in-law and her boss are loyal readers, and my mom checks in periodically to tell me I shouldn't be posting pics of her grandaughter on the Internet.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Working the Count

On the off chance you are also struggling with a self-imposed requirement to watch every Sox game this season and keep your day job, I've got the dirt. This weeks' games against the Minnesota Twins are all day games, as are all the Twins' home games for the first month, because of the new domeless Target Field and concerns about extended winter weather. For the record, today's gametime temp was 73 degrees.

I caught a few minutes of the game live on the radio, but watched the full-length replay on NESN at 7pm tonight. After Umpire Joe West's hissy-fit* about the length of Red Sox and Yankee games, both radio and television commentary has been focused on length of play.

Many funny things have been said about the issue, including a suggestion by Tim Keown (ESPN) that Jonathan Papelbon bring a sandwich to the mound to avoid hypoglecmia. There have also been a lot of good points justifying why Sox and Yankee games just take longer. One reason named is that the Sox stress on-base percentage so their batters take a lot of pitches.

Don't know what on-base percentage is? Me neither, but it's my job to learn, so here goes. Whereas batting average describes successful hits (look back a few posts), on-base percentage includes hits, walks, and times hit by a pitch... basically anytime a player gets on base and in scoring position.

I'm also not familiar with "working the count", but again duty calls. The goal of working the count is to get to a pitch you can hit. The batter is trying to get to a 2-0 or 3-1 count, where the pitcher has incentive to throw a more conservative pitch. With a 2-0 count the pitcher is trying to get the quick out, and in the 3-1 count the pitcher is trying to avoid walking the batter. The batter might also foul off (hit pitches that could be strikes into foul territory, which doesn't matter to the count**) to get to a pitch he likes.

It also doesn't hurt that in the process a batter gets the pitcher to waste a bunch of good pitches. This worked against the Red Sox on Monday's game when the Twins got Jon Lester to throw 107 pitches in just five innings. Compare this to John Lackey who threw 107 pitches through two outs in the seventh inning during today's game.***

Tomorrow's game is at 1:10pm, so I guess I'll be watching the replay again. I used to threaten pain if anyone told me who got kicked off Project Runway. Now I warn people not to spoil the final score of the Sox game.

Plus I know what working the count means. Wow!

*This might be the baseball equivalent of Jon Gosselin whining about Kate's rules for their sextuplets. Who really cares?
**Unless the batter is bunting and there are two strikes.
***107 is not a magic number... or the number of pitches every starting pitcher reaches. But pitch count (not to be confused with THE count) is a topic for another night.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I've been a slave to the Sox before.* Like when our anniversary falls on the same day as a Sox game, and we have a celebratory lunch. Or really late dinner.

But yesterday I wasn't just married into slavedom. I was a slave by my own free will.

Dave calls me at work yesterday laughing to ask if I'm ready for the game. Somehow I forgot that the Sox had an afternoon start. I wasn't planning for that, but, okay, simple. Tune in the radio, turn down the volume, and listen while I work.

What about my trip home? I didn't want to stay at work until 8:00pm. I couldn't walk and listen on the iPhone- I was in heels and it's got to be at least ten miles. The train goes underground partway, so reception would be limited or completely shut off.

What did I do? I wish I could say I finished my work for the week. Or had blisters all over my feet. Sadly though, I took the train and missed twenty minutes of the game.

When I got home, I authorized Dave to sign up for Tivo.

*I fully acknowledge stealing this phrase from a Phish song ("slave to the traffic light"). Dave and I are both Phish fans, although he obsessively so of course. Maybe I should try to become less of a phinkhat by listening to all the live shows Dave has on cassette?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Surprisingly Good Day

The unexpected sun, unusually delicious homebrew, and an impromptu party on the porch with the game blasting on the radio made for a surprisingly good day.

Not as shocking- following the game on the radio is difficult for a pinkhat. Everything needs to be described, including the powder blue of the Royals' jerseys and the way Jacoby Ellsbury limped off the field clutching his ribs. (I saw the replay and the commentators did a great job describing his collision with Adrian Beltre.) Following the play-by-play and keeping track of which player the commentators were talking about was pretty difficult with the distraction of our little party.

One thing I did learn about pitching... the Sox went through Clay Buckholz, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon yesterday. As the closer, Papelbon is only used when games are really close. The Sox were ahead all game, and at one point the score was 8-3. Bard is used as his "set-up man". Wearing out that many pitchers in one game has implications for tonight's game, as well as the games for the rest of the week.

Listening to the commentators fill the space between pitches helped me gain this new appreciation. That's one reason to try listening to the game on the radio again.

The sunshine, beer, and porch are a few others.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pinkhat Service Announcement

Bottom of the third with two outs, and Pedroia taps the ball right to the Royals second baseman. "I could have hit the ball like that, " I say to Dave. He doesn't state the obvious- that I couldn't hit a beachball with a wiffleball bat. But he does point out the other obvious, at least to a bluehat.

Pedroia didn't mean to hit that ball. He was trying to check his swing and made connection by mistake.

A checked swing is when the batter tries to stop the bat in mid-motion. According to Watching Baseball Smarter, the catcher points to the umpire (first or third base) with the best view to make the call whether the batter held up the swing or swung past the front edge of home plate.

According to Dave, the home plate umpire makes the final ruling about a check swing and has the option to call on the umpire being pointed at by the catcher. And according to Remy's book Watching Baseball (More Smarter?), the umpire isn't really looking at whether the bat went past the edge of the plate. It matters more if the batter had control over the head of the bat as demonstrated by his wrists not "breaking".

Once I started watching at-bats for this, I saw checked swings over and over. Example: Youkilis in the fourth checks the swing once and the umpire calls ball. On the next pitch, Youk tries to check the swing again and the ump calls strike.

This isn't the first baseball game I have watched,* so how did I never know about this? The rule really matters if you are trying to understand how balls and strikes are accumulated. No wonder I gave up following "the count" so long ago. I thought all those checked bats were strikes.

I feel the need to close with a PSA.** Bluehats, if you love your pinkhat, try explaining the game to him/her. Maybe he/she paints his/her toenails, online shops, or just stares blankly at the TV because baseball isn't self-explanatory. A loving "honey, I was sooooo surprised to learn this and thought you might be interested too" goes a long way.

Even if YOU have always known about checked swings.

*If you consider watch and glance at to be synonymous.

**Pinkhat Service Announcement.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Night

It's Friday night, and I'm home watching the game. I could say something like this darn blog, it's ruining my social life. But Vivi is sleeping, and babysitters aren't cheap. Plus, if Supernanny showed up, handed me my coat and a 100 bucks, I still wouldn't know where to go.

So here I am, just watching the game. I mean literally just watching the game- something is wrong with the sound on NESN. You can hear the music leading into commercials and between plays, but none of the commentary. It's probably a pretty accurate account of the sounds of the stadium, since most of the seats are empty even though they awarded Zack Greinke the Cy Young.*

A couple notes, and then I'm going to put down the computer and watch the game.

1) If someone asked you where the game was being played tonight, would you say Kansas? If so, you would be wrong. There is actually a Kansas City, Kansas, and a Kansas City, Missouri. Kauffman Stadium is in the latter.

2) Now that the first inning is over, Tim Wakefield is officially the oldest Sox pitcher to ever start a game at 43 years and 250 days. Notice the word start. Dennis Eckersley was the oldest Sox pitcher to ever play in a game at 43 years and 358 days. Another record Wakefield could break: he only needs 18 more wins to set the record for most wins of any pitcher. He would pass Roger Clemens and Cy Young, who are currently tied for the record.

If you're watching the game, enjoy and Go Sox! If you're out, have a drink for me.

*The Cy Young is awarded to the best pitcher in each league, as determined by a group of sports writers. It's named after Cy Young, who was both the "winningest" and "losingest" pitcher of all time. Does that just mean he played the most games? Still researching that one.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Neighborhood Play

Dave and Vivian met me at the train station after work and we headed to the park. Unfortunately, not to Fenway Park where gametime temp was 87 degrees. We did, however, enjoy the warm weather while the baby laughed in the swing, had her first taste of sand, and reveled in the general vicinity of a dozen toddlers being chased by their parents.

What a pleasant day in our neighborhood!

Everything wasn't so hunky-dory in Red Sox Nation. Ortiz was 0 for 7 coming into tonight's game. Most sports analysts had him packing his bags, or at least spending some time on the bench. Ortiz didn't take well to this and responded with a string of expletives, plus a few "a"s and "the"s that I guess qualify it as an official statement.

I'm on Ortiz's side though; the awkwardness of the Mike Lowell situation (traded, almost) seems to have put everyone on edge. But do we really think Terry Francona, who gave Big Papi 49 games to get his groove back in 2009, would mess with his headcase of a DH* this early in the season?

Perhaps everyone will be a little more neighborly now. Ortiz got an RBI (run batted in) single with two outs in the fourth. Let's pretend he didn't strike out in the sixth... and the ninth.

And while we're on the subject of neighbors (aka, while I'm trying to find some common element between three completely unrelated events), wtf?**

Here's the situation. Top of the second. Victor Martinez grounds into a double play. Yankee second basemen Robinson Cano comes way off the bag to avoid being slid into by Pedroia before throwing the ball to Mark Teixera at first base.

Cue the replay. Cano catches the ball after stepping off the base and then throws it to Teixera. But the scoreboard registered two outs. Daaaavvvvvvvve?

Apparently there is something called neighborhood play. This is not in the rulebook, and is only valid in some levels of baseball. The second baseman receives the ball in an attempt to force out the runner and then throw the ball to first for a double play. Safety geeks (joking) thought it was too dangerous for the second basemen to tag the base and then take the necessary step, possibly into a sliding runner, to make the throw to first. So the umps are happy as long as the player covering second is in the vicinity of the base.

Sort of like Vivi and those neighborhood kids.

*Some pinkhats might think DH refers to Dear Husband as this is a common acronym on the interweb. My DH is also a headcase, but in this post I am referring to the designated hitter David Ortiz.

**You'll notice I haven't used any curses in the blog. WTF is the closest I'll come, and I reserve that for especially screwy baseball rules. Okay, all baseball rules are screwy, but I'm talking about the rules that make me wonder why people even like this sport.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

(Not) In the Stars- retitled at 11:02pm

I keep hearing about the superstar moment I witnessed Sunday night. No one's talking about Neil Diamond singing Sweet Caroline. Or Steven Tyler and his doting daughter singing God Bless America.

They're not even referring to Youkilis's three extra-base hits, *the first time this happened on Opening Day since Carlton Fisk in 1973, remarkably against the Yankees and in Fenway Park.

The superstar play wasn't even made by a Sox. During the fourth inning, Derek Jeter started stealing second, and new Sox catcher Victor Martinez threw down (threw the ball to second). Brett Gardner took the opportunity to steal home.

Stealing home doesn't happen that often. In fact, only 38 players have done so more than 10 times in a career, and most of these players appear to have played in the early 1900s. The record for most steals of home in a season (8) and in a career (54) is held by Ty Cobb, but Jackie Robinson is also known for stealing home due to a game-changing moment during Game One of the 1955 World Series. (Younger Sox fans might just think of Jacoby Ellsbury.)

Most steals of home are delayed double steals where a player steals second and the runner on third takes off. Remember, double doesn't always mean two times as good (think double the "superstardom" of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen). A pure steal of home, when a runner goes from third without the distraction of another player stealing or a squeeze play, is like witnessing a supernova. Oh geez, what is a squeeze play?**

And while we are talking about rare occurrences... the last time a player stole second, third, and home in one inning was 1996. (Thank you, Baseball Almanac).

Tonight's superstar? Most notable play? In the first inning I thought it might be Jon Lester, but his pitching fizzled in the second and burnt out by the fifth. It's not looking good for Ortiz, who's 0 for 6 this season or Marco Scutaro who just made the first error of the season for the Sox in the eighth, eventually allowing the Yankees to take the lead (both notable, but not in a good way). Youkilis made a beauteous catch at first during the sixth. Hopefully something stellar happens soon. Your nominations?

*Pinkhats, an extra-base hit is any hit that gets the runner past first base (double, triple, homerun). It's not an extra-base hit if the runner advances past first on a throw or a fielding error.

**Bluehats, if only you understood how overwhelming this all is. Maybe you should all fan the pages of a nuclear physics or astronomy (too far?) textbook, put your finger on a word, and try to define it without using a single scientific term.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Opening Day began with some heated but jovial debate with Dave over whether Vivi should wear her baseball cap to Easter Mass. Dave lost by overstating his argument. "Baseball is my religion, and wearing a Red Sox hat is how I celebrate it." A simple eye-roll sealed my win. Vivi wore her pink flower headband- she doesn't debate just yet.

Our argument occurred on the church steps when Dave realized I had "forgotten" Vivi's baseball cap in the car. My mother was not there, but she is an accomplished debater herself. She picked up on the paradox of a joint Easter and Opening Day and once again provided her opinion on the state of our daughter's mortal soul while we take some time to discuss the implications of Baptism. "You want to avoid indoctrination..." she remarked as she saw us packing the diaper bag for Fenway Park.

I'd never admit it to my mother, but she's kind of right. Baptism after infancy requires classes and a conscious commitment to enter the religion. Batism of babies is simple. Choose some Godparents, pour some water, watch the adults eat some cake. Introduction to baseball at different stages of life is similar.

My father is a huge Sox fan, but he is likely to be working in the garden with a radio in the wheelbarrow on game day. He enjoys having company watching the games, but it was never a requirement for me and my sisters. Dave is a much more demanding fan. Game day attire is Red Sox Under-Armour, jersey, and hat. You'll find him on the couch with the TV on... perhaps the radio too. When he says "watch this," you'd better not blink.

The connection? I am schooling myself on the Sox and making a commitment to learn to love baseball, whereas Vivian is going to have her head dunked in it.

Bringing a five-month-old to a Red Sox-Yankee home opener at Fenway Park opens you up to comments.* "Starting her early!" was the most popular, but one Yankee fan went a bit further. "Talk about indoctrination. Is that how Red Sox Nation gets fans?" I would have disagreed, even though she doesn't really have a choice of teams to root for, but Vivi took that moment to throw her pacifier towards the stands.

Tithing while teething. Uh oh.

*Including some fun-to-field questions from an older male who was quite the fan of beer... and breastfeeding.

Red Sox Win!

In case you weren't watching, the Red Six won 9-7. Pedroia got the "insurance" run in the eighth, by driving in Cameron, who was on second, with a hard hit to right field.

What a great game to start the season and Vivi's baseball watching career!

Back to the regular (non-mobile/ edited) format and resuming my spot on the couch tomorrow.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stream of Baseball Consciouness

Just so you understand how my brain works, here are my notes from the
bottom of the Seventh Inning:

Pedroia just hit a homer- looked way foul from here- that brought in Scutaro, who singled up the middle. Tie game! 7-7.

Youkilis is up. What's up with the Biz Markie "Say you're Just a Friend" up-to-plate music? Looked like he might hit one out and keep alive Dave's dream for a Cycle on Opening Day. With him here to see it.

Ortiz up. ("Wild Thing in case you're wondering.) Wait, Ortiz still up and the runner came home- something about a wild pitch and a passed ball. If I was watching from home I would be all over Google.

I think the DJ likes Dirty Dancing as much as I do!

Joba Chamberlain in to pitch for the Yankees- draws quite the boos from Red Sox (and Yankee) fans.

Ortiz walked and Beltre grounded out. Fielders choice- what is that again? Maybe I should make notecards.

8-7. Inning's over and Bard is coming in to pitch for the Sox. That's the most I've ever paid attention to an inning of baseball in my life.

Baby's Asleep

So the game is over for Vivi (fast asleep), but it's just beginning for the Sox. The score is 4-5 (up from 2-5) when Pedroia walked, V. Martinez doubled down the left field line, and Youkilis tripled down the left field line.

One out and Belte's up. Singled to drive in Youk.

Tie game!

Bottle with the BoSox

Notice the blue hat? Some guy just asked where we got it,*but his wife said she wants a PINK hat for their daughter.

Husband: "You know what they say about those pinkhats!"

*Thanks Phyllis

Headed to the Game...

I've been keeping a little secret. Dave, Vivi, and I are headed to the game. We could not pass up the opportunity for the first game of my big season and the first game of Vivi's life to be a Red Sox- Yankee home opener. We got lucky with a late Red Sox lottery to purchase tickets. (I will let you know how lucky I feel to be attending with standing-room-only tickets and a five-month-old after the game.)

We were stuck in a bit of traffic on our way back from visiting the families for Easter, but now we're cruising, and Dave is blasting Shipping Up to Boston" so more later. You know how much pinkhats love Drop Kick Murphys!