White Hat Sports Headlines

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Patriot Day

Tomorrow's the big day, Patriots day is for me almost as special as opening day for me. It's an early start, I will watched the first couple of innings on the treadmill, which is an added bonus because there is nothing on at 11am except Sports Center and usually I catch that the night before. Not only are the Red Sox going for a sweep, but Justin Masterson is making the start for the Red Sox, who has become one of the most likable, nice guys on the team. Not only that, he's very effective and has the ability, because of his sinker and release point, to get out jams and produce ground balls. As an added bonus Masterson (6'6) matches up against Mark Hendrickson (6'9), becomes one of the tallest pitching match ups in recent memory. Off the top of my head the only one bigger in recent memory would be Jon Rauch (6'10) against Randy Johnson (6'10).

This Red Sox team has been the tail of two teams so far this season. They looked like they were going to be a tremendous let down the first week and a half of the season and then they won 4 straight games, which got kicked off by Tim Wakefield's near no-no in Oakland. It was eerily similar to Curt Schilling's near no-hitter in Oakland on June 7, 2007. The Red Sox had lost 4 straight games and really needed a win that day. Schilling gave them all they needed and almost gave them something incredible special. That team went on to win 9 of it's next 13 games. After Wakefield's near Oakland no-hitter the Red Sox have won 3 straight, 4 if you include Wakefield's win itself.
Set your alarm for tomorrow take a nap in the afternoon and then get ready for what has been an incredible entertaining series between the B's and Habs. Might want to foil the fists just in case.
Sterling Pingree

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tragic times

There is a common believe amongst morning radio show hosts, that celebrity death's happen in 3's or trifectas. Unfortunately we have had 4 in recent weeks, starting with the tragic losses of George Kell, Nick Adenhart, Harry Kalas and then Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. It has hit every aspect of Baseball, you have a hall of fame broadcaster (Kalas), you have a hall of famer turned broadcaster (Kell), one of the most unforgettable characters in the history of the game (The Bird) and a young gun who was about to get his first shot at becoming a starting pitcher (Adenhart).
How do things like this happen so close to each other? Hearing that George Kell passed was too bad, he was a baseball lifter who went from being a tremendous ballplayer and became an excellent broadcaster.
Harry Kalas was very surprising, he was an active broadcaster who at 73 years old was still at the top of his game. After calling the number of games that I have, I have determined that a broadcaster's performance on a single game basis depends on how good the game is. The greats rise to the occasion, they get taken to another level when the game is either A. a big game or B. a game that ends in a walk off or a potential no-hitter. Kalas might have been at his absolute best the last few years, which all culminated in a Phillies World Series title last October. He passed away in the broadcast booth.
I was on my way to Fenway Park last Thursday when I received three texts messages simultaneously all alerting me of the death of Nick Adenhart. It was shocking to me, I was very aware of who he was and what his story had been. How he was coming off shoulder surgery as a phenom and was being groomed last season by the Angels to become their next stud pitcher in a rotation that was starting to fall apart this spring. Adenhart's passing was tragic because he was 22, he didn't have his chance to make his impact on the game or at least give it his best shot. To me the worst part of his premature passing is that his name will be remembered for the rest of the season and his number 34 will be seen during each game that the Angels play, but 10 years from now he will be brought up only when a current player passes on. Sort of the same way that Lyman Bostock or Donnie Moore is mentioned now.
Next to Adenhart the most shocking passing was The Bird, Mark Fidrych. Seeing the news go by on the ESPN scroll, my jaw instantly dropped. He wasn't an old man, just 54 years old, The Bird was not a tragic tale as so many phenoms are or become after they are phenoms. The Bird burst onto the scene and became a must see attraction between 1976 and 77. After getting injured he wasn't able to bounce back with the Tigers and tried a comeback in 1983 with his hometown Boston Red Sox which sputtered out in the minors. He went on to start his own trucking company and whenever he was shown on television or was interviewed he always seemed to be at peace with the way his career went and wouldn't change much about his life.

With the way things have been recently, you can imagine my first thoughts when watching ESPN News a few hours ago, the breaking news broke that Celtics GM Danny Ainge had suffered a heart attack this morning. He is resting comfortably in a Boston hospital right now, and that is the best news that sports fans have heard recently.
Sterling Pingree

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Feeling Kind of Sunday

The baseball season is a week old as of this Cubs-Brewers game I am watching right now. The Masters is the best and the worst let down in sports. Let me explain, I love watching the Masters each year, absolutely Alicia Silverstone could wake in the room wearing anything from Clueless and I'd whisper for her to sit down next to me or to get me a sandwich. It's a soothing experience all the way around, there is the music they sneak into the background, there's the way Jim Nantz romanticizes everything, but the thing about the Masters is, that just as you get hooked, it's over. It's a four day tournament that goes by in an instant, especially this year.

What was the deal with the coverage of the Masters? I was happy to see that ESPN had the rights to the first two days of the tournament, only one problem with that is the fact that on Friday their coverage started at 4, just as Tiger (love him or hate him, the guy everybody wants to see) was teeing off on the 18th freakin hole! It's like those commercials where the guy is selling hot dogs without the bun, or Popsicles without the stick. You see, that's Tiger is, he's the stick. The Masters is a tasty spring treat, but without Tiger, it just isn't presented in the most appropriate way. I'm guessing that there was something in the agreement that they have with the PGA and CBS saying that they couldn't? I mean, ESPN had to use CBS's graphics and all their soothing sounds underneath Mike Tirico (who has become ESPN's Mr. Everything without me really noticing until he got the MNF gig), but why could ESPN show highlights through 3 hours of live Sports Center all afternoon, but not show the action live as it happened so those home with nothing to do Friday (ME!) watch Tiger?

This was really my only complaint about the Masters this year, it was a fantastic final day. Even my Dad who said that watching it was comparable to "watching paint dry" got sucked in and watched intently for 6 hours, including asking for updates during Easter dinner. (My chair is the only one that can see the TV from where I sit, and I don't have to lean back too much to do it.) Tiger and Phil paired together, just pushing each other trying to get back into contention and almost doing so before a couple hiccups at the end.

Now during the final round there was another distraction for me, and that was the Sox playing out west with the Angels. I loved Beckett throwing at Abreu after he called for time out late, which Beckett was practically forcing him to do after holding the ball for what seemed like a full minute. The best part about the entire episode was that Beckett wasn't thrown out (he shouldn't have been) and that some how the Angel players and coach's were so incensed that they got tossed in a glorified bull session at home plate. This brought up two memories for me, one was Beckett cursing out Kenny Lofton after flying out during game 5 of the 2007 ALCS and the other because it happened in the first inning of the game, was Pedro's near no-hitter against the Rays in 2000, after starting the game by plunking Gerald Williams to start his night. Beckett looked okay, flat at times and had a 2006 inning in the middle of the start that spoiled the afternoon, but watching him punch out Howie Kendrick to end the 6th (his final inning) definitely left a good feel for his outing even after he took the loss.

It's tough to beat Easter Sunday at Augusta (sounds like a "Before & After" puzzle on Wheel of Fortune) with the Red Sox, Celtics (oy) and the Bruins (number one seed in the East) all playing at the same time, throw in some lemon meringue pie and it doesn't get much better.

Sterling Pingree

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day items

As I type this, the Sabathia has been ko'd by the O's and Jeremy Guthrie is looking pretty tough for Baltimore right now. While the Orioles try and hold onto this 6-2 lead in the 6th inning, here are some highlights from the first official day of the baseball season.

- If you got Cy Young consideration last year, you probably got TAGGED today. Brandon Webb, Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia all got rocked today. It makes me a little bit nervous about tomorrow and the next day, I have Lincecum and Lester is a few leagues this year. To make things weirder, two contracts that I thought were terrible when they were signed Kevin Millwood and Derek Lowe both pitched lights out. Derek Lowe almost couldn't have looked better than he did last night going 8 innings, two hits against the defending World Series champion Phillies.

- What was the deal with VP Joe Biden? He was saying Hell like Tony Soprano says Fuck. I like the way he did it, you could see a definite progression in his comfort level with it. He started out saying "We had a helluva shortstop here, a big guy", (this is what my buddy Tom does when he can't remember someones name and he's talking about them, this is usually followed up by, "you know who". Then when asked a simple question by Jon Miller, Biden responded "Hell Yeah!" Apparently Joe Biden is just a big Stone Cold Steven Austin fan and was really psyched to see his appearance at WrestleMania last night. For his next game I've heard that he's going to show up to Camden Yards on a four wheeler, no word as to whether or not they will let him bring in his cooler of beer or if he'll have to have it thrown to him by a vendor.

-Quote of the day, not by Joe Biden- "And one more night that feels like Christmas Eve." Sam Adolphsen on the silver lining to the Red Sox opener being canceled today and on it being made up tomorrow.
Probably the most prolific text message I have received that didn't involve alcohol.

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grading the Sox '09

My sunburn is peeling off and all of my laundry has been done (though it still sits in the dryer, going on 27 hours in there) so that means it's time to grade the Sox.

The most impressive guys:

David Ortiz, the guy just looks like he's locked in. In the second game I saw him play in, he went deep off Francisco Liriano, OPPOSITE FIELD! Granted the wind was blowing out to left and Jason Bay hit one to a place that only Albert Pujols had hit before. The big guy was ripping the ball all over the park. I'll give him an A-, just so he has a little room for improvement.

Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay.

All three look like they are in the middle of June to me. What do all three have in common? They all played in the WBC this year. Maybe it could help these guys early, Pedroia has always said that he slumps at the beginning of seasons, always have and perhaps always will. It will be interesting to watch and see whether or not they will be able to avoid an early season slump. It's just something to keep an eye on starting next week (I had to throw that in there, I can't believe that the season is starting in just 5 days.) These guys are all getting A-.

Side note, Pedroia and Youkilis both looked like themselves, you couldn't even tell that they had an injury of any sort.

Jacoby Ellsbury, he looked pretty good, but I don't really see a lot that would suggest that he's about to break out. He hit the ball hard but he has still grounded out to second 4000 time this spring. It's something that has bothered me about the kid, he can scorch the ball and he can run down a deer, but when you hit the ball to the right side every time, it gets hard to leg out infield hits. I feel like Lou Brown talking to Willie "Mays" Hayes. B

JD Drew, he smoked the ball to all fields in batting practice, looked tough and poised, only played in one of the games that I saw. So the beat goes on. I have to give him in I.

Jason Varitek, might be on steroids. The guy who everybody gave up for dead last season has hit 4 home runs in his last 18 at-bats. Read that again. He is smoking the ball right now and he's doing it from the left side of the plate. Which was his worst side last year by a mile and didn't show signs of improving. Word is that Magadan has been working with him keeping his swing from the left side more quiet and having less movement before he starts his swing. I give the captain an A-

Chip Ambres, yes I'm grading Chip Ambres for giving me the greatest finish to a spring training game I have ever seen. Which is saying something because last year I saw a guy get gunned out at the plate to end a game with the Reds. The Red Sox blew a 7-4 lead in the top of the 9th, fell behind 8-7, tied it up and sent it to extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th inning with two on and two out and Raymond Payne "Chip" Ambres hit a 3-run walk off home run. Reading an update of today's game, he hit another 3-run homer, some how he's still in camp and has no chance of winning a job when camp is broken this weekend, but he's helping win spring training games. Perhaps Theo and Bill James found some numbers that suggested that if you want to win spring training games, you need to have Chip Ambres in the organization. A

Josh Beckett, this guy is looking phenomenal. The questions about his conditioning at the beginning of last year's spring training have not crept up this for the reason he's looking like Josh Beckett circa 2003. I think we're in for a big season for Josh Beckett and I think that the comparison's and friendly rivalry with Jon Lester could do something fantastic for both guys and bring out the best in them. A

Brad Penny, looked good but not great. He looked like he's in better shape than he has been in the last couple of seasons in LA. His velocity looked like it was down from where he has been, but his secondary stuff was fairly sharp as he was getting more swings and misses on his breaking stuff. This is key and wreaks of what John Farrell wants from Penny. He wants Penny to pitch instead of throw like he has the last couple of season. Perhaps he takes a little velocity off his pitches and uses a little less effort, he can stay healthy and still be very productive. I will go with a B- for Penny. But he has a tremendous room for growth.

A few random stories from hanging around spring training.

-Luis Tiant said that he shot an 88 an Doral last week. He seemed serious too.

- Dice, Okajima and Saito look incredibly comfortable with each other and with this team. Penny and Saito were together a lot out in the outfield together during batting practice. This could be something to watch this year and in the future. Boston has started to dominate the Asian market on players and I have no doubt that it has to do with the comfort level of the Asian players in this organization.

- I was having dinner in the Bell Tower section of Fort Myers at Taste of New York. Just before drinks arrive, I look at the group two tables away and notice that it's Takashi Saito and Junichi Tazawa having dinner. This keeps my streak or establishes my streak of seeing ballplayers at restaurants. Last year Joe Mauer, this year Saito and Tazawa. (Saito and Tazawa sounds like a tag team from the WWE that would be managed by Mr. Fuji.

-My final day in Fort Myers I caught a Twins-Cardinals game at Hammond stadium and I have to say I was blown away. It's a terrific ballpark, but not only that the practice fields surround the stadium. It was raining the day of the game so I walked down some steps and got to stand 3 feet away from Justin Morneau and Albert Pujols while they took batting practice. It was incredible the access that the fans had to the players and the Twins players seemed used to it. It was something that you would never really see from the Red Sox. It just really showed me the difference between small market and big market teams. Everything is different.

Sterling Pingree