Photo: Jackie Bradley, Jr., from nbcsports.com
A little self-advertising, if you will. The following is the first entry of a re-booted sports blog, which you can find after this at Steve's Baseball Blog.
So I'm going to give this blog another shot. Hope springs eternal, right? Gone seems to be the bitterness of last year, in which we had a manager nobody liked (including his own players), players nobody liked (including the manager, and the other players) and a front office that seemed to be a bit distant from the action. Then came the fire sale trades at the end of the season, and things looked up, except for the players themselves, because by then nobody cared.
In all of that, you have the fact that the players weren't trying at all, despite being paid millions (or, tens of millions, in a few cases), and then when the Jerry Sandusky thing came around, that was it for me, folks. Maybe I'll see you, maybe I won't.
After that, I tried with some baseball cards--which I liked doing, by the way. And I liked how I went into the players lives, and delved a bit deeper into their backgrounds, or their issues. In the meantime, I learned a few things as well. But then some personal changes happened, and my writing took off, and I didn't have the time anymore.
But now I'm back. The smoke has cleared, and the dust has settled, and whatever other trite cliches you can think of have happened. Spring is here. There's hustle and bustle and excitement and exuberance on this Sox team again--for now, anyway. But there does seem to be a new attitude, and that's not just the Sox ads on NESN talking there.
So, the game. Opening game, opening series, and at Yankee Stadium, no less. True, this Yankees team is essentially their Triple-A team right now, but the Sox still had to face Sabathia. They've handled him well in the past, sure, but this game wasn't even about facing him, beating the Yankees, or even winning, per se. It was about the new look, new attitude Sox. The new face of the team. That's what I mostly wanted to see.
And I did. Specifically, here are the notes I took during the game (when I watched it on DVR after returning from an appt.):
--I'm glad I thought ahead enough to get two autographed baseballs from Jackie Bradley, Jr. when he was at Pawtucket Red Sox Hotstove League in January. One to keep, and one to sell when the time is right. Already his autograph has sold on ebay for about $50. After one major league game.
--Lester is noticeably taking less time between pitches. He needs to do that all year. He was told to do so the last couple of years, but didn't. This was a Becket influence, I think, since Josh has a cup of coffee and a sandwich between pitches.
--Lester's keeping the ball down and not feeling, also like Becket does, that he can just blow his fastball by people whenever he wants. He has to set up his pitches better, which is what he's doing now.
--Seeing what I've just written, I'm noticing how glad I am that Becket's gone.
--Bradley's first AB was brilliant and memorable. Down quickly 0-2 to Sabathia. Takes some (very close) pitches for balls that you would expect a player with his limited experience to swing at. Fouls off some good pitches. Finally draws a walk after a seven or eight pitch at bat. This pushes runners to second and third, which is more important than the fact that it loads the bases. This PA proves John Farrell's point about how impressed he was with Bradley's approach every AB.
--I don't know why Sabathia didn't continue to give him off-speed stuff inside and low. He was susceptible to those in this AB.
--Iglesias infield hit to short; Bradley safe at second by an eyelash, which extends the inning and scores the run. Speed on both counts, Bradley safe at second and Iglesias fast enough to not even draw a throw to first. I like it!
--Ellsbury hard hit to first, throw home for one out rather than to second and back to first for a possible double-play. Youkillis knew that with Ellsbury running, the DP wouldn't happen. Again, speed. Iglesias now on second and Bradley at third.
--Victorino singles in both speedy runners with a hard hit single. I was wrong to question batting him second. I forgot about his solid production the last few years, and I forgot about his Gold Gloves. My bad.
--Pedroia singles in speedy Ellsbury. With Bradley batting eighth, Iglesias ninth, Ellsbury first and Victorino second (and maybe even Pedroia third), the Sox have five consecutive above-average to speedy runners. That's very nice.
--Napoli, who'd looked silly in his first AB, just (and I mean just) gets under one and skies to deep center to end the second inning.
--Good show here in the second, with lots of walks, speedy running, and clutch-hitting. You can do a lot of things with walks and singles. This is how the Sox won titles in 2004 and 2007. This needs to happen every game, all year, in order for them to have a chance.
--Bradley's great catch on Cano's (don'tcha know) drive in the 4th. He took an odd-looking route to it, but it's a results-oriented business, as Orsillo says, and he made a great catch.
--Iglesias's push-bunt single in the fourth. He needs to do that much more often. Every time he hits it in the air, he owes me twenty push-ups.
--That's a line from Major League, by the way. That one was for you, big guy. (Because Bunky's already taken.)
--I love Jonny Gomes, the second straight Jonny the Sox got from the Oakland A's who's an under-rated table-setter, run-producer and all-around making-it-happen kind of guy. You don't see a two-run infield single too often. I won't be surprised if the players talk more about Gomes's hustle than they do Bradley's play in this game.
--Bullpen is doing a good job, but we knew heading into the season-opener that the bullpen was actually going to be a major plus for this team. That, by itself, is unusual for Boston, even for the World Series winning teams.
--There's so much talk about Bradley right now, it seems like Sox fans have him already ticketed for the Hall of Fame. And he doesn't even have a hit yet.
--Great start for what hopefully is a new-look, new-attitude team. They should at least be fun to watch, on tv and at Fenway. I go to my first Fenway game on April 12th.
Causes Steven Belanger Supports
APSCA and a couple of others that I forget until the pledges come in the mail.