Saturday, July 21, 2012

Some lit news and links

I know, this is a baseball blog, so I should stop being such a self-promotional bastard, but this isn't only about me. It's just mostly about me. In all seriousness, I've had a lot of work appear on-line this summer, so here are some links if you're bored and bouncing around the internet.

I had a couple of pieces from a circle of stories I've been working for, oh, ten years now. The first is flash fiction piece titled "Family Matters" on Fiction365, and the second is a short story titled "Ninety Days" on a cool new website called Drunk Monkeys.

This also this little feelgood piece titled "Opening Day" on Rusty Barnes' blog Fried Chicken and Coffee.

I also have a number of poems available to read on-line:

"Waiting for the Cable Man" on The Orange Room Review.

"NPR and the Death of Electric Guitars" on The Boston Literary Magazine.

"A Married Man Living in a Cheap Motel" on Red Fez.

"Confessions of Recovering Crier" on Underground Voices.

Finally, my chapbook of short prose pieces titled Hangover Breakfasts is slated to be released next month for Bottle of Smoke Press. Also, the contract is being drawn up for a novella-length collection of sex and humor stories titled Some Sort of Ugly to tentatively be released on Valentine's Day as an e-book and print from a new press called On Impression Books. Of course, I'll have more information about that book soon as well.  I'm sorry to report that a contract for this book was not able to be negotiated.

Thanks for enduring my self-indulgence. Back to baseball soon, especially with the trading deadline around the corner.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All-Star Break report card: Part II (Position players)

The story of the year so far.
So I've already established that I believe the onus for the Red Sox sub-par season so far belongs solely to the starting pitchers, particularly the three donkeys. And it's already been acknowledged that the position players have been stung by injuries this season. Even so, the guys who have replaced the divas have put together the second best offense in the American League, scoring more runs than any AL team other than Texas (Sox are sixth in the MLB). And Texas, by the way, seems poised to go to their third World Series in a row, and I'd expect them to make a move on a big-time starter---Hamels, Dempster, possibly Beckett or Lester if the Sox are willing to go that route---before the deadline.

It's also worth noting that The Sox are fourth in the American League in fielding (sixth, again, in the MLB), so it's not sloppy defense that's led to the ignominious space at the cellar of the AL East.

Therefore, the position are not only off my Shit List, but I've enjoyed watching their gritty performances so far. While the big-money players have either gotten hurt (that's you, Pedey, Ellsbury, and Crawford), under-performed and been traded (that's you, Youk), or simply haven't earned their paychecks (that's you, Gonzalez), the kids have been a good, if not better, alternative to watching the so-called superstars.

The Outfield: B+

Menstrual cramps are a killer.
I really wish people would stop whining about Ellsbury and Crawford being hurt. First of all, Ellsbury seems to be made out of glass. In the past three years, he's played the equivalent of one season, and it'll be interesting to see how Scott Boris, aka Satan, tries to market him in the off-season. Or there's a good chance, seeing that the Sox are not likely to resign him, he could be moved on the market or packaged in the trading deadline deal. Who wants to buy a broken toy? I don't know. But Ellsbury is great...when he actually plays, that is.

And Carl Crawford. Remember the game in elementary school where you'd call someone's name, and when they asked "What?" you'd respond with: "You're with it." And they'd ask: "What?" And you'd laugh and repeat, "You're stuck with it." Carl Crawford is the Red Sox equivalent of being "stuck with it." No one in their right mind is going to touch that bloated contract, so, yeah, they're "stuck with it."

That said. The young guys who have come up and over-performed in the outfield and kept these guys in games deserve kudos. In fact, I'd like to see some of these guys play through the year, although it will be impossible to fit them all on the roster once Glass Boy and Stuck with It come back next week. But I've loved watching Nava and Kalish plays their sacks off. Sure, they've struggled some defensively, particularly Kalish, but still it's been fun. Thinking he'd be watching baseball this season, The Sox call Scott Posednik and he comes in and makes a difference. Although he's been hurt a lot, Ryan Sweeney swings a decent bat and plays hard. The other night against the Yankees he threw himself against the wall trying to make a catch in centerfield. If that were Ellsbury, he would have incinerated and turned to dust. And Cody Ross has brought some pop with him from San Francisco.

The Infield: B

Ciriaco was a much-needed jolt.
I think I can sort out the infield in two succinct statements.

The first one: The kids and Aviles have been great, given their respective roles and expectations. Will Middlebrooks, up to his recent injury, has been the story of the first half of the season, and now it seems that Pedro Ciriaco is out to the steal the narrative. Saltalamacchia finally starting to play to his potential, and Mike Aviles, so far, gets my vote for the 10th Player Award. Sure, if the Sox decide to throw in their cards on July 31, you might be looking at a Gonzo, Ciriaco, Iglesias, Middlebrooks in-field in a few weeks (I have a hunch Pedey is more hurt that he's letting on), but Aviles has been a nice surprise.

The second statement: The veterans have been a disappointment. It's really hard to get on Dustin Pedroia for anything. I mean, the guy could take a shit on my dinner table, and I'd probably clap and say, "Nice dump, Dustin." But, let's face it, he's been playing hurt and the stats aren't there. Before he was traded, Youk looked atrocious at the plate, and Adrian Gonzalez, for $22 million a year, should have more than six home runs at the All-Star break. They're not paying him the big bucks to hit singles.

The Designated Hitter: A

If the Red Sox brass give David Ortiz anything but a one-year contract next year, they will officially make the donkey-list with Beckett, Lester, Buchholz and Lackey. Obviously, Papi plays better when he feels slighted and he's pissed off about it. Let him pop off to the press and whine and moan about his contract, as long as he puts up the numbers he put up this first half, he's all aces with me.

Overall assessment: D

The Red Sox, with their payroll and the talent on their roster, should NOT be a last place team. I realize that other than Kansas City, Seattle, and Minnesota, every other team in the AL is contention for the second Wild Card spot going into the second half, so I'm not willing to completely write off The Red Sox. Yet. If they go into The Trop this weekend and get swept by the Rays then it's time to start dealing. In fact, I hope Cherington is already looking for potential homes for some of the big name donkeys. I would have no problem with watching this line-up for the second half of the season and seeing these kids grow: 1B Gonzalez; 2B Cirieco/Pedey; SS Iglesias; 3B Middlebrooks; LF Crawford; CF Kalish; RF Ross/Sweeney; C Salty/Lavarney.

For the Red Sox, in the next two weeks, we'll see if they're going to shit or finally get off the pot. Sorry, Pink Hats, the good times may no longer seem "so good, so good, so good." You might have to actually love and understand baseball to follow a team that's no longer contending.

Monday, July 9, 2012

All-Star Break report card: Part I (Pitching)

Honestly, this has been one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory for Red Sox fans. Yes, I realize that the team has been decimated by injuries. Going into last night's game against the Yankees, the Sox had Pedroia, Crawford, Ellsbury, Bailey, Rich Hill, Buchholz, Dice-K (shocking) and Middlebrooks, either injured, recovering from an injury, or on a rehab assignment. No doubt, they've had some tough breaks, but that does not---let me repeat this---it does NOT excuse or explain away the Red Sox dismally average 43-43 record and spot at the bottom of the division.

Nope. And Sox fans who believe that the return of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury is going to turn around the season is either a Pink Hat or an Ass Hat. To put it simply, the problem is the starting pitching, mainly Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz, a.k.a. The Beer and Fried Chicken Gang (sans that pecker-head Lackey). In fact, the guys who have come off the bench, or come up from Pawtucket, this year have played their asses off and contributed largely to the second most potent offense in the AL behind a ridiculously good Texas line-up.

So let's start there

Starting pitching: F  

The three donkeys.
That's right. F, as in "failure;" as in, "Mr. Blutarsky, 0.0;" as you do not pass because your work has been unacceptable. And, really, this is the reason the Red Sox are holed up in the cellar of the AL East, ten games behind the Yankees in the loss column. And you can't really put the blame on the rookie Felix Doubront or Franklin Morales, both of whom have been decent.

We could put some blame on the front office for giving us the Daniel Bard Debacle, and, of course, Dice-K has stunk for the majority of his overpaid stay in Boston. But the brunt of the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of Beckett and Lester---and to a lesser degree Buchholz---who have to pitch like aces in order for The Red Sox to be competitive.

What is most infuriating is the fact that it seems like these guys have learned nothing since last September. One would think that after last season, they would be pitching with flames shooting from their bungholes, trying to atone for their bad behavior and ineffable apathy that led to the historic collapse. Nope, again. Hell yeah, they like beer. It seems like they like it more than baseball, in fact. Beckett and Lester have been average at best, perhaps below average, with both posting robust ERA's well over 4.00, and the team is 12-20 in games they've started. Do the math.

So, go ahead, Pink Hats, keep talking about the good times to come when the Sox get their starters back. Belt out some "Sweet Caroline" while you're waiting. But it's not the problem.

The Bullpen: A-

To me, this is further evidence that the problem lies in the starting pitching. While Bobby Valentine has surely not been perfect at the helm, he has done a masterful job managing the bullpen this year. When you think the hand he was dealt coming into the season, losing Bard and Andrew Bailey in the pen (by the way, I wish the Sox had a Josh Reddick on their ball club), then to have Melancon blown up like a pipe bomb in a pinata in his first few outings, Valentine has done a nice job stringing this pen together. And this bullpen, like many of the gritty starters, has really stepped up. Aceves has been good, not masterful, but certainly serviceable, and guys like Albers, Atchinson and Padilla have been surprisingly consistent.

While I thought this was going to be The Red Sox Achilles' Heel going into the season, it's not. Not even close. And while the bullpen may be the fattest and ugliest pen in baseball---who wins in a beauty contest, Padilla or Aceves?---they've pitched well, and they've been managed well.

In short, it's the two donkeys at the front of the rotation, and already, the trade rumors have begun to stir. The problem being that Beckett is 10-5, so there might not be a lot the Sox can do, except make him very uncomfortable in Boston.