Saturday, April 29, 2006

Striking Memories

Dan continues his pitch to Roger Clemens, tossing him lines in the hopes the Rocket will hook up with the Red Sox.

Today's meatball: Remembering the anniversary of Clemens' first 20-strikeout game, 20 years ago today.

It's a fairly detailed account of the night, with some interesting side notes (the Globe's beat writer, Larry Whiteside, had the night off and thus missed the historic game) and some odd non-sequiturs ("While Patriots fans were digesting the résumé of SMU running back Reggie Dupard, who'd been selected earlier that day in the first round of the NFL draft, Clemens struck out the side ... in the first inning" -- as if Pats fans are supposed to care about some kid pitcher throwing on an April night).

The CHB closes with his "heater": "Roger Clemens is still able to pitch. Twenty years and seven Cy Youngs after his first great moment, he is being recruited to come home to Fenway where it all began." Of course, what Shaughnessy doesn't mention is all throws at the head he made at Clemens during the first six or so years of his exile from Boston. Call it memory loss, I guess.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Out of Gas at the Beanpot

This is what life should be: The CHB covering college baseball, out of harm's way and where no one's the wiser.

With the C's and B's on a spring break that will last until fall, the Red Sox out of town and the Globe out of money, Dan is confined to the East Coast's version of the Friendly Confines for ...(drum roll) ...a Harvard-Boston College baseball game.


Among the observations of this man of letters:
* "It was weird to see Fenway virtually empty ..."
* " Another weird thing was the metal bats ... "
* "College baseball in New England is nothing like big-time college football, basketball, or hockey."
*That some scrub named Pete Frates who came into the game hitting .184 went 4 for 4, making it "probably the best day of [his] life."

The remarkable thing is, The CHB almost sounds sincere. Of course, the last time he covered this game, another kiss-ass piece back in May 2004, he told the world that a then 21-year-old Harvard player named Zak Farkes "plans to finish his studies at Harvard ... and knows the value of the Harvard degree," "apparently ... can hit," and "Farkes can play."

Dan wore the collar on that one. Farkes skipped his last year of school to sign with the Red Sox, and hit all of .174 last year in 40 games for the single-A Lowell Spinners.

Given that curse the CHB (the Curse of the CHB?) laid on Frakes, poor Pete Frates had better look both ways before crossing those Cambridge streets.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pooper Scooper

The CHB turned in one column last week, and yet the best he can muster today is a slapped together list of shots at local sports management.

Is this really what the Globe is paying him for?

There's the obligatory Theo cheap shot, raising the Bronson Arroyo angle once again, as if there was any chance the dreadlocked pitcher would be throwing so well here in Boston. Ever heard of small sample size, Dan? Hint: Ask your urologist.

He calls Bill Belichick "His Infallibleness" and Epstein a "real sacred cow" who "forever will be the boy wonder who can do no wrong."

He brings up the minor league umpires strike," about which "nobody cares" (hey, he got that right). "These guys make peanuts as is, and folks simply do not feel their pain. It's unfortunate." Right: it's such deep personal issue for Dan that he waited until the beginning of the fourth week of the season to mention it.

He makes a bizarre case for this Celtics team being within two losses of the worst in team history.

Just a weird piece.

Memory loss. "Some would say the Sox should have been better prepared for a Wells collapse." They are: Move Papelbon to the starting rotation where he belongs.

Misrepresentation watch: "American Airlines gave vouchers for free flights to 19,000 fans (give or take a few) who attended the Mavs' regular-season home finale Wednesday night." The tickets can only be used at Love Field, meaning Mavs fans will have to make the gut-wrenching choice between Kansas City and El Paso for their complimentary flight.

They pay me to do ... what, exactly? "People who know a lot about the NFL draft -- weeks before the draft -- scare me." Of course they do. As does anyone who prepares for their job.

"Everybody OK with the Padres wearing camouflage uniforms at home against the Mets Saturday night? ... I wonder what the soldiers and their families think. Their opinions would be the ones that count." Ever trying asking them?

"Is Doug [Mientkiewicz] donating [the World Series Ball] to Cooperstown, or merely lending it to the Hall for a spell?" Ditto.

??? watch: "Mel Kiper is saying Texas quarterback Vince Young will go to the Raiders with the seventh pick Saturday. Remember in 1984 when Michael Jordan was picked by Chicago at No. 3, after Sam Bowie went to Portland at No. 2 (Hakeem Olajuwon went No. 1 to the Rockets)?" So is he saying Young is Jordan, or Sam Bowie?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Story is Proof that Dan's Peak is Past

OK -- today's effort, on Larry Bird's lending his name to a brand of wines, was a good column. Only one problem: It's old news!

Really old, in fact.

This story came out Nov. 10, 2005, following heavy media saturation by the distributor. It's been covered by ESPN, CNN, SI, USA Today, Slate and just about every news channel imaginable.

Dan got scooped on a Larry Bird story by Wine Spectator. How low can life go?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Switch Hitting

On Opening Day The CHB wrote how Fenway has "never looked better" and "it's amazing now to think there were plans to tear the thing down."

Here's what he wrote on May 16, 1999, after seeing the plans to tear the place down in favor of a new ballpark: "If the Red Sox can build the new Fenway they showed us yesterday, it could be their best move since they bought a beefy, 19-year-old southpaw from the International League Baltimore Orioles in 1914."

He even allowed that the old park's demise is inevitable: "But once you get past the obvious concession that old Fenway isn't forever, you'll see that this plan looks pretty good. In fact, it's almost too good to be true."

Wonder what changed? Oh yeah: now, the Globe owns part of the Red Sox.

Papelbon: The New Larry Bird

Dan Shaughnessy’s defining characteristic is his ability to profess love for someone one day only to proclaim to the world just how same individual is nothing less than the Devil incarnate is the next. Usually the swing in Dan’s outlook is precipitated by some monumental mistake, like voting for a woman or not hating New York.

Dan's latest mancrush is on Jonathan Papelbon, who according to The CHB is Dick Radatz all over again, writing: "The Sox haven't had a young closer like this since Dick Radatz." Similarly, on April 6, he wrote: [Papelbon] looked like Dick Radatz." Of course, Shaughnessy compares every hard-throwing Sox reliever with The Monster, so take that with the provebial grain of salt.

But Dan's on a roll, enjoying his new love so much he even goes to former arch enemy Curt Schilling for a quote. "This is a huge advantage for a young guy," said Schill. (Last year, he was “blowhard Curt Schilling.” Now that he’s 3-0, he’s “Schill.”) "Young guy." Wonder if, as he dutifully copied down the quotes, Dan realized that yesterday’s starter, Josh Beckett, is 25 and has already pitched 630 innings in the majors.

Taking no. 38’s place as the new Devil is Keith Foulke, who apparently has made the unique mistake of getting injured: “Terry Francona, who made the bold (and now so obvious) switch from Keith Foulke to Papelbon on the night of the third game of the season in Texas.” So obvious, eh? This is Foulke’s line through 12 games: five appearances, six innings pitched, four hits allowed, four strikeouts, one walk, and two runs allowed. That's pretty good, especially for a guy who had surgery on both legs in the past year.

But Papelbon has to stay where he is, Dan says, claiming he is "too valuable" in the bullpen, naturally leaving the reader to wonder why the ninth inning is more important than the eight that precede it, and how the 200 or so innings he would likely throw as a starter are less important than the 70 or so he might pitch in relief (see aforementioned Beckett comment).

It's because Know-nothings like Shaughnessy hate to have their age-old notions challenged. Guys who throw 95 are closers. Guys who throw 89 are not. Here's what he wrote Dec. 30, 2003, after the Sox signed Foulke:
People in the A's front office think Keith Foulke made a mistake coming to Boston. Maybe that's sour grapes, but some fear he won't react well to the fallout that comes when a Sox closer blows a save against the Yankees. It takes a specific mentality (think Dennis Eckersley), and some of the A's believe Foulke is too sensitive. I tend to agree ....
The Globe will never run a correction on any of that, but we know how wrong he was.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Alls is Not Wells

It was, as George Costanza might say, a column about nothing.

The CHB's take on David Wells abysmal pitching performance last night includes shots at Dick Cheney, Theo Epstein, Bengie Molina, Tony Graffanino's and yes, Wells himself.

And, as typical, in recent columns he has droned on about how it's not yet time to panic, which is his standard fallback (he writes the same thing every year). Of course, Sybil also claims, "Wells has yet to give us any indication that he can still get big-league hitters out."

What, 20 years of pitching major league ball isn't enough proof, Dan-o?

Has he forgotten that Wells stunk up the joint on opening night last year, only to morph into Boston's second-best pitcher (behind Tim Wakefield). Was last season really that long ago?

At the end Sybil's split-personality really kicks in, further muddying the point (if there ever was one). To wit:

Don't panic: "Even though the first-place Sox are 6-2 and even though Wells has pitched only once, there will be temptation to overreact."
Panic: During the winter, the Sox were all fat and happy with their seven starters. They seemed insulated from age and injuries. But now Arroyo has been traded and Jonathan Papelbon is a Radatz-like closer and Wells has yet to give us any indication that he can still get big-league hitters out. Suddenly, there are not so many options."

Don't panic (from April 12): "Veteran lefty David Wells gets the ball tonight, and another victory will give the Sox their best start since 1920."
Don't panic (from today): "Wells will get another chance, and maybe[emphasis mine] he'll revert to form ..."
Panic: "... but if he doesn't, Bob Lobel will be showing you more Arroyo highlights and asking, 'Why can't we get pitchers like that?' "

I'm beginning to wonder if Joe Sullivan knows how to read.

Bizzaro watch: Shamelessly, Dan again refers to Tony Graffanino's error in Game 2 of the ALDS last year "Buckneresque." Other than the fact that he missed a ball, there is little context for comparing the two. Of course, "context" isn't a term The CHB is familiar with.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stuck in Park

Remember a few months ago when an announcement by the Red Sox to move the rest of its televised games – which it owns, by the way – to NESN threw The CHB into conniptions? He called the move “elitist, classist, and probably greedy, too. The Sox are putting all their games on NESN because it means more money for the organization." (He then never raised the subject again, of course, adding fuel to the belief that he didn’t really care about the fans so much as he wanted to stir things up.)

That’s instructive, because today he says Fenway has never looked better.

That may be so. But Shaughnessy downplays the biggest issue for fans – the expense of attending games. He tries to write that off, arguing that “the Sox have more demand than supply and they're trying to compete with a team that doesn't blush at a $200 million player payroll.”

Let’s get this straight: The team drains money into an ancient, uncomfortable venue and Dan finds the results “spectacular.” The Sox decide to use an outlet they own in order to raise revenues and they are “greedy.”

Oh, yeah. Near the end – the third to last paragraph to be exact – he lays out the park’s warts: obstructed views, narrow seats, seats that face the wrong way, lack of parking, and yes, the cost. (Given how he minimizes that latter element, he might as well have left it out altogether.)

All of which misses the point. Fenway Park has been selling out for years, even before all the modifications. All the while, it's the fan experience that continues to be compromised. On the issue of cost, I don’t personally hold the owners accountable so much as I do the scalpers (and the city, which looks the other way). But that fact remains that in some towns – Baltimore, for one – scalping laws are enforced to the hilt – and face value means face value. To enter Fenway even for the least desirable games of the season means ponying up five or more times the face value of the ticket – none of which goes to the team. That's the situation that deserves a column. Heck, it deserves a series.

Dan has proclaimed the beauty of the new parks in San Francisco, Baltimore, San Diego, demonstrating that even the black hole that makes up the space between his ears can spit out the notion that starting over is often better than a new tube of lipstick. He even spends a good chunk of today's column lauding the work of the Larry Lucchino-led team that has had such an impact on the face of baseball around the country (he calls architect Janet Marie Smith "the godmother of modern baseball stadiums"). Yet he continues to wax nostalgic about a place that has truly outlived its usefulness. Why? Because he doesn’t feel the effects. Even as he cracks wise about blowing up the press box, he ignores the uncomfortable hypocrisy: those seats are 1) better than almost any other within the not-so-Friendly Confines and 2) free.

Boston needs a new park. If not now, when? If anything, "greedy" defines owners who refuse to build an appropriate venue without it being underwritten by the tax base.

Theo watch: “Larry Lucchino, a pinata for nitwit nation, isn't likely to get many bouquets from Sox fans who still blame him for the weird (and temporary) departure of general manager Theo Epstein ….” No Dan, we blame you.

About that $200 million payroll ...: The past five World Series winners, in reverse chronological order: White Sox, Red Sox, Marlins, Angels, Diamondbacks. Is it possible that maybe all the obsessing over the Yankees' payroll is just a bit overblown?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hot in Texas

Not sure what the point of today’s column was except that he had to write about something. A basic rehash of the Red Sox loss, with no analysis at all (unless catcher Josh Bard’s apparent difficulty in catching the knuckeball was somehow responsible for Tim Wakefield’s getting shelled).

His sendoff -- "Might be time to panic. First Foulkie. Now Bard. And the Sox are one out in the loss column. How soon before somebody says they're playing for the wild card?" -- is hopefully a bit of sarcasm, but with the CHB, who knows?

Man love: Josh Beckett is again referred to as "stud starter." Let's hope that Shaughnessy learns to keep it in his pants around the kid. Pedophilia is a crime, even in Massachussets.

And are we going to be subject to daily updates on Johnny Damon? It's not like he's the first guy ever to leave the Red Sox.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Dantasy Land

Mirror, mirror, on the wall: Who’s the fairest weather fan of them all?

Answer: The CHB (like we didn't already know).

Just months after taking howitzer-sized shots at an injured Curt Schilling, all is forgotten in Dan’s fantasy (Dantasy?) land.

Today, after shutting down the Rangers in yesterday’s opener, he’s “Big Schill” and "superhero/ultimate warrior/Boston sports deity."

It's hard to believe that just last June 26, Sybil Shaughnessy, manic-depressive presciption clearly expired, was busy calling Schilling "the Big Blowhard."

Dan even eases up on his recounting of Schilling’s troubles last year, writing, "He struggled to win eight games last year on an ankle that looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone." That's a far cry from his jackass remark last Nov. 2 on the Dennis & Callahan show when he said, "Tell Curt to go ask the people who paid him $13 million to win eight games last year about that situation. Maybe they can explain it to him."

That's fair weather Dan for you.

Sybil watch: Opening day 2004: “Why can't it just be about the baseball? Even for one day." Opening day 2006: Larry Lucchino was “conspicuously absent” but [John] Henry “insisted” he wasn’t “locked in the basement back at Fenway” and calling the Rangers the team that “used to be owned by Schilling's favorite president.”

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Bray

The CHB's annual opening day extravaganza is a piece of fetid crap. Sorry: We here at the Watch try to be a bit more analytical than that, but just trying to sort through it is giving me a headache.

The banter runs from the trite to the absurd. For instance: "It is Opening Day 2006, all teams are 0-0 ..." he says, a compound error which would be remedied only if 1) the season hadn't started the night before, and 2) that game, which pitted Cleveland vs. Chicago, had been rained out. (It wasn't.)

"It all goes back to pitching and defense," he claims (wrongly), then moments later cavalierly says Boston "will score enough runs to win 95-100 games."

In comparing the Sox to the Yankees, he for some oddball reason singles out a pitcher, Mike Mussina, who threw 180 innings last year as someone who "could implode at any moment," as if that's not true of any pitcher.

And he says the loss of Damon, Mueller, et al has led "many experts to dismiss the Red Sox as a noncontender." Many? Really, Dan? That's a huge overstatement.

And then The King of All Hyperbole reminds fans "not to overreact if your team loses the first game." Per usual, he's conveniently forgetting his own public hissy fits. Let's go back to what he wrote after some recent Opening Day losses:

* 2003: Dan's ready to tar and feather Bill James after the bullpen blew Game 1 of the season, a loss he termed was a "calamity."
* 2002: Dan writes, "[Martinez] had almost nothing. He said he feels fine. He credited the Blue Jay hitters. But clearly he is not yet Pedro. Will he ever be again? It's the big question that plagues Red Sox Nation as fans chew on this painful loss and pray that it's not too late to salvage the season."

We'll be sure to revisit that one if this team starts the season 4-6.

There's something about the start of a season that sends Dan into emotional overload. At least he didn't predict Schilling would throw a no-no as he used to with Pedro.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Duck Stops Here

Dan's April Fool's column was published a day late, it seems.

In a perverse bit of hypocrisy, The CHB today complains that steroids still dominate the discussion. “[T]he Red Sox season starts tomorrow afternoon … and we are talking about steroids. Now and again. Forever, it seems.

The thing is, if guys like Shaughnessy, the self-styled overseers of baseball, had investigated the issue and held anyone accountable over the past decade, we wouldn’t still be talking about it. But no, they relied on cheap jokes and innuendo because, guess what, actually researching the issue is hard work.

Dan’s hyperbole is out in full force. “[T]he integrity of the game has been irreparably harmed -- more so than at any time since the Black Sox scandal….” If that’s true, then why do more fans buy tickets or watch televised games each year than the last?

He invokes Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis for doing the right thing, omitting that the man “endowed with power to do just about anything to preserve the best interests of baseball” used those same powers to keep blacks out of the sport.

And he blames everyone else – Bug Selig, Major League Baseball and the Players Association (“the silent and too-often-overlooked coconspirator in this cesspool explosion”) – for not cluing him: “Why did he allow us to embrace what we now know to be the artificial home run chase (Popeye McGwire vs. Bluto Sosa) in 1998?” Dan ducks altogether the media’s complicity, without which none of this could have happened. All in all, a shameful display by a man who did nothing but heap praise on Bonds while he chased down the record (see, for example, his Oct. 18, 2002, column).

“We all know,” he writes. “Bonds is in the on-deck circle, ready to overtake Ruth. He did it with his own talent, plus some illegal help from his friends.”

But while the evidence is strong, Victor Conte’s pleas notwithstanding (and it’s possible that Conte was being truthy when he said he did not give steroids to Bonds – it may be that he gave them to Bonds’ trainer who in turn dispensed them to Barry), there is no evidence of the effect, if any, that steroids has on the performance of a major league baseball player. No controlled study has ever been done. Everything else, then, is speculation.

And buck passing.