Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who's The Boss?

Not just Tony Danza anymore.  It's completely obvious right now that the person at the helm of the Red Sox' careening ship is not Terry Francona.  It's not Theo Epstein, and it's not the CAPTIAN Jason Varitek despite his two home runs today.

David Ortiz is in charge.  It's David Ortiz's team and everyone else is just playing on it.  This is not the first time this has happened in Francona's era, by the way.  It was pretty clear a couple years ago that Curt Schilling was setting his own rules and Francona had to play by them.  David Ortiz, playing the same "this isn't my first rodeo" card, has played Francona's player's-manager and respect-to-the-elders cards a little too much.

The fact that Francona for the last two weeks now has been nervous, agitated, losing sleep, anxious, and a whole bunch of other things that Felger has had an absolute field day on is all the evidence you need that Ortiz has Francona - and the team - by the balls as he plays for his next contract.  Francona wants to keep David happy.  Francona feels really bad that David isn't getting his potentially-lucrative playing time.  Francona really wants David's bat in the lineup.  Francona's willing to put the most important player on the roster out in a completely foreign place just so that David can get his at-bats. 

I'm glad that feeling bad and hurting people's feelings is taking such a prominent role on this team full of whiners.  I agree that getting Ortiz his at-bats during this tumultuous nine games is important, but not for the same reasons Francona is agonizing himself.  I thought Gonzalez should have been chilling out on the bench for at least three of these games, as I wrote earlier this week, for the well-being and restedness of the best player on the team.

Not David Ortiz.  I'm thrilled that he's given up the tainted-supplement investigation and has started hitting again.  I'm happy he'll get a paycheck this winter (and hopefully not from the Red Sox).  But since when was a guy's feelings so fragile that the manager has to relinquish the reins and make stupid decisions for the good of this player's feelings?  Well, this shouldn't have been a surprise after all the whining and complaining about how much of a raw deal he got in the media for sucking and testing positive for steroids.  News flash, David:  You're one of twenty-five.  You're most likely among the top 20% most important players on the team, but you're not #1, 2, or 3.  Let's face it: The guy from the infamous Twins rookie card is as much of a diva as Manny, Schilling, or Pedro.

While Francona should have been the boss from 2004 until now, Curt Schilling was the boss for a little while.

And now David Ortiz is the boss.

Pleasant Surprise

Note:  This is certainly not my (The GM) post.  Pat was having some Blogger trouble, so here it is a couple of hours late:

The Yankees have won 14 of 18 since getting swept by Boston, and are hitting the midway point of the season hot with the best record in the American League. Both of these things are due in large part to some pleasant surprises in terms of production from certain players. Now is as good a time as any to dish out some props, not just for the recent winning steak, but for the first half of the season.

The Rotation
10-4, 3.25
8-6, 4.05
7-6, 3.28
7-4, 4.26
5-3, 3.10

You know the first one is Sabathia. After that, it would be tough to determine which line belongs to which starter. Considering Hughes has been out since April, Burnett was awful last year, and 3/5 of the rotation is occupied by two veterans past their prime and a rookie, lack of decipher-ability is a good thing. With this offense, you want guys who are going to give you a chance almost every time out, and for the first half of the season the Yankees have had five guys give them just that. Everything they could have asked for and then some.

The Offense

Jorge Posada's last 32 games: .326/.404/.474. That's before 2 more hits and another homer tonight.
Brett Gardner's last 58 games: .327/.415/.470.
Nick Swisher's last 27 games: .326/.452/.685 with 8 homers, 23 RBI, and 22 walks to only 15 strikeouts. That's before another hit, RBI, and walk tonight.

Most good players go through hot streaks. For Posada and Swisher, that's exactly what these are. Gardner's is far more extended (roughly 2/3 of the season to date), which makes his both more impressive and worthy of pointing out. The reason all of them are worthy of noting, however, is because of how plainly awful all three of these players were early in the season. They've all bounced back in a big way, and have made an offense that was one of the best in the game with them struggling that much more dangerous. The Yankees lineup is much deeper with the three of them playing like this, and they seem to be scoring runs more consistently as opposed to more boom and bust early in the season (no idea if this is accurate or not, just how it seems).
The Bullpen

This unit entered the season as the best in the game on paper. The best closer ever, one of the best closers in the game last year setting up, the best lefty specialist in the game, two young strikeout artists, and another lefty specialist. Injury has left them with the closer, one young strikeout artist, and one lefty specialist. Mariano continues to amaze, 21 saves with a 1.72 ERA. Boone Logan has been shaky at times, and has oddly really struggled to get lefties out on the whole despite being much better of late. With the short bullpen the Yankees will take the 3.32 ERA from him. Some unlikely sources have provided production, such as Noesi, Ayala, and Wade.

The big story here, however, is David Roberston. 1.10 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 32.1 IP(!). He has the second lowest ERA in the game of anyone with more than 20 IP, and has flatly been one of the best relievers in baseball. He has joined Mariano as the primary reasons why the Yankees bullpen has the LOWEST ERA in the American League despite all of these injuries. It really is amazing. This bullpen has been torn apart by injuries and they really haven't cost the team anything at all. Rather, they've been the strength they were projected to be on paper without a great deal of the production that existed on that paper.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pleasant Surprises

The Yankees have won 14 of 18 since getting swept by Boston, and are hitting the midway point of the season hot with the best record in the American League. Both of these things are due in large part to some pleasant surprises in terms of production from certain players. Now is as good a time as any to dish out some props, not just for the recent winning steak, but for the first half of the season.

The Rotation

10-4, 3.25
8-6, 4.05
7-6, 3.28
7-4, 4.26
5-3, 3.10

You know the first one is Sabathia. After that, it would be tough to determine which line belongs to which starter. Considering Hughes has been out since April, Burnett was awful last year, and 3/5 of the rotation is occupied by two veterans past their prime and a rookie, lack of decipher-ability is a good thing. With this offense, you want guys who are going to give you a chance almost every time out, and for the first half of the season the Yankees have had five guys give them just that. Everything they could have asked for and then some.

The Offense

Jorge Posada's last 32 games: .326/.404/.474. That's before 2 more hits and another homer tonight.

Brett Gardner's last 58 games: .327/.415/.470.

Nick Swisher's last 27 games: .326/.452/.685 with 8 homers, 23 RBI, and 22 walks to only 15 strikeouts. That's before another hit, RBI, and walk tonight.

Most good players go through hot streaks. For Posada and Swisher, that's exactly what these are. Gardner's is far more extended (roughly 2/3 of the season to date), which makes his both more impressive and worthy of pointing out. The reason all of them are worthy of noting, however, is because of how plainly awful all three of these players were early in the season. They've all bounced back in a big way, and have made an offense that was one of the best in the game with them struggling that much more dangerous. The Yankees lineup is much deeper with the three of them playing like this, and they seem to be scoring runs more consistently as opposed to more boom and bust early in the season (no idea if this is accurate or not, just how it seems).

The Bullpen

This unit entered the season as the best in the game on paper. The best closer ever, one of the best closers in the game last year setting up, the best lefty specialist in the game, two young strikeout artists, and another lefty specialist. Injury has left them with the closer, one young strikeout artist, and one lefty specialist. Mariano continues to amaze, 21 saves with a 1.72 ERA. Boone Logan has been shaky at times, and has oddly really struggled to get lefties out on the whole despite being much better of late. With the short bullpen the Yankees will take the 3.32 ERA from him. Some unlikely sources have provided production, such as Noesi, Ayala, and Wade.

The big story here, however, is David Roberston. 1.10 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 32.1 IP(!). He has the second lowest ERA in the game of anyone with more than 20 IP, and has flatly been one of the best relievers in baseball. He has joined Mariano as the primary reasons why the Yankees bullpen has the LOWEST ERA in the American League despite all of these injuries. It really is amazing. This bullpen has been torn apart by injuries and they really haven't cost the team anything at all. Rather, they've been the strength they were projected to be on paper without a great deal of the production that existed on that paper.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 ALCS?

I've been thinking for a few weeks now that this is the year the Yankees and Red Sox are going to hook up in the playoffs again. 2003 and 2004 were such classic series that, at least for me, it seems like the two teams see each other in the playoffs regularly. But six Octobers have come and gone without a Yankees/Red Sox ALCS.

I know (and regularly beat the drum) that anything can happen in a short series. But as I look around the rest of the AL it's difficult to not see these two teams as the clear class of the league (although I will admit to feeling stronger about this a few weeks back, prior to Tampa and Detroit's recent surges, both of which have been very impressive). I think this is probably the highest percentage chance there has been on paper for a New York/Boston ALCS since 2005, when it seemed like it was going to happen just because.

We are four games away from the midpoint of the season and the Yankees have a two game lead in the loss column. However the teams have played basically even for the first half of the season. Despite having such similar results, and despite the possibility of the first playoff meeting between these two teams in quite some time, what is interesting is how different these teams' path to where they currently are has been.

The Yankees have been very consistent. They haven't gotten too high or too low. Want a pretty incredible stat? The Yankees have the second best record in baseball and the best record in the American League and haven't won more than 4 games in a row all season, and have only done that twice. The other side of that, obviously, is that they haven't lost many games in a row either. They had one 6 game losing streak, but outside of that they have lost 3 in a row twice and 2 in a row three times. Outside of those 6 instances, they've followed every other loss with a win, and have often turned that into 2 or 3 in a row. That's how they've gotten to the record they have.

The Red Sox, by contrast, have been more of a roller coaster. Not just streaks of multiple wins and losses in a row (of which they've had both), but perhaps more importantly stretches of games where the record is very positive or negative. Seems like there are a lot of 8-2 and 7-3 as well as 2-10 and 2-5. And the play seems to usually match the results. They go through periods where they look borderline unbeatable and then they go through periods where they don't even look like they're that good. Lots of highs and lows.

All that matters, of course, is the bottom line. And the bottom line is the two best records in the American League. Should be interesting to see if these trends and results continue and if these teams continue on a path towards an October matchup. It will also be interesting to see how Tampa and Detroit factor in, as well as if anyone else gets seriously involved in the AL mix.

Monday, June 27, 2011

All-Star Break

First and foremost, a brief message for Kevin Youkilis.  Shut the f*** up.

Okay, now for my obligatory statement of opinion regarding the "Adrian Gonzalez Playing Right" idea.  At first, before I realized that it's time for JD Drew's "gonna play hard for two weeks to get people off my back and make them wonder if I actually DO care about baseball...before riding into the sunset" spurt, I was for the idea.  But I've come around.  Adrian Gonzalez should be on the bench a couple of times in the next couple of games. 

I'm not sipping the Tony Massarotti Kool-Aid of "Gonzalez is going to crash into Adrian Beltre as an outfielder."  But I do regularly sip the Francona "He probably needs a day off" Kool-Aid.  Let's look at the Red Sox' big-mouthed third baseman with a victim complex.  Youkilis plays hard every single day.  Due to this, experts say, he gets fatigued come August or September, oftentimes when games start to become more and more important.  Youkilis hitting .220 for a month is not aligned with business objectives, whether it's the fans' business objective of winning baseball games or whether it's John Henry's business objective of being up 20%. 

Bottom line is, Youkilis needs some days off over the course of the season.  So does Dustin Pedroia.  And so does Jason Varitek.  He needs five days off a week so that he can be effective the other two (and for that, let me say THANK YOU JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA!).

My thesis is:  Adrian Gonzalez also needs some days off.  He stated back in February or March that he wanted to play 162 games this year.  I don't like that.  We're not in San Diego anymore.  The team stands a chance to win baseball games without Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup.  Especially against teams like the Houston Astros.  The Padres needed Gonzalez to play to win, more or less.  The Red Sox don't.

Gonzalez will be starting the All-Star Game, so that means between now and October, he'll have roughly ten days off.  While I'm not advocating his "teaching third grade public school," why not build in a couple more?  Gonzales will not have an All-Star Break.  So let's make July 1-3 his All-Star Break.  Play Ortiz.  Play Drew as he goes 12-15 over that weekend after his spectacular recovery from Sore Philly Eye.  And play Adrian Gonzalez in October.

Too Big for Japan

Junichi Tazawa's first AA start after Tommy John surgery, televised throughout New England on NESN:

2/3 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 1 K.  67.50 ERA. 

Looks a little chubby as well, at least in the face.  At least John "Up 20%" Henry is at the game watching the investment that was worth discarding a 47-year-old handshake agreement with Japan over.  Good job, guys.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sore Philly Eye

I've been waiting all season for this week.  This is the week JD Drew was scheduled to return to Philadelphia for the last time in his unspectacular, anticlimactic major league career.  My new hobby otherwise known as @SoreGloveHand has been talking about it since that TJ Furman blog post encouraging Philly fans to "get your D cells ready."  Of course, the personality of SoreGloveHand has been one that doesn't really like to play baseball, likes to get paid, and was hellbent on finding a way to avoid these Philadelphia games.

I thought the sore hamstring that Drew was nursing about a month ago after going after a foul fly ball similar to The Day Instinct Took Over (one of my favorite posts ever) last year was going to conveniently flare up right before the Philadelphia series.  Another convenient excuse to have Drew miss these games was the bad flu that's been going around that clubhouse lately.  But JD Drew has exceeded even my wildest imaginative ideas by bunting a ball into his face during batting practice this morning.  Do I think it's intentional?  I won't say yes, but I also won't say no.  How many times has JD Drew bunted during batting practice?  Let's say he's played 120 games a year (generous) during his time in Boston, which is now 4.5 years.  I'm pretty sure everyone takes five bunts a day in batting practice.  If you factor in spring training (where he showed up at the last possible day), we're talking at least 3,000 bunts.  It's not like it's new hat to him.  And it's not like DeMarlo Hale is throwing 97 out there.  But the day he bunts it off of his face is the game before he goes to Philadelphia.

If you didn't know, JD was drafted second overall by the Phillies in the 1997 MLB draft.  He refused to sign for anything less than $10 million.  In 1997, the all-time record for the amount of money offered for a draftee was $2 million.  JD wanted five times that (Source:  Baseball America).  The Phillies didn't give it to him, so he decided to spurn the Phillies and play independent ball in St. Paul, hoping to find a loophole, avoid the '98 draft, and sign as a free agent.  The scheme didn't work and got the $10 million (at that point only four times the all-time record) he requested from the Cardinals in 1998.

He returned to Philadelphia in 1999, and during his first game, the game had to be interrupted because Philadelphia fans were throwing D-cell batteries and other debris at Drew.  The way I see it, it's not because Philadelphia sports fans are Neanderthals.  Philly fans are the way Red Sox fans were in 1999, and Drew kind of deserved it.  He wanted 500% of what anyone had ever received in the draft.  That's disgusting.

The stories about JD Drew not caring about baseball, in addition to nearly-incontrovertible evidence by watching him play between the lines (and news flash, it's not all about facial expressions!) as early as 1998 and recently as last week when he decided to Manny Ramirez it to first base on a third strike passed ball, stem from this.  They also stem from the fact that he complained about patellar tendonitis for 2.5 years, missed a month a few years ago without going onto the DL, and got called out by teammates and managers from every team he's ever played for (including Francona!). 

Look, I've been so right about this guy and Julio Lugo that it makes up for how wrong I was about Mike Lowell, Mark Teixeira, and Lars Anderson.  And it's been a while since I gloated about it.  I was going to write about something else Drew-related today, but then Drew bunted a ball at his eye, most likely taking himself out of the entire Philadelphia series.  This guy held out for a contract and went to all four years of college.  He's no dummy.  He knows how far he has to go to avoid playing baseball. 

He's a genius.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Go Home

First, let me clarify something:  I did not have the pleasure to see JD Drew dog it on the passed ball third strike.  I did have the pleasure to hear Tony Massarotti talk about how JD's stats are almost exactly the same as another right fielder the Red Sox had.  I think it's time for everyone to say that DV was right.  Okay, on to the real thesis.

John Lackey's performance in Wednesday afternoon's game was unacceptable.  For a while we had some benefit of the doubt going on here.  The personal life thing sucks.  I feel for him there.  The fact that Lackey cares, where there are other players, especially two of them in the outfield who clearly don't give a crap, is awesome.  I have tried for a solid year and a half to like John Lackey.  But similar to Daisuke Matsuzaka that Monday night against Tampa when he clearly grooved up some pitches Chan Ho Park style just to prove a point that he's smarter than everyone else, Wednesday, John Lackey died to me.

Hey Theo Epstein!  Where the F were your private investigators when looking at this guy in free agency?  Right now, on the Felger show, there are journalists from LA talking about how John Lackey was cantankerous there.  Are you kidding me?  Manny Ramirez was a hero there and John Lackey was viewed as cantankerous?  Whoa.

Yesterday, Lackey fired up the Random Excuse Generator (props to the DA Show on that one) and blamed the weather.  While he might have a point about that - and I have already given you the thesis about how interleague play sucks, partially due to this - that is disgusting.  Did I complain about the weather a month ago when I ran like a girl in Vermont?  No.  I actually killed Lackey for blaming the weather a month before he even did it in that comments section, didn't I?  That was everyone else consoling me all month by saying I ran slow because of the weather.

Also, let me try to figure it out:  Was Clayton Richard plagued by the freaking weather?  No.  The fact that he prevented himself from drilling people and flipping out because he's drilling people would indicate that maybe it's Clayton Richard who should be making eighteen million dollars.  Clayton Richard was too busy trying to win a baseball game instead of being a prima donna who will only play when it's 80 degrees and sunny.  Who are you, JD Drew?  That's embarrassing.

Let's get real here.  I was listening to the game on the radio, and I know what happened.  Lackey drilled Anthony Rizzo and got pissed off that Rizzo didn't try hard enough to get out of the way.  Um, duh, they're the worst offense in baseball.  I wouldn't try too hard to get out of the way either.  So instead of making sure the next guy hit into a double play - you know, doing his job? - he flips out and loses it.  This makes the Derek Lowe situations back ten years ago look like a game of dominoes.  Or a game of beer pong.

I know that the infamous "I thought you were gonna ask me" Theo Epstein interview went something along the lines of "if a player shows emotion outwardly and he's scuffling, fans say he can't control himself."  But I don't think any of us have seen a player melt down like this on such a habitual basis, either due to an umpire, due to a teammate dogging it after a fly ball in right field, due to Bud Selig's hideous gimmicky scheduling, or due to an opponent not getting out of the way.  If you're strong mentally, you get the double play and drill someone in the back the next inning.  Then you can blame THAT on the weather.

If you can't get it together, and if it's something going on with your personal life, seriously, dude, go home.  This team is doing fine, and someone like Felix Doubront or even Andrew Miller can consistently post efforts better than that embarrassment that can wear on a team's psyche over a period of time.  We've seen bad attitudes spoil a clubhouse in Boston, as recently as 2009 in my opinion.  This guy needs to go home, be by his wife, maybe see a shrink, and come back with his family and life back intact in 2012. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Also Really Good

There's been a lot of chatter on here recently about how good Adrian Gonzalez is. I think DV has even written two positive posts about him already, which might be a record for positive posts DV has ever written about a Red Sox, and Gonzalez has only been in Boston for a few months. That's when you know a guy has been good. And rightfully so, he's amazing. There is a reason I picked him to win the AL MVP this year.

A player that is deserving of equal praise, both in terms of his individual production and impact on his team, is Curtis Granderson. In certain ways he deserves more because 1. he wasn't elite entering this season and is playing elite, while Gonzalez is expected to play at an elite level and 2. he plays a far more premium, important, and demanding defensive position. He also deserves less in that he has other impact guys around him that can make an offense go, where the Red Sox really need Gonzalez to make them go.

Anyway, point being that anything positive said about Gonzalez also has to be said about Granderson. They are having similarly incredible seasons. In terms of WAR, Gonzalez is 3rd and Granderson is 4th in baseball. In terms of VORP, Granderson is 5th and Gonzalez is 6th in baseball. These stats are position adjusted, so you really get a sense of just how similar their seasons have been on the aggregate so far, and how they have each been two of the best players in the game.

Both are very good defenders, so it's even more impressive that they are providing the offense that they are. We aren't talking about big power bats here who are defensive liabilities. We are talking about above-average to elite defenders. Granderson also runs well, so he's been the total package this year. I'm sure the Sox are more than happy to live with Gonzalez's lack of speed for his overall production.

On that front, it's important to point out that this is not a direct compare as these players do play different roles for their respective teams. But they are providing incredibly similar value. We are roughly a week away from the midpoint of the season, and as the Yankees and Red Sox lock horns in the playoff race it will be interesting to see how these two players continue to factor in. To this point they've been the most important players for their team on the offensive side of the ball.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Jed Lowrie Conundrum

Okay, so it was a good thing that Marco Scutaro wasn't traded.  If he were, Jose Iglesias would be the starting shortstop for the Red Sox right now.

I'm not going to pretend that Scutaro is a great player or someone who should play everyday over Jed Lowrie, considering Lowrie's considerable hot streaks along with his cold streaks.  But we're now four years into the Jed Lowrie experience, and he hasn't been able to stay on the field.  Sorry.  But this is true:

2008:  Missed 56 games between May 10 and July 12 with a hand injury.
2009:  Missed 84 games between April 11 and July 18 with an unrelated wrist injury.
2010:  Missed first 94 games with mononucleosis.
2011:  Placed on 15-day DL with shoulder injury.

Lowrie's baseball career has been 543 games long.  Counting these four spells of absence, but NOT EVEN COUNTING any regular 1- or 2-day breathers, Lowrie has missed 49% of his career.  That sucks.

And it's probably not the guy's fault.  He doesn't seem like someone like two of their outfielders who won't play at 99%, as he played through that wrist injury for a long time in 2008.  But sometimes, you have to face it:  There are a lot of bodies that cannot handle a six-month baseball season.  And Jed Lowrie's body very well might be one of them.  Granted, he might be able to overcome this, but more likely he'll end up having a career a lot like Tim Naehring's.

Naehring exceeded 100 games in a season twice in his career.  He was an infielder who could play a couple of positions.  He wasn't bad (he hit above .300 in his healthiest season).  He was a hard-working, likable player who, unfortunately, was working in the Cincinnati Reds system in a baseball operations role by the time he turned 32.

Going back to Lowrie, there are some stretches where he looks like a very formidable baseball player.  There are also some stretches where he is wretched at the plate and plays like he has never played baseball before.  Who really knows whether these bad stretches have been the result of poor health or something else.  But it's crucial that the team has an equal-caliber replacement for Lowrie for now and for the foreseeable future (which may mean until Iglesias is ready for prime time).  It's clear that Lowrie, while he can catch some of that Daubach fire and hit .350 for a month or six weeks, cannot maintain that kind of production for a long time.  Jed Lowrie's position is one where the hot hand must be ridden.  And here we are right now:  Lowrie's on the DL and Scutaro's the hot hand.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Remembering What It's Like

Not much hockey talk happens around here, because unless we were some of those kids being taken to the rink at 5AM, twenty years of following a crappy team isn't a good way to develop a strong relationship with the sport.

That's why this week, I'm really happy that the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.  Not that I'm a big hockey guy or pretend to be one.  Really, my connection with hockey starts with being from Wilmington (the town where the Bruins have practiced forever) and ends with the Franchise's brothers, my roommate, and listening to the new sports radio station here in Boston.  But it's people like this who this championship really means something to.

Unlike baseball, football, and especially basketball, where the sports really can be followed and liked by the casual fan, for as long as I've lived in New England, I've considered the hockey fan completely different.  Hockey fans know the sport, and hockey fans follow the sport.  Similar to hockey players (let's just say that JD Drew and 46 don't exist in hockey), hockey fans don't preen around.  At least not around here.  They care.  A lot.  They will watch the inconsequential Thursday night game on NESN.  While I might watch the inconsequential Thursday night baseball game on NESN, I am more than the average baseball fan.  The average hockey fan does.  And that's why I'm happy for them.

The way the average hockey fan feels right now is the way that I felt in 2004.  The guys in their 30s and 40s who don't remember the 1972 championship are similar to the guys in their 60s who weren't alive for 1918.  Instead of the whole thing being about 86 years, it's amplified by the fact that these guys have a screw loose in the first place.  You have to be a little weird to be doing that ice time crap before the sun rises from the age of seven.  Both of the Franchise's brothers did this, as did my roommate.

I can't say I'm happy for myself, because I am sane enough to admit that I've only felt the frustration of being a Bruins fan since the Felger Channel (otherwise known as 98.5 The Sports Hub) came along the radio waves.  There are a lot of people like me, and I hope that unlike the Red Sox fans who were late to the party, they are also brave enough to admit it.  In fact, I think the coverage on 98.5 has helped immensely toward making hockey matter in Boston again.  I was frustrated and pissed off about last year and the year before, but it didn't eat at me the way years like 2003 and 1999 did as a baseball fan.  Hockey fans - it did.  Listening to Felger talk, and listening to the fatalism set forth by the Franchise's brothers, you could tell that kind of stuff.  I didn't help by adding my sarcastic refrain of the team's old "It's Called Bruins" slogan, but that's the way it was.

People congratulated me in particular when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.  And I remember how happy I felt.  That's the way those hockey fans feel right now.  While I want to thank Felger, my roommates, and the Franchise's brothers for getting me to tune into the last 2-3 years of hockey coverage and the moderate elation I got last night when that team won, this one's about them.  Congratulations to the real hockey fans out there.  I don't have the nerve to say that I feel the way you feel today, but I do remember what it's like.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All Baseball All The Time

With basketball ending for the season Sunday and hockey ending for the season tonight, it's all baseball until football season starts. This is the only period in the entire sports year where only one of the four major American sports is in session. This always becomes very obvious when you watch Baseball Tonight followed by SportsCenter and they are essentially the same show. It's a little weird to only have one sport going, but for the big baseball fan it's no problem at all. It also means we are getting involved with summer for real, which is always a good thing.

Since I wrote about and we talked about basketball a lot in this space this year, I figure one to cap the season is appropriate. Especially given that the Miami Heat and Lebron James are involved.

On that front, nothing has changed. Whichever side of the Heat/Lebron issue you are on, that is the way you are going to frame the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The anti-Heat/Lebron crowd is going to focus on the NBA finals, the Heat's two major collapses in that series, and Lebron's fourth quarter dissapearing acts to say that they proved everyone right, as Gunn did the other day. Those that defend the Heat/Lebron are going to focus on the way in which they turned the Eastern Conference portion of the playoffs into a laughing stock, the way Lebron took over those series, and the notion that not winning it all on the very first try is not necessarily indicative of anything at all. It's not like they lost in the first round. They took the NBA Finals to Game 6.

That last point is probably the one that resonates with me the most. The reason for that is that it is in line with the reason why I stick up for Lebron. He's reached the point where he has to do everything exactly right for people to give him a pass. If you don't win the Finals, it's not enough. If you win the Finals, but aren't the driving force for the Heat, it's not enough. You have to win the Finals and have an amazing series. Then everyone will get off his back. This, of course, is incredibly pedestrian to accomplish.

This situation makes me cringe because it reminds me of Alex Rodriguez pre the 2009 World Series. I used to be very critical of Rodrgiuez, especially in his early years in New York. But there came a point where everyone was piling on and creating these ridiculous expectations that it was too much. It took exactly what I'm talking about above - Rodriguez winning a World Series while getting every big hit known to mankind - for people to get off his back. Looking back I would be far less hard on Rodriguez than I was, because his treatment just wasn't fair. You can dislike someone all you want personally (and for many that applies to both Rodriguez and James), but there is only so far you can realistically take it in terms of what is deemed "success" and "failure" in terms of their place in their respective sports.

I mean, Lebron made the Sixers, Celtics, and Bulls look like a joke. He had the Game 7 in Boston in 2008. He had that 4th Quarter against the Pistons in 2007, and followed that up by taking a team that had no business being in the Finals to the Finals. Now listen, Lebron also had this Finals. He also had last year against Boston. In defending him, I am in no way trying to ignore those realities. I'm not saying he's clutch or a bigtime winner. What I'm trying to figure out is why, for so many, last year against Boston, this year in the Finals, and other similar performances are the only things that factor into the analysis. All the stuff on the other side of the equation didn't happen? He's not only 26 years old?

Again, I'm not saying that the positive side is going to prevail. If the rest of his career goes this way, with lots of big performances but also lots of subpar performances when it counts, then that's going to be telling. All I'm saying is that the book isn't written yet. At the very least, there is enough positive to not discount him as one thing or another because his team got to the Finals and didn't win in part because he didn't play well. Believe it or not that does happen sometimes, and it's really, really hard to be critical of someone's game when they dismantled the incumbent (Boston) and the 1-seed (Chicago) on the way to the NBA Finals.

If anything, that last point is the biggest takeaway from these NBA Playoffs for me. The way the Heat cruised to the Finals and then got handled by the Mavericks signals that, outside of the Heat, the Eastern conference lacks elite teams. Considering those teams that the Heat crushed teams in previous rounds the way Boston did the Knicks (who were the 6th best team in the East) points to the conference also lacking depth. Lack of elite teams plus lack of depth is not good. There is a reason that the Western Conference has won 10 of the 13 NBA Championships since the Bulls Dynasty ended. It's a far superior conference to the East. The Mavericks continued to expose that. We spend all this time talking about the Bulls, Heat, and Celtics, and then the Mavericks come in and just handle the Heat who smacked the Bulls and Celtics. Western Conference fans have to be laughing at all that chatter now, and I'd personally like to see the Eastern Conference turn this around. Because it's not even close right now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Infectious Adrian Gonzalez

No science behind this one, just a theory.  If you couldn't tell over the last five years, I like to come up with theories like this.  I said the 2009 Red Sox had all caught the disease that is JD Drew's attitude.  So far, this team has already exceeded my expectations, as I didn't think it was the kind of team that could piece together a nine-game winning streak.  They did that.  They've won 14 of 18, and Red Sox hitters have taken home the AL Player of the Week in each of the last three weeks (Ortiz, Crawford, 46). 

This year's team, especially in the last few weeks when they've completely caught fire (with the exception of tonight), have learned something from Adrian Gonzalez.

Why do I say that?  Just look at the way these guys are hitting, specifically looking at Crawford and 46 compared to the beginning of the season.  Also, look at Ortiz compared to previous seasons with the exception of 2007.  The bottom line is, all three of these guys have started to hit in the image of Adrian Gonzalez.  All three are lefties, and all three have drastically changed their approach.  You might want to give Dave Magadan a little bit of credit, but that guy has been there for five years.  Everyone seems to be learning from Gonzalez.

I don't have the motivation to download any hit charts, but I think it's safe to say I watch enough Red Sox baseball to see that these guys are spraying the field now more than any other time.  Especially Ortiz and 46.  All three of these guys have just relaxed at the plate and gone with whatever half-decent pitch is being thrown at them.  No need to be a hero, no need to swing for the fences (that's right, 46), just get up to the plate and get a hit.  If it happens to go 450, it happens to go 450.  In baseball, you very rarely need to be a hero.

We already know that about Gonzalez, who has three hits against freaking Shields tonight.  But that's what he does.  That's what he's always done.  He's walking a little bit less, and that's great.  But while the Red Sox have walked at nearly the same rate that they have been walking all year, these three guys (who have really propelled this hot streak) have walked 27 (Ortiz), 22 (Gonzalez), 9 (Crawford), and 20 (46) times.  Pedroia's walked 45 times, by comparison, and Drew, who only really plays half the time, has 24.  These three players have really discarded the overbearing emphasis on plate patience and trying to draw walks, instead plate patience so they can do something with a pitch over the plate.

This is the way Gonzalez has always played.  The scouting report dictates that Gonzalez is a player who hits the ball with power to all fields, and that's accurate.  That's why he's thrived at the little league park, and that's why he's hitting nearly .350.  He just goes with whatever's pitched with him.  And that's why the Red Sox decided to extend him.

The fact that perhaps because of him, everyone else is doing it too, is just an added benefit.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bad Day at the Market

John Henry's business commodity failed once again to show up in the fourth quarter last night, and the team from Florida, after The Decision, the circle-j that happened a few nights later, and a season full of hype and complete douchebaggery, was eliminated.  I'm very happy for Bandi, as he has been a Mavericks fan from the get-go.  But I'm also happy for America in general because the team from Florida lost.

I'm sure John Henry went to bed sad last night, as his business partner probably lost him a ton of money, as he's a lot less marketable as a three-quarter player than as a four-quarter player.  I wonder if JWH texted him last night something along the lines of "you'll never walk alone."  Although he did walk alone down that tunnel, just as he did after the Celtics series last year.

Most likely, the Red Sox' absolute throttling of the Blue Jays this weekend and their nine-game winning streak has gone completely under the radar.  You may not understand why.

Neither will your readers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Quick Thought on Collisions

Hot button issue in baseball the last couple of days since Buster Posey got railroaded and taken out for the season.  And I hate to say it, but it was not a dirty hit.  It was not a dirty collision.  It's a baseball play and has been a baseball play for a hundred and fifty years.  Catchers try to protect the plate.  Runners try to get to that plate.  And the one hit that happened in San Francisco was a freak accident, a happenstance that just happened to sideline a really good baseball player.

It's not like it was a blindside hit.  It's not like any of the jaw-rattling hits you're seeing in football or hockey, with two people moving at a fast speed in two different directions.  It's not going to give the guy Lou Gehrig's disease.  It's a knee injury coming from a freak accident.  I feel the same way about Tom Brady back on that Sunday afternoon in September 2008.

And, similar to the aftermath of the Brady hit, there should not be a rule change.  A rule change would dramatically change the way the game's played, and people would potentially get suspended for accidents with absolutely no intent to injure.  If catchers want to avoid getting hurt because of a freak accident, they shouldn't try to block the plate.  They can also sit seven feet behind the plate when a guy's at the plate to prevent foul balls or bats going flying.  All walls can be constructed of plastic bags like the Old Metrodome to prevent guys like Aaron Rowand from crashing into them. 

Other center fielders, in order to avoid broken ribs, should just choose to break all subsequent dives with one of their knees.  Oh wait, we already know someone who does that. 

This is not the same as headhunting.  This is not the same as Albert Belle taking a forearm to Fernando Vina's face back in the late '90s.  Changing any rules to a sport to prevent rare freak injuries, some that happen only once or twice a year, is silly.  Not as silly as the death threats or criticism coming from the San Francisco front office, but silly nonetheless.

Embarrassing

The Yankees should be embarrassed of themselves.  We all understand the ebbs and flows of a baseball season and how teams can lose focus for a little while.  But they looked awful last night.  It didn't even look like the Red Sox were really clicking, except for Alfredo Aceves late.  The way last night went down is squarely on the Yankees' shoulders.  Going off of what Pat wrote last night, the team only stole one base.  They worked four walks while Yankee teams of the past would have worked about eight and stolen a base every time second base was open.  This was bad.

Burnett was similarly uninspiring.  Electric Stuff was awful.  Was Ortiz hit?  No.  He was served a meatball.  I particularly remember 46's double that was also a meatball.  I know there's a double standard here on HYD:  If Pat crushes a Red Sox player, I agree with him, but if I crush a Yankee player, he gets all defensive.  As I'm away from my computer all day today, enjoy that defense of Electric Stuff.  What a disaster that guy is.  I know he's come up big pretty regularly, but he turtled when it came to preventing 1-7.  Also great work by Teixeira, rising to the occasion with his 0-5 last night.

Also, the old Jeter would not, under any circumstances, ground into that double play.  During that at-bat, Aceves was clearly shaken and unfocused.  Not sure whether it was being back at NYS or whether it was the fact that the faucet inside his hat was on full blast, but he looked distracted out there.  Then Jeter gave him a gift.

Just one more thought on everybody's boy 46.  I think it was Jeter who hit a double over his head, and when he went to chase it, he used his glove to flip his hat off.  What is this guy, a Little Leaguer who wants to impress his parents by making it look like he's playing hard?  The guy's turning twenty-eight (28) this year but he acts like he's nine.

Also, congrats to JD, who overcame sore glove hand suffered on what should have been an error to gather RBIs 13, 14, and 15 last night.  He now has as many RBIs as Ortiz has home runs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tonight, Almost Every Single And Walk...

...Should be a double.

Wakefield on the mound is a reason to look to steal.

Varitek behind the plate is a reason to look to steal.

Wakefield on the mound AND Varitek behind the plate should be more than looking to steal, it should be stealing. Almost every time.

This is a combination you don't see very often. With Salty out, the Red Sox don't have much choice. In addition to Wakefield throwing a pitch that is slow to get to home and Varitek generally not being able to throw people out, there is another issue: Varitek doesn't catch the knuckleball very well. Never has. Therefore the chances of him collecting a knuckler cleanly when a runner is going and throwing that runner out are that much lower.

With the exception of Teixeira, Swisher, and maybe Cervelli, everybody should be going. Everybody. Even if they get caught a few times, they should put pressure on Varitek and Wakefield to make plays all night. Could be a way to steal a few cheap runs.

The Yankees are 1-6 against this team in 2011. This is not the time to play timid. This is the time to be aggressive and force the issue. They should turn the bottom half of innings tonight into a track meet almost every time they get someone on base.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Score Off A Reliever

In five games against Lester (twice), Price, Pineda, and Hernandez, the Yankees have scored 19 runs off of those starters in 29 innings. That's dangerously close to a 6.00 ERA. They have scored 2 runs in 19 innings off of those teams' respective bullpens in the same 5 games, both against Boston. That's less than a 1.00 ERA. And one of those runs was off of Papelbon who stinks and the Yankees own, so it's even worse.

This is inexcusable. You can small sample size that all you want - and that's true - but this is becoming a trend, and a concerning one at that. This team changes approach and/or focus when they get the starter out of the game. They work the starter, and then let the relievers breeze. That's not how it's supposed to work, not if you want to play winning offensive baseball. This is especially true when the Yankees are showing in those very games the way they are capable of working the very best pitchers in the game. The contrast is difficult to miss.

Nice at bat by Jeter in the 9th. Down 3 runs, 3-1 count, Papelbon walked the previous hitter, the middle of the order is coming up, and Jeter swings at ball 4. He wasn't the winning run. He wasn't the tying run. He doesn't have any real home run power to speak of anymore. Papelbon has had major control issues of late, which isn't just more reason to take a pitch, but also means he's less likely to throw two strikes in a row. Jeter, even at this stage in his career, remains a great two strike hitter. Everything pointed to a take there, unless maybe it is in a singular zone Jeter is looking. I can't imagine Jeter is looking for a ball at his eyes. Just terrible.

And what a clown Papelbon continues to be. He has a 4.50 ERA, has allowed at least one run in 5 of his last 7 appearances, and he started the inning with a 3 run lead. After 5 batters, 27 pitches, and allowing a run to score, he is still screaming and cursing on the mound. If you want to do all that, at least pitch well.

DV has been very fond of comparing the 2011 Red Sox to the 2005 Yankees. With good reason, there are a lot of similarities between those clubs. I'm going to go ahead and compare the 2011 Yankees to the 2009 Yankees. This year's club has started 1-6 against Boston, and the 2009 edition started 0-8 against Boston. Hopefully there are similar endings to the season.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Offensive Concentration

This post has been in the makings for a few weeks. Over that time it has changed slightly in tenor. Even 10 days ago, it would have been a total rip job. Things have changed (for the time being), and for the better.

Further, despite facing some of the toughest starting pitching you can face this past month (especially this most recent roadtrip, where the Yankees went 6-3 despite not facing one starter with an ERA above the high 3's), the Yankees lead the AL in runs, and lead all of baseball in run differential...by a lot. Anyone who has read this blog knows I don't view run differential as conclusive, but rather a general analytical tool. In this case, the analysis is pretty clear through two months. The Yankees are at +71, and the next closest team is Texas at +51. There are only two other teams (St. Louis and Philadelphia) north of +30. This may seem hard to believe to someone who watches the Yankees every day like me, but the Yankees are scoring a lot of runs. It's tough to rip them under those circumstances, and I certainly have no interest in doing it. They have been playing really good baseball.

Still, this general point stands. DV talks a lot about concentration, and while he makes a lot of good points with certain players, other times I have to admit to rolling my eyes and thinking "if only it were that easy". What I have seen from the Yankees offense at times this year, however, is opening my eyes further to a little bit to this issue.

Concentration (or lack thereof) goes hand in hand with impatience in this instance. Let's look at some data:

May 15 vs. Boston: 4 runs off Jon Lester in 6 innings, 1 run (and only 1 hit, 4 baserunners!) off the Boston bullpen in 3 innings. Yankees blow 4-1 lead.

May 16 vs. Tampa Bay: 5 runs off David Price in 5 innings, 0 runs (and only 1 baserunner!) off the Tampa Bay bullpen in 4 innings. Yankees blow 5-1 lead.

May 27 vs. Seattle: 3 runs off Michael Pineda in 5 innings, 0 runs (and only 3 baserunners!) off of the Seattle bullpen in 4 innings. Yankees blow 3-0 lead.

May 28 vs. Seattle: 4 runs off of Felix Hernandez in 7 innings, 0 runs (and only 3 baserunners!) off the Seattle bullpen in 5 innings (including extras). Yankees blow 3-1 lead.

I understand that pitching is up and offense is down around the league. One of the big trends on that front is that bullpens are deeper and better, with more quality arms across the board in Major League bullpens. But I don't care how much better those middle-relief arms are, they are not Lester, Price, Pineda, and Hernandez. They just aren't.

In each of those games, the Yankees offense showed up clearly focused and determined. Not only were they scoring runs, but in all but in all but the Felix game, they were grinding at-bats and working the pitcher to the point where he was out of the game by the 5th or 6th. Unless you've been living under a rock, this has been the Yankee way for years. Get starters - especially the best starters - out of the game early, whether you do damage to them or not. Then feast on the soft underbelly that is the middle-relief of most clubs. Even if those groups are collectively better, not enough for their to be this much disparity between performance against starters and relievers.

This is due, at least in part, to a lack of concentration and patience in my opinion. Case in point, with the exception of the Boston game (where they drew 3 walks in 3 innings off the bullpen) the Yankees drew one walk in 13 innings in the other three games combined. ONE! I know it's only three games (the definition of a small sample), but given their performance against elite starters in those very games, the shift in approach and performance is too much to ignore. This is especially true given the fact that the Yankees blew leads in all four games, which is the most important part. Of course part of this gets pinned on the pitching (no doubt), but it also has to do with the Yankees seemingly wanting to show up, work hard and get runs up early, and then get complacent the rest of the way.

This has changed recently. The offense is tacking on after scoring early, whether it is off a starter still in the game or once they get into the bullpen. Hopefully this continues, because most of May was very frustrating on this front, and the Yankees probably gave away a few games as a result.

A big reason for the change is Mr. Mark Teixeira. Interesting timing, as I can remember thinking 3 weeks ago when the Yankees were busy losing 6 straight and 8 of 11 while the Red Sox surged that Teixeira needed to step up, and step up big. His numbers were good, but that had a lot to do with a hot start. Seeing how badly he was getting outplayed by Adrian Gonzalez only made it worse.

Since then, Teixeira has been a star the way he was in 2009, carrying the offense the way he did in 2009. "Carrying" is of course a relative term with the Yankees, as he has plenty of help now the way he had plenty of help in 2009. But he, along with Granderson, have been the most impactful bats in the lineup. I wrote before the season about Teixeira the difference maker vs. Teixeira the very good player. This has been Teixeira the difference maker, and the Yankees have been reaping the benefits.

Now it's time to show up against the Red Sox. The Yankees are 1-5 against the Sox, 32-19 against everybody else. The Sox are 5-1 against the Yankees, 28-25 against everybody else. You could make a decent case that the Yankees have helped soften the blow of the Sox inconsistencies more than anybody else, because head to head games between these teams count twice. Especially the sweep in the Bronx 3 weeks ago. If the Yankees even split those 6 games, they are up 6 games in the loss column. Instead it's 2. It's early, but that's a sizable difference, and a big favor the Yankees have done for the Sox. It would be helpful if they stopped doing them favors this week.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oakland Athletics: Dumbest Team in Baseball?

The game worth discussing the most from this weekend was Saturday's war of attrition.  The first thing, and the one that I will enjoy discussing more than anything else is the last play of the game.  Worked out pretty well for Boston, so I'm not going to complain.  But how dumb was that decision-making process?

They walked a guy who's 0-6 and is hitting .224 with 2 extra-base hits in his last 49 at-bats to get to JD Drew.  It's the fourteenth inning, JD is playing like he's already retired, and is the one person (except for maybe the Franchise's Georgian aunt) who wants to leave that ballpark more than anyone else.  As we have seen in previous Junes, he's not untalented.  He has the talent to get himself to go home through a single.  And that's what he did.  This is why straight-up numbers don't work always.  Knowing which players hate baseball and/or being at the park could have saved the Athletics the game.

The second thing is Tony Randazzo.  What an embarrassment.  Another iteration of the same thing Pat and I have been whining about for years.  Umpires with no accountability.  Umpires who are pretty much cowboys who think that they are the star of the show.  The entire umpiring crew had no comment on the incident, when Papelbon was facing the other way and Randazzo came storming out from behind the plate.  Why do these guys constantly look for a fight?  And when you are wrong, why don't you have the balls to admit it?  These guys all cover for each other, and it's disgusting.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's the Point?

I am as skeptical of doctors as the next guy, especially after all the crap I went through as an athlete in the year 2010.  But at what point do the Boston Red Sox' doctors lose their practicing licenses?  The fact that this baseball team is going to start arguing with the National Treasure about whether surgery is necessary is embarrassing.

How many times is this going to happen?  The team did this with Schilling, getting him to rehab instead of getting the problem fixed.  (He later had surgery and never pitched again.)  The team did this with Mike Cameron last year, just to have him play like garbage until August and push back his recovery by five months.  They were at a complete discord with 46, although I agree with the team in the respect that 46 is a complete pussy.  Now they want Matsuzaka to "rehab" a torn UCL, come back in September, get shelled and cost the team some games in a pennant race, and have surgery in October? 

That's brilliant.

At what point do potential free agents (especially Boras guys), while evaluating teams in the free agent process, get driven away from the Boston Red Sox because their doctors are 1) incompetent, 2) confrontational, and 3) hazardous to the players' long term well-being and earnings?  Because that's exactly what is true.  The medical staff is even worse than the "take two aspirin and make us proud" philosophy preached by former minority owner Dr. Arthur Pappas of the 1990s.

Not that I trust Dr. Lewis Yocum at all.  Yocum told 46 to chill out in Arizona when he was fine.  He's also associated with Boras, so he's the kind of doctor who would be okay with a player opting out of his contract during an elimination game in the World Series.  The complete opposite of the Red Sox' doctors, this guy exists so that players can cash in on the free agent market, no matter what.

I feel like going through the medical process with the current Boston Red Sox' medical team is similar to a teenager playing sports at Reading (MA) High School, a reliever pitching for Joe Torre, or a construction worker working around asbestos.  It's hazardous to your health and well-being, both in the current time and in the future.  I understand the idea of how if Matsuzaka has the surgery, he may never pitch for the Red Sox again.  But what's better?  No Matsuzaka, or Matsuzaka in September 2011 pitching with a UCL at 70%?  Yes please on Alfredo Aceves or Felix Doubront.  Not kidding.

But no.  Here we go through another quagmire with these Red Sox doctors and a stubborn management team.

Quick, but Violent Torpedo of Truth

At a tradeshow all day, but I figured I'd throw out this nugget:  46 the Slugger is back.  After his two home runs last week, 46 has abandoned what has made him successful for the entire season, which is going with the pitch that's being thrown at him and making things happen.  This is instead of swinging for the fences, walking a lot, and striking out a lot.

April 1-April 20th:  .182, 4 HR, strikeout every 4.35 at-bats
April 20-May 27th:  .342, 2 HR, strikeout every 6.35 at-bats
Since the sixth home run:  .222, three strikeouts in the first game, strikeout every 3.6 at-bats.

The youngest 27-year-old outfielder in baseball history may also be the dumbest player I've ever watched. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Congrats, DV

Congrats to our very own DV, who won the Vermont City Marathon this past Sunday. There may be a few more, but I know of five marathons that DV has run in his career: Maine, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, and Vermont City. He won Maine, he won Philadelphia, he won Vermont City, and had a superb showing in the uber-competitive Boston. Winning 3 out of 5 and having a great race in one of the best marathon's in the world is some kind of start to a young marathon career.

None of this is any coincidence. DV works his absolute tail off. He packs a full-time competitive runner's workload into what more closely resembles a part-time runner's schedule as he also works full-time, is working on a post-graduate degree part-time, puts a great deal of work into this site, and has somehow managed to still have friends and a girlfriend for like 5 years now. Tongue in cheek I might say that I'm not sure if he sleeps, and the reality is there are times I'll talk to him around midnight and he'll tell me he has to go to bed because he's getting up at 4:30 to run before work. This may sound like an advertisement, but really I am just consistently genuinely impressed by his effort and dedication. He deserves every success that comes his way.

In the interest of full disclosure, while happy, DV is not as excited as you'd expect someone who just won a marathon to be. He has his sights set on bigger things, and unfortunately he fell just short this time around. He probably won't be willing to use this as an excuse, but the whether is objective. After favorable conditions to start the race, the sun came out around mile 11 which made for a tougher back-end, especially for someone who is not just trying to win, but put up a huge time in the process. DV may or may not feel like talking about this, just pointing it out so everyone congratulating him knows what frame of mind he is in if he has the chance to respond.

The good news is he'll have more chances to make that desired time. He's really putting together a very impressive career. I'm sure it's difficult for him to do now given his ultimate goals, but at some point he'll be able to reflect on all of these wins and appreciate them more fully, similar to the way we (or at least I) are able to now. Winning marathons is certainly something to appreciate and be impressed by. Congrats again, DV.