Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Initial Attraction & Later Revelation

Part A: 2007 & 2003

I realized last night what it was that made me identify with the Red Sox. In case you were unaware, since even students here were unaware, that my MSU Bulldogs were playing in the NIT Final Four game in NYC. We had so far played brilliantly, to the point that I think we could have easily been in the Elite Eight of the NCAA depending on our matchups. West Virginia is nothing to scoff at to be certain but we could win this game, we could win any game. The start was a bit unnerving but in true dawg fashion by the end of the first half we were 14 points up and on a run. We usually come out after halftime and give up a 6 or 8 point run but not today. We were still on our run, they couldn't touch us. J-Go was on fire with his assists, the colossus of Rhodes was standing brilliantly, Hans was everywhere, Slater was weaving his magic; it was beautiful. Then something happened. Our shots didn't stop falling, and we didn't stop playing our aggressive D, but something happened. With a little less than 3 minutes left our lead was down to six, which isn't too shabby and that's when it happened.

Miss Rookie (my girlfriend) says "if we blow this game..." I stop her right there. When you are winning you simply don't say that. Hell, you don't talk about losing if when you are losing until the game is OVER. But that wasn't the only reason I stopped her. I felt it too. Impending defeat and for no good reason other than we are the Bulldogs of MSU and that's how the pieces fall every time. The whole game Horne and I were talking about how MSU doesn't get any love from announcers even when we are playing great, on a five game win streak, and 72 points ahead. Now I know why. Dogs up two with 2.1 seconds on the clock and WVU inbounds the ball, puts up a three over Gordon's head that nearly reaches orbit and falls through the hoop barely even hitting the net. We lose, WVU goes to the championship game.

Later last night it hits me. I understand now. I know why I became a Boston fan, and it is not a pretty story. It's because of this feeling that I connected with Red Sox nation. At the time the Sox hadn't won the World Series in 85 years. They had an arch rival that was perpetually better than them (hey, I hate the Bombers as much as anyone but let's face it, the Yanks had been to half of the big shows in the last decade usually downing the Sox in the ALCS). Boston fans were always the same, thinking this year was going to be different, this year was special, this year we have the team. And like clockwork, things broke apart, bad calls, horrible plays, and just damn bad luck always happened. And that's how a young high school grad from Mississippi could feel so right with a baseball team so far away.

Part B: 2004

Down three games to none, down going into ninth inning, down for the season... AGAIN. And then Roberts stole. See my previous article. He stole second and the world changed for thousands of people across the country. The world changed for Pesky. 85 years did not matter, only one year did. That's what it took and now there is never that nagging feeling that the gods of baseball are going to screw us over anymore. If ever we lose a game it was our fault and it's okay because we'll be back tomorrow night. This year, just like 2006 and 2005, looks more promising than the last even though we didn't win the WS in the last two years.

So how is last night's loss in the Final Four of the NIT like the 2004 ALCS? It's not. It's like the 2003 ALCS. We lost a game we should have won. We lost despite playing exceptionally well. We lost on a freakin' buzzer beater (okay that didn't happen in 2003). Next year is what I'm talking about. We are losing only two seniors, only one of which really plays. We have 11 freshman and sophomores, most of which are already starters and amazing. We lost in the SEC tourny to a traitor's team (Ervin on Arkansas). We tied for the division title with our rivals (UM). We got shafted out of the big show (NCAA). Any of this sound familiar. Maybe they don't all line up with 2003 and that one series, but they definitely all line up with the Sox. Cultivating young talent, a player we loved going to another team, having to share the spotlight with our bitter enemies, not making it again to the dance. The Bulldogs are my local Red Sox and I'm calling it now, watch us next year. Watch our recruitment. Watch us win the West and maybe even the SEC outright. Watch us dominant the SEC Tourny. Watch us go to the NCAA and go round for round with the best. We are the local Sox, we are Rocky Balboa, we are perpetual underdogs. We are the BULLDOGS.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The One that Started it All

Over a month and a half ago, I posted a blog on myspace that really got the ball rolling for Horne and I to start Sports...on the Rox. In a very Bill Simmons-esque way I'd like to share that article again on here for everyone that did not get to read it on the first go round.

Monday , February 19, 2007
" Where were you when...

It is a question that every generation has a different question to.
Where were you when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor ?
Where were you when Kennedy was shot ?
Where were you when the WTC was attacked ?
Where were you when Roberts stole second ?

It is a question that has defined a new and old generation of Red Sox fans. It is the first question a true fan asks someone that they are not too sure about a newcomers faith. Everyone that watched the now most famous series ever that is a real Sox fan or was then and there born a Sox fan knows the gravity of the question and usually is answering it before it's asked. I, for one, was sitting in my tiny apt. room watching the game, drinking a Sam Adam's (because that's a rule), and it happened. I woke up my roommates on a number of occasions after the steal but that was by far the most emphatic of my increasingly girly exclamations. My old self died and I was reborn a blue and red Yankee Hater. Years later I will be asked this question in a Houston area Buffalo Wild Wings by a man I just met and by answering it honestly I was immediately inducted into his circle of trust; which would come in handy months later.*

The point of this isn't to dwell on the past, though of a sweet moment in sports history it will forever be, but to talk about the future. Spring training is getting underway and there is no place better on earth right now than Ft. Meyers, FL. The Red Sox are shaping up to be one hell of a formidable team this year. We have super-star, MSU grad. fireballer Papelbon assuming a place in the starting rotation**, the million dollar rice thrower Dice-K, the single greatest veteran any team of any sport could hope to have, and the last of the knuckleballers all pitching not too mention back from the dead Lestor, and the "if I find my groove" ace Beckett. We have new legs in the infield and outfield, and all the best bats returning to the plate. And the only captain you want hitting your archenemy square in the face. It is indeed a good year to be a Boston fan.

In God and Theo We Trust. Go Sox!"

*I know that the first paragraph can be found in the all time world's worst worded articles collection. What I wanted to convey did not translate well.

**Yah, I was wrong. Not my fault though. Until last week it was still understood that Paps would indeed be starting. Now they are saying his shoulder is made of something similar to Wolverine's adamantium. So he'll be closing the door again and damn is he looking impressive so far this spring. Good thing too, our would be closer Hansen had a go at the Reds yesterday and to put it mildly, it was ugly... real ugly.

Most of the article still relates though. I could not be more stoked about the season with the way our team is shaking down. I like the move we've made in the last two years from offensive powerhouse to defensive juggernaut. New pick ups besides ones on the mound look solid too. Lugo impresses me every time I watch him, while Drew is healthy can easily be one of the best outfielders in the game today (knock on wood). Pedroia will get his first real chance to step up this year and the three games I've seen him in so far, this kid can hit for base or yard. Then the likes of Manny of Ortiz will still be showering the upper levels, nothing even needs to be said about that tandem. As much as I absolutely adore Schilling and Wakefield, it is very exciting to see Theo's dream of a young, farmed team with potential all-stars coming into being rather than dropping too many dollars on guys who can't hack at it like they use to. And that plan also allows for the big dollars when you need them (cough cough Matsuzaka). What can you say about that guy. No one knows what this kid throws, or even how many different pitches he has. Last week the Pirates' batters that faced him, and were subsequently sat down after Ks, went to a laptop computer to watch their at-bats just to try and figure out whether that was a breaking ball or a moving fastball. That's awesome. I hope I don't have anything due next Tues. because I surely won't be doing any work whatsoever.

Currently Drinking: Coca-Cola Zero. It's 10:24AM, give me a break.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

taking a closer look

Just goes to show you that once you think you know all about this game, you realize that you really have no clue.

In an announcement today, the Red Sox revealed that Jonathan Papelbon will be reprising his role as the baby-faced badass closer(those last words were mine, not theirs). I first got wind of this news when I rushed home to see the Sox play against the Phillies on ESPN this afternoon. Right as I get into the apartment and turn on the tube, Erin Andrews(and her sexy self) was telling Gary Thorne and Jonathan Kruk all the breaking news. I immediately let out a scream, followed by many, many, holyshit, holyshits.

Some of you might remember that Paps went down the last month of the season with a shoulder sublixation. According to both him and Tito, Papelbon's shoulder is many more times stronger now, thanks to his dedication to winter therapy and workouts. He will be monitored closely, and he will never pitch more than three games in a row. All the trainers and doctors on the Sox staff like this idea, and they would never sign off on this if they feared for his arm's safety.

Curt Schilling also posted a good read on Paps' return to the pen. I highly suggest reading it.

What is probably my favorite angle on this story is how the whole idea came about. It wasn't because Theo and Co. were panicking at the thought of Jole Pineiro closing out games in September when things were tight. It wasn't because Timlin is going to start the season out on the DL. And it wasn't because they didn't think Paps could handle the starting role.

Plain and simple, Papelbon is the closer again because THAT is where he felt he belonged. He said he hasn't been able to sleep well at all this spring because of his desire to close. After consulting his family and the captain, Paps walked into Francona's office on Tuesday and let him know how he felt. And since the Sox brass had been discussing this(just as an option) for some time, the transition was an easy one.

"This is something I'd like to do the rest of my career. Forget about starting. Go out (as a closer), chase records and hopefully do for the Red Sox what Mariano Rivera does for the Yankees."

On the flip side, Julian Tavarez will slide into the 5th spot in the rotation, but I don't think it will be a permanent one. Jon Lester has had an excellent spring amidst recovering from cancer, while Kason Gabbard and Kyle Snyder have also shown brilliance the past weeks. I firmly believe one of those three will supplant Tavarez by the All-Star break, and JT will move back to relief(where I think he fits best).

It's an exciting time to be a Sox fan, for sure. I guess we get to look forward to sub-0.50 ERAs, massive K-per-IP numbers, and the return of the Papelbon Save Meter. Oh, and how about an MVP candidacy?

I think I share Bill Simmons viewpoint when he says:

"I like feeling safe in the ninth, holding a trump card in every close game -- one who thrives in his particular job more than anyone else at any other position. Maybe it defies all logic, but I hope Jonathan Papelbon stays my team's closer for the next 15 years."

Well said, Bill. Now let's play some ball.

Currently Drinking: water,but very soon I'll have my hands on a home-brewed Dubbel from my father :)

Addendum to Sports Lane

Great idea I must agree, but I'm going to add a little practicality to it. Everyone that works in a grocery-esque shop would either have to be given a copy of a book of questions to ask or learn all the knowledge of all possible teams... this is much too large an undertaking. Also, there needs to be some sort of proof that there is indeed a game coming on, otherwise people would exploit the system. So here is my proposed addendum.

Instead of having to wear regalia of a team, or know certain facts AND instead of having the employees look this information up or be aware of what games are being played when, the system should utilize a "fastpass" type program. Like at Disney World or those new swipe and pay debit card systems. For instance, you go online to ""* and fill out information pertaining to yourself and which teams you want to incorporate for your sports lane usage. Say you can only have 3 teams that constitute you using the lanes. You enter all this in and pay a nominal fee and in a few days your sports pass arrives in the mail. Now when you go to the store or entering a freeway you can just swipe your card. A network keeps up with all games being played on each day and will verify if one of your teams is doing so. This eliminates you having to have apparel on (though I agree with Horne you should anyway) but mainly it would be to expedite the process and reduce human interaction. This is suppose to be fast right? People checking you out at Kroger are hardly ever speedy, so I don't want my arrival to watch a game reliant on how quickly they can look up the Red Sox schedule and ask me a question.

The whole concept I think is great though. If only we ruled the world.

Currently in the COBI computer lab and thus not drinking...

*not a website for this system, just a for instance

Saturday, March 17, 2007

sports lanes

I think it’s high time the commercial world starts using Sports Lanes. I’ll illustrate what these are with a case-in-point:

This morning my father and I went into the city to run some errands(and also pick up some Krispy Kremes, a requirement whenever I come home). Knowing good and well the Dawgs would be appearing on ESPN, at the last minute we stopped by the Kroger in Madison to pick up some brew. Dad goes in to pick up the Newcastle while I wait in the truck. He ends up taking almost fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN minutes for a six-pack!?!

Dad returns to tell me the story of how he got in the express lane, yet the old lady in front of him took all……day……long to fill out her check. My dad is attempting to get his beer and get to the game in time, yet this geriatric obstacle is holding him back. Now, the point of this story isn’t to bash against the elderly. Far from it. Rather, I’m trying to push for the inclusion of a checkout line in all grocery stores that caters to the sports fan trying to get home(or to the bar) in time for the game. A Sports Lane, if you will(like that, Trevor?).

Think about it. No more worrying about not returning in time from your last-minute runs to the store to pick up dip or cheetos that you somehow forgot. You get your item, head to the Sports Lane, and if you show some form of identification for the team you are going to watch, then you obtain instant checkout clearance. It’s that simple. Forms of identification include, but are not limited to: team apparel, driver’s license from state of team, or championship ring from a team’s world title year.

Although you SHOULD be wearing team apparel the day of the big game, they would allow you to advance if you can answer a simple trivia question about your team. Of course, being the high-speed Sports Lane, you have to answer within 3 seconds. If not, then to the back of the line.

It could end there, but it really shouldn’t. Dad I pack up the truck and head up the highway. T-minus 30 minutes until tip off. Lo and behold, ole granny two-step decides to drive at a brisk 42 mph in front of us on the 55 mph highway. Why isn’t there an outdoors Sports Lane for cars? Have a simple toll booth-like area to enter, and using the same rules as the grocery store(proper sports ID or knowledge of team playing), you are allowed through. The speed limit will depend on how close the game time is. Within an hour, 65 mph. Within 30 minutes, 75 mph. Within 15 minutes, 95 mph. Within 5 minutes, well…it’s really up to you how fast you wanna go at that point.

Just something I’ve been thinking about…

Currently Drinking: Newcastle (my dad and I are on a kick, what can I say?)

Monday, March 12, 2007

straight from the Sox Gal

She just got out of the Red Sox/Yankees spring training game this evening(Sox won 7-5, Drew went yard for the first time this spring), and on her way out she sent me this text:

" Um wow. I just ran into Jason Giambi walking out of the stadium. He was signing autographs right outside my section. Man is he ugly! "


Currently Drinking: Newcastle(Pops was buying, so why not?!)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

a look into the future

Baseball America recently released their annual Top 100 list of the best up-and-coming young players in the game. Check out #33, #51, #81, #83 and that little guy at the top of the list, Mr. Matsuzaka. I first heard of #33 Jacoby Ellsbury early last year. He has speed, power, and excellent range in Center. Look for him to be manning the Fens outfield next year. I predict he will also get a September callup this year as well. #81 Daniel Bard also made news last year when the Sox picked him in the 1st round(28th overall) with their first pick. This guy can ba-ring the heat...100 mph consistently. #51 Clay Buchholz gets very high marks from resident baseball guru at ESPN, Peter Gammons, almost on a weekly basis.

It's always exciting to know who is going to be The Next in a Boston uni; ever since my friend Paul told me about Papelbon before I knew about Papelbon, I've tried to be ahead of the curve of the media and pick up on the new guys before they get here.

Also worth mentioning, this year's Baseball Prospectus is out. It has pretty much every stat, every projection, and every sabermetric category you can think of for any player or team. It is, in a word, awesome. This would make a fantastic gift to yours truly, but more than likely I'll get this bad boy ASAP anyway.

And it seems Curt Schilling has copied our idea for blogging. It's kind of a compliment, really...

shout outs

Now that our little blog is well underway, I guess we should give out the credit for portions of our creation. First off, the name. One of Trevor's original ideas for the site name was "Sports on the Rocks," blending our love for sports and adult beverages together. Well, we also wanted to convey our passion for Boston's baseball club, as well as the overall idea of sports. In comes Daryl Emerson, pitching the idea of our current title, "Sports on the Rox." So we'd like to give a big THANKS to Daryl for the creativity!

Next, we'd definitely have to give another THANKS to the Sox Gal for coming up with our signature name on here. I actually refer to it as our Call Sign. You can see it on the right and below each post: RedBullDawgSox. It's actually quite descriptive for this site if you look at it.

So there you go. Some of the brilliant minds behind the blog(other than mine and Trevor's, of course).

And as stated in the title, we are all about sports...with a little beverage flavor added. So from now on, we'll list whatever beverage we're drinking at the time of the post. Hopefully it will be entertaining. So to get things kicked off right...

Currently Drinking: one Coors Light(celebration of the beginning of Spring Break)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

And this is why I hate the Yankees

I hate them. They are worse than the Black Plague or any of the Biblical ones. They are the Bronx Bombers, they are the New York Yankees, they are a bunch of punks.

For as long as I can remember, before I came to love the Red Sox, back when I was this close to being a bandwagon Braves fan... I hated the Yankees. It's not a dislike or disdain for them. It is a pure cold hatred, on par with the Dallas Cowboys over the early 90s. And here is just one of the many reasons:

Former NY Yankee, Gary Sheffield made statements on Monday that MLB's only walking dead player Alex Rodriguez will have his best year yet in New York. First off, Gary previously shot his mouth off at the Yankee management about how poor of a job they have been doing over the past few years. I reserve no respect for a player that can not come out and say what problems need to be addressed in their own club and has to wait until he is half a continent away before he points his finger and makes excuses for his performance at his previous ballpark. Then to turn around just a few days later and say that A-rod is going to have his best year ever after having his worst post-season makes about as much sense as saying Pippen is going to come back and lead his team to four straight NBA titles.

The funny thing is why Sheffield thinks Alex is going to have a great season. Earlier this year A-rod made statements to the press that his relationship with Yankee short-stop Derek Jeter has deteriorated over the past six years. If you haven't read that article, I highly recommend it for all the incredibly homo-erotic content. Click here to check it out.

Sheffield claims that since A-rod has finally admitted that him and Jeter are no longer having dinner dates multiple times a week and staying over at each other's houses as often as they once did that he will play better. I am sure that the reason A-rod went 1-14 in the post season last year (that's a remarkable .071 avg.) was simply because every time he went to the plate he was frustrated as to why Jeter stood him up at Original Stan's Pizza last night. Yeah Right! Alex played horrible all year and it stood out in Sept. and Oct. The guy is over-rated, over paid, a cheat, and a whinny little punk.

Ahhh... The good old days

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Hump is beautiful at 7am

Check me out over there, I'm all dressed up. That's because you should look nice when you are Division Champs!

That's right, my MSU Bulldogs crushed Alabama in a 91-67 blowout today. With the win we tie with rival University of Mississippi for the top spot in the Western Division of the SEC. Our divisional record of 7-3 bests Ole Miss's and grants us the #1 spot for the SEC tourney. If you didn't watch the game then you missed one of the most dominating defensive performances of the season by any team.

Ben Hansbrough wins my personal MVP of the game award with 13 points and a truckload of defensive hustle. Where ever there was a loose ball or a rebound up for grabs, Ben was there. Every player on the team showed up to play with fantastic performances including all out effort by my man Dietric Slater putting up 10 points in his last home effort and Jarvis Varnado having a personal best 10 points and 8 rebounds.

With only losing Slater after the season, we are one basketball team to watch for in the next three years. You can bet on it. We've been receiving a lot of flak lately for being in the top spot for our division with only a .500 record. This is something that everyone in the SEC and the West especially has been preaching for years. Standings have a strength of schedule rating but they don't have a strength of conference rating. Every year without fail in any sport in the SEC an unranked team will beat a ranked team which more often than not includes a top 10 ranked team. So yes, 8-8 is not all that impressive but how many teams in the SEC this year beat Florida (previously ranked #1) or came extremely close like our down to the buzzer loss to the Gators. Half of the teams in the West had positively looking seasons but could not sweep the conference which is no surprise. Take Bama for instance who was ranked decently high earlier in the season along with Vandy later, both teams of which we had 13 and 24 point wins over.

Point in case despite the means, the end equals us with a No. 1 seed going into the SEC tournament. If we do moderately well to winning the thing, we can easily have a bid for the NCAA tournament. 1996 anyone?

Go Dogs!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

pitching lines

Dice-K(Friday): 2.0 innings pitched; 25 pitches, 19 for strikes, 3 Ks, 1 hit

Papelbon(Saturday): 2.0 innings pitched; 26 pitches, 18 for strikes; 4 Ks; 0 hits; 0 baserunners

Those are pretty self-explanatory, so I won't digress, but if you check out the clip of Matsuzaka giving up a lead-off double on his first competitive pitch for the Sox, you'll notice the guy is made of steel. He isn't get fazed AT ALL. Yeh, I know, it's early, like I said before. And yeh, it was Boston College for crying out loud, but I'm just impressed with his composure. I think it's something you absolutely have to have to be successful in Major League Baseball, let alone Boston. I absolutely can't wait to see him stare down Ichiro during the first home series in April. I'll be glued to my tv, for sure.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

tickets, please

Today, for the 4th straight year, the Sox Gal and I successfully got our hands(well, we will in 3-4 business days) on tickets to see our beloved Old Towne Team play. They're coming down to Atlanta to visit Andruw, Chipper, and Bobby at Turner Field on June 18, 19, and 20.

Over the years we have actually gotten a really good system down. We both log onto the ticket site right before they go on sale. When the hour is at hand, I go to work on Game #1 of the series; simultaneously, she starts on Game #3. Normally we'd use separate cards, but due to minor problems, we had to use my card today. After we both make our first purchase, I move on to Game #2. We ended up with field level seats(along the 3rd base or 1st base lines) for all 3 games(dugout seats are usually sold out), with our seats on rows 12, 26, and 26. SWEET!

In related news, the Sox have begun their Spring Training games. Yes I know, it's quite early, but it's always great to see your team coming together. Yesterday Schill was VERY sharp, throwing 15 of his 19 pitches for strikes. Today the team split squads to play the Twins and Northeastern University, with most of the regulars staying to play the Huskies. Beckett allowed a single to his first batter(hey, at least it wasn't a HR), then mowed down 5 of the next 6 he faced via the K. Beckett obviously didn't feel sorry for his opponents. Observers say he worked his breaking pitches ALOT, which bodes well after season in which he threw the heat over 70% of the time.

And you all know what happens tomorow...Dice-K gets the ball against some lowly collegiates. God bless those kids...

The Matsuzaka Era for the Sox begins tomorrow

I'm going to be honest

I was going to post and detail the EXACT same stuff that Trevor just wrote about. Touche, my friend. his post. It's good.

A Quick Correction

After further investigation and some insight from a fellow sports-thusiasts, it turns our my previous post isn't entirely complete. This is good news for us MSU fans, and not so great for all you Rebels out there. Just the way I like it.

Last night, my dogs lost to the razorbacks of Arkansas in a fiercely competed game that came down to the final moments and free throw %. Our % was of course disenchanting as usual for close games when it matters most and the pigs couldn't miss. Not a good combination for us. So we drop to 7-8 along with everyone else in the West except LSU and Arkansas. So we have that four-way tie like I previously said but here is the funny thing. MSU does not necessarily have to have Ole Miss lose this weekend for us to move into first. Wait, even with the same record as Ole Miss or Auburn, State will be in first by themselves? That is correct.

Here's how it works out. The tie-breaker system in the SEC plays to our advantage. Here is how SEC Sports puts the scenarios. All things of course are hinged on us winning versus Bama.

Mississippi State (7-8) can secure the West No. 1 seed and a share of the West Division title with a win versus Alabama.
If Mississippi State and Ole Miss are tied at 8-8...........
Mississippi State would earn the West No. 1 seed due to their 7-3 division record compared to Ole Miss' 6-4 mark.
Ole Miss would be the West No. 2 seed and earn a share of the West Division title with a first-round bye

If Mississippi State and Auburn are tied at 8-8...........
Mississippi State would earn the West No. 1 seed due to their season sweep over Auburn.
Auburn would be the West No. 2 seed and earn a share of the West Division title with a first-round bye"

So there you have it, if we win it does not matter what the outcome of any other game is, we will have won the West .

The game Sunday is going to be nuts. Of course I would rather MSU have clinched our position ahead of time but there is a certain excitement about a season coming down to the last game.

Go Dogs!
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