Friday, April 18, 2014

Bruins Stanley Cup Drinking Game: Red Wings Series - Game 1

It's Friday night and the Boston Bruins are finally playing the Detroit Red Wings. It's been 57 years since these teams have met in the postseason and it feels like half that has been the time between the end of the regular season and tonight's game. I've developed a serious case of Bru balls waiting for this series to start and tonight's finally the night. Here's a drinking game to play while enjoying Game 1 of the series...

Anytime Jack Edwards says...
"Against the eddy of the flow" = take 1 drink of beer
"A-frames" = 1 drink
"Bee in his bonnet" = 1 drink
"Blows a tire" = 1 drink
"Loses an edge" = 1 drink
"Up ice" = 1 drink
"Wing to wing" = 1 drink
"D to D" = 1 drink
"Johnny rocket" = 1 drink
"Juicy rebound" = 1 drink
"Save by Rask" = 1 drink

Anytime this is on screen...
Someone holding a replica Stanley Cup
Dennis Seidenberg skating in practice = 1 drink
Dennis Seidenberg sitting on the 9th floor = 1 drink
Henrik Zetterberg = 1 drink
Jack Edwards jumping up and down = 1 drink
An octopus = drink for 8 seconds
Black and white photos of Bruins/Red Wings history = 1 drink per photo
Mike Babcock = 1 drink
Angry Claude Julien = 1 drink

Anytime this happens...
Brad Marchand pisses someone off = 1 drink
Patrice Bergeron wins a faceoff = 1 drink
The crowd goes "Tuuuuuuuk" or "Kruuuuuug" = 1 drink
Andrej Meszaros screws something up = 1 drink
Zdeno Chara's height/reach is mentioned = 1 drink
A Swedish player scores = 1 shot of Absolut
Jack Edwards praises Pavel Datsyuk = 1 drink
Edwards yells = 1 drink
Edwards cackles maniacally = 1 drink
Edwards alludes to something pre-1950 = 1 drink
Edwards complains about officiating = 1 drink
Edwards reminds you of Tommy Heinsohn = 1 drink + 1 Tommy Point
A fight (unlikely) = finish your beer and take a shot

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Red Sox Offense Painful to Watch, Especially for 14 Innings

The Red Sox beat the White Sox 6-4 early Thursday morning. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 2-run double in the 14th was the game winner. The Red Sox only got 1 hit in the 8th and 9th innings, yet somehow managed to score a run in each inning.

In fact the Red Sox were held completely hitless from the 2nd until 1 out in the 9th. The Red Sox only totaled 6 hits overall, and only of those 5 came against actual pitchers. JBJ's 14th inning game winning double was off utility infielder Leury Garcia. Garcia had never pitched in the Majors or minors.

It's alarming that an infielder was on the mound and the Sox went 1 for 3 with a double and 2 walks. Sizemore and Pedroia each grounded out. Pierzynski flew out. Against a second baseman.

I'm not worried that the Red Sox offense will be this woefully powerless all season long. Pedroia and Ortiz haven't been doing what we know they'll do. And there are some decent bats sidelined with injury. It will get better.

For the time being, however, this offense blows, and blows quite comprehensively. No hits whatsoever in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th innings. Two of the 6 total hits were infield singles, 1 was off a second baseman, and it was the only hit they got off him. The Red Sox are 23rd in runs scored and 24th in team batting average.

It will improve. It can't not improve. What I'm beginning to wonder is if it will improve enough. The Red Sox scored the most runs in baseball last year (853). Then they lost Jacoby Ellsbuy and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who were 3rd and 5th, respectively, on the team in OWAR.

With Ellsbury they lost 172 hits, 246 bases, 48 extra-base hits, 52 steals, 92 runs. With Saltalamacchia they lost 116 hits, 198 bases, 54 extra-base hits, 14 homers, 65 RBI, 68 runs. If you include steals, the Sox lost exactly 500 bases when they parted ways with these two players.

They have been replaced by decent players. Grady Sizemore has so far done all you could hope to expect of him. JBJ has looked good although he has less power than Ellsbury had, which wasn't much to begin with. And A.J. Pierzynski's OBP is just south of .300. It's silly to think that you could lose two of your top 6 offensive producers (one who leads off and the other who anchors the middle/bottom of the order), replace them with guys who you don't even expect to be as good, and then believe your offense won't get worse.

Oh, and don't forget that Daniel Nava, who had a career year last year, is hitting .137. And I'm sure that will improve. But will it improve to the .303 average he had last year, with an impressive .385 OBP? This is a guy who at 31 has only 1 Major League season with over 300 at-bats. What's more likely in 2014, that Nava finishes 15th in baseball in OBP again, or that his performance drops? There's optimism, then there's hope and prayer.

Maybe I'm sleep deprived, and that's why I'm writing such a downer of a post. The Red Sox still have a very good offense. It's just not as good as last year's, nor is it the best in baseball.

This means that the pitching staff must step up. It means that the bullpen has to work hard to squeeze out close games like Wednesday night's/Thursday morning's 6-4 win. In that game, the bullpen combined for 8 innings, allowed 4 hits, only 1 earned run, only 1 walk, and struck out 9. That's a strong effort by 5 good relievers, although Edward Mujica almost ruined it.

The offense will get better. Ortiz and Pedroia will definitely hit. Nava will probably hit, Victorino and Middlebrooks will return. Runs will score. Just not as often as last year.

Photo Credit:
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Monday, April 07, 2014

Do the 2014 Red Sox Hate Losing As Much As the 2013 Sox Did?

One of the most remarkable things about the 2013 Boston Red Sox season was how well the team did the game after a loss. The 2013 Sox hated to lose, and the sour taste of defeat seemed to motivate them to play better the next day. Over the 162 game schedule they only had 12 two-game losing streaks and a mere 5 three-game streaks. They never lost 4 in a row.

The 2013 Sox were 42-22 after a loss, a blistering .656 winning percentage. In all other games the Sox were 55-43 (.561). The Red Sox finished the season 32 games over .500, 20 of those 32 games were after a loss. The team's ability to rebound from a loss and play better the next day was the difference between a 90 win team competing for a wild card berth, and a 97 win team clinching the division.

In the playoffs they were 4-1 after a loss.

Now it's time to see how the 2014 Red Sox play after losing compared to the 2013 team. The Sox were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend. It's the first three-game losing streak of the season. If the Sox extend that streak to 4 against the Rangers Monday night, it will be the first four-game losing streak since the 8 consecutive losses at the end of the 2012 season.

Losing 4 in a row isn't the end of the world, certainly not the end of the season. However in baseball the difference between wild cards and divisions is exceedingly slim. If the Sox had gone 36-28 after losses last year instead of 42-22, they would have finished the season tied with Tampa Bay. Keeping losing streaks to 2 and 3 games is why the Red Sox won the division and then the World Series in 2013.

The 2013 Red Sox hated to lose. They played better when they had the foul taste of defeat in their mouth. They played hungrier, more tenaciously. That was part of the character that everyone praised them for demonstrating. Monday night against Texas we'll see if they show the same hunger to win and the same disgust toward losing.

John Lackey faces Tanner Scheppers, who got lit up for 7 runs in 4 innings in his first start against the Phillies.

Photo Credit:
Steven Senne/Associated Press

Friday, April 04, 2014

I'm Glad the Bruins Lost to Toronto

I'm glad the Boston Bruins lost 4-3 in overtime to the Maple Leafs. The loss, along with the 3-2 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, will hopefully remind the Bruins that it's a 60 minute game. Had the B's won these two games, maybe the message to play 3 complete periods wouldn't have landed with the emphasis that it needs to.

Thursday night the Bruins had a good 1st period, a great 3rd period (outshooting Toronto 17-5), and a lethargic 2nd period. They dug a hole, pulled themselves out, and then Nazem Kadri shoved them back in with an overtime goal.

And it's not as if the Maple Leafs are any good. They're fundamentally inept. They have top players who avoid physical play. They've allowed the 5th most goals in the NHL, almost 80 goals more than the Bruins. And they've been playing horrible the last few weeks. They hadn't won consecutive games since March 10th.

I'm not expecting the Bruins to roll into the playoffs as hot as they were during their recent winning streak. I do expect to see good habits. I expect similar effort levels from shift to shift and period to period. How much unnecessary energy did the Bruins expend coming from behind in the 3rd?

On the bright side, Patrice Bergeron scored his 28th. I'd like to see him reach 30 by the end of the season. He's the best defensive forward in the game, and to score 30 as well as win the Selke trophy would be a noteworthy achievement. He hasn't scored 30+ since his sophomore season in 2005-06. He was 21-years old.

The Bruins play more games against opponents jockeying for playoff positioning. They host the Flyers Saturday afternoon. Then they go to Minnesota on Tuesday to play the Wild, who are trying to secure a wild card spot in the West. And then the B's finish their season with 3 games against teams that are out of it (Winnipeg, Buffalo, New Jersey).

The Bruins are 3 points away from clinching the best record in the East.

Photo Credit:

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Andrej Meszaros Drags Down the Bruins

A true Boston Bruins fan almost always has someone on the team they don't really like. And for me that has become Andrej Meszaros. He's scored twice and added 3 assists as a member of the Bruins, but I don't care. The B's needed to find a defenseman to defend, not to score. And I'm not convinced that Meszaros can defend.

He was on the ice for Detroit's first two goals. He was just standing around the front of the net, a Red Wing already in position behind him in the crease. Meszaros merely minded his own business. The goals weren't completely his fault. He didn't defend though. He didn't make it hard for the forward in the crease to get position. He didn't do anything to help his goalie see.

On Detroit's third goal Meszaros wasn't on the ice. He'd just gotten off and had taken his time doing so. During the lackadaisical change, the Bruins failed to get the puck deep into the zone. A slow change combined with an offensive blue-line turnover to the speedy Gustav Nyquist resulted in a goal, and ultimately a Detroit win.

The Red Wings are a potential playoff opponent for the Bruins. I don't think the Bruins would play like this in a playoff game. I hope not. It was inconsistent, occasionally uninterested hockey.

That's fine for the next few games. But you want to have good habits going into the playoffs.

The Bruins play in Toronto tonight. The Leafs are also trying to get into the playoffs. They won Tuesday night, which ended an 8 game losing streak.

Photo Credit:
Tony Ding/Associated Press

Mike Napoli Drives Red Sox to First Victory

The Red Sox notched their first win of the season thanks to Mike Napoli's bat and John Lackey's arm. Napoli hit a 2 run homer in the 5th that broke a 2-2 tie, then in the 7th he knocked in 2 with a single. John Lackey had a solid season debut going 6 innings and allowing 2 runs on 3 hits. He retired the last 7 batters he faced. Lackey's only big mistake was allowing a Nelson Cruz homerun. I hope Cruz does not become a Sox killer and he's just having a hot start to his season.

David Ortiz also homered. Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara each pitched 1 inning, allowed 1 hit, and struck out 1 in remarkable symmetry. Just look at how neat they made the box score look:

Mike Napoli's offense powered the Red Sox to this win. But maybe Jonny "Phonebooth" Gomes will find a way to take some credit for the win. Although Gomes was 0 for 4, he probably thinks that his hitting behind Napoli was why the Orioles gave Napoli pitches to hit.

I'm just kidding, I'm sure Gomes would never try to take credit for something that others did.

Despite whatever contributions Gomes might have made, I'm going to declare Mike Napoli the Man of the Game.

Rubber game tonight. Felix Doubront faces Wei-Yin Chen. The Red Sox magic number is 161.

Photo Credit:
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

California, Why So Much Violence Over Baseball?

It seems like every year there's a seriously violent incident outside a California ballpark, and I'm curious to know why. I've only been to California twice, never to a ball game, and everyone some really laid back and chill. I'd say too laid back. Yet almost annually we hear stories about fans attacking fans after games. And these aren't just fights, these are brutal incidents.

In 2011 a Giants fan, named Bryan Stow, was attacked by two Dodgers fans outside Dodgers Stadium. He was beaten so badly he was put in a medically induced coma. He's still in a wheelchair.

In 2013 a Dodgers fan, named Jonathan Denver, was stabbed to death by Michael Montgomery after a Giants game. "According to witnesses, Montgomery had a bottle in his hand for self-defense while Denver was punching him. After Denver's brother grabbed an aluminum chair and hit Montgomery on the head with it, Montgomery dropped the bottle, took out a knife, and stabbed Denver."

And then early Sunday morning, a fight between female Dodgers and Angels fans escalated, and a US Marine who reportedly tried to help break up the fight got stabbed in the face with a broken bottle. The story is that a couple of girls were fighting outside a bar, 3 guys (the Marines) tried to break up the fight, the girls' boyfriends showed up and one of them stabbed a guy in the face with the broken bottle.

So why the violence, California?

And why are your incidents on a completely different level of violence? How come the fights at most ballparks involve fists, and yours involve blunt objects and knives and broken bottles?

And it's not just baseball. In 2011 after a 49ers-Raiders preseason game in San Francisco, two people got shot in the parking lot.

So what the hell, California?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bruins Back to Winning With 3-0 Shutout Over Blackhawks

The Boston Bruins paid tribute to the City's two fallen Firefighters before and after the game. The B's wore BFD hats during pregame warm-ups, had a moment of silence, and the Boston Fire Department color guard presented the colors for the National Anthem. After the Bruins won 3-0, the BFD was named the First Star of the game.

The game itself was a return to strong, physical yet disciplined, 5-on-5 hockey. There were only 3 total power plays (2 for Chicago, 1 for the Bruins), compared with 12 in Monday's game against the Canadiens.

The Blackhawks might be the opposing team I have the most respect for. I like their style of play and they play that style well. This was a good team for the Bruins to meet after snapping their streak against Montreal. Talented enough for the B's to be focused and energized, and no distracting gimmicks or sideshows. Just good hockey.

And the Bruins played harder and played better. They scored by getting people in front of the net and getting inside position in front of the net. Basic fundamentals of the game. The 3 goals the B's scored weren't highlight reel goals, they were the type of goals you need to score in games against quality opponents.

Patrice Bergeron scored two of them. He has 9 in the month of March, to go along with 6 assists. It's almost a shame to see March end with how well he's been playing, among a number of other Bruins forwards.

That's 15 straight games with at least a point. That's also 50 wins on the season, tied with the Blues for most in the NHL. The Bruins have won 48 of their victories in regulation or OT (St. Louis has 42 ROWs).

The 50 wins is the most since the 2008-09 season (53 wins). It's only the 9th time in team history the Bruins have won 50+ games. The franchise record is 57 wins from the 1970-71 season. The Bruins have 9 games remaining to match that total, but it's a meaningless mark. That team lost in the opening round of the playoffs to Montreal. Regular season achievements are for the Canucks.

What does have meaning is that the Bruins are a win away (or a Lightning loss away) from clinching the division, which also clinches home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Bruins also have a 9 point edge over the Penguins for home ice throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The B's take on the Capitals in Washington Saturday afternoon at 12:30.

It's a good thing the Bruins aren't in a tight playoff race because they end their season with 7 of their last 9 on the road.

Photo Credit:
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Boston Loses Two Heroes

Wednesday afternoon, Lieutenant Ed Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy of the Boston Fire Department died while fighting a 9 alarm blaze on Beacon Street in Boston's Back Bay. Ed Walsh was the father of three children, all under 10 years old. Michael Kennedy served with the US Marine Corps and was a combat veteran. Both worked out of the nearby firehouse on Boylston Street, Walsh with Engine 33 and Kennedy with Ladder 15.

It's likely that yesterday's high winds, sometimes gusting over 45 MPH in Boston, rapidly intensified the fire, and quickened its spread through the 4-story Brownstone near the Charles River. You can see the effects of the wind on the flames in this stunning piece of video.

This is a sports blog, and we obsess and even gush over quarterbacks and goaltenders and pitchers and point guards. However, these are the true heroes of our city, and in cities around the country and the world. The people that run toward the flames and the explosions and the gunshots and the car crashes. The people that put their life on the line for the lives of others. For strangers.

Think about it. If your house or your apartment or your office caught fire, a group of people who may never have met you will RUSH to get there, and risk life and limb to get you out. They'll bust their ass to save your home and to protect the other homes around yours.

That's pretty amazing. That's heroic.

Which makes the loss of two such heroes all the sadder.

To our fallen heroes, rest in peace. And thank you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Stoned

Neil Degrasse Tyson hosts Cosmos on Fox. He also admires Sir Isaac Newton a great deal. And someone slowed down a video of him talking about Newton enough to make him sound like he was stoned out of his mind. And it's hilarious.