Monday, April 12, 2010
I've been sent books to review by publishers in the past. And often I refrain from reviewing them because it wouldn't be very polite. But this book was different.
It was a pleasure to read this. There's been a tidal wave of of Sox literature since 2003, but this book truly stands out. It was easy to read yet still involved and interesting. You can pick it up and open to any random page, or speed through it cover to cover as I did. Even the Red Sox fan that thinks they know everything will learn something new from Red Sox by the Numbers. As the introduction states: "The idea of the book is to have a little fun and learn something about your team you never knew. Or forgot."
It's formatted in a very accessible way. Each chapter represents a uniform number. There's a list of all the players to don each number. Then the chapter itself details some of more interesting owners of the number. Chapter 17, for instance, discusses Mel Parnell, Dick Radatz, Marty Barrett, Cecil Cooper, Bret Saberhagen, Herb Pennock, Manny Delcarmen, and a few more guys.
At the end of each chapter, there's a "Most Obscure Red Sox Player to Wear #x" stub. Example: Pitcher Harley Hisner wore #24 in one game at the end of the '51 season. He gave up Joe DiMaggio's last career hit, struck out Mickey Mantle, and got a basehit himself. It was his first and last Major League game.
There's a ridiculous amount of interesting data. The authors did the hard work of researching these facts (Doug Mirabelli has worn #28 the longest. That number's been issued to 58 different players/coaches). I had no idea that Gene Conley played for both the Red Sox and the Celtics until I read this book, or that Darren Lewis played 2,410 innings before making his first error.
This book seems perfect for any level of Sox fan. For the newb who wants to dive right in. For the casual fan looking to be entertained by the oddities and nuances of the game. For the lifer looking to bolster their arsenal of obscure and interesting facts. There are several people on my Christmas list who'll be receiving copies of this book in a few months.
Red Sox by the Numbers
A Complete Team History of the Boston Red Sox By Uniform Number
By Bill Nowlin and Matthew Silverman
Skyhorse Publishing Paperback Original
On Sale: March 1, 2010
The NCAA Hockey Championship trophy should be awarded in February, to the Beanpot winner. Because for the last 3 years, the winner of Boston's hockey championship, has gone on to win the National Championship. BC in '08, BU last year, and now BC in 2010.
The BC Eagles took a 1-0 lead into the 3rd Saturday night against the Wisconsin Badgers. They dominated the period, and finished with a 5-0 victory. Their 2nd title in 3 years, their 3rd of the decade, their 4th all-time, and Jerry York's 4th in what's becoming a legendary career behind the Eagles' bench.
BC's season was reminiscent of their 2007-08 title campaign. They started off in 2nd or 3rd gear, not disappointing, but not stunning. In January, they lost to BU at Fenway Park. They then finished the regular season 11-4-1, 2nd in Hockey East, won the Beanpot, and were ready for the postseason. They were 12-0-1 in their last 13 games, defeating top teams like UNH, Yale, Miami, and ultimately Wisconsin. They scored 67 goals in that 13 game stretch, 5.15 a game.
BC will lose some talent to graduation and to the professional ranks, but they'll return plenty of quality players. Goalie Jon Muse, for example, will go into his senior season with 2 national titles and an 8-0 NCAA record under his belt. If the Blue Jackets don't call him up, Cam Atkinson will go into his junior year. He scored 2 in the National Championship game, and 30. Remember, BC only played 42 games, so that's the equivalent of a 60 goal season in the NHL.
BC's other two big sports - football and basketball - have had recent head coach drama. And both have a reputation for underperforming in big games, and games they should win. But BC Hockey doesn't have that problem. In this decade (2001 to now), they won 4 Beanpots, 4 regular season Hockey East titles, 5 Hockey East tournament titles, made the NCAA tourney 8 times, made the Frozen four 6 times, and won 3 National Championships.
This is far and away the best hockey program in the country.
The Bruins took care of their own business this weekend, clinching a playoff berth with a 4-2 win over Carolina. To add an exclamation point to that, they went down to Washington and beat the Caps 4-3 in overtime.
The big story from Saturday's win was how the Bruins scored 3 goals. Not only were all 3 scored in a 64 second stretch, they all came shorthanded. It was an NHL record for the most goals scored in one power play by the penalty killing team. It doubled the B's shorthanded total of the season.
But the two goals allowed served as poignant reminders of their inconsistent ways. The first was a wrap-around that Johnny Boychuk could have stopped before it started. The second came from a series of turnovers in the defensive zone, as the Bruins failed to properly formulate their breakout attempts.
At the same time, the referees had an awful game. It was NBA quality officiating, the most notable example being an early whistle when a poorly positioned ref lost sight of the puck in Cam Ward's pads (he was in the corner behind the net, so half of Ward's body was obstructed, yet he was faster on the draw than Clint Eastwood in the Dollars Trilogy). Bergeron slapped in the loose puck, but the ref had blown his whistle and the call.
Bergeron also had the play of the night. On a delayed penalty, Rask skated off for the extra attacker, and an unfortunate carom off the boards sent the puck on a path toward the empty net...
The Sunday afternoon win in Washington was nice, but I wouldn't think too much of it. Both teams had their #2 goalies in net. Both teams leaned on their younger players. Recchi, Bergeron, Chara, and Sobotka all got the day off. But the good news was that Michael Ryder woke up and scored twice. He actually looked confident and firm with the puck. In the previous 22 games, Ryder had scored 1 goal, and only had 5 assists in that stretch.
The Bruins finished the season with 91 points, their 3rd consecutive year with 90+. They haven't had three straight years with 90+ points since 1984. It's hardly a parade-worthy achievement, but when you're a Bruins fan, you learn to enjoy the small triumphs.
It'll be the Bruins and Sabres. In depth preview forthcoming. But as a Bruins fan, you can't ask for a better match-up than that.
It's hard to judge a team in April. It's even more difficult when they're playing the Royals. But I think based on preseason presumptions, as well as past performances, we can conclude a few things about the 2010 Red Sox:
#1: David Ortiz is struggling. His swings are ugly. He's slapping the ball, not driving it. His bat is out of control. He can still differentiate between balls and strikes. But he's swinging and missing at pitches he used to hit for doubles and homeruns. He is 2 for 18. He's struck out 5 times and walked only once. I'm not saying this is permanent, but he is struggling, and it is KILLING the middle of the lineup.
#2: Adrian Beltre is NOT struggling. He knocked in 3 runs Sunday afternoon, and he's hitting .400. He's going the opposite way, and hitting the ball on a line in that direction. He's protecting the outside of the plate. He'll come down to earth, but right now he's hitting the ball as well as he's capable of hitting it (without PEDs, that is).
#3: The bullpen blows. It is a mess out there. Okajima and Bard blew Friday's game. And on Sunday it was Ramon Ramirez who turned a relaxing 8-3 Sunday afternoon into an 8-6 near nail-biter. If the Sox' starters don't go 7+, going to the bullpen will be like playing Russian roulette.
So those 3 things are clear. There's not much the Sox can do about #3 except maybe move somebody to the pen to shore things up. Or make a mid-season acquisition.
But there is something they can do about #1 and #2. They need to move Ortiz down to 6th or 7th. Beltre needs to be hitting 5th. Not just for the sake of demoting Ortiz, but when a guy like Beltre is hitting like he has, you have to take advantage of it.
Just ask yourself right now, this afternoon in Minnesota, trailing by a run in the 7th, Pedroia on 2nd, Youkilis on 1st, with 2 outs. Who do you want at the plate? David Ortiz or Adrian Beltre? To me, the answer is blatantly clear.
Sox and Twins this afternoon at 4:10. Lester vs. Carl Pavano.
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner