July 2011



Dustin Pedroia’s streak wasn’t the longest in league history (Joe DiMaggio, famously, went on a 56-game tear in 1941) or even team history (that belongs to Joe’s brother, Dom DiMaggio, with 34 games in 1949). But it was the longest in the American League thus far in 2011, and it was a blast to watch.

I’ve been on record numerous times this season that Pedroia is the most fun player to watch in baseball. He might not be the best — arguments could easily be made for Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera or a number of pitchers — but I certainly don’t enjoy watching anyone quite as much these days.

He looks like he might twist and implode on every splinter-straining swing. He dives into gaps with reckless abandon, always seeming to pop up and fire the throw to first on target. And, as in a 25-game run from June 29 to July 28, he hits. He hits liners through short, bloopers into the short outfield, screaming liners off the wall, and home runs that race out of the park in a hurry.

He’s been entertaining his whole career, and he’s having his best year as a pro yet. And making this graphic was almost as fun as watching him build his case for Most Valuable Player.

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I had a weekend away, happily, from a computer, traveling a few states south for a wedding. But my Sunday night routine didn’t change much — come home, drop down my bag, flip open the laptop, and tune into the Sunday night game of the week.

The Reds were hosting the Atlanta Braves, both teams eying the top of their respective divisions, and the Reds were up 3-2 when I tuned in midway through, around the fifth inning. And the announcers were noting how good the starting pitcher had looked so far, how he could mean the difference for the Reds in the pennant chase.

They continued, while I was half distracted with unpacking and airing out a stuffy apartment, noting his long road back to the majors. Then came some otherwise innocuous comment, acknowledging another 1-2-3 inning for Willis.

Willis? Dontrelle Willis? (more…)

See that? Now that’s a line score.

Sixteen innings, eight combined hits, no errors. Both starting pitchers went eight innings, and a run didn’t cross the plate until the top of the sixteenth, more than five hours after the first pitch. And at 1:49 a.m. Monday morning, it was all over.

Is there anything he can't do?

The Red Sox had outlasted the Rays in a memorable marathon, Boston spurred on by another outstanding start by Josh Beckett (8 innings, 6 strikeouts, 1 hit, no walks) and carried on by the bullpen.

It was the kind of game that made me feel like a kid. When it ended, I was in bed, listening along with the radio, knowing full well I should have been asleep long before. But I couldn’t totally tune it out. I stopped watching on ESPN earlier, fully expecting that the game would end shortly and I could just flick the power button on my stereo from bed.

That was after the ninth inning.

No, this was a game that no one seemed to want. Pitchers flowed in and out of the game — Boston used six, Tampa Bay used nine. Runners were left stranded in scoring position. Great plays were made to steal runs.

And, finally, Dustin Pedroia delivered, driving in Josh Reddick for the winning run in the sixteenth inning. (more…)

The first step in rearranging baseball? Bring the Brewers back to the American League.

Seemingly on cue every 15 years or so, baseball talks realignment. First reports were that it was inevitable that the leagues would go even at 15, with interleague play lasting throughout the season. Now, commissioner Bud Selig says that talk of realignment being definitely on for the 2012 season was premature.

Either way, there are a few parts of the system that have bugged me for a while. Having three divisions, an unbalanced schedule and uneven teams has never looked or felt right, so why not take this opportunity to right a few wrongs?

Well, I’ve had this idea, so we’re doing this. Grab a pen, pay attention, and get ready for the new-look majors, according to these five steps: (more…)

Apparently, being awesome at baseball isn't good enough for the All-Star Game.

I have a number of beefs with baseball’s All-Star Game, and that in itself is ridiculous. What should be a fun day for fans and players, a celebration of the best in the game, turns into a bunch of pouting and politics. Players are added who don’t deserve it. Players back out. Sportswriters overwrought with the task of upholding the sanctity and moral order of the event shout at the rain. Managers don’t know what they’re doing. Bud Selig knows less than that.

But if there’s one All-Star gaff that’s more glaring than the others, it’s this — Trot Nixon was never an All-Star. That’s insane.

Early in his tenure as the right fielder for the Boston Red Sox, Nixon soon fashioned out a niche for himself as The Red Sock, the player that fans identified with first and foremost. He had a number of big hits in his career, he played a solid — and at times great — right field in Fenway Park, and he played hard every day. And for the most part, the numbers bear that out. In his time with the Sox, Nixon hit .278 with an 845 OPS, and from 2000 to 2006, he averaged 23 home runs, 35 doubles and 91 RBI per 162 games played. (more…)

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