Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Red Sox Reclaim Leads In AL Wild Card, Hospital Fees

In last week’s "Dead Red" column, I predicted the Red Sox could be reasonably expected to go 3-3 in their six-game road trip to Coors Field and San Francisco, where they would face some of the best pitchers in the National League (namely Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez and Giants ace Tim Lincecum). And that is exactly what they did. How the hometown team managed to win these games and overtake the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL Wild Card Race by a full game over the weekend was at times dramatic and in other instances the product of quiet execution.

Red Sox Have No Heart For San Francisco

If you were to tell me that in one week, a Sox team lost after knocking around 14-game-winner Ubaldo Jimenez for six runs in Colorado, saw its closer Jonathan Papelbon blow saves in consecutive games, and lost four vital players to injury, and would still have the third best record in the majors through June 28 (46-31), you’d probably be surprised.

First, the BoSox lost corner infielder/DH Mike Lowell and his arthritic hip to the 15-day DL while in Colorado. Then Friday in San Fran, one night after hitting a career-best three home runs and going 5-for-5 with 5 RBI in the best offensive game of his career, second baseman Dustin Pedroia broke his left foot hitting a foul ball off it and won’t be back until early August.

For the full edition of this week's "Dead Red" column, visit this link to Blogcritics Magazine, where it was first published this evening.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Red Sox Welcome Back Manny With A Broom

Not many outside the Red Sox clubhouse and front office had the outright confidence that the Boston Red Sox offense would be as lethal as it has been so far in 2010. It is simply hands down the best in all of baseball right now – and I expected them to be towards the lower end of a top five offensive team in 2010. The team numbers themselves are staggering.

Through June 21, the Sox ranked first not just in the American League but in all of baseball in eight offensive categories: at bats, runs, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, total bases, RBIs, and OPS. And they are second in the game in batting average, on-base percentage and home runs.

Scarier for opponents is that given the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Mike Lowell have yet to contribute significantly to the Sox success so far this year, Boston’s offense could stay just as strong or get even more dynamic if and when they all get into the everyday lineup as the season rolls on. In Lowell’s case, he just needs to get a decent amount of at bats under his belt, as he has only 12 so far in June. The man has the patience of a saint and I commend him for that as he waits for either more playing time, to be released or traded. He is certainly not rooting for injuries to the offensive stars of recent weeks that take up his spot in the lineup, third baseman Adrian Beltre and DH David Ortiz.

The Sox clearly have long forgotten about the absence of three-time all-star leftfielder Jason Bay from the everyday lineup. And it’s a good thing, as the New York Mets corner outfielder is underperforming offensively, with only four homers and 27 RBI in 2010. But one player no one in Boston will ever forget about is the notorious leftfielder/DH he was traded for July 31, 2008 in a three-team deal: Manny Ramirez.

Read the full article, first posted at Blogcritics Magazine via this cool link.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Boston Is "Riding The Nava Wave"

This week in Dead Red: Tim Wakefield passed a milestone, Dustin Pedroia is hitting again, the Sox unveiled a statue of Red Sox legends outside Fenway Park, and Sox catcher Victor Martinez remained hot at the plate. But first, following in the footsteps of Darnell “Mac” McDonald, another Triple-A call-up made an unexpected but explosive debut over the weekend.

I say Daniel Nava. You say, "who?" Here’s a kid who was told he’d never make it to pro ball. He was cut as a walk-on from his original college team at Santa Clara University, then resorted to being the team’s equipment manager. After graduation, he went undrafted and still trying to live the dream, played with the Chico Outlaws from the independent Golden Baseball League. He was cut after a tryout but then later made it to fill a roster spot.

In 2007, after finally getting a chance to play, he batted .371, hit 12 homers and had a whopping 1.100 OPS. This earned him the distinction of being named the independent league’s #1 prospect as rated by Baseball America. Seeing that, Red Sox assistant director of professional scouting Jared Porter signed him for a $1 with the promise to pay the Outlaws $1,500 if the Sox kept him after spring training in 2008.

In his short, four-year minor and independent league career, the 27-year-old switch-hitter (and natural lefty with good patience at the plate) batted .342 and hit well everywhere the Sox organization sent him, most recently in Pawtucket where he was hitting .294, with a .364 OBP, 8 HR and 38 RBI. And with Adrian Beltre not only rupturing opposing pitching but crushing teammates’ ribs (via freak on-field collisions, first Jacoby Ellsbury and now Jeremy Hermida, who is on the DL until late June), Francona needed to call up an (unknown) outfielder from the PawSox, and Nava was the lucky one to get that call over this past weekend.

For full post of this week's column at Blogcritics Magazine (where it was first posted earlier tonight), please click and read here.

Music Review: Jawbreaker – Unfun (20th Anniversary Edition)

Long before the Blink 182s and emo-minded bands of the world took pop punk to the mainstream, San Francisco group Jawbreaker created a hardcore-influenced yet melodic, often times emotional and dark punk rock sound with an infectious pop edge that was way ahead of its time. They made influential records – four of them in five years between 1990 and 1995 - and did so without the help or need of heavy airplay on MTV, mainstream rock radio or social networking sites, having instead created buzz and success for itself in the indie/college rock radio realm.

Jawbreaker’s inspiration on punk and the emo movement is abundant. In 2003, a tribute album called Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault was released by Dying Wish Records and featured the likes of a young Fall Out Boy, as well as punk veterans Face To Face, Sparta and others. Other more emo-ish acts like Saves The Day cite the Bay Area band as a prime influence, while Brand New, Rise Against and Lawrence Arms are among many punk rock bands who have covered Jawbreaker cuts. A punk band from Vancouver has even named itself after Jawbreaker’s landmark first album, 1990’s Unfun.

Remastered from the original analog tapes by John Golden and released at the end of March on Blackball Records, the 20th anniversary edition of Unfun is available in CD, digital and vinyl formats, the latter for the first time since 1992. Included along with the expanded CD version - from the original 12 tracks to 16 - is a 24-page booklet (with lyrics), the three tracks from the band’s debut 1989 EP Whack & Blite and the (unlisted) 7-inch version of “Busy.”

Throughout the album, you hear Jawbreaker’s raw and hard-driving sound, and for most tracks, it makes for memorable material. Hit college radio singles like the highly melodic and bass-led first track “Want,” for instance, gives listeners an immediate glimpse of the three-man band’s full sound and pop sensibilities, particularly on its catchy, “I Want You” chorus.

Read the full review at this link at Blogcritics Magazine, where it was first posted earlier today.

Music Review: Stone Temple Pilots - Stone Temple Pilots

In the nine years that have passed since last we heard from recently reunited arena alt-rock giants Stone Temple Pilots, all four original members have kept themselves busy. Singer Scott Weiland had a successful run as singer for supergroup Velvet Revolver (featuring members of Guns N’ Roses) for two albums and released his second solo record (in 2008), while the DeLeo brothers (guitarist Dean and bassist Robert) had a milder sense of achievement with supergroup Army of Anyone, featuring Richard Patrick of Filter as lead singer and Ray Luzier (lately of Korn) behind the kit.

Drummer Eric Kretz mainly worked behind the scenes at his L.A.-based Bomb Shelter Studios, mixing and engineering tracks for a varied list of acts, including Fu Manchu, Damian Marley, Slayer, and Death Cab For Cutie, and also San Francisco rock band Spiral Arms, whom he also reportedly played with.

After reuniting for select shows in 2008, the band, with Weiland focused and drug-free, wrote, recorded and produced its sixth album, simply self-titled (Stone Temple Pilots) last year, finished it up in early 2010, and released it May 25 on Atlantic Records.

Number one rock single “Between The Lines” is the heaviest track on the new disc (drop-d tuning), but it doesn’t have the overdriven sound of (1992) debut album Core and instead has a ‘60s pop/rock vibe to it. You can also spot in the bridge a little resemblance to Nirvana’s “Stay Away” in the vocals. And it all makes for an excellent choice for an album opener and lead single.

True maximum hard rock riffage can be found on “Hazy Daze,” which finds Weiland contrasting the pleasantness of this album highlight with unhappy lyrics, largely about his father.

“Huckleberry Crumble” channels the band’s inner Aerosmith, “Same Old Song And Dance” in particular, while “First Kiss On Mars” sees Weiland sound amazingly and exactly like his hero David Bowie.

This article was first published in full late last week at Blogcritics Magazine. Find the review at this link.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Papi And Lester Among Hot Sox Entering June

With series wins at home versus the Oakland Athletics and on the road in Baltimore, the red hot Red Sox have now gone seven series in a row without losing one, dating back to losing two of three in Detroit in mid-May. They have won 11 of their past 15 games and are now tied with Toronto for third in the AL East with identical 33-25 records, which at a .569 winning percentage is also good for fourth in the AL.

More importantly, the Sox (and the offensive juggernaut that is the Blue Jays) are still well within striking distance of both divisional and Wild Card playoff spots, being respectively 4 1/2 GB of Tampa Bay and 2 1/2 GB of New York to start the week. One astounding development is that as of games through June 6, all four of these AL East teams lead the majors in runs scored, with the Sox and Yankees tied at the top with 314, followed by the Rays and Jays at 296 and 295, respectively.

And this division is also dominating the AL Wild Card race. The Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays own the top three spots coming into this new week. Of these, the biggest surprise is the Jays, who lost their general manager (J.P. Ricciardi), ace pitcher (Roy Halladay), and others in the past year. To the detriment of the rest of the league, it’s going to be a fun summer if this keeps up.

This is an excerpt from my latest "Dead Red" weekly Sox column, which was published earlier tonight in full at the site of Blogcritics Magazine via this cool link.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Red Sox On A Roll, Back In AL East Race

First published earlier this evening at Blogcritics Magazine.

Run Prevention, Meet Run Explosion

The Red Sox came into Tropicana Field last Monday 8.5 games behind the American League East-leading Rays. Needless to say, this was a crucial three-game series for Boston’s chances of staying in the hunt for the division title and needed to play at its best.

Simply put, Mission Accomplished.

Last Monday, the Sox got its first win against the Rays this year, 6-1. David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis homered and knocked out Wade Davis in the fourth, while Boston’s Clay Buchholz got his team-leading sixth win. It was also his eighth consecutive road win, which stretches back to August 2009. The young righthander needs one more to catch up to Roger Clemens’ nine straight road wins, which he did from July 18, 1993 to April 20, 1994. That’s great company to be in, especially for a pitcher not expected to be pitching like an ace as he is right now.

Read full post here