Toot the Horn Slowly…

Well, funky readers, I am now a certified published author! An adaptation of my very first replay blog is now available on Amazon, and you can read more about it at my eStore. The original blog covered every freaking game from 1924 through 17-year-old Vinny Spanelli and Tigers beat man Cal Butterworth, but that would have run 750 pages so I scaled it down and focused mainly on Vinny’s crazy story. I can guarantee it’s a fun read, and noted baseball scribes Josh Wilker, Scott Simkus and Joe Sheehan have already given it some fine praise on the back cover.

In other drum-banging, horn-tooting news, I’ll have a new WordPress replay blog up sometime in mid-February. This one will be set in 1958 and filled with a lot more sinister intrigue. Fitting the time period, of course.

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Neo-Realism

So the Giants went and done did it, vanquishing the Yankees in seven games after taking a 3-zip lead, as Matt Cain won his fifth game of the tournament and Pat Burrell, a .157 hitter with 27 whiffs in 83 at bats, popped a grand slam off Sabathia to nail down the 7-2 finale.

I’ve played many of these 16-game tournaments, and this was maybe just the third or fourth time an actual winner from that year went all the way. Giants absentee skipper Jason Stapley of Kearns, UT won a gift certificate from Strat-O-Matic for his fine efforts, and I hope to make this an annual event, giving many others a chance to “manage” a team.

In the next month I’ll have a few fun announcements regarding upcoming writing projects, but for now, here’s the final tournament stats for both the Giants (hitting,pitching) and Yankees (hitting,pitching). Happy holiday season!

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Make That Two…

Yessiree Bob, it’s a classic baseball rivalry rematch for the 2010 World Series: the scrappy, bullpen-rich Giants vs. the lambasting Yankees (31 homers in their first 16 games in the tournament). The series opens tonight in Yankee Stadium, with a sketchy Tim Lincecum against an undefeated C.C. Sabathia. Absentee managers Jason Stapley (Giants) and Paul Salzgeber (Yankees) will be watching eagerly and anxiously as the league champs take the dice table field.

You can follow the action in my Live Dicecasts every night at 10 p.m. eastern right here, or check on the result the following morning. Here’s the complete, up-to-date stats on the Giants (hitting,pitching) and Yanks (hitting,pitching) heading into the Series.

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And Then There Were Four

My Best of 2010 Tournament has gone through the first two rounds, and the Rays, Yanks, Padres and Giants are left standing and swinging. The Red Sox, unimpaired by their injury issues that year, put on a great show and took Tampa to seven games in the second round before getting wiped out by Jeff Niemann. Other than that, the only huge surprise was the #1 seed Phillies bowing to the #8 Marlins in the first round.

Actually, I take that back. The Phillies have now lost in the first round to Florida three straight years in this thing. They may have great character on the field, but for me, they’ve sucked, and it’s one reason why doing these tournaments is such an unpredictable blast. I just posted a column on the event on the official Strat site, and my nearly-daily recaps of the games can be found on the Strat Fan Forum.

Peace out!

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Manage a 2010 Team, Funky Alumni!

Feel like a winner? Right after the World Series, I’ll begin playing my annual “Best of” Tournament, seeding the eight best 2010 teams in each league by their final records and playing them off in four rounds of 4-out-of-7 series.

This time I thought it would be fun to get readers in on the action. I am actively looking for 16 “absentee managers” to represent the teams listed below. Just e-mail your lineups against lefties-righties and 4-man rotations for your first, second, and/or third choice of team to yours funky at jpolman54@gmail.com. Managers will be mostly chosen on a first come, first-served basis, and whoever wins the tournament will be given Internet immortality and a sweet $25 product credit from Strat-O-Matic!

You don’t have to have played Strat, because I’ll be doing the rolling for all teams. And don’t worry about picking an 8th seeded club, either. As I’ve learned in my many years of playing these tournaments, anything can happen and often does. The 7th seeded Marlins just made the World Series in my Best of 2009 party, for instance. No injuries will be used, but try not to pick “ringers” with few at bats for your lineups.

I’ll be posting the clubs that are still available as others are filled in on my Strat Fan Forum page, where I will also provide regular updates on tournament play.

Here’s the first-round matchups. Bolded teams are still available:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
(8) Oakland at (1) Tampa Bay
(7) Toronto at (2) New York
(6) Chicago at (3) Minnesota
(5) Boston at (4) Texas

NATIONAL LEAGUE
(8) Florida at (1) Philadelphia
(7) Colorado at (2) San Francisco
(6) St. Louis at (3) Atlanta
(5) San Diego at (4) Cincinnati

May the best absentee manager win!!

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Bookends of Hell

We interrupt the stagnant netherworld this blog has been in for seven months, to offer the personal opinion of this author regarding the monumental, historic collapse of his 2011 Red Sox. With all of the facts yet to be revealed about the team’s apparently poisonous clubhouse, this is far from an attempt to explain the inexplicable. Just a few wayward thoughts…

* * *

As much as I had grown to like Terry Francona, the 2011 Red Sox were severely unprepared to start the season, and ill-equipped to finish it, and it’s a manager’s job to prevent things like that from happening. Yes, there were some devastating injuries to Clay Buchholz, Dice-K, and in the stretch run, Kevin Youkilis, but injuries were just part of the story here, and every contending team had a few of those. Boston was done in by two hideous bookends of horrible play, and in the appalling days that finished the September train wreck, their initial visit to the losing gutter was all but forgotten. So I thought I’d begin by revisiting those days…

April 1: at TEXAS 9, BOSTON 5
The Sox score twice in the 1st, but Jon Lester has nothing, giving up solo bombs to Kinsler and Cruz to tie the score. Sox go ahead 4-2 but Lester gives up the lead again, with a 3-run Napoli homer to put Texas ahead. Ortiz ties it with a homer in the 8th but Bard comes on and has absolutely nothing, giving up a walk, single and three doubles to lose the game. How prophetic.

April 2: at TEXAS 12, BOSTON 5
The opening John Lackey combustion. Starting the Ranger 4th in a 3-3 tie, he gives up six runs on a double, triple, walk, double, intentional walk and Adrian Beltre grand slam. Sweet.

April 3: at TEXAS 5, BOSTON 1
Kinsler, Cruz, Murphy and Napoli all homer off Buchholz, and the Sox can do nothing with Matt Harrison. Were any of the Sox starters given notes on how to pitch these guys? Were they hungover? Will we ever know?

April 5: at CLEVELAND 3, BOSTON 1
Beckett finally throws a decent Boston game, but his mates can only scratch four hits together off Josh Tomlin, Tony Sipp, and Chris Perez.

April 6: at CLEVELAND 8, BOSTON 4
Dice-K is Dice-Krap, Denys Reyes is worse and never heard from again in a Boston uniform, and Matt Talbot and five Indians relievers pull out the win.

April 7: at CLEVELAND 1, BOSTON 0
Lester is magnificent, though they lose anyway on Asdrubal Cabrera’s squeeze bunt in the 8th for the lone run of the game—after Bard walks Adam Everett to start the inning. For that offense alone, he deserved to lose.

The Sox finally won in their Fenway opener, 9-6 over the Yankees, despite another awful outing by Lackey, before Buchholz got creamed 9-4. Beckett shutout Sabathia on Sunday 4-0, but their future tormentors Tampa Bay rolled in on Monday and destroyed Dice-K 16-5. Lester dropped a 3-2 squeaker the next day, before the third game was blessedly rained out. After a day off Toronto came to town, and Bobby Jenks was the pitching culprit, coughing up four Blue Jay runs in the top of the 7th to lose 7-6.

So after twelve games, Boston’s record was 2-10, New England wolves were howling, and the team’s long stretch of great play finally commenced.

Recent reports that Terry Francona held a team meeting on September 7th, and the club then responded by going 6-18, are deeply troubling, but if the other rumors of pitchers drinking in the clubhouse were true, it certainly makes the great collapse far less baffling. Because Messers Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Bard and even Wakefield pitched so poorly that last month they sure looked like they could have been hungover.

With the Red Sox winning in ’04 and ’07, my emotional stake was far less, and I found the September collapse a fascinating event to watch unfold. In a way, it reminded me of the slow, increasingly blood-curdling stages of horror unleashed in The Exorcist. Kind of like this:

THE CHILL BREEZE THROUGH REGAN’S WINDOW
After outscoring Texas 30-7 their last three games there at the end of August, the Sox open a homestand the next night and give up 15 runs to the light-hitting Oakland A’s.

THE NOISES IN THE ATTIC
The Sox look very flat in three Fenway games with the Yankees, losing two of them.

REGAN PEES ON THE LIVING ROOM CARPET
Texas comes in next, beats Andrew Miller 10-0 on Friday, destroys John Lackey 11-4 on Sunday.

REGAN’S BED SHAKES VIOLENTLY
The Sox win 14-0 in their lone win in Toronto, lose two others by one run and another by three. Bard implodes in the 8th in an 11-10 loss.

REGAN DIGS HER TALON-LIKE HAND INTO THE PSYCHIATRIST’S CROTCH
The Sox go down to Tampa and get swept. The starts by Lackey and Lester are 7-2 and 9-1 stink bombs, while Bard drops the middle game in 11 innings.

REGAN DOES A BACKWARD “CRAB WALK” DOWN THE STAIRS
Toronto comes to Fenway for two games. The Sox trounce them 18-6 before naturally losing the second game by one run, thanks to another 8th inning Bard implosion.

REGAN KNOCKS HER MOTHER ACROSS THE ROOM AND SPINS HER HEAD AROUND
Tampa takes three of four at Fenway with sickening ease. Weiland and Wakefield get crushed in their starts.

REGAN VOMITS IN FATHER KARROS’ FACE
The last place Orioles take three of four at Fenway. Per usual, the Sox score 18 times in their lone victory, lose two games by one run and the other by two, complete with another 8th inning Bard implosion.

REGAN SPEAKS IN TONGUES, DOES SUPERNATURAL BATTLE WITH FATHER MERRIN WHILE TIED TO A BED
The Sox look completely lost in their first two losses in Yankee Stadium, and have to go 14 innings to win the final game. They are so atrocious in those first two games it looks like they are throwing them.

FATHER KARROS THROWS HIMSELF OUT THE WINDOW TO SAVE REGAN
That would be Terry Francona, or maybe even your average Red Sox fan after watching the Sox fail over and over again to add insurance runs in the final game in Baltimore, until Papelbon gets around to blowing the save and the lead with two outs and two strikes in the 9th.

What more can be said about this unnatural disaster, this portrait of hell by Hieronymus Bosch? Apparently, a lot in the coming years, for this was not just a statistically historic collapse, but a historically complex one. You can literally blame every piece of the Red Sox organization, from Theo Epstein for signing Lackey and lineup sieve and head case Carl Crawford, to missing-in-action pitching coach Curt Young, to the medical and conditioning staff, to hitting coach Dave Magadan for being unable to help Crawford at all, to the players who took turns underperforming, and finally to Francona for helplessly watching his clubhouse slowly divide and rot.

Francona was the public face of the team, and as is true with most disastrous team performances, the manager is the one who has to go. The fact he was such a likeable guy is what made it a crusher. One can only hope the remaining demons will be shown the exit door from this ghastly Back Bay crypt.

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Time to Enter the Wayback Machine

Okay folks, I’ve dilly-dallied enough.

Starting Sunday evening and continuing every Sunday for the next five or so months, I will be taking my terminally retro imagination back in time to post chapters of The Bragging Rights League. Stop in for a visit, won’t you? I guarantee you’ll find nothing else like it. Here’s your link.

Funkyball Twitter followers will automatically get the new blog feed, but subscribers here will need to create new accounts from the bottom of the Bragging Rights home page.  See y’all soon, I hope.—J.P.

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