The Creation of a Legend

In tomorrow’s (Sunday’s) print version of the St. Pete Times there will be a long-form article on Sam Fuld and his rise to the Major Leagues. Lucky for us they’ve already released it online. It gives some background on Fuld’s family, his high school and college days, and puts them in context with his ups and downs so far this year. My favorite part, obviously, is his special game in Boston on April 11, or what I sometimes refer to as “Super Sam’s Super Cycle”:

During batting practice before the game, Fuld saw Barbin, the assistant baseball coach who remembered all those nighttime swings in the cage in the winter. Fuld jogged over.

“Look,” Fuld said, holding out his hands. “I’m shaking.”

His family went to their seats in Section 21, behind home plate, up under the stadium’s second-deck overhang, and his sister Annie thought: God, please let him just get one hit.

Fuld came up in the first and flied out to right. He came up in the second inning and hit a home run down the right-field line. Teammate Johnny Damon was waiting at home plate. “Hey,” the veteran Damon told him, “wave to your parents.” On his way back to the dugout, Fuld looked over his left shoulder, up at Section 21.

Then he came up in the fourth and doubled to left. He came up in the sixth and tripled to center. Sarah looked at Annie. Annie looked at her parents. “The whole night,” Annie would say later, “we just kept saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ ” A single, and Fuld would hit for what in baseball is called the cycle, meaning a single, a double, a triple and a home run, all by the same player in the same game. It is a rare accomplishment.

Fuld came up in the seventh and flied out to left. He came up in the ninth, one more try, and he lined an outside fastball into the left-field corner. Damon and Price, his teammates in the dugout, had the same thought: Stop at first.

Down in West Palm Beach, Jim Munsey, Fuld’s agent, whose sons played with Fuld when they were teenagers, was watching the game at his house on his 54-inch TV. Up in Exeter, Dennehy, his old high school coach, saw the ball leave his bat. At Fenway, in Section 21, the Fuld family watched the ball rattle up against the green wall.

They all had the same thought.

No way he’s stopping at first.

“I just assumed,” his mother would say, “he would go as far as he could.”

Fuld sprinted to first. Then he did what he does. He kept going.

I know that feel-good stories like these pop up around the league every so often and dot the landscape of baseball’s history. But that doesn’t make them any less interesting or meaningful. Indeed, they always seem to validate why we pay attention to this silly game in the first place.

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Rays Above .500

With the 8-2 win last night against the Twins, Tampa Bay has moved to 12-11 which marks the first time they’ve been above .500 for the season. A far cry from that 1-8 start, isn’t it? Pretty balanced play from all four aspects – the rotation, the bullpen, the offense, and the defense – has propelled the Rays in their turnaround, though the superlative effort of the starting rotation shines through the most.

Several times over that stretch of games Rays’ starting pitchers have gone at least 7 strong, eating innings like nobody’s business and not letting the bullpen to join in on the fun much. The prime example of this has been Mr. James Shields, who pitched back-to-back complete games, one of which was a shut-out, giving up 4 hits in each of the games and only allowing one run total in 18 innings of work.

Welcome back, James.

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Bruins win! but sox lose

GOODBYE HABS. Enjoy your offseason poutine. Such is life… bitches! I had been holding my breath for 3 hours watching the Bruins game, but during commercial breaks I saw enough of the Sox game to wonder what is going on with them

Too many defensive breakdowns tonight led to unnecessary pitches by Beckett which turned into 3 runs. Unacceptable. In little league they teach outfielders how to call off the infielder. It’s not hard, you just scream “I GOT IT.” Bucholz was shaky last night giving up 3 runs on 12, yes 12, hits. Beckett wasn’t much better tonight.

The offense continues to be plagued stranding runners in scoring position. This must stop. On a brighter side, Francona essentially announced Jed Lowrie as the Sox starting shortstop, replacing the ineffective Marco Scutaro.

Read about it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/red-sox/post/_/id/10312/tito-all-but-ordains-lowrie-as-starter

Good for Lowrie, the kid has been through a lot of injuries with wrist problems, mono last season and getting stuck behind subpar and overpaid fielders. Let’s see what the kid can do!

Drop us a line about either the Bruins or the Sox.

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Old friend Carl Everett arrested

Former Red Sox centerfielder and umpire-headbutting extraordinaire Carl Everett has been arrested in Lutz, Florida for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by putting a handgun to his wife’s head. He seems to have a head fetish. He’s also been charged with tampering with a witness. Glad to see retirement has been treating Carl well. Stay in jail Carl.

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Oh what a night

Welcome to the Easter edition of The Baseball Buffoons.

While many of us (myself included) were glued to the 2 OT Bruins game last night (CA-REEEY, CA-REEEY), the Red Sox continued their impressive turnaround. I watched enough of the Sox game during the Bruins intermission’s to see that they were doing well, but it wasn’t until about the 5th inning that I could give them my full attention.

After calling for Dice-K to be traded 2 weeks ago, I’ve been shocked with how he’s pitched. In his last 2 starts, that’s the number of hits he’s allowed: 2. His breaking stuff has been excellent and he’s consistently locating his fastball.

Crawford is showing signs of breaking out of his beginning of the season funk, going 2 for 4 last night with an RBI. Let’s hope this continues.

The area that I’m most concerned with now is catching. Have the Sox lost confidence in Saltalamacchia? It seems that way because Varitek has been catching a lot more games than an over-the-hill backup catcher normally would/should. Varitek’s offense is anemic, but the Sox seem more than willing to let that go as long as the pitching staff is doing better. And they have been since he’s been catching more. This is certainly an area to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

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Portland Sea Dogs Time

As the current owner of a Portland Sea Dogs Press Pass, I will be bringing you updates and opinions on the Sea Dogs, the AA team for the Red Sox.

This mid-week, the Dogs (5-7) took on the New Britain Rock Cats(7-6), an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

Notes:

– Will Middlebrooks is a stud.  he’s got the tools to make it and the looks to be a playboy in Boston (ala Jacoby).  Last night he was up and down, making a great catch on a liner well above his head, but also misplaying a grounder later in the game.  Here’s his scouting report from SoxProspects.com where he is rated #13:

“Excellent five-tool athlete. Great baseball frame with very quick wrists. Open stance, holds his hands high above his head. Has had some struggles with pitch recognition, but has made ample strides, reducing his strikeout rates. Getting the bat on the ball is still a concern. Slowly improving his previous tendency to over-pull the ball. Still very inconsistent. High power potential, but only average present power. Above-average speed for a third baseman. In the field, Middlebrooks is an excellent third baseman. Reliable glove, a rocket arm, and above-average range. Played both shortstop and third base in high school – the Sox initially thought of utilizing Middlebrooks as a short, but he has strictly played third as a pro. Hard worker.”

– Ryan Lavarnway C/DH runs like a funny and slow old man.  He is however, a potential impact player on offense and the #12 rated prospect at SoxProspects.com

– Seth Garrison P is one of my favorite players for both his name (mine) and age (two months older than me).  He was on last night with two K’s to get out of a jam.

More on Hadlock Field and the ‘Sea Dogs Experience’ soon…

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.500

Last night the Rays continued their hot streak by defeating the Chicago White Sox 4-1. This brings Tampa Bay’s record to 9-9. While a .500 mark is the definition of average and not usually something to write home about, it currently is remarkable considering the Rays were 1-8 after playing half the games they’ve played so far this season, and that included starting the year off 0-6. Since then, they’ve gone on a tear, winning 8 of 9 in the second half of the games they’ve played. ESPN notes that:

“Tampa Bay (9-9) became just the second team since 1900 — joining the 1991 Seattle Mariners — to reach .500 in April after starting the season with a six-game losing streak.”

Being only the second team to accomplish a certain feat in over a century, not too shabby eh? Plus, Tampa Bay is doing this with some of reserve players logging more playing time than was originally planned. On Opening Day, Tampa Bay was planning on having Evan Longoria and Manny Ramirez knocking the ball all over the place in the 3 and 4 spots and bringing in some runs. Instead, Longo will basically miss the month of April and Manny will miss the rest of his career, leaving characters like Sam Fuld and Felipe Lopez to fill in their shoes. Johnny Damon and Dan Johnson have also sat the past few games with various injuries, yielding some playing time to Casey Kotchman, Elliot Johnson, and Sean Rodriguez.

The rotation has really been pulling things along the last few games, with each starter trying to outdo the guy who threw before him (and if you missed James Shields dominating performance the other night, that’s your loss as he was in peak form for the 4-hit, 9 K CG). Oh, and don’t forget about the revamped bullpen that everyone was discounting but which actually is running a 2.72 ERA right now, by my calculations.  And that’s with Jake McGee doing badly. However, feel free to disregard this point about the bullpen due to the Law of Small Sample Size.

Tonight’s game against the Chi Sox will see the Rays going for the sweep, and a season series victory over Chicago as this will be the last game played between the two teams for the rest of the season.

Update: Rob Neyer over at Baseball Nation seemed to have the Rays’ bullpen on the mind last night too, and it appears my ERA calculations were a bit high:

With two perfect innings Wednesday night against the White Sox, Tampa Bay’s relievers lowered their group ERA to 2.57, the lowest in the American League.

Yes, just like last year.

This testifies to a number of things. For instance, the unreliability of statistics in April. Or perhaps the acumen of Tampa Bay’s front office, which hardly needs more testaments. And we might spare some credit for Joe Maddon, who just doesn’t seem to care who’s in the bullpen.

I am compelled, by duty if not honor, to mention a caveat. To this point, the Rays’ relievers have not been as dominant as last year’s. Yes, the ERA is lower. But last year’s bullpen struck out 7.8 hitters per nine innings, with a 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio; the figures for this year’s bullpen are just 6.2 and 1.9.

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