Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MLB First Half Roundup (by Steve)

Here we are, nearing the end of June and nearing the end of the first half of the 2009 baseball season. The Boston Red Sox are 43-27 and in first place in the American League East with a five game lead on the New York Yankees. All around the league, there are storylines that affect each team alone and the entire league together. Less than a year removed from Boston, Manny Ramirez failed a drug test for a banned substance with all evidence pointing towards serious steroid use as he failed for a well known masking agent. There’s the Chicago Cubs, who were picked by many to reach the World Series (including myself) because of their stacked roster, who have been failing miserably. They are losing left and right, and there is no hope on the horizon for sports greatest losers. The flashy and dangerous Tampa Bay Rays, a division rival, who were unstoppable last season until the World Series, have been facing a lot of troubles in the injury department, and mixed in with a couple of their better players slumping, are looking more like the Rays of old than the Rays of new. They still have a chance but it will be an uphill battle for the rest of the year for them. Then there’s always those New York Yankees. A-Rod, after off season surgery and the release of his own failed steroid test, has been slumping hard, if it could even be called a slump. He started out okay, hitting the first pitch he saw this season for a home run, then pretty much fell of the map after a week and a half. As for their $250 million investment on 3 players this off season, there have been mixed results, but so far they have definitely not been worth the money. Then there’s the fact that it was found that the walls in the outfield are 9 feet closer than they are listed, essentially having the Yankees hit to dimensions seen in Little League stadiums, explaining why they are hitting home runs at a record pace.
What’s really on everyone’s mind though, at least up this way, is the Boston Red Sox. The lineup is ridiculously solid. David Ortiz, Big Papi himself, struggled mightily for the first two months of the season, but it didn’t keep the Sox from winning (in fact they kept winning in spite of his pitiful numbers) but it seems that he has broken out of that, and has been hitting more like his old self. Jason Bay, who we got in return for Manny, has been playing out of his mind hitting the ball so well that Giant Glass has had their phones ringing off the hook for windshield repairs from Red Sox fans who have parked in the lots behind the Green Monster. And yet none of that is the main storyline in Boston these days. It’s the pitching staff. Namely Daisuke Matsuzaka. More accurately, it’s what to do with him. The Sox are in a unique position in that they have 6 legit starters with one in waiting in Pawtucket and really only 5 places to put them. If it was at all possible to have too much pitching, the Red Sox have it. And it is a great problem to have. Other teams are concerned about getting more pitching and can barely field 3 pitchers in their 5 man rotation. Unfortunately, the biggest issue we have here is our man Dice-K. After going 18-3 with a 2.87 ERA last year, he is a miserable 1-5 with a 8.31 this season. He has been placed on the DL with a “tired shoulder,” but that is only a temporary fix. Really he just needs time to sort himself out because he didn’t get to have spring training like everyone else, but he wants to pitch so bad that there are minor waves through the organization wondering what to do. Ultimately I’m positive that the most confident pitcher in baseball will get his head on his shoulders and be a great asset come September and October, but until then we will just need to ride it out and let him sort his shit out. In the end, he will be fine, and the Sox are still the pick to win the Series this year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sir Paul to play Fenway (by Colby)

The rumors that have created some of the biggest buzz for an individual concert in the area since U2 rocked Somerville are officially true. Paul McCartney, who turned 67 on June 18th, will play Fenway Park on August 5th and 6th. The former Beatle has already announced plans to gig at Citi Field in New York July 17, 18, and 19, and FedEx Field in D.C. Aug 1. More to come....

Monday, June 22, 2009

From the Vault: Buffett transforms Mansfield into Margartiaville 9/4/08 (by Colby)

With Buffett performing two shows this upcoming week at the
Comcast Center, I dug into the archives and pulled out this
review of Buffett's 9/4/08 show in Mansfield. Hope you enjoy!

The days may be getting shorter and the air may be getting colder but Jimmy Buffett tried his best to keep summer alive at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA this past weekend.

Wrapping up their east coast leg of the “The Year of Still Here” tour at the Comcast Center, Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band played in front of a sold out crowd of 19,900 parrot heads.

The show was scheduled to begin at 8:00pm but the fun began right around 11:00am as the Comcast Center parking lots were open for the biggest tailgating concert around. Thousands of Buffett fans dressed in grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts spent the beautiful Thursday afternoon grilling shrimp, and mixing margaritas, which has become almost as important as the show itself.

Buffett started the show with a song entitled Homemade Music off his 1988 album, Hot Water before jumping into Tiki Bar Is Open, a cover originally written by John Hiatt and Fruitcakes, a concert staple which has been played ever since it’s album of the same name was released in 1994.

Buffett, the “Mayor of Margartiaville” answered chants of “Buffett ‘08” and “Barack O’Buffett” by joking that he “Accepts your nomination” however that was about as political as he would get throughout the night.

After breaking into Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season, Jimmy took the time to announce that his next show, two days later at the same venue, would be moved from 8:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. because of Hurricane Hannah, which was expected to hit Massachusetts. Buffett assured the crowd that he wouldn’t let a little rain spoil their good time.

Buffett ended his first set with one of his most popular songs, Cheeseburger in Paradise, along with Van Morrison hit and Buffett concert staple, Brown Eyed Girl and One Particular Harbor.

After a short break, Buffett broke into an excellent rendition of the Grateful Dead’s Scarlet Begonias, which seemed to channel the spirit of Jerry Garcia.

The second set consisted of some of Buffett’s more well known hits including, Volcano, Son of a Sailor, Last Mango In Paris, A Pirate Looks At Forty, and the famous, Margaritaville, which was used to close out the second set.

With the fans chanting “Buffett” while staring at a dark stage, you began to hear the jaws theme which has become synonymous with the song “Fins.” The crowd went crazy and the lights went on to find Buffett making the shape of a shark fin with his two hands and yelling “Fins to the left, fins to the right.” The Crowd went crazy as Buffett played a classic rendition of the song and eventually broke into another cover, this time of Bob Dylan’s classic, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, with the crowd emphasizing the line “everybody must get stoned!”

Buffett ended the show by playing a solo acoustic rendition of the song Nautical Wheelers off his 1974 album, A1A.

The music may have stopped, but the party spilled out into the parking lot where it had begun nearly 12 hours prior, as many fans tailgated well into the night. One thing is clear, at the age of 61, Jimmy Buffett is still the life of the party.

Win it for Amy, Phil (by Colby)

Just weeks after word spread that his wife, Amy Mickelson, had been diagnosed with breast cancer and her husband took a leave of absence from the PGA tour, Phil Mickelson was competing for what would be his first career U.S. Open title this past weekend.

Mickelson had been there before. In 1999, Mickelson fell just one stroke short of Payne Stewart who saved par with a 15 footer on 18 at Pinehurst to hold off Mickelson, Tiger, and Vijay. In 2002, at Bethpage Black on Long Island, Phil once again came in second place, this time losing by three strokes to Tiger Woods. In 2004, at Shinnecock Hills, Mickelson double bogeyed 17, falling just two strokes short of Retief Goosen. In 2006, Mickelson double bogeyed 18 after failing to hit the fairway which led to Geoff Ogilvy’s one shot victory at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York.

Could Mickelson change his fate at Bethpage, the same place he had lost to Tiger in 2002?

The stage was set early on, as fans and players wore pink to show their support for Amy Mickelson and an emotional Phil tee’d off with Ernie Els on Thursday afternoon. After a rain soaked first round, Phil was tied for 7th at one under, just five strokes behind the leader, Mike Weir.

However, the second and third rounds were dominated by the 2002 amateur champion, Ricky Barnes who would shoot a 65 and go into the clubhouse with a one stroke lead over Lucas Glover (-7). Barnes would reach as high as 11 under in round three with a lead as big as six, however, Barnes began to unravel in the final round, bogeying five of the first nine holes, allowing Phil, Tiger, and Duval to creep back into contention. Mickelson led a charge from -2 entering the final round, which was capped off by an eagle on 13 which tied Lucas Glover for the lead. Mickelson, like he has done so many times in the past, began to unravel much like Barnes did in the early part of the soggy Monday at Bethpage. Mickelson would three putt for bogey on 15 and bogey 17, ultimately dropping him back to -2, two strokes behind the leader, Glover, with one hole to play. His fate was sealed for the fifth time in ten years at the U.S. Open. With the crowd behind him and the emotion of his wife Amy’s battle with cancer, it wasn’t enough for Phil as he once again was unable to come through when it mattered. Glover would go on to win with a two stroke lead over Barnes, Mickelson, and Duval. Better luck next year, Phil.