|Josh Hamilton has homered in six of his last 10 games. (US Presswire)|
The Weekend Buzz while you were taking mom to brunch and thanking her for chauffeuring you to all of those practices. ...
1. The Unlikeables: Memo to the Chicago Cubs: Take note. Finally win a World Series and, eventually, you become just another team to be kicked around the neighborhood. Finally win a World Series, and you, too, can become as unlikeable as the Boston Red Sox.
Nobody in New England is writing sonnets to the Local Nine these days. The lyrics emanating from the little bandbox in Fenway Park's 100th Anniversary season are sour and discordant, the work of poison pens and Bronx cheers (and how ironic is that).
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These Red Sox are baseball's Most Unlikeable Team, from the cavalier way they ran Terry Francona out of town over the winter to the appalling sense of entitlement Josh Beckett and Co. continue to exhibit this summer. Even their own are turning on them in New England: The consecutive home sellout streak that started in May, 2003, is on life-support. Only by finessing numbers relating to comp tickets and tickets sold have the Red Sox been able to keep it going.
Bobby Valentine's crew is playing to more empty seats than any Sox team in years. And when Beckett was hooked after only 2 1/3 innings the other day against Cleveland after golfing on an off day immediately following being scratched from a start, the booing was so toxic and venomous that longtime Fenway Park denizens were shocked.
"FORE! That was the sound of the Cleveland Indians teeing off on Josh Beckett," wrote the Boston Herald's John Tomase in the line of the week.
"I spend my off days the way I want to spend them," Beckett hissed. "My off day is my off day. We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves."
Beckett hasn’t changed a whit. He's been openly defiant and combative since his rookie season with the Marlins. What's changed is that he's no longer producing at an elite level consistently (5.97 ERA), and neither are the Red Sox.
So the backlash is in full force.
Like this, from a guy who calls himself "giafm" from Hopkinton, Mass., who wrote in the comments below an Eye on Baseball blog item the other day regarding Beckett and the possibility that he's tipping his pitches: "I grew up in MA and have been dreaming of the day [when] I take my son to his first game at Fenway. We're driving 14 hours north in 2 weeks and I had to change all plans as I cannot justify spending one penny on this team of ingrates. ..."
Baseball teams are a public trust, especially one as once-beloved as the Red Sox. There is a responsibility that comes with those multi-million dollar contracts, and there is a responsibility from the organization to not allow the inmates to run the asylum (see Ramirez, Manny). It's as simple, on this Mother's Day, as something your mother probably often told you: To whom much is given, much is expected.
As a starting pitcher, Beckett gets far more than 18 days off each summer. You could argue the reverse, that he only works 33-34 days a season. Pitchers as great as John Smoltz and Greg Maddux used many of those other days during the summer to golf. But not on the day after they skipped a start because of an injury.
Valentine was hired to change the chicken-and-beer culture, and that's not happening. The sense of entitlement for a club that produced the greatest September choke in history remains breathtaking. And the villagers, rightfully, are storming Yawkey Way with lit torches.
So take notes, Cubs. Because one day, if you're not careful, one day, this will be you. What made you special is no longer tangible. A World Series trophy or two on your shelf. The fan base sated.
And while you're fat and happy and think everything is finger-lickin' good, you'll become just another team to be kicked around the neighborhood.
2. Josh Hamilton's week: Current scoreboard: Chicago Cubs 21 home runs, Minnesota Twins 20 home runs, Josh Hamilton 18 home runs, San Diego Padres, 13 home runs. Hamilton has swatted nine homers in his past six games -- just the third player in history to do that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only way the Hall of Fame will get his bat now is to pry it from his cold ... or, make that, as soon as it cracks. And when that happens, this bat will die the biggest hero of them all.
3. Tony La Russa's night: Upon the retirement of one of the greatest managers of them all, the Cardinals waited exactly, oh, less than two months before retiring his No. 10. Contrast that to the Tigers, who, after Sparky Anderson retired after the 1995 season, waited until the poor guy had passed on to see Casey Stengel before retiring Sparky's No. 11 last summer.
"This is about an organization, starting from ownership, front office, players developed in the system, players at the big-league level and, in this particular town, the psychological edge we get from three million fans coming to watch us," La Russa said. "You can agree, or ignore it. But when you see 10 out there, it represents the organization from top to bottom, and the fans who have supported us and allowed us to spend the money to bring in talent."
4. Albert Pujols' nightmare: No, it's not that he wasn't on hand to see La Russa get his number retired. It's that he headed into Mother's Day batting .195 with a .236 on-base percentage, a .278 slugging percentage and had grounded out to either shortstop or third base in 29 percent of his at-bats this season (39 of 133).
5. Oakland's Inge-sanity and the Iron Horse: Sometimes, it's not the most expensive players (see: Los Angeles Angels, 15-19, and Detroit Tigers, 16-17, on Mother's Day morning). Sometimes, it's the way they fit together. Brandon Inge no longer fit in Detroit as the Tigers upgraded to a fully loaded model with all of the (expensive) options. He sure looks like a fit in Oakland, where he immediately put his name into the record books with ... Lou Gehrig? Yessir: Inge last week became the first player with four games with four or more RBIs in a five-game stretch since Gehrig in 1931. Oh, and the A's were 18-16 heading into Sunday's series finale with Detroit.
6. How cool is John Axford? The Brewers closer blew a save Friday night, his first after converting 49 in a row, while his wife was eight months pregnant. Game ended, Axford was not around to speak with reporters. But he left a hand-written note at his locker reading: "I put my wife into contractions with my performance tonight! So I had to run to the hospital. The streak is over so now you can talk about it. The luck I’ve had in the past didn’t show up tonight! All I can do is start another streak and keep my head up! Cliché ... cliché ... ... another cliché. Gotta go! Love, Ax." The 'o' in 'Love', by the way, was in the shape of a heart. See the original note here.
7. Bobby Fuller Four Player of the Week: As if the Nationals aren't having enough trouble with injuries, struggling Bryce Harper fought the wall and the wall won. Angered over a poor at-bat in a string that has pushed his average down to .213, Harper slammed his bat into the wall ... and it bounced back into his face, leaving him with a bloody gash that required 10 stitches and a golf ball-sized welt over his left eye. Fortunately for both Harper and the Nationals, the injury did not cause him to miss time. Which, with a star-spangled injury list including Michael Morse, Drew Storen, Jayson Werth, Chien-Ming Wang, Ryan Zimmerman and now Wilson Ramos, was the last thing the Nats needed. On the flip side, shortstop Ian Desmond, exhibiting tremendous grace under pressure, immediately dubbed Harper "Bam Bam."
8. Matt Kemp leaves Sunday's game with hamstring injury: Clearly, he was hanging with Juan Rivera too much.
9. If loving the Mets is wrong, we don't wanna be Wright: Do you believe? Are you buying the Mets yet? With Johan Santana and David Wright doing their thing, they're developing into one of the year's best stories. Wright's .402 batting average through Sunday is second in franchise history (minimum 50 at-bats) through May 12 to Cleon Jones (.411 in 1969). Meanwhile, Santana's average fastball velocity checks in at a career-worst (88.4 m.p.h) according to FanGraphs, but his strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of 9.87 is his best since his Cy Young 2004 season (10.46).
10. Andy Pettitte back in the Bronx: Yeah, but can he close?