You can tell we’re getting closer because the anger is finally real. The plays and decisions that go into a loss like the Sox suffered last night don’t just slide off your back like they did a few months or even a few weeks ago.
Brayan Villarreal? Really, John?
Yup. We’re coming up on crunch time here in the 2013 season and with the Sox back in a tie for first place, it’s going to be a trip.
But we’re not there yet. In the big picture of Boston sports, these are still the dog days of summer. The Celtics and Bruins are in hiding. The Pats are in the preseason, which no matter how hard you try is still the preseason. And while the Sox' current West Coast trip is intense, this thing won’t be decided until September, which starts with a three-game series against the AL leading Tigers, followed by 13 straight against the Yankees, Rays and Orioles.
So, while we wait for that, let’s kill some time with 10 simultaneously random and topical trivia questions. There’s nothing in here that will blow your mind, but I guarantee it will be more fun than whatever you’re supposed to be doing at work . . .
Everyone’s still talking about the fastball that Ryan Dempster planted in A-Rod’s elbow on Sunday night, so let’s start there.
That much-celebrated and whined-about pitch marked the 21st time in A-Rod’s career that he’s been beaned by a Red Sox pitcher. That ranks second among active major leaguers.
So, the first question:
Which active player has been on the receiving end of the most HBPs from Red Sox pitchers?
Answer: That would be Derek Jeter, who’s slightly ahead of A-Rod with 24. Although to be fair, Jeter’s picked up his 24 in 1233 plate appearances, which breaks down to about one HBP per 51 PAs. A-Rod picked up his 21 over 1027 plate appearances, which is about one for every 49.
Stepping away from the Sox, and looking at the entire league, Rodriguez (169) and Jeter (163) rank second and third, respectively, on the active HBP leaderboard. Which brings us to question No. 2:
Who is the active major league leader in HBP?
Answer: Jason Giambi, who’s racked up 179.
The 42-year-old, former Yankees, A’s, Rockies and current Indians “slugger” has been hit by the Sox 19 times, tied with the Blue Jays for the most by any team.
OK, so the Top 3 features all current and former Yankees, but for question No. 3 . . .
Which current Red Sox player’s been hit by the most pitches over his career?
Answer: This may surprise you at first, but it makes sense.
Johnny Gomes, who’s tied for 33rd on the list with 72 career plunks. Which team has hit Gomes more than any other? Naturally, it’s the Red Sox. However, only seven times.
But other than Gomes, there are only two current Red Sox in the active HBP Top 100, and question No. 4 asks:
Who are the other two current Red Sox in the active HBP Top 100?
Answer: Of course, David Ortiz is one of them.
Nope. Actually, he’s not. Somehow Ortiz has only been hit by 32 pitches his entire career (which is one fewer than Dustin Pedroia, and Papi has nearly twice the career at bats).
In reality, the other two are Shane Victorino, who ranks 32nd on the list with 66, and Mike Napoli who ranks 62nd with 49.
Moving on . . .
As for the guy who hit A-Rod, Dempster* now has 90 career HBPs, which ranks ninth on the active list for pitchers. Of the eight guys who are ahead him, three have worn or currently wear a Red Sox uniform.
So, question No. 5 asks . . .
Who are the three current or former Red Sox pitchers in the Top 8 on the active HBP list?
Answer: Coming in at No. 8, we have 75-year-old Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver, who pitched for the Sox in 2002 and has hit 96 batters over his long, LONG career. At No. 6, with 98, is Bronson Arroyo. (In related news, has anyone seen Wily Mo?)
And finally, at No. 4: John Lackey, who’s beaned 106 batters. He trails only Jamey Wright (151), AJ Burnett (114) and Tim Hudson (110) on the active list.
*With Dempster’s recent emergence as a crusader against PED use, I wanted to point out that among his other 89 career HBPs, he’s also hit Ryan Braun three times and Jose Guillen twice. He’s also hit both Jeff Bagwell and Brady Anderson. (Some other fun names on Dempster’s career hit list include Andres Gallaraga, Larry Walker, Ed Sprague, former Sox coach Tim Bogar and my personal favorite: Darryl Strawberry.)
Also, if you’re looking for a half-baked theory on where Dempster’s hatred for PED use was born, take a look back at the first start of his Major League career: June 1, 1998.
Of course, June ‘98 was the month when the historic home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire entered another stratosphere. Sosa was particularly special, setting a single month record with 20 June home runs. And his first at-bat of that month happened to coincide with the first inning of Dempster’s first career start. The result? A 430-foot bomb.
Dempster didn’t make it through the second inning.
On to football, where most of the non-Tebow talk surrounding the Pats revolves around the potential for three rookies receivers — Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins — to not only make this year’s team, but actually play a significant role in the offense. At the very least, it’s fair to assume that each one will catch at least one pass this season.
What makes this possibility so remarkable is that in the eight seasons since the Pats last won a Super Bowl, a TOTAL of only four rookie wide receivers have caught passes for New England. So, question No. 6 asks . . .
Who are the four rookie receivers to catch a pass since 2004?
Answer: In 2010, Taylor Price caught three passes for 41 yards. In 2009, Julian Edelman caught 37 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown. In 2006, Chad Jackson caught 13 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns. And last but certainly not least, in 2005, Bam Childress caught three passes for 32 yards.
Look at that list again, and you’ll notice that the four rookies all caught their passes in different seasons, so for question No. 7, I want to know . . .
When’s the last time that more than one Patriots rookie wide receiver caught a pass in the same season?
Answer: That would be 2002, when rookie Deion Branch broke out with 43 catches for 489 yards and two touchdowns, and seventh round pick David Givens recorded nine for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Finally, depending on what happens with Danny Amendola’s health, I suppose there’s a chance that a rookie could lead the Patriots in receptions. Which brings me to question No. 8 . . .
Who’s the last rookie wide receiver to lead the Pats in receptions?
Answer: Come on, that’s an easy one.
For question No. 9, I’ll get right to point . . .
Who are the Celtics Top 5 all-time leaders in three-point field goals?
Answer: No. 1 is simple: Paul Pierce (1823), and he’s followed by Antoine Walker (937, he’s also the NBA’s all-time leader in four-pointers), Ray Allen (798) and Larry Bird (649).
No. 5 on the list? That’s new Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty, whose 417 career threes in Boston is one better than Dana Barros.
Staying with the Celtics, I think all expect the team to be pretty bad this year. In the big picture, we should want the Celtics to be pretty bad. But how bad do they have to be to make history? On that note, for the final question in this random batch of trivia, I want to know . . .
What’s the biggest single season decline in Celtics history?
Answer: 18 wins, which happened in 1996 after the Celtics followed up a 33-49 season with ML Carr’s 15-67 special.
So if these Celtics are going to set a new mark, given last year’s 41-40 record, they’ll have to go 22-60 in Brad Stevens’ maiden voyage.
Not saying it would be fun, but no doubt it’s in Boston’s best interest.
And it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to end this post here.
After all, the Sox are about to start, and it’s about to get real.
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