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Posts Tagged ‘Carolina Hurricanes’

That’s the funny thing about the World Series.  We spend the entirety of a long season trying to win it, and then we do win it, and then it’s over.  And then it’s suddenly back to business as usual, trying to do the things that will make it possible for us to win it again.

We acquired righty Burke Badenhop from the Brewers.  Basically, he’s a workhorse in the bullpen, so he’ll add some nice depth and dependability, especially down the stretch.  So far, we’ve shown interest in Corey Hart and Carlos Beltran, and supposedly we’re keeping an open mind as far as alternative options behind the plate are concerned.  Pedroia won an incredibly well-deserved Heart and Hustle Award.

In other news, the B’s beat the Canes, 4-1, and Rangers, 2-1.  We also lost to the Blues, 3-2, in a shootout but beat the Canes again yesterday, 3-2.  The Pats dropped a nailbiter to the Panthers, 24-20.

Gammons Daily

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We have the weather to thank for the extra day off.  Back in action, it seems that the extra rest did us good.  Because we ended up on the pleasant end of a pitcher’s duel thanks to some timely production.

It was a real nailbiter.  Lester was being matched pitch for pitch.  He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits, one walk, and five K’s.  His ERA, if you can believe it, is below 1.50.  Small sample size or no small sample size, that is ridiculous.  And don’t even get me started on his cut fastball.  Or his efficiency.  He threw exactly one hundred pitches, sixty-three of which were strikes and most of which, strikes or not, were awesome.  Lester was a master.  Especially when he put on quite the show with four one-two-three innings.  It was like he and the ball were in constant communication, and the ball was doing exactly what he wanted it to do.  Tampa Bay wouldn’t have stood a chance if it weren’t for David Price holding his own in the meantime.

The suspense was awful.  This was a classic pitcher’s ballgame.  It was one of those games that was just a really good, old-fashioned baseball game.  Of course, it’s easy to say that when you’re the ones winning.  Anyway, then it came down to the relief corps.  And both relief corps were so effective that the game went into extras.  Bailey took care of the eighth.  Hanrahan got put in for the ninth but was taken out after having failed to record an out because he recorded two walks instead.  Uehara ended the inning instead; three up, three down, and into extras.  I have to say, the relievers were in top form.  Being able to count on your relievers as you count on your starter is not a luxury that most, or even many, teams can afford.  We managed to put it together, and it comes in extremely handy precisely in situations like this, when the whole game is basically a contest to see whose pitchers blink first and whose hitters will be astute enough to catch it when it happens.

Tazawa pitched the tenth and picked up the win.  The tenth was essentially when the game was won because it had been tied at one until that point.  Lester was the first to allow a run; he gave up a single to open the third, and the single turned into a run when he allowed a double.  It was the only extra-base hit that Lester allowed.  (The only other extra-base hit that the Rays got was another double off of Tazawa.)

We didn’t catch up until the fifth; two outs into it, David Ross worked the count full.  Three of the first six pitches of the at-bat were balls, and three were fouled off.  The seventh pitch was an eighty-five mile-per-hour changeup that he crushed beyond the Monster.  It was quite the clutch solo shot; without it, who knows whether we would have won? Perhaps we’d still be playing; maybe out biggest achievement would have been to eventually tie it at one later in the game.

And then there were ten.  Innings, that is.  Salty came in to pinch-hit for Ross and, ironically, struck out.  But then Ellsbury singled, stole second, and moved to third on a throwing error.  Okay, so maybe we had some help from the Rays as well.  Because without that throwing error, Ellsbury would not have been on third.  And he would not have been able to score on Victorino’s single, despite the obvious shift, during the very next at-bat.  Game over.  2-1.  We win.  Our first walkoff of the year, and it feels good.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Canes, 4-2.

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I have to admit that I was hoping for another crush.  It’s always fun to wipe the field with the opposition during the home opener.  But that didn’t happen yesterday.  It was a pitcher’s duel for most of it, but fortunately, with a little help from some timely production, Buchholz held his own.  We still walked away with the win, and it was still a great day.  There’s always something that feels so right when the home opener rolls around.  It’s like the whole ballpark wakes up after a long, cold hiatus.  Baseball is finally back in Boston!

Buchholz had himself yet another masterful start.  Like Lester, Buchholz also pitched a full seven shutout innings.  And he only allowed three hits, all singles.  He walked four and struck out eight.  His fastball and curveball were truly fantastic, and his cutter and changeup added some variety.  He kept the hitters guessing throughout his start; you could tell that they were never able to get too comfortable.

His fifth pitch of the game was hit for a single.  And he began the second inning by issuing a four-pitch walk but ended it with two four-pitch strikeouts.  He gave up two singles in the third but bookended those with called strikeouts.  He had a one-two-three third despite a seven-pitch walk.  He issued a strikeout and a walk in the sixth, and had a one-two-three seventh that ended with a called K.  He opened the seventh with a nine-pitch walk but racked up two strikeouts that inning.

He could have been more efficient; some of his walks and other at-bats really dragged on.  He threw 113 pitches; the third and seventh, during which he threw twenty-four and twenty-three pitches, respectively, were particularly arduous.  But his other innings were reasonable, and all in all I’d say that there is more to smile about than criticize.  From a pitching standpoint, we had a great home opener.  Bailey received a hold for his impeccable eighth.  Even Hanrahan, who gave up a solo shot in the ninth, picked up a save.  Allowing runs in the ninth inning is obviously a red flag, since his entire job basically consists of preventing that from happening.  We got lucky this time because we had enough of a lead to absorb it, but naturally there will be occasions when that isn’t the case and we won’t be able to offset late damage.  So it’s important that he not be as porous as this very often, or at all.

Anyway, as I said, the game was a pitcher’s duel, and through six and a half, it was anyone’s guess who would score first.  We went down one-two-three in the first, and Nava’s five-pitch walk was our only highlight of the second.  The third was particularly painful to watch; three went up and three went down, all on flyouts and after only eight pitches.

It looked like we might score in the fourth, which Victorino led off with a single.  But he was caught stealing.  Pedroia kept our hopes alive with a walk, but Napoli grounded into a double play to end the frame.  Nava singled in the fifth, but to no avail.  We went down one-two-three again in the sixth.

The whole game was decided in the seventh.  Pedroia led it off with a single on the third pitch of the frame.  Napoli followed that with a double.  Middlebrooks then struck out, and then it was Nava’s turn.  He received three four-seam fastballs, all within about one or two miles per hour of each other.  He took the first one for a ball.  He fouled off the second.  And the third ended up beyond the Monster for a homer! Specifically, the ball ended up in a garbage receptacle on Lansdowne Street, ironically enough.  It was Nava’s second homer in two days and our ninth straight home opener win.  Not even the shadows made a difference in the end.  One swing.  Three runs.  3-1.  Game over.  Welcome back.

In other news, the Bruins crushed the Canes, 6-2.

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This week was momentous.  This time of year usually is.  Because this week, my friends, we celebrated Truck Day! On Tuesday, all of our equipment rolled out for the long drive down to Fort Myers.  Spring Training has officially unofficially started! Man, it’s been a long winter.  It still is a long winter.  And we have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  It’s February already, and since Truck Day has come and gone, Pitcher and Catchers is our next milestone, followed of course by the officially official start of Spring Training and then the season! We’re well on our way.  It may be freezing outside, and there may be snow in the air or on the ground, but we know that in Florida there is baseball to be played.  I can almost taste it, especially since Farrell is already talking about lineups; expect Ellsbury to bat first this year.

Pedro Martinez is back in Boston, in the front office this time; he’s a special assistant to Ben, and he’s basically going to advise the pitching staff.  Kalish had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but we re-signed Sweeney just in case.  We signed Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal.  Terry Francona won the Judge Emil Fuchs Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers, for his service to the game.

Gary Tuck, our bullpen coach, decided to retire and has been replaced by Dana Levangie.  Remember him? Levangie was our bullpen coach for eight years, the last of which was 2004.  After that, he was an advance scout.  And now he’s back where he started.  Tuck was going to be the last man standing from last year’s staff, and he surely was a fantastic bullpen coach.  He expected nothing but the best from pitchers and catchers; he made our staff great, and he will be sorely missed.  Levangie has big shoes to fill, but seems like the logical choice.

Congratulations to the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund, who celebrate sixty years of partnership this season.  This will be the inauguration of a suite available all season long for Jimmy Fund patients and their families.  A Jimmy Fund Chorus will also perform at the park.  This is one of those occasions when you feel really proud to support this organization.

Okay.  There’s something else that needs to be said, and I’m only going to say it once and then be done with it, because it’s that excruciating.  Kevin Youkilis is now a Yankee.  Like his predecessor, Johnny Damon, he has enlisted in the Evil Empire.  He has committed himself to the aiding and abetting of New York’s success.  Baseball is a complicated business these days; it’s a rare and happy find to discover a player whose sentimental connection with a particular team is strong.  In Boston, we’ve had a long tradition of such sentimental connections, and we still expect that from our players; we give them everything we’ve got, and we like to see the same in return.  So when one of our own, a homegrown farm boy no less, goes to the dark side, it’s extremely difficult to accept.  It was difficult to accept Damon doing it, and it’s no less difficult now.  We salute Youk and everything he has done for this team and this city.  He was a potent combination of hitting and fielding, volatility and versatility.  He had his good moments, and he had his bad moments, but he has left a legacy here of a stellar player.  I already made the tribute when he left, and we all know how awesome he was.  All I’m saying now is that it hurts.  It hurts, and it’s devastating, and we have to go through that pain all over again of seeing one of our own turn away from us.  That’s all I’m saying.

In other news, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, 34-31.  What a game.  It looked like the 49ers didn’t have a chance for most of it, and then it looked like the Ravens would be hard-pressed to keep them down after the power went out.  But alas, they pulled through.  At least now we get to say that it took a Super Bowl champion to defeat us this year.  The Bruins, for their part, have been doing quite well.  Since the shortened season’s first game, the Bruins have beaten the Jets by a score of 2-1, the Isles by a score of 4-2, the Canes by a score of 5-3, the Devils by a score of 2-1, the Leafs by a score of one-zip, and the Habs by a narrow yet satisfying score of 2-1.  We lost to the Rangers, 4-3, in sudden death and to the Sabres by the brutal score of 7-4.

Boston Globe Staff

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According to Ben, we’re out of the running for Roy Oswalt and we’re unlikely to make big splashes before the start of Spring Training.  I don’t really know what to make of that.

According to Beckett, what happens in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse, and the 2004 team did worse things.  I’m not sure that that’s really much of an excuse, but honestly I’m sick and tired of hearing about this same situation.  The whole thing is ridiculous.  The people who were actually there are the people who are denying that it was a big deal.  There’s no way to know what really went on, since we weren’t inside the clubhouse.  All I’m saying is I think it’s time to just move on already to bigger and better things.

In other news, the B’s beat the Sens but lost to the Canes and Penguins.  And, of course, the big day has finally arrived! Happy Super Bowl Sunday! As I said, I’m real hungry.  That trophy needs to come back to Boston.  Let’s bring it home tonight.  It may be a close game, and we will have to keep our heads down and play hard, but we got this.  Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but man, is it sweet.  Let’s do this.

AP Photo

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Well, it was a quiet week.  A quiet, quiet week.

As it turns out, my tribute to Tek may have been written too soon.  Apparently we’re talking to him to see if he wants to come to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, which obviously conflicts directly with his previously stated desire to keep playing legitimately.  Bobby V. hasn’t even spoken to him yet since he’s not on the roster, so I don’t really know.

We signed Sweeney to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal for next season worth $1.75 million.

Randy Niemann is our new assistant pitching coach.  I feel like we shouldn’t be trying to bring people from the Mets to Boston.  It’s not like we need even more dysfunction than we have already.

Theo made an appearance on WEEI’s The Dennis and Callahan Show on Thursday during which he officially confirmed that John Henry opposed the Crawford deal and that Lackey’s elbow wasn’t right at the time of his signing.  He thinks that, when Lackey returns from surgery, he’ll be right as rain.

In other news, the Pats crushed the Broncos, 45-10.  Is anyone surprised? Nobody should be surprised.  The B’s beat the Jets and Habs this week but lost to the Canes.

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Just so you know, this is not going to be a happy post.

First of all, it’s pretty much unofficially official.  Theo is going to take over the Cubs.  It’s a five-year deal, and the only thing left is for the two clubs to agree on compensation since Theo is technically entering the last year of his contract with us.  The deal is currently worth twenty million dollars, which reportedly includes said compensation.  As of late, Theo’s title within the Cubs organization is unclear, but it supposedly is something higher up.

The bottom line is that he’s leaving us, so we’ll have to find a first-base coach, a manager, and a general manager.  Here’s an understatement: this offseason, we’ve got some serious work to do.  With any luck, we won’t actually have to find a general manager and will instead be looking for an assistant general manager; I wouldn’t mind having Ben Cherington take the helm.  That’s where it looks like we’re headed, anyway.  He’s been included in all club dealings so far during the offseason.  He’s been Theo’s right-hand man for years, and the two of them started with Larry Lucchino in San Diego anyway.  It obviously won’t be the same, but it’ll be pretty close.

That is, if you like the job Theo did.  Sure, he made some huge mistakes.  Eric Gagne and Dice-K were the most notable of those; if Jenks doesn’t recover properly he’ll be another, and if Crawford and Lackey don’t turn it around they’ll be a third and fourth.  But I would argue that his good so epically and completely eclipsed his bad that this discussion isn’t even necessary.  His drafting and farming decisions were legendary and include Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youk, and Lester.  He is the youngest general manager to be hired, and he is the youngest general manager ever to win a World Series.  After almost delivering us in 2003, his first season, he lifted us out of the Curse of the Bambino in 2004 and reminded us that we weren’t dreaming in 2007.  His acquisition of Gonzalez was absolutely masterful.  He brought sabermetrics to Boston and made it feel at home here.  He wasn’t just a professional removed from everything; he was a baseball guy and, worth noting, a Red Sox fan.  He’s from Boston, specifically Brookline about two miles from Fenway Park, and that’s something Chicago will never change.  Chicago’s dysfunction as an organization goes well beyond any single position that Theo could possibly fill.  Make no mistake; he won’t simply waltz in there and have them winning World Series left and right.  If he could do that in Chicago, we would have been winning every single World Series title since his takeover of our team, and clearly that didn’t happen.  And if it didn’t happen here, it’s not going to happen there.  But that’s neither here nor there.

This is about what Theo did for this city in his nine memorable years here.  He brought a new approach to the game and put the pieces in place for us to win.  He established a winning culture here.  He’s a genius and will be sorely, sorely missed.  Here’s to you, Theo.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us and for the game of baseball.  Here’s to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and here’s to smiling through all of it because, all along, in Theo we trusted.  We know that other fans in other places rooting for other teams will be trusting in you from now on.  But we also know that you can take the general manager out of Boston but you can’t take Boston out of the general manager.  We just hope that the great things you’ll accomplish will not be at our expense.

Secondly, all of the pieces to the devastation puzzle are now coming to light.  It’s an ugly story.  Here goes.

It wasn’t one pitcher responsible for the beer-drinking between starts.  First of all, it wasn’t just drinking beer; it was also ordering in fried chicken and playing video games.  Secondly, it wasn’t just one pitcher; it was three.  Beckett, Lackey, and Lester.  I never thought I’d see Lester on that list, although I should point out that the degree to which he actually participated in these goings-on is highly speculative, and it’s possible that he wasn’t really a mainstay.  Apparently they not only drank beer but ordered fried chicken and played video games, all at the expense of working out, and they were starting to get more players involved.  All I know is that when we needed them to deliver most, they didn’t, which is unusual for them so something must have been going on.  We knew they were health, so that should have tipped us off, but I never thought I’d see the day when such people would actually knowingly put on pounds and thereby sabotage everything the team worked for.  It’s sacrilegious. Pedroia probably couldn’t believe his eyes and must have been seething.

Meanwhile, Tito was losing influence with both old and new guys, he was having health issues, and he was living in a hotel due to marital issues.  He insists that the former wasn’t due to the latter two, but I’m also sure that Beckett, Lackey, and Lester insisted that their very visible extra fat and subsequent tanking wasn’t due to their clubhouse habits either.  I’m actually inclined to believe Tito, though; he’s focused, dedicated, and committed, and we can’t just assume that he doesn’t know how to handle personal issues in his life and balance them with his job.

Then, apparently, the team accused the brass of caring about money more than results when they scheduled the doubleheader in response to Hurricane Irene.  Then the veterans on the team, including Tek, started pulling back on leadership.  Wake exacerbated this problem by calling for a return next year so he could break the all-time wins record; neither the time nor the place when you’re days away from playoff elimination.  And Youk, as you can imagine, was more of a clubhouse pain than usual, which we all knew but didn’t feel because all of these other issues weren’t present before.  At least, if they were, we didn’t know about them to this extent.  Youk was the only player to call Ellsbury out for his time on the DL last year due to his rib injuries.  And it’s obviously admirable and dirt-doggish indeed that he played through his injuries this year, but doing so apparently brought the worst out of him socially in the clubhouse.  And when you’re hanging on by a thread in the standings, that is so not something you need.  Gonzalez, of all people, joined in the pettiness by complaining about the late-season schedule.  I honestly thought he would be much more Pedroia-like than that.

Ellsbury, by the way, is officially the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year.  I can’t think of anyone who would deserve it more.  He earned every last bit of that honor this past year, so hats most definitely off to him.

Add to that the fact that the signing of Crawford was largely a push from Theo over which the brass was divided.  If you ask me, I would have said it was the other way around.  Crawford’s strengths, both in practice and in numbers, aren’t that compatible with sabermetrics, the philosophy used to build the team.  So I thought that we would all find out that it was Theo who was against it, and it was the brass who was pushing him to sign Crawford because of the wow factor of bringing in a star or something.

All in all, the team this year turned out to be one big, dysfunctional family on every front.  Nobody, from the players to the brass, was spared.  Everyone who had issues let them loose at exactly the wrong time and in exactly the wrong ways.  Players on whom you depended to carry your team through the stretch in the clubhouse either withdrew or sunk to the level of the players you never thought would sink to that level in the first place.  It seems like it was just an awful atmosphere completely non-conducive to anything positive or constructive.  Obviously you’ve got to consider sources of this information when you read stories about this, but I guess now that we know the end story, we saw the signs all along.  That’s true of Theo’s departure as well.  At the time to us on the outside, all of the signs were too subtle for us to keep putting two and two and two and two together to come with what is clearly a very elaborate set of social circumstances that spiraled out of control and led to our painful and epic downfall.

Organization chemistry, both in the clubhouse and in the front office, is a very difficult thing to fix and cultivate.  It’s organically grown, and you either have it or you don’t.  You can’t force it.  Now Papi is claiming that he’s seriously considering free agency as a way to escape all the drama.  It’s all been meshing so well recently; how, in such a short time, could we become “that team” with all the drama? It’s like a soap opera.  Seriously.

John Henry even drove down to 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday completely on his own because he felt like he had some records to set straight.  He said that Crawford was not signed to boost NESN ratings, although he confirmed that he did oppose it but ultimately approved it because baseball operations were for Theo and Larry to govern.  Henry also implied a confirmation that Theo is going to Chicago while saying that he wishes that Theo would stay.  He said that, during the season, he let the brass know that he was all in favor of picking up Tito’s options and that the only time he thought that that maybe wasn’t such a good idea was when Tito told the brass that he didn’t want to come back.

Significant changes to the organization could potentially be afoot, and that’s either good or bad.  There’s no way to know who’s on the radar or what we should expect.  There’s nothing to do.  No amount of speculation would ever shed any light because this organization keeps everything under wraps, as is appropriate and right even if it is annoying for us fans hanging in the breeze.

The whole situation is crushing.  Make absolutely no mistake whatsoever about that.  It’s crushing.  It’s devastatingly epically crushing in every conceivable sense.  We’ll get through it because we’re Sox fans and we always do, but it’s just so remarkably and epically depressing and crushing.  I can’t even believe that this whole situation is happening.

Ultimately the big question is short and sweet and simple but revealing of the trepidation that’s currently racking all of us.

What’s next?

Also, Scott Williamson is auctioning off his 2004 World Series ring.  Why in the world would you ever do that? That’s completely sacrilegious.

In other news, the Pats summarily disposed of the Jets, 30-21.  Would I have preferred a blowout? Obviously.  But hey, that score is a lot better than the score we put up against them the last time we played them last season, so I’ll take it.  And the Bruins, since beginning their season on October 6, have beaten Philly, Colorado, and Chicago and have been beaten by Tampa Bay and Carolina.

AP Photo

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