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Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Fund’

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Gary Tuck, our bullpen coach, decided to retire and has been replaced by Dana Levangie.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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I was thinking about which Dice-K we were going to get last night.  I was thinking we’d get the mediocre Dice-K.  I was hoping we’d get the really good Dice-K.  But I’m not sure anyone thought we’d get the outstanding Dice-K.

Which is a shame if you think about the fact that he’s actually been good for his last six starts.  In his first four starts, he was lucky if his season ERA approached five.  In his last six, his season ERA has been under five.  Actually, it’s been four and change, but with Dice-K you can’t afford to be picky, especially since if you look at those six starts alone, his ERA is 2.95.  Who knew? He’s pitched at least five innings, given up five or less runs, and walked four or less in all six.  So perhaps a corner has indeed been turned.  It wasn’t the dramatic corner-turning we were looking for, as if he’d have a stretch of really bad outings and then suddenly be the next Cy Young, but I think we wouldn’t have seen that from any pitcher anyway.  I think he’s getting the hang of it, slowly but surely.

Which brings us to last night.  Last night he rocked.  He didn’t get rocked.  He just rocked.  He gave up only one run on only two hits, one of which was a solo shot on an offspeed he failed to locate, in six and two-thirds innings.  He walked two.  He struck out six.  And he did all of it with just eighty-nine pitches.  He was fantastic.  He held the entire game in his hands.  He planned it out perfectly.  He controlled each and every one of his pitches; he threw all of them for strikes at least half the time and often as the first pitch of an at-bat.  The first pitch of nineteen of his twenty-four total at-bats was a strike.  Specifically, his cutter and four-seam seemed unhittable, and he was able to use the latter for strikes on both sides of the plate.  He threw eighteen pitches in the seventh, allowing a walk and a double with two outs before he was removed, but he threw as few as nine the inning before, and he tossed four one-two-three innings.  His zone was littered with strikes.

Even better, Dice-K knows what’s up.  He wanted to at least finish the seventh, but knows and understands why he had to be pulled.  He knows he’s inconsistent, but he wants to become that guy we trust to finish the job.  And if you’re self-aware, you’re halfway there.

The inning after Dice-K gave up the homer, we got the run back and then some. Papi hit a sac fly that allowed Patterson, who was already on third with a triple, to score, and Beltre smashed one deep over the left-center field fence.  This was basically revenge for the homer Dice-K gave up.  It was a high changeup, an offspeed that missed its mark.  Those just don’t stay in the park when you ave a guy with power on the receiving end.  He finished three for four.  His hamstring is clearly still bothering him, but as Tito said, if he hits home runs, it doesn’t matter, because all you do after that swing is take a nice leisurely stroll around the bases.

The winning combination of Bard and Paps held the fort and collected a hold and a save, respectively.  Bard came in with two runners in scoring position and induced a popout to third and now has an ERA under two.  His last twelve appearances are roughly the equivalent of one and a third whole games during which he shut out opponents, struck out twelve, walked two, and gave up five hits.  That’s better than most teams’ starters.  Paps was his usual lights-out self.  His past seven appearances are roughly the equivalent of a deep quality shutout start.

Honestly, if you told me Dice-K would only need two runs to get a win, I would have believed you, but I would’ve liked to see it for myself just to know exactly how he did it, which pitches he used, and how efficient and commanding he really was.  And trust me, he was.  He had that game all sewn up.  The Yankees didn’t play yesterday and the Rays also won, so there’s no noticeable movement in the standings.  Yet.  Give it time.  Tonight Wakefield takes on Braden, which should be an interesting matchup.

And finally, a word on George Steinbrenner.  George Steinbrenner passed away before the All-Star Game.  Condolences to his loved ones, of course.  But I won’t lie.  I never liked him or his team, and I never will.  The reality is that passing away just makes you human, not a saint.  The end of your life doesn’t change your legacy.  No doubt the Jimmy Fund appreciates his gracious donation via our annual Radio Telethon.  However, George Steinbrenner’s legacy is one of ruthlessness, destruction of loyalty in the game, and an obsession with only winning.  So, as I said, condolences to his loved ones.  As always, the Big Show must go on.

AP Photo

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Happy Truck Day, everybody! I’m telling you, nothing warms the soul like an eighteen-wheeler pulling out of Fenway Park to head south in the dead of winter.  It’s been an especially long winter this year, so I’m ready to see some ball.  I can’t even begin to describe how psyched I am.  I don’t care how cold it is outside; Spring Training is almost here! Pitchers and catchers on Thursday! Life is good.  Life, indeed, is good.

Non-roster invitees are right-handers Randor Bierd, Fernando Cabrera, Casey Kelly, Adam Mills, Edwin Moreno, Joe Nelson, Jorge Sosa, and Kyle Weiland; southpaws Kris Johnson and Brian Shouse; catchers Luis Exposito and Gustavo Molina; infielders Lars Anderson, Yamaico Navarro, Angel Sanchez, and Gil Velazquez; and outfielders Zach Daeges, Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Darnell McDonald.  Keep your eye on Casey Kelly and Jose Iglesias.  They’re beasts.  And I hope Lars Anderson doesn’t disappoint; he’s supposed to be the first homegrown power hitter we’ve had in a long time, and I’m psyched to see him put up some big numbers this year.

Youk, Pap, Lester, and Delcarmen are already down there, which is a good sign.  Pap and Delcarmen could really use the extra training after the badness they exhibited last season.  Youk has stated his intention to spend the entirety of his career in Boston and retire as a member of the Red Sox.  He stays in Boston during the offseason and loves New England.  Way to be, dude.  Way to be.  And Lester will probably be our Number One starter.  Last season he proved to be way more consistent than Beckett, and don’t look now, but he’s basically turned into one of the best southpaws in all of baseball.

By the way, it’s pretty much official that we’re not resigning Rocco Baldelli.  Guess who’s going to hit for Drew against southpaws: Bill Hall.  This should be mighty interesting.

Congratulations to Clay Buchholz, who’s been named the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Jimmy Fund’s Rally Against Cancer Spokesplayer! Nomar made his debut as an analyst on Baseball Tonight and was absolutely horrible.  He said nothing of consequence and made no sense half the time.  I guess that means he won’t be retiring as soon as we thought.

Spring Training.  Baseball season.  Almost here.  What more can I say? Soon it’ll be Opening Day (and by that I mean Opening Night; thanks again, ESPN), and we’ll get this show on the road!

In other news, the Saints won their first Super Bowl in franchise history last weekend.  The final score was 31-17, and let’s not to forget to mention Peyton Manning’s single interception, nabbed by Tracy Porter for a seventy-four-yard touchdown.  Tracy Porter now has the two most important interceptions in franchise history.  Also, let’s not forget to mention the Peyton face.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Boston College won the Beanpot.  I know; I was surprised, too, because I was expecting the U after the B, not the C after the B.  The final score was 4-3; it was a close game, and a good one, too.  Oh yeah, and the Bruins are actually on a winning streak.  You read right.  We’ve won our last four games; a 3-0 shutout against the Habs last weekend, a 3-2 shootout victory against the Sabres, a 5-4 defeat of the Lightning, and a 3-2 shootout win against the Panthers.  With the exception of the Habs win, which by the way was exceptionally gratifying, those were some seriously close calls, but we are in absolutely no position to be picky.  A win is a win, and I’ll most definitely take it.

Boston.com/Steve Silva

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Not much wheeling and dealing went on for us this past week.  I mean the rumor mill never stops, but Theo’s been biding his time like he always does.  And in the end it all works out.  We’ve hired Tim Bogar as our new first base coach, we’ve extended arbitration to Tek, and we’re about to sign Japanese righty Junichi Tazawa.  The Tigers may be interested in Alex Cora as a low-budget option for shortstop, the Angels are pursuing CC Sabathia instead of Mark Teixeira, and Clay Buchholz seems to have rebounded nicely in the Arizona Fall League.  Let’s hope he’ll have his act together for ’09, because his ’08 was just abysmal.  I don’t even want to talk about it.  There was a stretch where he was like a younger version of Mike Timlin: as soon as he steps on the mound, it’s a loss.  So I hope he’s back to his ’07 form, preferably something reminiscent of, oh, I don’t know, say a certain game against the Baltimore Orioles in September?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to thank our team for giving back.  The Red Sox do more in the community than any other team I’ve seen.  I’ve said this before, and here are some stats to prove it.  We raised $4,800,000 at the 2008 Jimmy Fund telethon.  Since its creation in 2002, the Red Sox Foundation has raised $29 million.  The Red Sox Foundation’s current project is a rehabilitative assistance program for war veterans at the Brockton Veterans Administration Medical Center, and players participate routinely in this program.  During the offseason, our activities extend not just to communities in Boston but also to communities in New England, across the country, and across the world.  For example, David Ortiz will host his golf classic in the Dominican Republic.  So far this year, Red Sox players, managers, and coaches have participated in 541 community activities, setting a new club record.  Let’s keep in mind here that participation in these activities is done after hours, so we’re talking thousands of off-the-clock hours of volunteer work.  That’s a lot of hours.  And 369 of those 541 activities took place during the regular and playoff seasons.  As far as other individual players go, Youk hosted an entertainment event at for his Hits for Kids Charity.  Josh Beckett and Manny Delcarmen each held bowling tournaments.  Mikey Lowell hosted a dance competition in which almost all of the players participated.  Tim Wakefield works year-round with many different charities and devotes many of his efforts to children with illnesses.  So as you can see, the reasons to be a part of Red Sox Nation just keep coming.  Hearing something like this just makes you really proud.

In other news, the Pats defeated the Dolphins, 48-28, but were then crushed by the Steelers, 33-10.  But if there’s one team in Boston that needs talking about, it’s the Bruins.  Unquestionably the Bruins.  Their last two games were wins: a 7-2 burial of the Islanders followed the next day by a 4-1 burial of the Red Wings.  And that last one is pretty important, because we all thought the Red Wings were stacked when they landed Marian Hossa in the off-season.  Turns out they’re beatable; who knew? And not only that, we’re 8-1-1 in our last ten games, and our 36 points tops the Eastern Conference and is second in the NHL, only five behind San Jose’s 41.  We’re playing outstanding hockey so far this season.  Outstanding.  Sometimes I can’t even believe what I’m seeing.  The veterans are as sharp as ever, and the young guys are really stepping it up.  After years of frustration we’ve got a team that can potentially win the Stanley Cup.  Imagine that; the Stanley Cup comes back to Boston.  It’s got a nice ring to it.

Flickr Photo

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