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Posts Tagged ‘Josh Beckett’

Not much has happened since our slog of a season ended, but what did happen should be surprising to anybody.

Our first order of business was dismissing Bobby Valentine, which we did last Thursday.  This is something that was entirely predictable, appropriate, and correct.  We all know that he shouldn’t even have been hired in the first place.  It was awful.  He just wasn’t a good fit for our clubhouse, and the whole situation with him at the helm was completely dysfunctional.  There’s no need to go into specifics, but suffice it to say that there is a certain degree of professionalism that I think players and fans alike expect from a manager and that Bobby Valentine’s conception of that degree differed from ours.  Anyway, look for John Farrell and Tim Bogar to be on the brass’s radar.  Other possibilities include Torey Lovullo, former Pawtucket manager and current Jays first base coach; Joe McEwing, Other Sox bench coach; Tim Wallach, Dodgers third base coach; Brad Ausmus; and last but not least, our very own Jason Varitek.  Onward and forward!

Our blockbuster deal with the Dodgers is finally done.  For Nick Punto, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, we took on Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands in addition to previously acquired James Loney, Ivan De Jesus, and Allen Webster.

Pedroia was nominated for the Hank Aaron Award.

In other news, the Pats beat the Broncos, 31-21, last week.

Boston Globe Staff/Aram Boghosian

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Well, it’s been to the headlines and back by now, and anyone familiar with how baseball works would know that there was no chance in the world that this was going to stay quiet until the formalities were taken care of.  So let’s talk about it.

We just sent most of our core to the Dodgers, in keeping with their doubling as the Los Angeles Blue Sox.  And when I say that it was most of our core, I mean that literally.  Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto.  They all involved waivers.  All but one of those were starters for us, and Punto did see more than his fair share of playing time as a utility man off the bench.  In return, we will receive four prospects (right-hander Allen Webster, infielder Ryan De Jesus, and two more to be named), a first baseman (Jason Loney), and financial flexibility.  There is no question about the fact that this is one of the largest waiver deals ever and certainly the largest in recent baseball history.

Obviously this is a huge deal, both literally and figuratively.  Beckett has obviously struggled this year, as have Crawford and Gonzalez and Punto, although much less than Beckett.  So if Ben wanted to make some sort of wave by getting rid of somebody big, he could have just gotten rid of Beckett and have been done with it.  That would have been the obvious action, if there were one at all.  But to ship out all four of these guys, especially Gonzalez? Was that really necessary? Regardless of who these prospects might be and what this flexibility might look like, is this really the best thing for our future? Or is it a short-term quick fix to show the Nation that the brass is at least doing something and that this really was a bridge year? Furthermore, does this mean that the brass has sided with Bobby V. rather than the players regarding the issue of his managerial style, or does this have nothing to do with that at all because it’s based strictly on performance, or lack thereof? But if it does have to do with that, how certain are the brass that the solution indeed involved the players rather than the manager and coaches?

Punto finishes his lone season with us, which wasn’t even a whole season, with a batting average of .200, an on-base percentage of .301, and a slugging percentage of .272.  He has had 125 at-bats in sixty-five games; he has twenty-five hits to his credit as well as ten RBIs and fourteen runs.  He has walked nineteen times and stolen five bases.  He has played every infield position this year and has made only two errors.

Crawford departs after having played almost two season here.  Last season was better in terms of playing time, while this season was better in terms of performance.  He finishes this season with us with a batting average of .282, an on-base percentage of .306, and a slugging percentage of .479.  He has had 117 at-bats in thirty-one games; he has thirty-three hits to his credit as well as nineteen RBIs and twenty-three runs.  He has walked three times and stolen five bases.  He has made only one error in the field.

Gonzalez also departs after having played almost two seasons here, but it feels like so much more because he has so easily become a fixture on this team.  He historically has been known for his great leadership and team presence, both in the clubhouse and on the field.  He always seemed to be really enthusiastic about playing here, and he usually let his production do the talking.  And it talked a lot.  His average last year was a cool .338, and it was hard to imagine him not getting up there and whacking some ball for extra bases every time.  He certainly did struggle at the beginning of the season but has since started to bounce back quite nicely.  His average is now at .300, and he has an on-base percentage of .343 and slugging percentage of .469.  He’s had 484 at-bats in 123 games; he has 145 hits to his credit as well as eighty-six RBIs and sixty-three runs.  He has walked thirty-one times and stolen no bases, but that’s alright because his job, unlike Crawford’s, is not even partially to steal bases.  His job is to hit for extra bases, and that he can do.  He hasn’t hit any triples, but he’s hit thirty-seven doubles and fifteen home runs.  And in addition to first base he has also played right field this year because he’s a team player, and when the team needed him, he didn’t ask questions; he just slid right in there, and he did an impressive job at that.  He made four errors this year, two in right and two at first.

Beckett, of course, is the most storied of the four.  He’s certainly been here the longest, so he’s given us more memories, some good and some bad but all unique.  He came here in 2006 and had a subpar season.  In 2007 he went twenty and seven, and everyone but those in the position to award the Cy Young knew that he was the one who deserved it, regardless of the fact that he was a huge reason why we won the World Series that year.  His start in Game One was phenomenal.  It was a real gem.  He retired nine batters, including his first four, and gave up only one run.  2008 was another mediocre year, but 2009 saw him largely back to his old self, finishing the season with a record of seventeen and six.  2010 was an abysmal year, and of course last year was decent; his record was thirteen and seven, so he won almost twice as many games as he lost.  And then we have this year.  This year he’s five and eleven with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.  He’s pitched 127.1 innings and given up seventy-four earned runs on 131 hits, sixteen of which were home runs; incidentally, he’s only allowed one unearned run.  He has given up thirty-eight walks as well.  So, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not like every single season he’s been here except for this one has been an unabashed success.  Far from it.  But when he’s been successful, he’s been really, really, really successful.  And of course there’s his personality.  Rumor had it that he was partly if not completely responsible for the deterioration of our clubhouse and has been widely associated with the instigation of beer-drinking and whatnot within it.  As I said at the time when all of this was news, none of us were actually there, and we can’t know what really went on.  All we know is that, despite his mile-wide competitive streak and work ethic, Beckett has not been performing well at all on the mound.

On the eve of the departures of these players, we salute their commitment to this team and the accomplishments that they achieved during their stay here.  In the spirit of the tribute, therefore, Punto, Crawford, and of course Gonzalez as well as Beckett, we’ll miss you and we salute you.  Now, as far as the implications of the deal and what it all means, there are things I said and there are things I didn’t necessarily overtly say.  But in reality I said a lot.  Ultimately, our task now is to see what we end up doing during our offseason.

We lost to the Royals in extras last night, but it really wasn’t Cook’s fault.  Cook, for his part, did an extremely admirable job, especially when you consider the fact that he made this start on three days’ rest.  He gave up three runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out none over six innings.  He gave up all three runs in the first thanks to a double that brought in two and then a single that brought in one.  He then cruised for the remainder of his outing.  Meanwhile, our hitters put us on top.  The Royals may have scored three runs, but we answered with four in the second.  Gomez hit a solo shot, the first homer of his Major League career, and then Salty and Lavarnway hit back-to-back singles to set the table for Aviles, who went yard on the first pitch he saw, sending the ball out toward the Monster.  And the third inning only served to solidify the fact that we were in control.  Pedroia doubled, Ellsbury walked, and Ross singled to load the bases; thanks to a single by Gomez as well as a Royals error, we scored another two runs plus a third thanks to a sac fly by Salty.  We just kept piling it on in the fourth; Ciriaco walked, and Ellsbury singled two outs later.  Ross and Gomez added their consecutive singles to Ellsbury’s to go back-to-back-to-back and plate two more runs.

So by the time Cook’s appearance came to an end, we were leading, 9-3.  And I have to say, I was feeling pretty comfortable with how I expected this game to turn out.  I mean, we just scored nine runs, and we did it with everything: long ball, small ball; you name it, we did it.  And we had a six-run lead to boot.  But I should have expected that no lead would possibly have been safe.

Because then the seventh inning happened, and the seventh inning was when our entire relief corps ruined it completely, imploded totally, and embodied the epitome of an epic fail.  First, it was Miller, who allowed a groundout, a single, a strikeout, two consecutive walks, and an RBI single that scored two.  Then Melancon came on and gave up an RBI double and an RBI single.  Then Breslow came on and gave up a triple that scored two and then managed to finish the inning with an intentional walk followed by a groundout.

Breslow pitched the eighth, Bailey pitched the ninth, Padilla pitched the tenth, and Tazawa pitched the eleventh and most of the twelfth.  He gave up a walk, a double, and finally the single that scored the winning run.  Mortensen replaced him after that and ended the inning.  And we threatened a bit in the eighth, when Ellsbury got himself to third with two out, and in the tenth, when Ciriaco was thrown out at home.  But we didn’t score since the fourth, so we allowed our lead to be completely squandered and lost, 10-9, even though we outhit them, 20-14.

And as an added reflection of the badness of our entire situation, Aceves reportedly slammed the door on his way into Bobby V.’s office after Friday’s game and has been suspended for three games for conduct detrimental to the team.

AP Photo

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Let me start off by saying something truly painful, something that I had been hoping not to have to say.  I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I convey my condolences to the Pesky family.  Johnny Pesky passed away on Monday after a long and fruitful life filled with family, friends, and the fraternity of this team, whose uniform he was able to wear for sixty-one years.  He saw this team at its best and its worst.  He was a Teammate as well as a recipient of a 2004 World Series ring.  He played in Boston in an era of the game that saw its greatest players of all time; he was part of a team that came just short of glory in 1946, an experience that would become all too well known in this city until the dawn of a new millennium.  To his credit, he has a career batting average of .307, an on-base percentage of .394, a slugging percentage of .386, 594 double plays, a fielding percentage of .966, an All-Star distinction, a truly diverse set of roles within the organization, a place in our club’s Hall of Fame, a proud record of military service to this country, a retired number, a foul pole at America’s most beloved ballpark, a reputation for being one of the classiest men to play the game, more than six decades of service to this organization, and the love, devotion, and loyalty of a Nation.  Because he had nothing but love, devotion, and loyalty for this team and for us.  Nobody loved this organization more than he did.  He lived and breathed it for his whole life.  As a Nation, we participated in a moment of silence yesterday, and together we grieve for this loss but know that his spirit will live on; in a way, the fact that the season continues, game after game, is a tribute to that and to him and his dedication to baseball.  He touched the lives of many with his playing ability and his outstanding character.  Words can not express what he has meant to this organization, to this team, and to us as fans.  We miss you, Johnny Pesky.  And we salute you.

We lost again yesterday.  It was a complete and total mess.  The Orioles basically walked all over us.  Beckett allowed six runs on six hits while walking two and striking out two over five and one-third innings.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the third, another one to lead off the fifth, and then a veritable mess of runs before and after he was pulled in the sixth.  He allowed a single, somehow got the inning’s first out, issued a walk, allowed both runners to advance on a wild pitch, and then gave up two RBI singles.  Melancon came on in relief after that and gave up a three-run home run, which allowed his two inherited runners to score.  He ended up pitching the rest of the game without incident, but that home run was really the beginning of the end for us last night.  Our prospects to win this game were promising for a grand total of five and a half innings.  We scored our one and only run in the fourth: Ross doubled to lead it off, moved to second on a groundout by Lavarnway, and scored on a single by Crawford.  That was it.  At the time, it tied the game at one.  Even when Beckett gave up his second solo shot of the night, we were still only down by one.  It was the one bad inning that reared its ugly head and deprived us of the win.  I would say our greatest opportunities to make more of a dent came in the third, fifth, and sixth.  In the third, we had two on with two out and Gonzalez flied out to end the inning.  Pedroia tripled with two out in the fifth, and it was again Gonzalez who ended the inning, this time with a groundout.  We had two on with two out again in the sixth, and it amounted to nothing.  We had the bases loaded thanks to a single, a double, and a walk in the seventh with only one out, and it amounted to nothing.  So the final score was 7-1, even though we out-hit them, 11-7.

Boston Globe Staff

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I think that, by the time this season comes to an end for us, we will have experienced almost every single way a ballclub could possibly lose.  Including the most painful ones.  Like when you’re down by a substantial amount of runs and then come back to tie it and then drop it anyway.

What a ride.  It was spectacular for just long enough to get our hopes all the way up.  Of course, that means it hurts that much more when you fall down.  And we fell down yesterday.

It started with Beckett.  If Beckett hadn’t pitched horribly, we wouldn’t have had to come back in the first place.  He gave up eight runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out two.  He lasted only five innings and threw eighty-six pitches.  It was horrible.  His pitches were off, he got behind hitters, and he couldn’t close the deal.  He just kept giving up hit after run after hit after run.

Beckett’s first at-bat should have been an indication of what was to come; he threw nine pitches and ended up giving in for a walk.  And then he gave up a single, and then he gave up a triple and a sac fly which brought in three runs.  Beckett closed out the Rangers in the second, third, and fourth; he actually went one-two-three in the second and fourth.  But he fell apart some more in the fifth, during which he gave up two home runs.  The first was a solo shot to open the frame.  The second was a two-run home run after allowing a single.  And as his last act of the game, Beckett gave up another two-run home run in the sixth, after giving up another single.

And that was when Mortensen replaced him.  And he gave up a solo shot of his own in the seventh before going one-two-three in the seventh and giving up a walk and a single in the eighth.

And this is the part where I talk about the offense.  We were down by three heading into the bottom of the first; we got two of those runs back when Pedroia singled and scored on a double by Gonzalez, who scored on a single by Ross.  We pulled even at three in the third when Ross powered the fourth pitch of his at-bat, a cutter over to the Monster for a solo shot with two out.  Thanks to Beckett’s home runs, the Rangers pulled ahead by three, a deficit that we reduced to one in the bottom of the fifth, when Crawford tripled and scored on a double by Gonzalez, who later scored on a passed ball.  The Rangers extended their lead to three again after Beckett’s third and final home run and to four on Mortensen’s home run.

And then it happened.  We made a comeback in the seventh, and we made it look easy.  We made it look like it should have been us with the lead all along.  We made it look like all we do is hit and run on a regular basis.  More importantly, we made it look like we might actually win this game.

Pedroia singled and scored on a double by Gonzalez.  Then Ross walked.  And then it was Middlebrooks’s turn to bat.  And he gave us a repeat performance.  The power, the perfect timing, the intensity with which we needed those runs were all present.  Middlebrooks saw two curveballs before getting the fastball with a speed increase of more than twenty miles per hour.  And he just unleashed.

And that’s how we tied the game at nine and how we really believed that it was ours to win.  Actually, it was ours to win.  We just didn’t win it.  Instead, Mortensen was relieved by Aceves, who did something as innocent as get a flyout.  Normally this kind of thing ends innings or is of little consequence.  But this mistake was so egregious that it resulted in a loss.

The final score was 10-9, and I am just so tired of this situation.  How often has this happened to us? Way too often.  Everyone knows the whole deal by heart: promising pitcher doesn’t live up to expectations, offense does its best to compensate, relief corps squanders offense’s effort.  The fact that we are so well acquainted with this whole story is absolutely pathetic.

The Boston Globe

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Oh, wow.  I don’t even know what to say about this.  This is a tough situation.  It really is.

As we all know, Beckett has been painfully mediocre this year.  And when I see painfully, I mean painfully.  To the point where even labeling him as mediocre is being generous.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can just do without him.  Technically when we headed into Spring Training, we were short on starters as it was.  And now he had to leave last night’s contest after pitching two and two-thirds innings with a back spasm.  That is bad news.  Back problems didn’t leave him alone in 2010, and they better not be back in 2012.  Not now.  Especially not now.

It was noticeable, too.  He mowed through the Tigers in the first and second, and I really wanted the opportunity to settle in and watch some vintage Beckett.  He secured the first two outs in the third, and then things turned bad on a dime.  He gave up a single, hit a batter, and loaded the bases with a walk.  And then he walked in Detroit’s first run.  That was when he called the trainers, and then he left.  It’s hard to say at this point how serious it is, I guess.  It all depends on whether the problem persists despite treatment and rest, which themselves take time.  Either way, like I said, we can’t very easily do without him at this point, especially not if he was just about to return to his usual self.

Mortensen relieved him and finished the third.  He gave up two walks in the fourth but got through it, and he pitched through the fifth and part of the sixth.

We had the bases loaded with two out in the first but didn’t do anything with it.  We barely threatened in the second and went down in order in the third.  We finally scored runs in the fourth, and we scored a handful.  We started the rally with two straight singles by Ross and Salty.  Then Middlebrooks struck out.  Shoppach walked to load the bases, and then we made up for for throwing away the same opportunity in the first.  Ciriaco singled in our first run.  Ellsbury walked in our second.  Crawford singled in our third.  And we scored our fourth thanks to a little help from a fielding error.

The game ended early, which was a good thing, too, because the Tigers left the bases loaded in the rain; Morales had come in to pitch.  The final score was 4-1.

Ben kept it quiet at the deadline; we traded Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik to the D-Backs for southpaw Craig Breslow.

 

Getty Images

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That, my friends, was incredible.

In keeping with the recent close-game tradition, we were really biting our nails in this one.  It was close.  It was really close.  It was almost really close in the worst way.  Fortunately, we handled ourselves well.

We scored two runs in the second; Gonzalez singled, Ross struck out, Salty walked, Middlebrooks struck out, and Sweeney doubled in two.  But we really have to thank the pitchers for carrying us, because pitching, not hitting, is how you get through games in which you score only two runs in the second inning.

Doubront gave up nothing through six.  The Yanks finally got to him in the seventh when he made a mistake and gave up a solo shot to lead off the inning.  One single and one strikeout later, he was relieved by Albers.  Albers gave up a single and was relieved by Miller.  Miller pitched the rest of the seventh and then secured the first two outs of the eighth before allowing a double.  Then he was relieved by Aceves, who blew his save completely by giving up an RBI single that tied the game.

It was beyond infuriating.  Here we’d managed to take a one-run lead to the ninth, and the pitcher who blows the lead is the closer.  It’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that.  Actually, it’s the closer’s exact job description to specifically not blow leads like that, ever.  And there he was, allowing RBI singles like somebody told him to do it.

Anyway, he got through the ninth and ended up pitching the tenth.  The offense fortunately bailed him and the entire team out.  In the top of the tenth, Salty walked, and Bobby V. and Beckett were both ejected by two different umpires for maintaining that Middlebrooks got hit.  The umpires thought he was faking it, but Middlebrooks was hit in the wrist, and you could clearly see afterwards that his wrist was bruised.  I mean, he was trying to bunt; it’s natural for his wrist to be in the line of fire.  If it wasn’t hit by the baseball, what was it hit with? I’d really like to know.  The irony is that home plate umpire Brian O’Nora went down with Middlebrooks on that pitch because he was hit by it as well.  So he should have known what it felt like.  To claim that all you have to do is listen for the sound of impact of the pitch on the batter is nothing short of absurd.

Anyway, Middlebrooks ended up singling after that and was out on a force out by Sweeney.  Ciriaco was the big hero yet again, delivering a single in the clutch that scored one run.  Just enough to get the W.

The final score was 3-2.  All told, Doubront gave up one run on four hits over six and one-third innings while walking five and striking out eight.  Aceves received both a blown save and the win.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury each had two hits, and Salty was the only member of the lineup who went hitless, although he did walk twice.

If you have to beat the Yanks, one of the best scenarios in which to do it is a late-inning situation on their soil.  That really gives them a taste of their own medicine.  It was beyond awesome.  It was awesome, awesome, awesome.

AP Photo

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One thing that can be stated is that Beckett pitched his heart out last night, except for one pitch in particular.  It wasn’t easy; you could tell that he was laboring.  The fact that it shouldn’t have been such a labor, Arlington heat notwithstanding, is an entirely different story. What matters is that he gritted his teeth and got the job done, except for one pitch in particular.  At least we know that the competitive spirit of Josh Beckett is alive and well, even if his command and all of his pitches aren’t.  Particularly one pitch in particular.

He kept the threats to a minimum through two and pitched around a jam in the third.  He had a bad inning in the fourth; he gave up a double, a groundout, an RBI double, a single, a sac fly that scored another run, and an RBI single for three runs.  Obviously it could have been worse.  He settled down again after that but gave up another run in the seventh; he induced a groundout for the first out of the inning but then hit a batter who scored two at-bats later on a wild pitch.  That one hurt the most.  It was the winning run that ultimately sealed our fate, and it was scored on a wild pitch.  That’s like having your starting pitcher walk in a run.  It’s embarrassing, and it hurts.  A lot.

All in all, he pitched a full seven innings, throwing 114 pitches.  He gave up four runs on nine hits while walking two and striking out three.  He was mediocre at best, but mediocre is a lot better than totally horrendous.

And the hitters did their part, kind of.  Actually, not really.  I mean, it’s all relative if you think about it.  We scored three runs; there have been times when we’ve won games after scoring only three runs and obviously times when we’ve lost games after scoring only three runs.  Last night just happened to be one of the latter.  We for the most part kept neck-and-neck, but ultimately someone has to come out on top, and it wasn’t us.

Ellsbury walked to start the game and scored on a single by Pedroia.  Middlebrooks hit a huge solo shot with two out in the fourth out to left field.  It was deeply hit.  I’m telling you, that guy has some serious power, and it’s all the better knowing that he’s home grown.  His future certainly is bright, but in the meantime it’s nice to see him continue that power and keep helping the team win.

Wanting to get in on the home run action, Pedroia walloped a solo shot with one out in the sixth.   Not only was it very refreshing and inspiring to see him belt one during a slump that’s basically lasted the entire year, and not only was it as awesome as always to watch him pour every last inch of himself into this enormous swing to power that ball all the way out to left field, but it also tied at the game at the time.

And then Beckett allowed his fourth and final run.  And then Albers relieved him for the eighth and promptly gave up a solo shot to double the deficit to two.  It could have been the case that we were tied at four at the time, in which case it would have only been a one-run lead, had Pedroia’s enormous fly ball not been caught on the warning track, which was obviously just such a huge disappointment like none other.  And then we went down in order in the ninth.

The final score was 5-3.  Ciriaco and Middlebrooks both went two for four.  Those two home runs were our only extra-base hits, and we had five hits total, while the Rangers racked up twice as many.  What can I say? We lost again.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.

AP Photo

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