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Posts Tagged ‘Miami Dolphins’

So we went from a week of huge news to a week of basically no news.  Papi wants a one-year contract extension, and Ben is maintaining a firm but low-key presence at the Winter Meetings.  And that’s pretty much it.

In other news, the B’s beat the Flames, 2-1, and Oilers, 4-2, but the Canucks gave us a beating yesterday, 6-2.  And the Pats dropped a close nailbiter to the Dolphins, 24-20.  I’d really like to have a landslide win.  We haven’t had one of those in a while.

Getty Images

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Everyone knows that revenge is a dish best served cold.  Well, it’s not as cold in St. Louis as it is in Boston, but winning by the same score by which we lost our first loss of the series while on the road will do just fine.  Now the series is even, but we’ve got to keep up the good work.  There can be no mistakes from now on.  Granted, there could be no mistakes from the first game on, but at least we have time to make up for it.

Now that those cautionary remarks are out of the way, we can get down to the business of feeling good about our win! Buchholz pitched an absolute gem.  It was a short gem but a gem nonetheless.  He pitched four innings and gave up one run that was unearned on three hits while walking three and striking out two.  He went one-two-three in the first and pitched around two baserunners in the second.  With one out in the third, he gave up a single, which would turn into the unearned run thanks to Ellsbury, whose deflection and missed catch put the runner in scoring position.  He again pitched around two baserunners in the fourth, and that was it for Buchholz.

Meanwhile, our hitters had gone down one-two-three in the first four innings.  We finally scored in the fifth, when Papi led off with a double and scored on a sac fly by Drew.  But when Doubront came on for the fifth, during which he went one-two-three, we were still down by one.

That changed in the sixth, when we scored our second, third, and fourth runs, what turned out to be our last three runs of the game.  Ellsbury and Nava provided two quick outs, but then Pedroia singled, Papi walked, the Cards made a pitching change, and Gomes received five straight sinkers.  He took the first for a ball, the second for a strike, and the third for a ball.  He fouled off the fourth.  And he homered on the fifth.  He rocketed that ball beyond the fence in left center field.  It was one of those moments where you really feel like you really need a home run and then you just get one, like it’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world.  And, because you need it, it is, but that alone makes it so unlikely.  Anyway, it was awesome, and it won the game for us right there.

Doubront had a one-two-three sixth and got the first two outs of the seventh before giving up a double.  Breslow continues to struggle, entering the game and giving up an RBI single.  After he issued a walk, it was Tazawa’s  turn.  Tazawa ended the inning and turned the ball over to Lackey for the eighth.  Uehara pitched the ninth, obtaining the game’s last out with a pickoff.

So it was Doubront who picked up the win; Breslow, Tazawa, Lackey, and Uehara all held down the fort.  And we won, 4-2.  Which is awesome and spectacular and really great and extremely essential and important.  But I would much prefer not having to come from behind.

In other news, the Pats walked away with the win, defeating the Dolphins, 27-17.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Thankfully, Andrew Bailey is no longer our closer.  He is now some sort of setup man whose prominence in the bullpen has yet to be determined.  We completed a six-player trade with the Pirates in order to land Joel Hanrahan.  They’re getting Mark Melancon and three prospects (Stolmy Pimentel, Ivan De Jesus, and Jerry Sands), and in addition to Hanrahan we’re getting Brock Holt, an infielder.  Hanrahan is a righty whose ERA last season was 2.72; his WHIP was 1.27, and he recorded sixty-seven strikeouts and a total of thirty-six saves with four blown.  His lifetime strikeout rate per nine innings is about ten, and he’s been an All-Star more than once.  I am absolutely not happy about his walks, which is obviously a significant downside for a closer of all pitchers.  He’s also never pitched in Fenway ever, and he’s only been to Boston once.  So we’ve got a National League closer who walks and has never pitched in Boston.  Still, though, he’s obviously a significant improvement over the alternative.  Technically that doesn’t say much, but I have to believe that his stuff will shine through.

In other news, the Pats closed out the season with back-to-back wins over the Jaguars, 23-16, and Dolphins, twenty-eight-zip.  It’s playoff time! We’ve got a first-round bye, which should provide some extra rest.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Finally! Okay, now we’re in business.  I don’t want to necessarily say that the news is big news; I think a year or two ago it would have been really big news, but players age year to year, and last year’s phenom is this year’s solid, all-around acquisition who’s good but doesn’t necessarily have that wow factor anymore.  But given our needs and our situation, I’d say Ben’s moves during and after the Winter Meetings were good and much-needed ones.  He’s putting together a stable team while maintaining a healthy amount of financial flexibility, and John Farrell is happy with the developments.  All in all, I’d say we’re definitely going in a great direction.

Anyway, let’s get down to it.  We’ve signed Mike Napoli to a three-year contract worth thirty-nine million dollars.  Don’t let last season’s aggregate stats fool you.  He batted .227 with twenty-four home runs and fifty-six RBIs with an on-base percentage of .343, but look at his numbers in his new home: .307 batting average, nine home runs, twenty RBIs, and a 1.14 OBP.  Admittedly, the sample size of seventy-five at-bats is small, but numbers aside, he’s known for pulling the ball, and his swing will thrive in Fenway.  As for defense, he’s a catcher by trade, but don’t expect to see him behind the plate.  He’ll probably end up at first.

Our next name is Shane Victorino, the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  It’s another three-year, thirty-nine-million-dollar deal.  Last year, he batted .255 with eleven homers, fifty-five RBIs, and a .321 OBP.  Don’t forget that he bats switch, though, and while he batted .229 as a leftie, he batted .320 as a rightie.  But he had vastly more at-bats from the left than the right, so again, the sample size must be considered.  Still, versatility has never been frowned upon in our organization.  As for defense, like Napoli, Victorino will not field in familiar territory.  All trade rumors concerning Ellsbury are patently false, and Victorino will not be playing center.  He’ll be playing right for sure.  And it’ll be a welcome relief.  Fenway’s right field can break any veteran, but Shane has the stuff to handle it.  He has three Gold Gloves and a center fielder’s speed and arm, and that combination in right, once he learns the fatal angles out there, will be formidable.  It’ll be nice breathing easy with a steady patrol out there.

It’s worth noting that Ben and John met in person with Josh Hamilton, but don’t get too excited.  We already have Ellsbury, and Hamilton wants either Texas or a long-term deal, neither of which we will provide.

And we signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal worth $26.5 million.  Granted, he has spent almost all of his time in the National League aside from a few handfuls of games last season, which he started for Texas.  But his ERA was 3.38 last season, and his WHIP was 1.20; not too shabby.  Just as important, if not more important, to why we were interested in him in the first place is the fact that, before last season, his last for seasons totaled at least two hundred innings, and last season he clocked 173 innings which isn’t too far behind.  That means three things: durability, durability, durability.  On the other hand, durability doesn’t mean much unless you’re good, and his brief stint in the American League didn’t go well at all, so I’m concerned as to how he’ll make out in the AL East, which, as we all know, is the toughest division there is, basically.  So I’d say we can approach this one with cautious expectations.  But at least we got some sort of starting pitcher, which is a step in the right direction.  We also added Koji Uehara, who signed a one-year deal.  In thirty-six innings last year, he posted a 1.75 ERA and an 0.64 WHIP.  That means good late-inning work for us.

We finished the Zach Stewart trade by acquiring Kyle Kaminska from the Pirates and assigned him to the PawSox.  We also claimed Sandy Rosario from the A’s, and he has since been claimed by the Cubs.  Gary DiSarcina, formerly the Angels’ minor league field coordinator, is now the PawSox manager.

So we had gaps and voids, we identified them, and we set about filling them with solid, stable choices who will fit in both on the field and in the clubhouse.  We now have some powerful hitters and defenders in the lineup whose numbers admittedly were not great last year but who stand, given the right circumstances, to do great things, and we have some great additions to the clubhouse as well.  We also have a starter who’s spent hardly any time in the AL and whose time he did spend in the AL was nothing to write home about but who has considerable potential.  We still have a lot of work to do; we need more and better starting pitching, for one thing.  That’s a big one.  But slowly but surely we’re getting it done.  We don’t need to make the world’s biggest splash to put a team together that can go the distance.

In other news, the Pats beat the Dophins, 23-16, and the Texans, 42-14.

AP Photo

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The coaching staff has now officially been finalized.  Tim Bogar is the bench coach.  Jerry Royster will take his place as the third base coach.  Alex Ochoa is the first base coach.  Dave Magadan will remain the hitting coach, and Gary Tuck will remain the bullpen coach.  Our new pitching coach is Bob McClure.  The Royals let him go after finishing in fourth place in their division last season, and then we hired him as a minor league instructor and special assignment scout.  Obviously on the surface, this doesn’t exactly bode well.  However, it’s worth mentioning that his professional profile is similar to John Farrell’s; like Farrell, he’s been a player as well as a coach, and he has a knack for evaluating talent.  But by now I have learned how fruitless it is to delve analytically into anything that Bobby V. does before I actually see how it shapes up in action.  Regarding McClure, I’m not sure I know what to think at this point.

We now officially have a closer, and it turns out that it isn’t Mark Melancon.  Melancon will obviously be in the mix, but we traded first baseman Miles Head, right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, and, yes, even Josh Reddick to the A’s for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and, more importantly, Andrew Bailey.  Bailey has a career 2.07 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with seventy-five saves and only nine blown saves in his three seasons in the Majors.  He has been injured, which restricted him to less than fifty innings in his last two seasons.  But because we expect him to own the ninth only, I don’t see a problem.  The Bailey-Melancon one-two punch shows considerable promise.  Like Paps, Bailey tends to induce his fair share of fly balls, so Melancon serves as a nice complement to that; in his career, Melancon has induced double the amount of ground balls as fly balls, and only three pitchers last season had a better ratio.

So, to put it lightly, he’ll do.  Now let’s look at Sweeney.  His hitting stats obviously don’t match up well with Reddick’s, but he’s got a solid OBP and he can play all three outfield positions, which we know is incredibly useful.  However, I’m still not happy about that part of the trade because, while Sweeney has obvious upsides, he technically doesn’t even come close to Reddick.  I mean, Reddick has the makings of a Major League superstar.  Of course, we have to moderate that a little by accounting for the fact that he’s young yet and hasn’t seen much action relatively speaking, but still.  I see this trade as addressing our short-term needs rather than considering our long-term needs.  There is a time and place for doing so, but I’m not convinced that this was it.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s important to remember that this is Ben’s team now, and he deserves a chance to prove that he has as much foresight as anybody.

Ryan Kalish will miss the start of the season; he just had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.  In all likelihood, so will Jenks, who had another surgery.

The Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal; oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Cubs hired Bill Buckner as a minor league hitting coach.  I hope Theo has fun with that.  Incidentally, in case you didn’t notice, that was sarcastic.

In other news, the Pats have been on an absolute tear.  We beat the Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills.  We’ll see if we can convert that into anything of note when it counts.  The B’s have been similarly dominating; we beat the Habs, Panthers (eight-zip shutout), and Coyotes; we dropped our game against the Stars.  We womped the Devils and Flames (seriously, a nine-zip shutout) and lost to Vancouver in a very eventful matchup in which Vancouver was obviously trying to make a statement.  I’d say it was grasping; they may have beaten us by a goal, but the last time I checked, we are still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  The benches cleared, though.  Five Canucks charged Shawn Thornton for defending a hit teammate, and then all the gloves dropped.  Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault says we’re too physical, probably because the Canucks can’t match us.  By the way, Milan Lucic did indeed take the ice legally on a line change.

AP Photo

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Finally! By which I mean finally! I repeat: finally!

Finally!

Say hello to the newest member of the two hundred club: Tim Wakefield, ladies and gentlemen! He finally did it! And it was epic!

He is now seven and six on the season.  But really, that’s not even the point.  Only 108 pitches have reached two hundred wins.  Only eighty-nine have done so since 1900.  Only sixty-nine have done it since 1920.

I can’t think of anyone who deserved such a significant milestone more than he did.  He is the quintessential team player.  He loves it here and has made it clear that he doesn’t want to play anywhere else and that he’ll do whatever it takes to help the team in any way he can.  And if that means accepting the fact that he’s in the bullpen now, that’s what he does.  If that means making a spot start for an injured pitcher, that’s what he does.  If that means finally reaching two hundred wins, then that’s also finally what he does.

He finally did it.  And it was epic.

He gave up five runs on six hits.  All five runs were the result of two home runs, a three-runner and a two-runner.  He walked two and struck out six.  He threw ninety-six pitches, sixty-two of which were strikes.  So his knuckleball was obviously good but not great.  All in all, a pretty typical night for Wake.  Nothing two out of the ordinary.  Aceves pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and Junichi Tazawa pitched the ninth and gave up one run.

All of that sounds, without the rest of the story, like the game could have ended very badly indeed.  How many times have we seen Wake attempt to collect his two hundredth win only to be thwarted by a lack of offense or a lack of quality relief pitching? Way too many times, that’s for sure.  The difference this time was that neither of those reared their ugly heads.  We scored so many runs that we probably could have spread our total from last night alone over the last five games we lost, won those, and still had some to spare.  It was like we took out all of our pent-up frustration from the road trip and concentrated and unleashed it all at once.  We hadn’t scored that many runs in a single game since 2009.

In the first, the bases were loaded with two out for Reddick.  He reached on a throwing error, which brought in two.  Wake gave up the three-run home run after that, which required review but stood.

In the second, Scutaro singled and scored by a double by Ellsbury, who moved to third on a balk and scored on a sac fly by Pedroia.  The Jays scored their last two runs of the game after that.  At which point we stole the show completely.

In the fourth, Ellsbury and Pedroia smacked back-to-back jacks.  Both were hit into the Monster seats.  Both were hit on the third pitch of the at-bat after receiving a ball followed by a strike.  Ellsbury’s was on a cut fastball away; it was the second homer he’s hit into the Monster seats this year.  Pedroia’s was on a hanging slider.  Both of them masterful pieces of hitting.

Crawford led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Salty, who moved to second on a single by Ellsbury.  And everyone came home when Pedroia went yard again! He didn’t waste any time with this one.  It was on the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball, to the Monster seats again.

We added on another run in the seventh with a single-double combination.

And then, the eighth.  We sent eleven batters to the plate that inning.  And we scored seven runs.  Here we go.

Ellsbury opened the inning with a four-pitch walk, and Pedroia doubled him to third.  Gonzalez singled in Ellsbury, which moved Pedroia to third.  At that point, we introduced two pinch-hitters and the Jays made a pitching change.  A sac fly brought in another run.  Then a single, then the second out of the inning.  Then Crawford worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases.  Scutaro worked another five-pitch walk to bring in another run, at which point he came out in favor of a pinch-runner.  Salty cleared the bases with a double, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on a single by Ellsbury.

There were only two innings during which we did not score: the third and the fifth.  The fifth was the only inning during which we went down in order.  In total, we left five on base, went six for twelve with runners in scoring position, and scored a whopping eighteen runs on eighteen hits! Eighteen! Now that, my friends, is a slugfest.

The starting lineup’s weakest performer was Papi, who doesn’t even count because he left the game in the first due to back spasms.  After that it was Youk, who went 0 for 3, and Reddick, who went one for five.  Incidentally, Youk is planning to have his second sports hernia surgery, but during the offseason.  Until then, he’ll be playing through the pain of that and some bursitis he has in his left hip.  What a dirt dog.  Salty went two for five with two runs, four RBIs, and a double.  Crawford and Gonzalez and Crawford both went two for four; one of Crawford’s hits was a double and one seriously looked like it would have been, could have been, and should have been a home run.  Scutaro went two for three and secured his thousandth hit last night.  And last but most certainly not least, the top performers.  Ellsbury went four for five with a walk, four runs, three RBIs, a double, and a home run; he brought his hitting streak to seventeen games and his hit total to 189, a new single-season career high.  And if you thought that that was a top night, Pedroia’s numbers will blow you away.  Four runs on five hits with four runs, five RBIs, two doubles, and two home runs for his first multi-homer performance since June 24, 2010.  His five hits ties a career high, incidentally also achieved on June 24, 2010.  The two of them together reached base nine times last night, and for the first time in club history, we’ve got two active players at twenty-twenty!

In other news, it was discovered that Jenks has a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in an artery in the lungs.  He’s being treated and should recover well.

The final score was 18-6.  Not bad for Wake’s two hundredth win.  If I’m Wake, that’s the kind of score I’d like to win by.  A literally winning combination of good relief to carry him through and out-of-this-world offense to back him up, and he was smiling all the way to the clubhouse.  As it should be.  He got a very well-deserved standing ovation as well as a very well-deserved postgame champagne shower, and this is what he thought about the whole thing:

I’m very grateful; one, that it’s over with; two, that it was able to happen here at Fenway Park in front of our home crowd.  Going outside and seeing the signs and all the people and my teammates came out in support; that says a lot about everything that’s gone on in my career and tonight.  I’m kind of speechless when it comes to that, but I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to wear this uniform as long as I have and reach the milestone I thought I’d never reach.  Just very grateful.

That’s classic Wake right there.  You’ve done some amazing things for this city and this team, Wake.  For all of that, we salute you.  Congratulations!

In other news, the Patriots started their season off right by whipping the Dolphins soundly, 38-24.  In case someone somewhere thought otherwise, rest assured that Tom Brady is still the man.  Let’s do this.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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It’ll be one week tomorrow since our elimination from the playoffs, and it already feels like forever since baseball season.  That’s a bad sign.  If it feels like forever after a week, I don’t want to think about how it’s going to feel after a month, or two, or six.

The Twins failed us, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Let’s look back on our season, shall we? We finished second in the Majors in runs scored with 818, sixth in hits with 1,511, first in doubles with 358, second in homers with 211, first in total bases with 2,546, second in RBIs with 782, sixth in batting average with .268, third in on-base percentage with .339, and second in slugging percentage with .451.

When you look at it like that, our offense was awesome.  Before the season, everyone was worried about where the home runs were going to come from.  Well, they came.  They came in droves compared to the offensive ineptitude everyone was ready to heap onto us.   Beltre was a big part of that, and if you ask me he should be in the discussion for AL MVP.  Tito should be Manager of the Year.  Done.  If he doesn’t get Manager of the Year, something is fundamentally wrong.

Let’s do pitching.  We were tenth in the Majors in wins with eighty-nine, seventh in saves with forty-four, second in innings pitched with exactly 1,457, ninth in strikeouts with 1,207, and ninth in opponent’s batting average with .253.  Unfortunately, our ERA, runs, earned runs, and walks were off the charts.  If we got into the playoffs it would have been because of about half the offense and half the staff, namely Lester and Buchholz.  We basically spent the entire year playing with and relying on only half our team.  Half the staff was trying to carry all of it, and half the order was trying to carry all of it.  The bullpen was a mess.

And finally, fielding.  We were second in the Majors in putouts with 4,371.  The rest of our fielding stats were essentially awful.  Beltre was as bad in the field as he was good at the plate, and he wasn’t the only one.

All of that begs the tough question that encompasses every GM’s universe come the offseason: what do we do to improve? We’re in a very difficult position.  After a season finish like ours, the first impulse is to be convinced that what we need is some sort of incredibly massive overhaul.  But that’s not necessarily the case, and we should be wary of doing anything rash.  We know from that brief but glorious period right before the All-Star Game that Theo’s run prevention theory works.  We were well on our way to locking the division before the injuries hit.  So we can’t write off that approach so fast, especially since we obviously did end up having good offensive production.  Aside from our obvious needs, it’s hard to gauge what’s needed because we never actually got to see the 2010 team in full force for any indicative period of time.  So I actually don’t think that there are too many glaring holes that need patching up this winter.

One glaring hole we do have is the bullpen.  Paps was decidedly subpar, and so were most of our other relievers.  We need a middle reliever, and our specialist situation is not clear-cut at the moment.  We need to fix that.

We need to re-sign V-Mart.  That is absolutely non-negotiable.  He works very well with the staff, he has improved his arm, and he hits.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a catcher who hits.  And he hits from both sides of the plate.  And he destroys southpaws.  And he plays first base.  V-Mart will be worth every penny the brass offers.  The only potential problem there is years.  V-Mart wants a long contract, and we don’t like offering long contracts because they damage our flexibility.  But I still say he’s integral.

We need to retain Big Papi.  We’ve got an option on him, and as usual there’s no comment as to whether that’s going to be exercised.  All I know is that Papi was an absolute force this year.  When he gets going, it’s hard to stop him, and he’s still got it.  Not to mention what he does for the team off the field, which is also important.  So between his potent bat and his potent personality, he does great things for this team, and I think it would be a mistake not to bring him back.

Beltre is also a free agent.  This is a tricky one.  Nobody expected him to be as good as he was this year, so he’s going to have decisions to make this winter.  There is absolutely no way on this planet that he will exercise his option.  No way.  It’s not happening.  Beltre is going to want some serious coin, perhaps more than we’ll want to offer.  We’re going to have to be ready if that’s how it comes to pass.  Suppose Beltre signs with someone else.  Presumably, Youk will be healthy next year, so we’ll have his bat back to take the place of Beltre’s, and we wait for the other Adrian, Adrian Gonzalez, to become a free agent, we sign him, and we move Youk back to third.  Obviously that’s easier said than done, but it’s a viable option and one that the organization has been thinking about.  Do I think Beltre would be worth the kind of financial commitment he’s probably looking for? That depends on how much we’re talking.  He’s obviously a beast.  He’s a great hitter, presumably he’ll eventually be a great fielder as he gets more accustomed to Fenway, and he’s durable, which we learned the hard way this year.  He’s so durable that, not only did he stay healthy for the whole year, but he took out others for the season.

Lastly, there’s the subtle yet present question of Jason Varitek.  Tek will be back next year in a backup role.  He has embraced his demotion as a way to help the team in a different way, and he’s happy with that.  Everyone needs a backup catcher, and he’s probably the best backup catcher you could possibly find.  He’s also a class act; it takes a real man to accept a backup job with a team you love instead of signing for more money with another team that would probably make you a starter.  Tek has never played baseball for anyone else, and I suspect he wants to keep it that way.

No matter what happens, I think next year will be vastly different from this year, and not only because we’ll be healthy next year.  That’s definitely one reason; Pedroia had his surgery when he did so he would be ready to begin his offseason regimen on time. Everyone is committed to making 2011 a turnaround.  If you ask me, I think we’re going to have a World Series coming our way.  Also because our bench and farm are now one of the best in baseball since they all became starters this year and got regular playing time for a good portion of the season.  And new guys like Lackey will be fully acclimated, and we’ll get to see them really live up to their potential.  So I’m psyched.

In other news, the Pats walked all over the Dolphins last weekend, beating them bad by a score of 41-14.  And hockey season has officially begun.  We kicked it off in Prague with the Coyotes.  We dropped the first game, 5-2, but came roaring back in the second, 3-0.  Tyler Seguin scored his first NHL goal, and it was Thomas with the shutout.  Then we’re returning to the United States to take on the Devils.  This is going to be a great season for us.  We’re loaded with young talent, and I think we’re going to go places.

Sports of Boston

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