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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Napoli’

Let’s get the small stuff out of the way first.  We non-tendered Bailey and Kalish.  Also, congratulations to Lackey on a well-deserved Tony Conigliaro Award.  Not that that’s a small achievement, but it’s not disturbing and alarming like the big news of the week.

This week, we’ve had to deal with some significant departures.  This is going to be rough.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is our first departure.  He is now a Florida Marlin, having signed a deal for three years and twenty-one million dollars.  We acquired him as a veteran, and now he leaves as a veteran having helped us win the World Series.

Last year, Salty batted .273 with fourteen homers and sixty-five RBIs.  He posted a fielding percentage of .994 and a catcher’s ERA of 3.88.  But as with all great catchers, he contributed innumerable qualities like leadership and work ethic and skill with calling games and managing pitchers.  Needless to say, the last three years, including October, would have looked very different without him, and he will certainly be missed.  Salty, we thank you, and we salute you.

We welcome AJ Pierzynski, who has signed a one-year deal pending a physical.  Last year, he batted .272 with seventeen homers and seventy RBIs.  He posted a fielding percentage of .998 and a catcher’s ERA of 3.63.  He’s gritty, and he’ll fit in just fine.  We also welcome Edward Mujica, the righty reliever, who signed a two-year deal for $9.5 million.

Our other departure is different.  This isn’t someone we brought in who has now decided to leave for a three-year contract.  We say goodbye to someone we raised, who spent his entire career thus far with us, and who didn’t go to just any team.  Jacoby Ellsbury is now a New York Yankee.  It’s basically the same old story.  They lured him over there with the type of contract that only the New York Yankees could provide: seven years and $153 million.  So the Evil Empire offers these contracts like it’s made of money, since it basically is, and no other team can compete with that.  I mean, it’s not like we haven’t seen this before.  A star center fielder who bats leadoff and makes spectacular catches and helped us win the World Series and who is a Boston icon leaving for the dark side; where have I seen that before?

It’s just awful.  Our job is to raise players in the farm so they can stay here.  Out job is not to raise players in the farm so they can win a ring and then just leave and give their services to the highest bidder.  That was never what baseball was supposed to be about.  But that’s the reality in which we and the game find ourselves now.

It’s not our fault that we choose to be a responsible team that conducts itself in a responsible way.  A contract worth that many years and that much money does not allow for much flexibility, which is what you need if you’re going to win.  Think about our performance over the course of the past decade. Think about our performance over the course of the past year, about the acquisitions we made last offseason and where they led us in October.  We should feel good about our success and about the business model and strategies that got us there.  Hindering our flexibility by committing almost a whole decade’s worth of years and millions of dollars in three digits has not, historically, been one of those strategies.  That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. It means there’s something wrong with them.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate Ellsbury’s achievements in Boston.  He’s been hurt, but he has always powered through in true dirt-dog fashion, never shying away from making the tough plays no matter what mind kind of pain waited as a consequence.  In his career, he’s bagged .297 with sixty-five homers and 314 RBIs.  He has led the American League three times in steals.  And he made only three errors last year.  He helped us win not one but two World Series championships, making his presence  seen and felt in both.  I don’t think we’ll ever forget the way he patrolled Fenway’s center field with ease and made it look as easy as it really was for him to make catches that didn’t even seem to be humanly possible.

His seven years are up, and now he’s joined the darkness. Ellsbury, we thank you, and we salute you.  But we feel disappointed, insulted, and betrayed.

Fortunately, Napoli is coming back.  So there’s that sign of hope and optimism.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs, 2-1, but beat the Penguins, 3-2, and the Leafs, 5-2.  The Pats just barely, and I mean that in every sense of the phrase, eked out a win against the Browns, 27-26.  It really went down to the wire.  Seriously.

Pro Sports Extra

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Okay.  There’s no need to be scared or read into this.  Just because the last two times we’ve been to the World Series we’ve been able to sweep and get it done in four games doesn’t mean that we’ll lose the World Series just because we lost the second game.  It’s fine.  Honestly, we shouldn’t even have lost this one.  My point is that there is plenty of baseball still to be played.  True, we’re going away now, but that hasn’t stopped us before.  We’ll just have to get past it.

So Lackey did a great job while he was on the mound.  He pitched six and one-third innings and gave up five hits and two walks while striking out six.  He gave up a single in the first, a single in the second, and nothing in the third.  He cracked in the fourth when he gave up a triple to lead it off that turned into a run on a groundout.

That one run was a big deal because we had yet to score.  We went down in order in the first, and Napoli walked to provide our first baserunner in the second.  Ellsbury provided our first hit in the third with a single, and the bottom of the fourth looked promising.  Pedroia doubled and Papi walked, setting up Napoli.  Who then grounded into a double play.

Lackey went one-two-three in the fifth; Salty walked in the bottom of the inning, but that was it.  Lackey gave up a single in the sixth, and in the bottom of the inning, it looked like the game might be ours after all.

I’ve often said that, in a close game, one run feels like ten.  This one was no exception.  Because the longer you go without scoring runs, the more difficult it feels to score them.  After Victorino grounded out, Pedroia walked, and then it was Papi’s turn.  And I was busy thinking how great it would be if he just went yard, just like that, just because we really needed him to.

He took a fastball for a ball, fouled off a second fastball, and then received four straight changeups.  He took the first for a ball, the second for a strike, and the third in the dirt.

And he went yard on the fourth.  Hit that ball into the Monster seats.  Seriously.  Just like that.  Just because we needed him to.

It was huge.  It didn’t tie the game.  It gave us the lead.  In a close one.  In which scoring one run felt like scoring ten.  And as a result of that phenomenon, scoring two runs on one swing felt like a real jump out in front.

Unfortunately, the whole thing unraveled in the seventh.  That can not be overstated.  Literally the whole game was completely undone in the seventh inning alone.  It was one of the worst innings you can possibly imagine to occur during, of all things, the World Series.  Honestly, that kind of bad baseball is not even excusable during the regular season, let alone the postseason, let alone the pinnacle of the entire postseason.

Lackey led off the seventh with a strikeout.  Then he issued a walk and gave up a single, so John went with Breslow.  The Cards managed to execute a double steal, putting both runners in scoring position.  And Breslow walked his first batter to load the bases.

A double play would have ended it all.  But Breslow induced a sac fly.  Technically, that’s not so bad; you take the out in exchange for the run, which in this case would not be winning but rather tying.

But the whole thing went completely and epically awry.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I couldn’t believe it was happening.  I think that that had something to do with the fact that I didn’t really want to believe it was happening.

Not one but two runners scored on the sac fly, indeed providing the Cards with the winning run.  Salty missed the catch, Breslow made an error on the throw, and the whole thing turned into a huge mess as a result.  And then, to top it off, Breslow gave up an RBI single.  Thus, while Lackey was charged with three runs, he was also the victim of a situation in which some of them scored on someone else’s watch.

The final score was established right there.  We lost, 4-2.

Tazawa pitched the last out of the seventh, after which we went down in order.  Workman pitched the eighth, which for us looked like it had some potential.  Ellsbury reached on a fielding error, and Papi singled two outs later.  But Napoli popped out to end it.  Uehara pitched the ninth, after which we went down in order.

So at one point the game looked like it would be really good.  Then it was really, really bad.  All because of one play that was supposed to be routine but that instead cost us Game Two.  We need to pull it together.  Not only were those errors completely inappropriate for the World Series, but we also didn’t even have enough hits or runs to absorb that damage.  At the same time, I saw too many swing-and-misses and too many stare-at-strikes.  All of that needs to change immediately.  If we’re going to get this done, we need to take the proper steps.

In other news, hockey is back in Boston as the Bruins began their new season this month.  So far, we’ve beaten the Lightning, Red Wings, Panthers, Lightning again, Sabres, and Sharks, and we’ve lost to the Avalanche and Red Wings.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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Yes.  Oh, yes.  We are off to a mighty good start.  This is exactly where we want to be: right out on top.  I can’t be the only one sensing some familiarity with this whole situation.  So much time has passed, and so much has happened since then.  We are a completely different team now in innumerable ways.  But we are good.  And we can do this.

So the first game of the World Series is in the bag.  Oh, yes, it is indeed good to be back.

We started out very solidly.  Ellsbury led off the first with a walk.  Victorino lined out, Pedroia singled, and Papi reached on a force attempt with a little help from a missed catch to load the bases.  And then Napoli hit a bases-clearing double.  That was the best outcome short of a grand slam.  Three runs on one swing, and he looked really comfortable executing that hit.  Excellent.

Drew and Ross hit back-to-back singles to lead off the second.  Then Ellsbury flied out and Victorino reached on a fielding error to load the bases.  Drew scored on a single by Pedroia.  That’s not exactly the big response to a bases-loaded situation I was hoping for, but it’s better than nothing, especially since that run increased our lead to four and since Papi followed it up with a sac fly that scored one more.

We took a long break before resuming our scoring in the seventh with some long ball.  The Cards made three pitching changes in that inning alone; they made the third one after Pedroia reached on a throwing error.  And then Papi welcomed the new pitcher by homering on his very first pitch.  He hit it all the way out to right center field.  It was a massive home run.  It was beautiful.  As was the insurance we added in the eighth, when Nava doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sac fly by Bogaerts.

For Lester, it was a great performance.  He had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth but grounded into a double play.  That was the worst of it, and he didn’t even allow a single run.  He was quite the laborer; he was really committed to keeping his head down and grinding through.  This is the great thing about Lester.  Even when it’s not easy for him, he still manages to make it work.

He very nearly went the distance, too.  Two outs into the eighth, he was relieved by Tazawa, who ended the eighth.  Dempster pitched the ninth.  Together, our staff almost pitched a shoutout; Dempster proved to be the undoing when he gave up a solo shot on his fourth pitch.  But aside from allowing a single, he put the Cards away after that.

And that was a wrap.  Game one is done, 8-1.  We now lead the series.  I want it.  Let’s get it.

In other news, the Pats dropped a painfully close one to the Jets, 30-27.

AP Photo

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Yet another close one.  But I took issue with this one because it didn’t have to be so close.  At one point, we had more than a one-run lead; it wasn’t much more, but in close games, every run counts.  This particular contest happened to end well, but it was not exactly a high point for our pitching staff.  We managed to just slide by, and now Detroit is facing elimination.

We got on the board early, which I was obviously very happy to see.  We scored three runs in the second.  Napoli hit the inning’s fifth pitch for a huge home run; the count was 3-1, and he got a four-seam and read it like a book, sending the ball all the way out to center field.  It was huge, and it started what was obviously a very important rally.  Gomes then reached on a fielding error, and Bogaerts doubled after Drew struck out; both ended up scoring, Gomes on a double by Ross and Bogaerts on a single by Ellsbury.

Then Napoli doubled in the third and scored on a wild pitch by Drew.

Meanwhile, Lester did a great job.  He had his share of baserunners, and he came close to squandering our lead.  He gave up a run thanks to a single-single combination in the fifth.  And another run thanks to a walk-single combination in the sixth.  Actually he gave up a walk and a single en route to recording the inning’s first out, the RBI single itself was given up by Tazawa.  And he gave up another run thanks to two singles and a double play in the seventh, which brought our lead down to one.  That was when Breslow came on.  He pitched through the first out of the eighth, and then Uehara took over.

So Lester’s outing wasn’t one of those breezy starts.  It was a grind.  You could tell that it was a grind.  Like I said, he had his share of baserunners, and he was really laboring through it.  And he wasn’t exactly backed up by an airtight relief corps this time around.  But we managed to hold on, so we reestablished our series lead after winning, 4-3.

AP Photo

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I guess Detroit got mad.  Like, really mad.  One of the reasons why the games have been so close is because we’ve sent out some seriously awesome pitching.  But we didn’t have it last night.  Last night, it was absolutely awful.

Peavy had them down for the first and then gave up five in the second inning alone.

He gave up a single and two consecutive walks to load the bases with nobody out.  Then he induced a flyout and allowed the game’s first run using one of the more humiliating methods: the bases-loaded walk.  He then induced a force out that scored another run, and he gave up a two-run double and an RBI single.  It was pretty ugly.

And it got worse in the fourth.  He gave up a double followed by an RBI single.  Then Workman came on, ending a bizarrely horrid outing by Peavy.  I was not expecting this.  Peavy has been very impressive, and all of a sudden he just wasn’t himself.

Anyway, Workman recorded the inning’s first two outs and then gave up another RBI single.

Meanwhile, our offense was coming up short.  We had baserunners, so it’s not like we had no opportunities.  We just couldn’t come up with any timely hits.

Until the sixth.  Papi flied out to lead it off, and then Napoli, Nava, and Salty hit three straight singles that scored one run.  Then Ellsbury led off the seventh with a single and scored on a double by Victorino.  And then Bogaerts doubled to lead off the ninth and scored on a triple by Ellsbury.

Needless to say, it wasn’t enough.  We were away, so we’d have had to at least tie it, and we most definitely did not.  The relief corps did a great job; Dempster pitched the sixth, and Morales pitched the seventh.  Doubront pitched the eighth.  And we lost, 7-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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