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Posts Tagged ‘Montreal Canadiens’

Truck Day has officially come and gone! That’s the first sign that next season  can’t be too far away.  It’s been a long, cold winter, and the long, cold winter is still going on, but at least we know that things are starting to stir down in Florida.  Nothing gets you excited about the end of winter like equipment heading south for Spring Training!

Papi wants a multi-year deal.  No news there.  That’s what every player wants.  The challenge is that it has to make sense for the team as a whole as well.  This year we will welcome Jerry Remy back into the booth for the season.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Isles, 6-3, and the Panthers, 6-2, before losing to the Habs, 4-1.  We then shut out the Oilers, four-zip, and beat the Canucks, 3-1, and Sens, 7-2, while losing to the Blues in overtime, 3-2, before the Olympic break.

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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.

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I was excited for Lackey’s first outing of the regular season.  Lackey lost a ton of weight and looked great this spring.  I think that I had reasons to believe that this season was going to be different for him, and we would see the John Lackey that we were supposed to have been seeing all along since we signed him.

In fact, his start was alright.  He pitched a lot better during this start than he had during many of his other starts stretching back a number of years.  I’d say that yesterday’s performance gave us a lot to look forward to, minus one extremely conspicuous downside.

Lackey gave up two runs on five hits while walking only one and striking out eight.  He opened the fourth by inducing a lineout but then gave up a single followed by a home run on a cutter.  That was basically his only mistake of the game.  He was pretty alright for the rest of it.  Those eight strikeouts were a pleasure to watch; I can’t remember the last time he paired low runs with high K’s.  His first K of the season was called on a cutter, and his second ended with a swing through a nasty slider in the first.  He had a one-two-three second ending in consecutive K’s, the first called on a fastball and the second swung on a curveball.  He opened the third with a three-pitch swinging strikeout that ended with a fastball and ended it with a swinging strikeout that ended with a curveball.  He ended the fourth with a three-pitch strikeout  culminating in a nice fastball.  And he opened the fifth with a three-pitch called strikeout ending with another fastball.

A grand total of six pitches made their appearance yesterday; his curveball, cutter, and four-seam were definitely the highlights.  He threw a handful of impeccable sliders and barely any changeups that were decent at best.  And his two-seam was just okay.  He threw twenty-one pitches in the first and only improved from there, throwing thirteen in the second, eighteen in the third, fifteen in the fourth, and three in the fifth.

That brings us to the bad news.  Lackey only pitched four and one-third inning.  He threw a grand total of seventy-six pitches and had to be taken out due to a right biceps strain.  The intensity of the strain will be determined as the appropriate medical procedures are undergone.  Obviously we’re all rooting for it to be benign not only because he actually looked great out there but also because we can’t afford to lose one of our starters this early in the year.

Getting back to the game, Lackey was replaced by Aceves, who didn’t pitch well at all.  Lackey got saddled with the loss, but it was Aceves who gave up more runs in less innings when his job as a reliever is to limit the damage.  He pitched the remainder of the game and gave up three runs on three hits while walking two and striking out five.  Two walks and one out into the sixth, Aceves threw a big mistake of a fastball, which was hit for a home run, and that was that.

If you ask me, the loss should be shared between Aceves and the offense, which did almost nothing yesterday.  I mean that literally.  We mustered two hits: Ellsbury doubled on the sixth pitch of the game, and Pedroia singled on the penultimate pitch of the game.  Victorino walked twice, and Ciriaco walked once.  That was the extent of our men on base.  Ellsbury did pick up a steal in the first.  And Ciriaco managed to make it all the way to third in the  third, thanks to a wild pitch combined with a throwing error.  But when Ellsbury reached on a fielder’s choice out, Ciriaco was thrown out at the plate.  Ellsbury picked up another steal before Victorino walked, but Pedroia ended the inning with a popout.  In six of nine innings, we went down in order.  We sent five up in the third, our best chance to score.  In the first and ninth, we sent up four.

The Jays didn’t even have to play the bottom of the ninth.  We lost, five-zip.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs, 2-1.

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I can’t even believe that this day has finally arrived.  Out of the interminable slog that was all of last year, out of the rounds and rounds of speculation that was this offseason, we have finally emerged to welcome baseball back to Boston with open arms! I don’t know about you, but I really feel like I’ve earned this one.  It’s been rough, man.  With the way last season went, I felt like it was winter before the season was even over.  It was a long and cold one.  We’ve done without for way too long.  And then, suddenly, April arrived, and we enjoyed the glorious first opportunity of kicking back, relaxing, and taking in three hours and thirty-seven minutes of pure, unadulterated glory.  Man, it’s good to be back.

Where do I even start? I don’t even know.  It was all so divinely inspired.  I can’t even talk about it.

Lester.  I’ll start with Lester.  Wow.  What can I even say? Pretty much the whole staff got it together at camp, and Lester most definitely did not disappoint.  His start lasted only five innings, but this is so epically not the time to be picky.  Five solid innings on the first day of the season is fine as far as I’m concerned; he’ll pick it up as time goes on.  Besides, those five innings were pretty impressive.  Two runs, five hits.  Two walks.  Seven strikeouts.

There was a four-pitch strikeout of his first batter of the season on four pitches, ending with what was technically a cutter, but at ninety miles per hour with his movement, whether it was a cutter or cut fastball is a question that will probably not be answered anytime soon.  Then there was the seven-pitch strikeout that ended with a cutter, and the six-pitch strikeout that ended the second with a cutter, and the seven-pitch called strike in the third that ended with a cutter.  Lester had himself another seven-pitch strikeout in the fourth, this one ending with a fastball, but like I said, whether it’s really a fastball or a cut fastball is hard to answer.  And irrelevant, since a strike is a strike.  Lester bookended his fifth with strikeouts, the first five pitches ending with a changeup and the second his only one comprising three pitches: a sinker clocked at ninety-one miles per hour, a changeup at eighty-four, and a fastball at ninety-three, which wasn’t even his fastest of the day; he got up to ninety-four.

Ninety-six pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  He was on with the cut fastball.  The overwhelming majority of his pitches were cut fastballs, as we’d expect.  And he put that fabulous Lester-esque bite on them, too.  They were moving exactly the way he wanted them to.  And he mixed in some nasty sinkers, changes, and curves in there as well.  He stood up there and he was a master.  I almost felt bad for the hitters until I remembered that we were squaring off against the Evil Empire.  And then I felt better.

Anyway, Lester threw seventeen pitches each in the first two innings, sixteen in the third, and twelve in the fifth.  The fourth was the big one; Lester threw thirty-four pitches.  He loaded the bases that inning and couldn’t completely escape without allowing a two-run single.  Other than that, Lester was solid gold.

Farrell then rolled out five relievers.  Uehara, Miller, Bailey, Tazawa, and Hanrahan combined to shut out the Yanks for the rest of the game.  All told, the Yanks were limited to six hits.

Alright, here we go.  Offense.  Let’s get down to it, because our hitters were as hot as our pitchers.  The starters stayed in for the whole nine, and they were great.  Great patience and eyes all around.  Great baserunning, too.  Ellsbury led off, followed by Victorino, Pedroia, Napoli in cleanup, Middlebrooks, Salty, Gomes, Bradley, and Iglesias.  Look for Farrell to change the lineup around pretty frequently, but this one worked out just fine.  Iglesias went three for five, Ellsbury went three for six, Gomes went two for four, and Pedroia and Victorino both went two for six.  Salty doubled, and Ellsbury tripled, and that was it for extra-base hits.  This was Bradley’s debut in the big show, and he certainly made the most of it.  Of our four total walks, Bradley accounted for three, not to mention his obvious speed on the basepaths as well as his run-saving, inning-ending, outstanding haul in left in the third.

Pedroia singled in the first, but we didn’t score.  Our big inning was the second.  Middlebrooks grounded out, and then Salty walked in five pitches, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Then Iglesias singled on the first pitch of his at-bat, bringing home one and reloading the bases.  Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out, causing Gomes to be out at home.  But then Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, bringing in three before Napoli flied out to end it.

We went down in order in the third and put two on but didn’t deliver in the fourth.  A double and two walks, one intentional, loaded the bases again with two out in the fifth, but we didn’t deliver on that either.  Ellsbury tripled to lead off the sixth, but still nothing.  Then, in the seventh, Middlebrooks and Salty fought hard for back-to-back walks on eight pitches each.  Middlebrooks moved to third on a flyout by Gomes and scored on a groundout by Bradley.  We went down in order again in the eighth but closed it out with a bang in the ninth.  Middlebrooks was called out on strikes before Salty walked, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Iglesias struck out and then Ellsbury and Victorino singled back-to-back to bring in three.  Gomes accounted for the second of those runs, rocketing home all the way from second base.  The dugout and everyone else went appropriately insane.

And that, my friends, is the story of how we cleaned the field with the Yanks, 8-2, on their soil.  To me, this is much bigger than just winning the first game of the season.  We’ve had just abysmal starts out of the gate for the last two seasons.  This game means a lot to the team, and it means a lot to us.  We’re a new team now, and it shows.  There’s nothing like a more-than-auspicious start to the year to provide a good feeling about what’s to come.  Let’s get it!

I’ll say one last thing.  Seeing Kevin Youkilis in an enemy uniform was downright bizarre and torturous.  It’s a shame.  It’s a real shame.  And I guess that’s that.

In other news, the B’s lost to and beat the Leafs and lost to the Habs in a shootout; it was painful, but at least we get a point out of it.  We beat the Sens, lost to the Leafs, and beat the Sabres.

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Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

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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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Even this late in the game (pun intended), we’ve got more goodbyes to say.  This time, we’ve got to say goodbye to someone who’s been there for most of everything that’s happened in our most recent baseball memory: Tim Wakefield, who retired on Friday at Spring Training.  Here’s the tribute.

Obviously I’m one of the world’s biggest sabermetrics fans, but even with sabermetrics, it’s hard to determine how a signing will turn out, and of course it was even harder to do so before baseball professionals saw its light.  After what Wake has given us, it’s hard to believe that we picked him up in 1995 after he was released from a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him in 1988 as a first baseman, if you can believe it.  At the time, the signing was a low-risk move, and I doubt that anyone had the foresight to predict what would happen next.

In 1995, his first season with us, he won all but one of his decisions, and thus began one of the best relationships between a pitcher and a team in a long, long time.  He’s played all but two of his Major League seasons with us; his career spans nineteen years old, and he retires at the age of forty-five.  It’s hard to come by anyone else who embodies the term “veteran” so completely.  He has started 463 games and pitched in 627.  He has hurled 3,226.2 innings.  Those start and inning totals are the highest of any pitcher in club history.  He finishes his career with a 4.41 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, and finally, both literally and figuratively as we all know, two hundred wins.  His two hundredth win was the last game he will ever have played: September 13, 2011 at home.  His 186 wins in a Boston uniform leave him seven shy of breaking the club record, currently held by both Roger Clemens and Cy Young.

But that’s what’s special about a guy like Wake.  He, like Mike Lowell, is the utmost of class and professionalism.  Seven wins and breaking the record mattered less to him than bowing out gracefully when his time had come.  To me, that demonstrates a heightened sense of self-awareness and self-security with what he accomplished.  He feels happy about what he’s done and who he has become; for him, baseball was both a game and a career.  And I think the club handled this one wisely.  The front office didn’t offer him a contract but also wouldn’t allow a pitcher of his standing and status to compete for a spot during Spring Training like some untested kid.  More than that, he was as active off the field as he was on the field.  On the field, his skills were always apparent; even on his bad days, you know the next time out he’d have a good day.  His knuckleball was second to none; he was a specialist to the utmost and executed his pitch as surgically as he could possibly have executed it (which doesn’t say much, since most of the mechanics of the knuckleball must be left up to chance, but still, if anyone could execute it surgically, he could).  He was a competitor, a leader, and a rock who always did what was best for the team, including moving to the bullpen when it became clear that the sun had set on his role as a regular starter.  And he took that in stride, and it says something that that was his attitude under five different managers.  His dependability and versatility in terms of his role made him absolutely invaluable throughout even the last moments of his career, and it’s rare to be able to make that statement.  It’s unclear whether anybody else in his position would have been able to do the same.  He was also a rock in the clubhouse who, at all times, exhibited sportsmanship, leadership, and friendship, but he was also a fixture in charity work in the Boston area and made a real difference in the lives of the less fortunate.  Nobody deserved the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award more than he did.

And of course we can’t forget what he gave to this city in October.  One of the lowest points of my entire baseball life was Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS when Wake gave up the you-know-what to you-know-who.  But he bounced all the way back during the following season and, as we know, carried that momentum right through to the finish.  We were losing Game Three of the 2004 ALCS, but if Wake hadn’t sacrificed his start during the following game by volunteering to take the mound in relief in order to preserve the bullpen, who knows what would have happened? We might still be without a championship, for all we know.  And that right there, that nondescript simple act in which there was nothing for Wake himself, exemplified what kind of a teammate and a man he really was.  Then of course those three shutout innings he delivered in Game Five were simply crucial; he won that fourteen-inning epic saga of a contest as a result.  And when we won the World Series three years later, Wake had himself seventeen wins that season and became an All-Star for the first time two years after that.

Throughout his career, it was always apparent that he loved it here, and this was where he was meant to play.  And he knew it and enjoyed every minute of it.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that, even though he had his fair share of doozies, we were behind him every step of the way.  Even when he was losing, you could always tell that he was trying and that he was just as disappointed in himself as we were in him.  He was a real ballplayer in every sense of the world, and he was with us every step of the way.  It was here that he started his success and here that he always wanted to finish it:

I just think the time is now.  I never wanted to pitch for another team.  I always said that I wanted to retire a Red Sox, and today I’m able to do that.

Rare indeed in this day and age of the game is the ballplayer who possesses any sort of special attachment to a particular team that is so deep that he’ll make a statement like this.  So here’s to you, Wake.  We doff our caps to you like you’ve done to us so many times over the years.  Here’s to the elation and grief that your knuckleball has caused, and here’s to what you’ve accomplished over the many years of your venerable career.  Here’s to the fact that you were happiest when you were playing here, in this city, for us.  We’ll never forget what you’ve done for us and for your team.  You’ll most certainly be missed, but the strength of your character shows even in the manner of your retirement.  So here’s to you.  Congratulations!

Wow.  Talk about close calls.  That, my friends, was a close call.  That was a really close call.  Hours before the arbitration hearing was scheduled to take place on Monday, Papi signed a one-year deal worth $14.575 million.  That figure is halfway between what he wanted and what we originally offered, and it’s still a raise up from the $12.5 million he earned last season.  And it’s still the highest salary ever intended for a DH.  It’s a fair deal.  He gets a raise, and we maintain our flexibility.  Plus, anytime you avoid arbitration, it’s automatically a win-win.  We avoided the mudslinging that was sure to come from both sides and, as Ben said, it’s better in the long run to have just resolved it.  The no-arbitration streak continues since 2002.

Beckett and Buchholz have reported; today is officially Pitchers and Catchers.  As is the case with any good, dedicated team that expects itself to vie seriously for a title, by the time Pitchers and Catchers has rolled around, most of the pitchers and catchers are already down there.  For everyone who’s down there, this year’s Spring Training is going to be a bucket of cold water.  Bobby V. is a demanding guy who doesn’t take no for an answer.  His regimens are strict.  He wants to lengthen some games and add others to the schedule.  It could be what the team needs, or it could be badness.  As always with the changes expected of Bobby V., we’ll see.

Crawford is expected to miss the first few weeks of the regular season as his recovery from wrist surgery continues.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Rangers and Jets but squeaked by the Habs in a 4-3 close one.

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