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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Punto’

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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That’s what I’m talking about!

Because as miserable as it is to lose to the Yanks, it’s ridiculously awesome with an equal magnitude to beat them.  There’s really not much more to say.  If we could only beat one team this year and we could pick which one, I don’t know who wouldn’t pick the Yanks.

I’ll start with Lester, who pitched spectacularly.  He pitched seven solid innings during which he gave up only one run on five hits while walking two and striking out four.  That one run was the result of a solo shot he allowed with two out in the fourth.  It was basically the only big mistake he made.  Other than that, the Yanks had nothing on him.  His cut fastball was biting and moving as well as it has ever done.  Naturally he got the win, because he completely deserved it.

And now I’ll move to the hitters, who gave Lester enough backing this time to pull out the W.  We didn’t waste any time, either.  It was like we smelled a win and wanted to make sure it was actually true.  Crawford singled in the first, and then Gonzalez unloaded on a fastball.  It was his fourth pitch, and the count was 2-1.  It ended up in left field like it was his job.  Which it is.  And when he does it, he does it exceptionally well.  Red Sox hitter goes yard against the Evil Empire.  What a refreshing sight to see!

Ciriaco singled and scored on a double by Punto in the fifth, and then last but not least, Podsednik singled to lead off the ninth, moved to third on a double by Ciriaco, and then scored on a wild pitch.

And last but not least, we couldn’t have done it without a hold each from Bailey and Breslow, who pitched the eighth, and a save from Aceves, who pitched the ninth.

So the final score was 4-1.  It wasn’t much.  It wasn’t a slugfest or any other lopsided score by any means.  It wasn’t an enormous statement of dominance.  But it was a win.  It was a win against the Yankees.  And that’s a good a win as you can get.  Not much else to say, really.  I’m just going to revel in our Yankee-beating glory.  Short and sweet and getting it done.

The Boston Herald

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There’s nothing like digging deep to remind you that you can indeed get the job done.  And as with every situation this season that’s worthy of celebration and happiness, there is always a grim reminder of the fact that it shouldn’t be celebratory because it should be ordinary; this is the kind of win that we should be able to pull off in our sleep.  And as with every grim reminder of the fact that it shouldn’t be celebratory because it should be ordinary, there is always another grim reminder of the fact that the reason why it’s celebratory is because it’s so rare these days.

Buchholz was the first to dig deep.  He allowed two runs on a double in the first and one run on a solo shot to lead off the second, and that was it.  He was lights-out for the rest of the game, which he almost pitched to completion.  Aceves ended up coming out for the ninth, during which he retired the side and got the save.  But Buchholz was in absolute top form when he was on the mound.  He owned the Orioles when he was out there.  He had their number all the way through and didn’t let them gain an inch after that second inning.  He just kept his head down and did it, and in so doing he set an example that should be followed immediately.

My favorite inning was by far the sixth.  He retired the side.  With strikeouts.  On a total of nine pitches.  That means that every single pitch he threw that inning was a strike.  Curveball, curveball, cutter, four-seam, cutter, four-seam, four-seam, cutter, splitter.  One, two, three.  No chance, no chance, no chance.  It was ridiculously awesome.  There was absolutely nothing the Orioles could do against him.  As the game went on, he kept getting better, and they just couldn’t figure him out.

So he ended up walking three and striking out a grand total of seven and throwing 107 pitches, seventy-two of which were strikes.  He allowed a total of eight hits, four of which were for extra bases, three of which were doubles, the fourth being the solo shot.

But Buchholz would never have gotten the win if the hitters hadn’t also dug deep.  We did everything the Orioles hitters weren’t doing: wearing out the starter, being patient at the plate, getting deep into counts, and making him throw a lot of pitches.  We scored our first run in the second, when Punto walked and scored on a single by Podsednik, who’s back in Boston.  At the time that simply reduced our deficit to one; it didn’t tie the game or put us ahead.  In fact, after Buchholz allowed the solo shot, our deficit was back up to two runs.  So we needed more.

And that’s exactly what we got in the fifth inning.  Ellsbury provided an out to start it off, but then Crawford singled, Pedroia doubled, Crawford scored on a wild pitch, and Pedroia scored on a sac fly by Gonzalez.  We put the finishing touches that would become the game’s final score in the sixth.  Podsednik doubled, Ellsbury walked and was out at second on a force out by Crawford, Podsednik scored on a single by Pedroia, Crawford scored on a single by Gonzalez, and Pedroia scored on a single by Ross.

So the game ended with us on top, 6-3.  Gonzalez and Podsednik both went two for four, Crawford and Pedroia went two for five, and Ross went three for five.  Most importantly, it was a team effort.  We won because the team dug deep.  If only the team always digging deep were enough.

Getty Images

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So, how many times have we seen this? It’s a classic story.

Pitcher makes bid for no-no.  Pitcher gets halfway through game with no-no.  Opposing team takes solace in the fact that, if they can manage to scrape together just one hit, pitcher will implode completely after losing bid.  Pitcher gives up first hit.  Pitcher does indeed implode completely after losing bid.  Team on receiving end of win ends up losing.

And I know that story because that’s the exact same story I root for every time I even think we might actually be the victims of a no-no or some such outcome.  Fortunately, in that situation it comes through for us almost every time, and certainly in recent memory.  But when your pitcher is the one making the bid and then losing it and imploding, suddenly the story means something very different.  It means a regular old loss instead of a loss that at least represents the recovery of your dignity.

When Cook was in business, Cook was in business.  His bid lasted for five innings, and he actually had a perfect game going through the fourth, when he gave up his first of three walks.  He gave up his second walk an inning later.  He had the Orioles wound around his finger and did with them as he pleased.  They all stepped up, and he sent them down in every way you could possibly send a batter down.  He mowed through that lineup like it was a lawn in need of some serious grooming.  And he did it precisely and efficiently to boot.

And then came the sixth, and it was like he completely transformed right in front of our eyes.  Actually, scratch that; he did transform right in front of our eyes.  From a good pitcher to a bad pitcher.  He gave up five runs, but he’s lucky he didn’t give up much, much more.  After securing the inning’s first out, Cook gave up his third and final walk, his first hit of the night in the form of a single, and then his second in the form of an RBI single.  His next hitter ended up reaching on a force attempt; Cook made a throwing error, and that brought in another run.  Then Cook gave up a double that scored one.

And that was when he was replaced by Miller, who began his workload with a fielder’s choice out at home that also resulted in a baserunner.  That was it for Miller, and Tazawa came in and gave up a double that scored two followed by a single, which was when he was replaced by Breslow, who finished the inning and pitched the seventh as well.  Mortensen pitched the eighth.

As far as the offense is concerned, we were busy matching the Orioles pitch for pitch, which in this case means not hitting anything for the first half of the game or so.  We scored our first run in the fifth; with one out, we hit back-to-back singles and scored one run on a double by Ellsbury and the other on a sac fly by Crawford.  So at the time, we were up by two.  Then the sixth inning happened.  And then we scored our last run in the seventh, when Punto reached on a fielding error, advanced to third on a deflected hit by Ellsbury, and scored on a sac fly by Crawford.  That was all we could muster.

So the final score was 5-3.  We could really have used the galvanizing effects that a no-no always brings with it.  If you thought things weren’t bad already, they’re really starting to get bad now.  Gonzalez and Bobby V. were both ejected in the eighth because Gonzalez argued that he was quick-pitched.  And you could just tell that they and the rest of the team are tired, frustrated, and wanting so badly to just win but for some reason not being able to do it consistently.

Getty Images

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