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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Gonzalez’

Again with the ace having a bad night that any other pitcher would consider a good night.  Lester one-hit the Yankees while walking three and striking out six on seventy-three strikeouts.  What’s the badness? He allowed seven hits over five innings on 114 pitches.  That was it.  That was all there was to Lester’s outing.  His best pitches were his cut fastball and changeup.  His sinker and curveball were abysmal.  You might think that it would be difficult for a pitcher of Lester’s caliber to throw any pitch abysmally.  Trust me.  His sinker and even more so his curveball were abysmal.  And let’s not forget the fact that he actually needed fourty-four pitches in the first.  Fourty-four! To get through the first inning alone! That’s just absurd.  That’s almost half the number of pitches he should be throwing in the entire game!

You might also think that our lineup would be able to bury one run.  So the Yankees had an RBI double in the first.  So what? We’re the Yankees’ worst offensive nightmare.  Right?

Apparently not.  I think the lineup missed that memo.

I think Pedroia was feeling a little left out during the two-run shot festival that occurred on Wednesday, so he hit one on a cutter in the fourth to center.  It barely got out; it landed in the first row of seats just behind the wall.

At the time, that homer gave us a one-run lead.  Which, at the time, seemed like a five-run lead because it was clear that runs would be few and far between.  This explains the devastation when Aceves allowed two runs in the seventh, which earned him the loss in addition to his hold.  It all started with a fourteen-pitch walk.  That’s never a good way to start anything.  It was actually Bard who allowed, in practice, all three runs, only two of which were inherited.  Bard received a blown save.  Doubront and Wheeler finished the game.

So that home run was our only production of the night.  Pedroia also possessed the only multi-hit game and stolen base and one of only two extra-base hits.  The other extra-base hit was a double by Gonzalez, which he used to lead off the fourth and get on base before Pedroia’s homer.  We left seven on base and went two for six with runners in scoring position.  In total, we collected only six hits.  Our staff threw a combined total of 203 pitches.  All of which is to say that we lost, 4-2.

Comic relief included Youk teaching himself how to use a professional camera

The whole game can be summarized with a description of the bottom of the ninth inning.  After two walks and a single, the bases were loaded with two out for, of all batters, Gonzalez.  He hadn’t hit well in the game, so he was due.  Mariano Rivera gave him five straight cutters.  Ultimately he was called out on strikes.  There was a pitch that he thought was low.  Keeping in mind that he as one of the best eyes in the league and that he’s usually right about these things and that the pitch was low, he was called out on strikes.  Yup.

It was Lester opposite AJ Burnett, our lineup opposite theirs, with our home field advantage, and somehow we lost our first series of the season to the Yankees.  I don’t get it.  We have our last series with the Yanks at the end of the month.  It’s probable that that series will decide the division.  That’s all I’m saying.

Boston Globe Staff
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The way I would describe last night’s start by Dice-K can be summarized in one phrase: that’s more like it.

In last night’s start he showed glimmers of why we signed him in the first place and why he was so effective in 2007.  In last night’s start he dominated like he was an ace who’d been around the league long enough to know exactly how to handle these Jays.  In last night’s start he gave Red Sox Nation a reason to hope that maybe signing him, sticking with him in the long haul, and having faith he’ll come around wouldn’t have been in vain.

He pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and allowed only three hits.  No walks whatsoever for the second time in his career.  Nine strikeouts, only one of which was not on a fastball (Snider struck out on an eighty-one mile-per-hour changeup), and only two of which were looking.  He faced twenty-four batters and also induced ten flyouts and two groundouts.  107 pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  That’s a very high rate.  That’s one of the highest such rates we’ve seen all season.  He got the win, and very deservedly so.  He started the game striking out Lewis on a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball.  I mean, this Dice-K was completely different than the Dice-K we’d been seeing until this point, and it just confirms that he was in fact on the trajectory of improvement we all thought he was on.  In one night, he lowered his ERA from 9.90 to 6.35.

His four-seam was excellent.  He only topped out at ninety-three miles per hour, but he threw about seventy percent of them for strikes.  Which was good because that was his dominant pitch; he threw about sixty-eight of them.  The reason his four-seam was so effective was that it has fantastic vertical movement on it.  His fastest pitches don’t do much horizontally, but vertically they’re real sharp.  Like off the charts sharp.  His two-seam, cutter, curveball, and slider were excellent; his changeup still needs work.  And if you ask me, even if his fastball does move, I still think he should mix his pitches more effectively.  This outing was a good first step, but he won’t last the season if his pitch mix looks like that.  A pitcher can’t live on fastballs alone.  There are those who would argue that a fastball is only as good as the pitches thrown before and after it.  So I think it would greatly behoove him and therefore us if he’d work on that.

His lowest per-inning pitch count was eleven, which he threw twice.  He threw between sixteen and twenty pitches in each of the remaining five innings, with twenty being his highest count in the third and nineteen being his highest in the sixth.  So he ran into some trouble there, but of course every pitcher who’s on gets into at least one jam.  That’s a trend we’ve seen with him; in each of his last two starts, he’s had one disastrous inning.  In last night’s start, it could be that that disastrous inning was just much more controlled and contained.  Although ideally he wouldn’t have any disastrous innings at all.

Of course it helps when you have good relief.  Ramirez pitched around a hit and a walk to finish an inning, and Okajima followed that with a perfect inning.

And it also helps when you have good offense.  Unlike Dice-K, Eveland only lasted a little more than four frames.

Scutaro led off the game with a walk and moved to third on Pedroia’s double, scoring on Drew’s groundout.  Pedroia scored on Youk’s sac fly.  Tek unloaded for a home run in the second; a 2—0 fastball that completely cleared the Monster and Lansdowne Street.  Dude got power.  That would be his sixth of the season, fifth from the right side, in forty at-bats.  To put that in perspective, he didn’t hit his sixth home run last hear until at-bat number 125.  He led off the fourth with a single; his bat broke, which confused Bautista, so the ball rolled between his legs, which we don’t have to worry about because it was the opposing team.  Hall followed that with a popup to shallow left-center that dropped between Lewis, Gonzalez, and Wells and has quietly been getting some hits in lately.  Then, Tek scored again on McDonald’s double in the fourth.  So, not the Jays’ best inning in the field.  Drew led off the fifth with a bunt.  Youk walked.  Eveland left with a ball on Lowell; Camp entered and walked him to load the bases.  Drew scored on a wild pitch and Youk scored when Hall grounded into a fielder’s choice.  We recorded twice as many hits and six times as many runs as they did.

By the way, Youk was hit by a pitch in the third for the sixty-third time in his career.  He’s one HBP shy of tying Jim Rice for second place on the franchise all-time list.

Pedroia and Drew both went two for four.  Drew stole second and appears to be in good health.  Tek went two for three, continuing to impress.  Can’t say I didn’t see that coming; in the beginning of the season I said that Tek’s Renaissance would last because extra rest would draw it out.  I hope that’s what we’re seeing here.  And finally, last but not least, 6-1 says we won.

A quick update on our absent outfielders: Cameron is doing a rehab stint with the PawSox, and Ellsbury took batting practice and did baserunning drills yesterday, so that’s a very good sign that he’ll be back in action soon.  Seriously this time.

So that was a good game all around.  I just hope that Dice-K builds on it.  His number one problem has been inconsistency, so this start was a good first step, but it’ll be really important to observe his performance in his next start to see if this is the establishment of a new norm or just one more piece of evidence of his irregular performance.  Of course we’ll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime Wakefield will try for the sweep against Marcum tonight.

SI.com

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What did I tell you? I said that Clay Buchholz is currently an ace in the hole.  Last night, he proved me right.  I hate to say, “I told you so,” but not when being right means we win.

We won by a final score of 2-1.  So we continue to rack up the close wins; that’s our sixth consecutive one-run game.  But it takes a pitcher with some skills to preserve a win like that.  (Apparently, it takes a pitcher with some skills to pitch at all, but that’s not the point.)

Clay Buchholz fulfilled a big responsibility last night, despite his age and despite his usual MO.  He did two very, equally important things: he gave the bullpen a rest to recharge and he won us the ballgame.  And I can say that absolutely because it was a pitcher’s duel, not a slugfest.  And Buchholz won out, besting Shaun Marcum to carry home the W.  Buchholz pitched eight innings.  Eight.  He threw 117 pitches, eighty of them strikes.  One run on seven hits, two walks, and four strikeouts, three swinging and one looking.  He now has an ERA of 2.19 and a WHIP of 1.30.  This was undoubtedly his best outing of the season, and one of the best of his career.  No, seriously.  His next-closest pitch count was 115, which he threw on September 1, 2007 during his no-no.  Ladies and gentlemen, we just witnessed the return of the kid who threw the no-no.  If there was an off-speed pitch that can be thrown in baseball, he threw it effectively.  Maybe a handful of his breaking balls stayed up with righties at the plate, but that’s really the only complaint.  A singe and double in the first resulted in the Jays’ lone run, but that was it.  His two-seam and changeup were stellar.  His command was fantastic.  He worked calmly and efficiently and alertly; how about that line drive right into his glove in the second? He got the job done better than any of our starters this season.  I think that was our best outing from a starter so far, period.

Ramirez followed that spectacular performance with one of his own.  A clean, one-inning, eleven-pitch save.  Finally.

We manufactured our two runs ourselves; for the offense, this was really a grind-it-out type of contest.  In the first, we tied it when Ortiz worked a two-out walk, and he came around to score via singles by Beltre and Hermida.  Lowell worked a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  My, that’s embarrassing.  That is the absolute worst way for a pitcher to lose a ballgame.  Trust me, I know.  Eric Gagne was an expert at it.

In the eighth, Wells singled and reached second on Beltre’s throwing error.  He clutched at the ball twice before firing wide to first.  That could have been it.  But naturally Buchholz caught Overbay looking at a four-seam and got Gonzalez to fly out on an off-speed.

We have good news: Ryan Westmoreland was released from Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Saturday.  He’ll continue rehabbing as an outpatient.  He’s doing well, which is a relief.  Hang in there, buddy.  Embree is coming up to the bullpen from the minors today.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I was expecting that type of outing left and right from Beckett or Lester or Lackey, but we haven’t gotten that at all, which is why the bullpen’s been fried this week.  We needed someone to get in there and give them a rest.  Buchholz did that and more because, not only did he secure the win, but he secured the win without much input from the offense.  (That had more to do with Marcum being on than the offense being off.) Our other starters need to take a page from Buchholz’s book after that outing.  That was absolutely fantastic.  He just blew everyone out of the water.  I don’t really know what else to say.  That was a rock-solid performance.  Rock-solid.  I mean, way to go, kid! Lester is starting tonight.  I have a feeling that there’ll be quite the contrast between the two outings, but that’s one thing about which I hope I can’t say, “I told you so.”

Reuters Photo

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Well.  That was a win.  Barely.  With the emphasis on the “barely.” Of course, I’ll take the win, but that’s not the way I want to do it.  I don’t think this can continue for very long.

We just managed to hold on for the W, beating the Jays, 13-12.  We used seven pitchers over nine innings.  Starting with Beckett.  Who was awful.  He had to leave after three innings.  He gave up eight runs on nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts.  A three-run home run.  Six runs in the third and two in the fourth without recording an out.  He threw eighty-three pitches.  It was just disgusting.  I actually felt mildly insulted that I was expected to watch his outing and believe that that was actually Josh Beckett pitching up there.  Of course, it was really Josh Beckett, which makes the whole thing substantially worse.  I mean, where did that come from? As far as I know, unlike Lester he hasn’t been known throughout his career as having bad Aprils.  But I think that this is a recent trend.  Last April, he tossed 530 pitches over 28.2 innings and gave up thirty-six hits and twenty-four runs, struck out thirty-one, and walked sixteen with a .303 OPP AVG, an ERA of 7.22, a record of two and two, and a team record of three and two in his starts.  He went fifteen and four with a 3.33 ERA the rest of the season.  This April, he’s tossed 502 pitches over 28.2 innings and given up thirty-six hits and twenty-four runs, struck out twenty, and walked thirteen with a .316 OPP AVG, an ERA of 7.22, a record of 1-0, and a team record of four and one in his starts.  So luckily, April is over in a few days.  It actually hurt to watch those three innings.

The bullpen failed to stop the bleeding.  Atchison and Schoeneweis each allowed a run.  (Beckett walked two in the fourth before leaving; Schoeneweis let Alex Gonzalez hit the triple that brought them home.  Yeah.  Remember him?) Okajima allowed two and is currently the Beckett of the bullpen.  Bard got a hold and Paps got a save; they and Manny Delcarmen were our only saving graces.  The three of them combined for four hitless, scoreless innings.  Delcarmen retired all the Jays he faced.  I hope Beckett and the rest of the bullpen thanked them profusely afterwards for bailing them out.  Again.  Somehow, Schoeneweis got the win even though he allowed hits for the two lefties he faced.

The whole ugly affair lasted four hours and thirteen minutes.  Ugh.

So it was Delcarmen, Bard, and Paps who made it possible for the offense to carry us through.  Drew singled in Scutaro in the first.  (Then, Youk was thrown out at home.) Tek singled and Beltre doubled in the third, each plating two.  Scutaro scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, followed by another two-RBI single by Tek.  Youk singled in Pedroia in the fifth.  In the sixth, McDonald doubled and Scutaro singled, each plating a run, and Pedroia doubled in two.  The starting lineup had five multi-hit games; all five were three-hitters.  Scutaro, Beltre, and Tek (yes, Jason Varitek) all went three for five, Pedroia went three for six, and Youk went three for four.  Pedroia stole himself two bases.

So, to emphasize: Jason Varitek has been tearing it up.  He has the best slugging percentage of any American League catcher, is currently batting .357, and has gone seven for twenty against righties.  I mean, what? Hey, if you’re hot, you’re hot, so I say leave him in.

Dice-K threw a simulated game in sixty-nine pitches.  He’s starting on Saturday.  Maybe that’s what this club needs to get the rotation going.

So, yes, that was pretty ugly.  We won, but it was ugly.  We’re still digging ourselves out of our hole in the standings, so we still technically can’t complain, but trust me, after we climb out we’ll have a lot to say about the starters’ performance this month.  So far, our aces in practice this month have been Wake and Buchholz.  Not Lester.  Not Beckett.  Not even Lackey.  Wake and Buchholz.  That says something.  The rotation needs to take care of itself.  It’s allowed 137 hits and seventy-eight runs, more than any group in baseball and the American League, respectively.  Although we can be extremely happy about the offensive production and hitting with runners in scoring position that we’ve seen recently.  Tonight Buchholz takes on Shaun Marcum.  Let’s try to have the starting pitching and the offense on at the same time.

In other news, the Bruins advance to the next round of the playoffs! Krejci racked up three points in our 4-3 defeat of the Sabres last night.  I’m telling you, I saw better hockey from the B’s this series than I’d seen all season long.

Icon SMI

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Finally, it starts to get interesting.

Pitching is Theo’s top priority at the Winter Meetings.  It looks like we’re shifting our focus from Roy Halladay to John Lackey.  That’s very good news.  I don’t want to give up both Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly for a pitcher who is, in all likelihood, past his prime.  Yes, it’s possible he could be another Randy Johnson, who won four straight Cy Youngs after turning thirty-five, or Curt Schilling, who was a Cy Young runner-up three times after turning thirty-three.  But it’s also possible that he just won’t deliver or that he’ll become a medical liability or, worse yet, the dreaded combination of both.  (See Randy Johnson in pinstripes.  Talk about disasters.) And if you compare the two, Roy Halladay doesn’t even enjoy a complete edge in the numbers.  In his career, he started and won more games, struck out more batters, and had a lower ERA, OPP AVG, and WHIP.  But Lackey’s gone the distance more often (which translates to durability, one of Lackey’s strongest assets) and has allowed fewer earned runs, home runs, bases on balls, and hit batters.  And we land Lackey this offseason, it would be through a signing, not a trade, so we wouldn’t have to mortgage our future.  Besides, we theoretically have some money left over from our decision to not pick up Alex Gonzalez’s option.

Supposedly, we’re also seriously pursuing Rich Harden.  I like that less.  He’s got a 3.39 career ERA with 783 strikeouts and a record of fifty and twenty-nine, but he’s never thrown two hundred innings in a season and has only made more than twenty-six starts once.  Durability? Not so much.  But he’d be a good bargain option, arguably a better one than Smoltz or Penny, because he’s pitched in the American League.

Speaking of pitching, the Braves cleaned out two of our peripheral relievers.  Wagner signed a one-year deal worth seven million dollars to close for them.  I would’ve liked to see him come back to Boston, but he did give us fair warning that he wanted to close, and we don’t exactly have a vacancy in that position.  One day later, the Braves signed Saito also, to a one year deal worth just over three million plus incentives.  I’m not too torn up about it.

Say hello to the latest shortstop to don a Boston uniform: Marco Scutaro.  If I sound cynical, it’s because I am.  He’s wearing Number 16; the last Boston shortstop to wear Number 16 was Edgar Renteria, so here’s hoping this time around will work out a little bit better.  Let’s not kid ourselves: he’s a veteran.  He’s a career .265 hitter with fifty home runs, 294 RBIs, and 297 walks to his credit.  But he’s thirty-four years old.  There’s a reason why the deal was only for two years.  It’s worth eleven million dollars plus a dual option.  Things that made this possible: the draft pick we’re getting from the Braves that will offset the one we have to give to the Jays, another undisclosed team pushing hard for Scutaro that forced the issue, and Scurato has reached that point in his career when he really wants a ring.  (Ironically, Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays earlier, worth close to three million plus an option.) Either way, we now have a shortstop who is not Dustin Pedroia.

That needs to be cleared up once and for all.  Dustin Pedroia said he would be willing to play shortstop if the team needed him to.  But the team wasn’t about to let that happen.  Trust me.  You don’t move a Gold Glove second baseman to short because you don’t want to spend some money.  You don’t do that for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that it doesn’t solve anything.  Fine; you move your second baseman to short.  Now you need a second baseman.  Sure, the market for second basemen is more fluid than that for shortstops, but not when you’re talking about second basemen as good as Dustin Pedroia.  Also, the caliber of Pedroia’s defense at short would be comparable to, if not worse than, any career shortstop on the market, with the obvious exception of Julio Lugo.  Thirdly, shortstop is no defensive walk in the park.  It’s the most difficult infield position.  And that means it carries a higher probability of injury, especially for someone who’s not used to it.  So we would have lost valuable playing time from him, both in the field and at the plate, had he made the switch.  Would he have been capable of doing so? Absolutely.  If anyone could, Dustin Pedroia could.  If there’s one ballplayer who embodies the don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-‘cause-I’ll-show-you-I-can attitude, it’s him.  Not to mention the fact that in 2003 he was the NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year at short.  And he’s actually in a better position to play shortstop at the Major League level now than he was when he first came up, due to his offseason workouts and in-season conditioning that have made him lighter and faster.  But even though he’d use his baseball acumen to compensate, his range would leave much to be desired.  And sometimes, in pressure situations in that part of the field, the range of the shortstop is what it comes down to.  It would have put considerable pressure on Mike Lowell to improve his range as compensation, that’s for sure.  So while I’m not doubting Pedroia’s ability to make the switch, I don’t think it would be a good for him or the team in the long run.  The team wasn’t actually serious about that possibility anyway.  Ultimately, Theo never would have allowed it.  Thankfully, it’s a moot point now either way.

But that would explain our earlier interest in Placido Polanco.  After the Tigers declined to offer him arbitration, we made a call or two.  But like I said, we don’t need a second baseman, and even if we did, he was all but off-limits.  The Phillies have since closed the deal.  So much for Chone Figgins, who ended up signing a four-year deal with Seattle.

Last but not least, we extended arbitration to Bay earlier this week.  (We declined offers to Baldelli and Byrd.) That means that, even if he signs with someone else, we get compensatory draft picks.  So the saga continues.

Congratulations to Joe Castiglione, Dave O’Brien, and Jerry Remy for landing on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, honoring the baseball’s best announcers.  They definitely deserve it.

We beat the Lightning and the Leafs.  Not so much the Habs.  We lost, 1-5, to Montreal.  Ugh.  That was just an awful game to watch.  Even with that loss, though, we’re in first place in the Northeast! Finally! One point ahead of the Sabres, but I’ll take it.  But the most significant B’s news this week has nothing to do with wins and losses.  Marc Savard signed a seven-year extension.  Ladies and gentlemen, that could very well be the highlight of the regular season.  It’s going to have a hugely positive impact it’s going to have on our future.  There is arguably no other center in the league who is as multi-faceted and deeply talented as Marc Savard.  Things aren’t as cheerful on the football front.  Talk about awful games to watch.  The Saints defeated us, 38-17.  Yeah.  Awful.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Congratulations to Joe Mauer on winning the American League’s MVP award.  Youk and Bay didn’t fair too badly, taking sixth and seventh respectively, but they didn’t have the .365 average with the twenty-eight home runs and ninety-six RBIs to go with the starting catcher position.  Mauer took all but one first-place votes and was only the second catcher to win it in thirty-three years.  (It’s no secret that catchers usually can’t hit.  Which explains why Victor Martinez is next season’s top priority.) And those numbers also earned him the Ted Williams Award, given to baseball’s leading hitter.  And of course who but Albert Pujols won it for the National League.  Obviously.

Jonathan Papelbon was the club’s Fireman of the Year.  Daniel Bard was the club’s Rookie of the Year.  Nick Green won the Jackie Jensen Award for spirit and determination, and let me tell you something: any shortstop who goes from non-roster invitee to four-month starter has no shortage of spirit and determination.

As far as the stove is concerned, it’s still not too hot.  We acquired Royals infielder Tug Hulett for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays for about three million dollars, with a club option for two and a half million.  Now that he’s unfortunately out of the picture, we’re showing interest in Marco Scutaro, who says it’s either us or the Dodgers.  We’re also shopping Mike Lowell.  Surprise, surprise.  Even if we do end up shipping him off, it won’t even be a fair deal, because the recipient club would be getting a top-notch, albeit health-wise unpredictable, third baseman for fifty percent off, because we’d have to swallow at least that much of his salary to make him palatable.  It’s really just sad.  He had a phenomenal season (and postseason) in 2007 and amble moments of brilliance in 2008, especially in the ALDS.  But he is getting older, and that was in California where the weather is warmer, so perhaps a team from a city with a warmer climate would be a better fit for him.

But a few big names have surfaced.  The Tigers are apparently interested in trading Miguel Cabrera (with Detroit’s financial situation, who wouldn’t be?), and we’ll probably get first dibs.  Also, it’s official: we are going for Roy Halladay and going big.  The problem is that, to close both of these deals, we’ll almost certainly have to part with Clay Buchholz.  We’d also have to part with Casey Kelly, at least, to land Halladay.  And after the performance Clay Buchholz gave in Game Three of the ALDS (walking into an elimination game as a young pitcher with no postseason experience after having seen the lineup put up zero run support), I don’t know how comfortable I would be with giving him up.  I think we owe it to him, the organization, and ourselves to see more of what he’s got before we decide that he is not, in fact, one of the greats in the making.  But the plot thickens: Halladay said he’d waive his no-trade clause to go to the Bronx.  I’m not saying we should engage in prevention via irresponsible acquisition, but I am saying that we need to weigh our actions very carefully.  Especially since Halladay is getting older.  That’s something that seems to be lost amidst the sensation of it all.  The man is not immortal.  He ages.  And while he ages, his abilities will decline.  And right now, he’s at a point in his career where we can expect his next four or five years to be considerably different from his last four or five.

Turns out that Ron Johnson is not our new bench coach.  DeMarlo Hale is.  Ron Johnson joined the Major League staff to coach at first in replacement of Hale.  I have to say I feel more comfortable with Hale as bench coach than I did when I thought Johnson would be doing it.  Not that I don’t think Johnson would be a good bench coach, but if we’re talking about the importance of knowing the players and the franchise inside-out, Hale, who’s been coaching first base for a while now, clearly has the edge there.

At the end of my recent posts, I’ve usually said something like, “All we can do now is wait and see.” I say that because it’s true.  But it’s also true that the suspense is killing me.  I keep getting this feeling that the offseason won’t come to a close until Theo Epstein does something big, but I can’t figure out what that’ll be.  A trade? A signing? Another starting pitcher? A new power hitter? It’s too hard and too early to tell.  But one thing’s for sure: something’s definitely brewing.  The front office has something up its sleeve.  The foundations have been laid for some sort of shake-up, even if we can’t quite figure out what it’ll be.

But before we conclude, I would like to report that Bud Selig will be retiring after the 2012 season.  It’s been one interesting ride.  He was named acting commissioner in 1992 and official commissioner in 1998, and since then we’ve seen a growth in the baseball market, an expansion of the postseason via the Wild Card, the introduction of revenue sharing, Interleague, a players’ strike, the first World Series cancellation since 1904 (ten years shy of a century), and the steroid era.  There was good, there was bad, and there was most definitely ugly.  What do we need in a successor? That’s an extremely open-ended question, but whoever it is will be charged with the difficult task of cleaning up baseball’s public image.  So much controversy occurred during Selig’s tenure that MLB will probably look to someone with a hard-line streak, someone who can keep the sport in line while still bringing revenue in.  We’ll see what happens.

The B’s beat the Blues, Wild, and Sens and lost to the Devils in sudden death.  The Pats beat the Jets.

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As usual in these situations, I’m going to cut to the completely unjustifiable chase.  We’re not getting the All-Star Game in 2012.  Kansas City is getting it.  I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock before I continue, because believe me, this was one seriously twisted shock.  Okay.  Apparently, Kauffman Stadium recently completed major renovations.  How nice for Kauffman Stadium.  It’s brand-new, nice and clean, and very fan-friendly.  Congratulations, Kansas City; now Kauffman Stadium is just like every other ballpark that completes major renovations.

Just to review, the reason why we wanted the All-Star Game in 2012 is because Fenway Park will turn one hundred years old.  The oldest ballpark still in use in the United States of America will commemorate a century of baseball.  America’s Most Beloved Ballpark will celebrate its one hundredth birthday.  Think about what Fenway Park has seen in that time.  It’s seen the Royal Rooters, Tris Speaker, Duffy’s Cliff.  It’s seen Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski.  It’s seen Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, 2004, and 2007.  It’s seen a team of royalty followed by a team that committed cruel and unusual losses year after year after year, followed by royalty’s return.  If there is a structure in this country that embodies the history of the game of baseball within its very foundation, it’s Fenway Park.

And Fenway Park was denied.  Why? I have no idea.  What, they can give it to New York because it’s the last year of Yankee Stadium but they can’t recognize that America’s Most Beloved, and oldest, Ballpark will turn a century old? I mean, okay, so Kansas City hasn’t had the All-Star game in forty years and Fenway last had it thirteen years ago, in 1999 when none other than the Splendid Splinter threw out the first pitch.  But Fenway only turns one hundred years old once in a lifetime.  Kansas City could’ve gotten it in 2013.  In fact, it would’ve been okay by me if Kansas City had it every year for another forty years if only we could have it this one time.  Something just doesn’t seem right here.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are extremely and profoundly disappointed and extremely and profoundly confused.

Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young.  I’ll be very interested to see how he pitches next year.  I don’t think he’ll be as effective.  But I do think Josh Beckett is in line to have a break-out season so dominant that not even CC Sabathia can squeeze past him in the Cy Young voting.  Tim Lincecum won it for the NL, becoming its first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.  Andrew Bailey of Oakland and Chris Coghlan of Florida were the Rookies of the Year.  Mike Scoscia and Jim Tracy of Colorado were the Managers of the Year.  I don’t think I would’ve picked Mike Scoscia.  In my mind, there were three managers this year who faced significant uphill battles and who powered through them: Terry Francona, and then Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington.  Terry Francona managed us through a lack of shortstop, the entry of a new starting catcher, a decline in the playing time of the team’s captain, a very public steroid scandal, and the worst slump in the career of the figure at the heard of said steroid scandal.  True, every manager deals with things behind closed doors, but what makes Tito’s job so difficult is that those doors are never closed completely.  It’s the nature of sports in Boston.  Gardenhire took the Twins from zero to one-game-playoff winners without Joe Mauer in the first month of the season, Justin Morneau in the last month, or a particularly effective bullpen.  And Washington almost made it to the playoffs this year without big-name talent.  All I’m saying is that, if the award goes to a Manager of the Year within the Angels organization, it should have gone to Torii Hunter, not Scoscia.  He was the real force in that clubhouse.  MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Again, not much in the way of business yet.  Jason Bay rejected a four-year, sixty-million-dollar offer in favor of testing the free agent market for the first time in his career.  He’s Theo’s priority, though, and I still say he’ll end up back in Boston.  The Cards have already stated that they’re not interested, preferring Matt Holliday instead.  But I think this has the potential to be one of those long, drawn-out negotiations.  By the way, let’s not forget that Jermaine Dye is also a free agent.

We released George Kottaras, who has been claimed by the Brewers.  PawSox manager Ron Johnson will be our new bench coach.  We’re reportedly interested in Adrian Beltre, and we claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers.  Before the offseason is done, we’ll probably re-sign Alex Gonzalez and add a low-risk, high-potential starter.  Remember: in an economy like this, you do not need to, nor should you, empty your pockets to win a World Series, no matter what the Evil Empire might assume is the best practice.

Congratulations to John Henry on winning the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.  Again, corporate social responsibility in this day and age is the way to go.  Unfortunately, though, ticket prices are up this year.  About half the seats were increased by two dollars, including the infield grandstand, right field boxes, and lower bleachers.  The field and loge boxes and Green Monster seats and standing room were increased by five dollars.  The outfield grandstand and upper bleachers weren’t increased.  Whenever you hear about price increases or decreases for tickets at Fenway, remember to always take them with a grain of salt.  Obviously we’d prefer a price freeze, but how many of us really purchase our Fenway tickets at face value anyway? I’m just saying.

So, as per usual this early in the offseason, we have more wait-and-seeing ahead.  Theo never reveals the tricks he has up his sleeve, so that’s really all we can do.

The Bruins suffered a particularly painful loss to the Islanders, 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.  We did best Atlanta in a shootout, though, and we eked out a win against the Sabres in sudden death.  That last one was particularly heartening, being that the Sabres are first in the division.  For now.  We’re only two points behind.  And now for the grand finale, let’s discuss Bill Belichick’s oh-so-positive judgment call on Sunday.  In the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the Pats had the ball on their 28.  Tom Brady’s pass was incomplete.  With two minutes and eight seconds left on the clock, Belichick decided to go for it.  But Kevin Faulk fumbled the ball, and suddenly it was fourth and two.  Needless to say, we lost, 35-34, to the Colts, who are still undefeated.  I mean, it’s a tough call.  Belichick made the same decision against Atlanta and we won.  Then again, we had the lead, we had the time, and we had an opponent that wasn’t Indianapolis.  It was just bad.  It was just really, really bad.

Sawxblog/Derek Hixon

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