Posts Tagged ‘Bill Mueller’

Oh, man.  Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.

We’ve done it again! I can’t believe it! I mean, I can believe it.  I saw it with my own eyes, and I can believe it, but it was absolutely awesome.  This time last year, we were getting ready for a long offseason.

This time this year, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to the World Series! Detroit is officially taken care of, and we are moving on to the world championship.  Oh, man.  It’s so great to be back.  And we’ll be playing the Cardinals.  Rematch? Yes, please.

This was yet another close one.  We were the first to score.  In the fifth.  With two out, Bogaerts doubled and scored on a single by Ellsbury.

Meanwhile, Buchholz wasn’t immaculate, but he was dominant.  It was great.  He maintained his command and control and just mowed right through.  Until the sixth.  He gave up a walk and a single, and then he was replaced by Morales.  His final line read five innings and two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.  Ordinarly, two runs would be a great result.  But we needed something even better.

Morales then gave up our lead.  He issued another walk to load the bases with nobody out, and then he gave up a single that scored two.  Workman couldn’t have come in at a better time; he induced a double play to end the inning.  The fielding on that play, by the way, was textbook.

Workman induced a flyout to lead off the seventh, but then he gave up two singles and loaded the bases when he made a fielding error.  Then it was Tazawa’s turn; he ended the inning on a groundout.

So the situation was really only stressful for the bottom of the sixth, when we didn’t score, and the top of the seventh, when we were waiting for another chance to score.  And we got it.  And we took advantage of it.  Majorly.

Gomes led it off with a double, Drew struck out, Bogaerts walked, Detroit made a pitching change, and Ellsbury reached on a force attempt thanks to a fielding error to load the bases.

And once again, I have to say, I don’t know.  I don’t know how it works.  It must be the air here.  I think it also had to do with the fact that we were back home.  Being home does that too.  And maybe also the fact that Bill Mueller threw out the first pitch.  And it just happened.  It’s like magic.  It’s the magic of good baseball players playing good baseball.  Or something.  I don’t know.  I really don’t.

Victorino stepped up to the plate.  He took a curveball for a strike and fouled off another one.  And then he got another one.  They were all the same pitch around the same speed.  But that third one, he read like a book.  Really.  He powered up big time and sent that ball all the way out toward the Monster.  Four runs on one swing.  It was absolutely epic.  Epic, epic, epic.  With that grand slam, we got ourselves a three-run lead.

Breslow pitched a one-two-three eighth, and Uehara owned the ninth as usual.  Cue mob.  Uehara basically summed it up.  5-2.

Alright.  It’s not over yet.  We’ve still got plenty of work to do.  I’ve been hungry, and I’m ready.  I like being American League Champions, but I’m ready for the Cards and the World Series.  Let’s go get it.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Cutting to the chase yet again, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were both revealed to be on the list of the roughly one hundred baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drug use in 2003.  Neither will be punished by the league because suspensions were only introduced in 2004.  But this season just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it.

Isn’t it funny how the New York Times is always the one to break these stories? And with a decidedly anti-Red Sox bent, too.  “Now, players with Boston’s championship teams of 2004 and 2007 have also been linked to doping.” Like we couldn’t figure that out from the headline.  And isn’t it funny how, out of one hundred-plus names, these were the only two that were leaked? To a New York newspaper? On the front page? Mere moments before game time? When David Ortiz was scheduled to be in the lineup? It’s just strange, is all I’m saying.

The first thing I’d like to say is that the tests in 2003 were called for by Bud Selig to determine the percentage of baseball players who were using.  The results were supposed to be destroyed.  They weren’t; they were supposed to remain anonymous.  And that’s the kicker.  You can’t just release only a handful of the one-hundred-plus names on the list; it’s completely unfair.  If you release some, you have to release all.  Not doing so allows unclean players to masquerade as clean and point fingers to the unclean when really they’re all in the same boat.  And it’s deceiving; it makes it easy for people to forget that at that time this was prolific.  Furthermore, according to Nomar, because the test was anonymous and only for the purposes of determining whether testing was necessary, many players intentionally refused to be tested, thereby allowing themselves to be associated with positive results, in order to push the number of positive players over the top, which would force Bud Selig to implement tests.  This is definitely something to be kept in mind when future revelations of names are made.  Unless that’s not altogether true.  And in this day and age, you can’t be too sure.  Either way, the point is that, as it stands now, the list totally irrelevant.  Just sayin’.

Usually in these situations, the logic of choice would be that of superficial fairness.  Yes, it looks like Manny Ramirez was possibly David Ortiz were taking steroids at the time.  (I’ll explain the “possibly” in a moment.) Just like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez.  And that by taking steroids, Manny and Papi actually evened the playing field.  The Yankees had cheaters on their team.  We had cheaters on our team.  So we still won, and we were still the better team.  Plain and simple.

But I’m not going to employ that logic, because I am a member of Red Sox Nation, and I root for a team that deserves more than just the cheap, dirty, easy way out.  When the first news of Manny Ramirez broke, I said that neither the 2004 nor the 2007 World Series victories are tainted, and I stand by that.  Yes, it looks like Manny Ramirez and possibly David Ortiz were taking steroids at the time.  But they were only two on a team of forty.  To taint those two victories is to besmirch the rest of the team without due cause.  True, they played an enormous part in both, but without the team they would’ve gotten nowhere.  David Ortiz hit walk-off home runs in the 2004 playoffs. In order for those home runs to win the game, other runs had to have been scored and plated by other players.  Like Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, Pokey Reese, Trot Nixon, Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts, and Kevin Millar, to name a few.  What about them? They played more of a part in those wins than just two guys.  So when Yankee fans, or anyone else for that matter, try to void 2004, they’re just grasping.  Men don’t win championships.  Teams win championships.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we are not about  to let the superficial fan or the weak of heart slander two entire teams of upstanding ballplayers.

Now, that begs the question of who else on the 2004 team tested positive, but we have to work with the information available.  And I can guarantee you right now that every member of that team did not dope.  Doping had to have been an isolated incident, done on an individual basis.  It wasn’t something that ran rampant in the clubhouse.  We didn’t have a trainer injecting people or a supplier doling out pills.  The clubhouse, then, was clean, and as a team, we won honorably.  As a team, we were clean because we did not condone this behavior.  And we still don’t.

And now we get to discuss the “possibly.” David Ortiz admitted that, when he was a young man in the Dominican Republic just breaking into the game of baseball, he’d started buy protein shakes without really knowing for sure what they contained.  It’s possible that they contained PEDs and he just didn’t bother to check.  There’s no excuse for that.  But there is a difference between that and the actions of Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.  It’s possible that he tested positive in 2003, figured it must have something to do with an ingredient in the shake, and stopped drinking them, which coincides with the fact that starting in 2004 he tested clean, a fact we have records to prove.  And the plausibility of this possibility is actually confirmed by the fact that Bronson Arroyo has publicly stated that he was taking androstenedione and amphetamines.  He stopped taking the andro because he found out it was laced with the steroid Winstrol due to “lax production standards.” Apparently, back then, it wasn’t that rare to take something without bothering to check what was in it.  (Arroyo stopped taking the andro in 2004 and the greenies in 2006, when each was respectively banned.) Manny Ramirez is another matter entirely, but we can’t pass judgment on David Ortiz.  Not yet anyway.  Not after he issued a public statement through the Red Sox during which he said he knows nothing, wants to find out all he can, and will explain the situation to the public as soon as he has more information.  This is not the usual skulking off that guilty users practice.  He’s being responsible; the first thing he did was confirm with the Players Association that the report is true.  This is exactly in the style of Big Papi, always open with the media and up-front with the fans.  We owe him our patience while he figures this whole thing out.

Believe it or not, that was the easy stuff.  Deep down, we all know the wins aren’t tainted.  We all know that, as both a team and a clubhouse, we’re clean and honorable.  We know it, we believe it, and it’s easy to explain why, and I’ve done that.  Now comes the hard part.   The part where you realize how painful it was to discover this, how frustrated you were to read it, especially on the front page of a New York newspaper.   I won’t lie; it hurt bad.   And if it comes to pass that he was ingesting PEDs a-la Bonds and A-Rod, I’ll be even more disappointed in David Ortiz.  But we’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.  As it is, it stabs you right in the heart.  It makes you angry that he could be so ignorant and stupid as to get caught up in all of that, and it frustrates you even more because you know you can’t judge yet since you don’t have all the details.  And it makes you sad.  But what makes you even sadder is that there are people out there who’ll try to take away from you what you’ve rightfully earned, based on the mistakes of two misguided men.  Whether one of them acted with a certain intent or not.

If there’s one thing we have to take away from this, it’s that it’s wrong to let unclean players give the clean a bad name by hiding among them.  Similarly, it’s wrong to accuse the clean of being unclean just because a realistic outcome could maybe, possibly, sort of be construed to fit an anomalous behavior.  That’s slander.  When the press does it, it’s libel.  And it’s illegal.  Just to give you an idea of how grave an offense defamation can be.  Red Sox Nation is better than that.  The Royal Rooters raised us better than that.

I was very surprised to hear about this.  I know, I know, technically this shouldn’t have surprised me.  Maybe I relate too much to the pre-steroid era, or maybe I’m stubbornly non-cynical; I don’t know.  Whatever it is, there are things I do know.  I know that 2004 ended the Curse of the Bambino and that 2007 reminded us it wasn’t just a dream.  I know that the retired numbers hanging on the right field roof deck represent players who couldn’t be paid to look at a PED.  I know that the men wearing our uniforms now know what not to do.  Behavior like this doesn’t fly in Boston.  Never has.  Never will.  And finally, I know that when I look at a Red Sox jersey, at the World Series trophies, and the youth of the 2009 club, I’m looking at things and people I can respect.  Clubs like ours have learned from their predecessors’ mistakes, and the things they will achieve without the aid of PEDs will be even better than anything that could be achieved with them, because of their absence.

So, that’s that.  I’m not naive.  I just refuse be as cynical and detached as many other baseball fans and sports writers are being.  The situation’s awful, but it is what it is.  Hopefully, and I mean hopefully, this’ll be the last such issue I’ll have to address.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Wow. Where should I start? We sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates so that we could get Jason Bay from the Pirates. Craig Hansen could throw hard but the truth is that he’s been inconsistent throughout his Major League career without showing signs of improvement. Brandon Moss was a good outfielder with a decent bat. We have four outfielders right now and could use a fifth. Last season we had Bobby Kielty. Now that Moss is gone, who’s going to fill that role? So that’s something that should probably be addressed.

As for Manny’s role in this, it’s complicated. Downsides: he’s Manny Ramirez. The combination of Ortiz and Ramirez strikes fear into the hearts of the best of pitchers, and for good reason. Even by himself Manny is a formidable opponent. His offensive production is through the roof, and his bat has been instrumental in our postseason success. He’s very well acquainted with Fenway’s left field. The angles and corners over there are not easy to play. We know that because we’ve watched opposing left fielders look like fools in there. Manny is an expert at reading the wall and judging which balls will be off the wall and which won’t. He gets rid of the ball very quickly, too. He also has an unheard-of work ethic, watching tape for hours, showing up before and after games to practice hitting, always developing drills and training and studying the game. Plus, the whole Manny being Manny aspect did have some positive features. He relaxed the clubhouse a bit, contributed his own character and flair to the team, and basically befriended the entire lineup and eased the pressure on everybody with his talents as a ballplayer. And he’s been a fixture in Boston for 7.5 years. That’s a long time.

Upsides: just look at his track record over the past month or so. In that span, he’s shoved a teammate, manhandled a 61-year-old traveling secretary, accused the principal owner of his team of being dishonest, removed himself from the lineup twice due to knee soreness undetectable by MRI, failed to run out long grounders that could’ve been turned into hits and possibly runs, and stated publicly that he’s tired of his team and that his team doesn’t deserve a player like him. These are not the Manny being Manny moments from past years. This isn’t Manny running on the field with an American flag to celebrate his becoming a citizen. This isn’t Manny doing his usual fooling around. This is big. This is a blatant lack of effort and a complete and total offense to teammates. And when something like this happens, it’s hard to ignore. As I said, since the Manny rumors have surfaced, the team’s performance has taken a nosedive, even at home. That doesn’t happen unless there’s a major distraction, and that’s what Manny had finally become: a distraction too intolerable for the current course of action that Terry Francona and the Red Sox front office had engaged in for years, which was basically looking the other way. No amount of slugging could take away the fact that he was disturbing the clubhouse. You can’t have a team full of do-or-die guys and then a guy like Manny. After a point you just can’t. As Curt Schilling said, you can’t have players like Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek, who play through pain and keep their soreness to themselves and live and die with every at-bat, and a player like Manny Ramirez, who’s one of the best there is but who toys with the team and takes himself out of the lineup just to prove a point. Not giving your all is something that doesn’t fly in Boston. In addition to all of this, Manny is aging, can not for the life of him run the bases, and is now in the National League, which means the only times he’d be able to do any damage against us is during Interleague and the World Series, if the Dodgers manage to get there.

You might say that the trade was a mistake because Jason Bay could never hope to fill Manny’s shoes. You might say the Red Sox should’ve sat tight and kept Manny. But at what cost? Either we lose games and keep someone who, while one of the best ballplayers in the Major Leagues, is an unhealthy distraction, or we win or lose games with a new guy who’s younger, faster, and having an offensively comparable season. Manny wasn’t going to play baseball in Boston forever. At the very least, he’d eventually have to retire. Sooner or later, we would’ve had to secure a future for our left field beyond him. We’ve just had to do it sooner than expected.

This trade has proven to be a disappointment for me. I am disappointed in Manny for not being able to keep his head on during a three-way pennant race. I am disappointed in Manny because of his flagrant misbehavior due to a contract dispute and whatever other baggage he might have. I am disappointed that he couldn’t just put himself aside for the sake his teammates, some of whom have been with him for the majority of his years in Boston, and help us win a World Series. Usually, when a veteran has played in a Red Sox uniform for the last time, I’m more sad than angry to see him go. But thanks to Manny Ramirez and his recent displays, I’m more angry than sad.

With something like this, we’ve got to trust. Nomar was traded right in the middle of the 2004 season for Orlando Cabrera, someone new who like Jason Bay had to adjust to his teammates and his new city. But he did it and then helped us win a World Series, in historic and spectacular fashion to boot. There’s no reason to think that the same thing won’t happen here. Perhaps the clubhouse needed some sort of invigorating force. One thing’s for sure: we can finally move forward. Red Sox Nation and I will no doubt feel like something’s missing when we look to left field and see no dreadlocks, no big smile, no ridiculousness going on. And we’ll all feel like we’ve lost something valuable the first time we see Manny Ramirez dressed in a Dodgers uniform. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss the man. I was a huge fan of Manny Ramirez, and he did so much for our team and therefore Boston. There was always that knowledge when he came to the plate that with one swing he could win us a ballgame, that since he was young it was clear that he was born to play ball. He was one of the greats. He could’ve been even greater. But I guess we have to let this one go.

I still say Manny had no idea how good he had it. He’s going to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fans in Los Angeles are very different from the fans in Boston. The fans in LA like to see spectacles like Manny high-fiving a fan before throwing a caught ball back into play. So in that sense he’ll be happy. But fans in LA also tend to leave the stadium at around the seventh inning. Let’s face it; Manny was an icon in Boston. For 7.5 years he’s been loved by a city, a region, and a Nation. He’s won two championships and hit five hundred home runs wearing Red Sox letters. Will he really be happy going from baseball god to guy in left field who does funny stuff for fans who leave during the seventh inning?

Well, he’ll have to be. He wanted out, and now he’s out. He’s Joe Torre’s problem now. That’ll be interesting. I can’t wait to see how Torre handles Manny’s first episode. He’ll also be reunited with Nomar, Derek Lowe, and Bill Mueller, who works in the organization. In the meantime, I’m anxious to check out the new guy and see how quickly he can make the adjustment.

By the way, the Yankees landed Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth. The Yankees could’ve used the extra pitcher, but instead they wanted the 38-year-old catcher who’s batting .295 with five homers and 32 RBIs. I’m just saying.

Getty Images

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