Posts Tagged ‘Brad Mills’

The small stuff first.  We signed Nick Punto to a two-year deal; it’s a solid signing.  He’s a scrappy player with a decent bat who’s great in the field.  He also seems to have a reputation for a good clubhouse character, which may be helpful at a time like this.  We signed Albers to a one-year deal, and we tendered Aceves, Bard, Morales, Aviles, Ellsbury, and Salty.  Rich Hill is now a free agent.  Jenks had back surgery.

Incidentally, the bid for Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish is rumored to be even greater than Dice-K’s bid.  He’s going to Texas.  Some say he’s better equipped to succeed here, but Dice-K has made me skeptical and bitter.

Bard is unofficially officially a starter.  I know that because we just traded Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to the Astros for Mark Melancon, a reliever who played for the Yanks in 2009 and 2010 but who closed for Houston last season.  Obviously, Lowrie is the one of those two with the higher profile.  He had phenomenal potential that was substantially hindered by injuries; there’s no escaping that fact.  The team had needs that Lowrie, as a result, was unable to fulfill; perhaps he will help the team best as trade bait.  But we won’t know that until Melancon has pitched well into the season for us.

Truth be told, I would argue that, although his stuff seems impressive enough, we don’t really know all that much about him in the context of the Major Leagues.  Last season was his third in the big show; he pitched 74.1 innings in seventy-one games, gave up five home runs, walked twenty-six batters, posted an ERA of 2.78, and struck out sixty-six.  His WHIP was 1.22.  Last year was the first season in which he posted a save at all, and he posted twenty of them.  And he’s twenty-six years old.  From all of this, we can learn that he’s young, he’s new, and he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to close regularly for a team like the Red Sox in a city like Boston in a league like the American League in a division like the AL East.  As I said, it seems like he’s got the raw goods, but at this stage, I do not feel comfortable with him being slotted as our regular closer right off the bat (pun not intended), hands-down, no questions asked.  Throw in the fact that he had major surgery on his right elbow early in his career, and there are definitely some doubts.

Then again, the surgery was a few years ago, and Paps at one time was also untested, and so is Bard as a closer.  They have absolutely electrifying fastballs; Melancon gets up to ninety-five miles per hour.  He also works with an effective cutter and curveball.  Brad Mills seems to think he can do it.  All I’m saying is that Melancon has some big shoes to fill in the biggest baseball town in the country.  Hold onto your hats, folks.  Hold onto your hats.

Bill James’s predictions for the coming season are in.  He has Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Papi all declining in batting average; Youk’s average is slated to markedly increase since he hopefully will be starting the year more healthily than the way he finished last year.  We can expect one additional home run from Papi this year; more importantly, James’s prediction shows that Papi’s power will perpetuate.  Gonzalez and Ellsbury are also slated to go yard more frequently.  Pedroia supposedly will be stealing about ten less bases, but the reason why he probably didn’t get a strong projection all around is because he was injured.  Provided that he isn’t injured, he’s going to rock it.  Look for Gonzalez to perform better than expected as well, since he’ll be entering his sophomore season with us and since he’s now sufficiently removed from his offseason shoulder surgery.

And lastly, literally, it looks like last season really was Tek’s last season with us.  Salty has found his footing, Ryan Lavarnway is coming up, and Kelly Shoppach is coming back.  Obviously it won’t technically be official until Tek signs with another team or retires, but it looks like the year of the goodbye will continue.

We acquired Tek from the Mariners in 1997 and probably didn’t even know at the time the extent of the impact he would make upon arriving.  His entire Major League career was played here.  His development as one of the best catchers in the game was completed here.  Honestly, I always thought he would retire here, and it’s a true shame that he isn’t.  True, his last several seasons saw a marked decline in both performance on the field and leadership influence off the field, but we’re looking at the whole picture here.

Since he’s spent his entire professional baseball life in Boston, we can speak in terms of career numbers.  He is a career .256 hitter with 193 home runs, 757 RBIs, 614 walks, and a .341 OBP.  But we never expected him to be a hitting catcher.  We expected him to be a catcher, period, and what a catcher he was.  He has played in 1,488 games and started 1,372 of them.  He has picked off 10,166 batters and caught 184 stealing.  His fielding percentage is .994; last year he made only four errors, and the year before that he made none.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.17.

And obviously some of his greatest contributions go well beyond even those stellar fielding numbers.  He was a true leader in every sense of the word both on and off the field, which is why he wore the “C” on his jersey, a rarity in baseball these days.  He knew the pitchers inside and out and could adapt on the fly in any situation, which is why he caught and called four no-hitters, a Major League record.  There is also something to be said for having such a veteran on the team, especially with a collaborative and positive personality like his, to ease transitions and be a moderating force in the clubhouse.  And, of course, no tribute to Tek would be complete without mentioning the contribution of the forever-to-be-remembered A-Rod fight on July 24, 2004.  It was a turning point in the season.  It was legendary and historic.  It was epic.

To his credit, he has a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove, three All-Star selections, two World Series championships, and the respect and affinity of Red Sox Nation.  He was the quintessential team player, and I firmly believe that his character and quality as a player and teammate warrant consideration for employment within the Red Sox organization, hopefully as a coach.  We remember what you’ve accomplished here, and we won’t forget it.  You’ve seen us at our best and worst; it’s been a phenomenal ride.  We as Red Sox Nation salute you, Tek.  And you will most definitely be missed.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Kings, womped the Sens, and crushed the Flyers in a particularly impressive six-zip shutout.  We scored our first goal in the first minute of the game and four goals in the first period alone.  We’re nursing a four-game winning streak and are tied with the Flyers at the top of the conference.

I’ll be taking a break for the next two weeks.  I expect winning signings when I get back.  Good, solid deals that will address the team’s needs.  It doesn’t have to be flashy; we’ve seen the detrimental effects of fixing what isn’t broken and being flashy for flashy’s sake around the league, and we’re not going to do that.  Just some good, solid deals and we’ll be fine.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

Read Full Post »

That, my friends, is just about as good as it gets.  We completed the sweep, we have our four-game (and counting) winning streak, Beckett completely bounced back from his rustiness, and we’re sending four to the All-Star Game.  Gonzalez is going for the fourth time but his first as a starter, Papi is going for the seventh time, Beckett is going for the third time, and Ellsbury has received his first career bid.  All four of them deserve every minute of that trip.  Let’s not forget, by the way, that the stakes are high.  We need to secure home field advantage for ourselves come October.

Speaking of Beckett and completely deserving a trip to the All-Star Game, yesterday’s start was all the proof you could possibly need that Beckett exudes all-star status.  The game was literally almost all Beckett.  He was the reason we won.  He pitched eight innings of one-run ball.  He gave up five hits and absolutely no walks.  He was supremely efficient; he threw 102 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  That’s a strike percentage of sixty-eight.  That’s high.  But my favorite part was the season-high eleven strikeouts.

His very first batter struck out swinging on a four-seam.  The second inning was the first of four one-two-three innings; the first two batters struck out swinging, the first on a cutter and the second on another four-seam.  He began the third with his only called strike, the result of four straight four-seams, and he ended the inning with another swinging strike on a four-seam.  He began the fourth with a strikeout on a cutter and ended it with a strikeout on a curveball.  Both strikeouts in the fifth were put away with curveballs; he also gave up his only run that inning, the result of the combination of a double and a single.  He followed that inning with a one-two-three sixth, during which he achieved another strikeout using four straight four-seams and a cutter.  He locked down his last strikeout in the seventh with a curveball (and hit his next batter, but still).

The outing really was a gem of purest form.  It was a thing of beauty.  And it was the reason why, to this day, we still wonder about last season.  Beckett was so dominant that, by the time Paps took the mound, the game was still tied at one.  We scored our first run in the fourth; the bases were loaded for Tek, but all he could muster was reaching on a force attempt, which led to an error.  He hit a grounder to first base, but Brett Wallace fired home very poorly indeed, so Youk scored.  Painfully.  Carlos Corporan came down on his right ankle, which as we all know is not in the best of shape these days.  We scored the winning run in the ninth; after a walk, a single, and an intentional walk, the bases were loaded for Youk.  Youk didn’t have to do much to bring in a run.  He didn’t.  But he brought in a run anyway.  He walked on five pitches.  Five straight cutters.  How embarrassing for the Astros.

So Beckett walked away with his third win in Houston, Paps walked away with his seventeenth save, and Tito walked away having bested our former pitching coach.  What’s up, Brad Mills; thanks for intentionally walking Gonzalez in the top of the ninth while first base was occupied, because that made so much sense and didn’t backfire at all.

All in all, the road trip wasn’t our best.  On the one hand, it was Interleague, so we should have been able to win easily.  On the other hand, we were playing in National League parks, which threw off our lineup.  But now we get to go home, and just in time for the Fourth of July.  Few things are better on America’s birthday than America’s national pastime.  It’ll be a great game.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

I can not believe we lost that game.  I seriously can not believe we lost that game.  That falls squarely on the shoulders of the bullpen.  The starter did his job by limiting the opposition and keeping us in it.  The offense did its job by scoring runs and putting us in a position to win.  All the bullpen had to do was record three outs.  Only three outs! And they couldn’t even do that! They imploded completely and managed to erase everything we’d worked for in the entire game in a single inning! And by “they,” I mean specifically Jonathan Papelbon.  He’s been pitching so well lately, but this one is on him.

The frustration that I experienced, and am still experiencing, is of epic proportions.  We had the sweep in line. We had it in the bag.  And the bullpen, pun intended, completely dropped the ball.

Lackey was superb.  He pitched eight full innings, gave up three runs on eight hits, walked one, and struck out four.  His efficiency was perhaps the best it’s been all season; he did all that on only ninety-eight pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes for a strike rate of about sixty-seven percent.  That’s very impressive.  So were all of his offspeed pitches; his cutter, his most frequently used pitch, was very on, as were his slider, curveball, and changeup.  His fastball was decent.  And he just cruised.  He threw seventeen pitches in the first, thirteen in the second, ten in the third, nine in the fourth, and never looked back.  He got into trouble in the fourth too; he had runners at the corners with nobody out and managed to escape with only one run and nine pitches because even that one run was scored while a first-pitch double play was made.  The exact same thing happened again in the sixth inning.  Like Buchholz, he was mowing right through the Blue Jays and making it look really easy.

Meanwhile, the offense was right behind him the whole way through.  Ellsbury led off the game with a single, Lowrie followed with a walk, a double steal moved both of them into scoring position, Ellsbury came home on a sac fly by V-Mart, and Lowrie came home on a single by Papi.

The fifth was a flashback to Wednesday’s heroics.  Lowrie and Papi both went deep.  Lowrie had us fooled the whole way.  He lifted a high changeup, and it just kept lifting until it got out, but off the bat it didn’t look at all like it had enough to get out.  That’s his first homer of the season, and, landing in the center field seats, it was very powerfully hit.  There was no question about Papi’s homer.  That left the bat and you knew it was headed straight for the bullpen.  It was a changeup again.  No wonder Mills was chased.

That was Papi’s twenty-fifth home run of the season, giving him seven consecutive such seasons, which ties Jim Rice for second in the franchise.  Ted Williams is of course first with fourteen.  Double that.  Ted Williams was the greatest hitter who ever lived.

In the eighth, McDonald tripled in Saltalamacchia.  By the way, Salty did very well in his debut; he finished the day two for four with two doubles and handled Lackey very nicely.

Lackey didn’t even leave the ballgame until the ninth inning when, in search of his first complete game of the season, he led it off by allowing a home run.  But life was good.  We had a 5-3 lead, we were in the ninth inning, and we were handing that lead over to a bullpen that had recently handled much smaller leads against much tougher opponents.  What could possibly go wrong? Plenty.  Too much.  Way too much.

After Lackey left, Paps took the ball as is customary.  But his appearance would prove to be anything but customary en route to blowing his sixth save this season in thirty-five opportunities.  It was because he left all of his pitches up.  That’ll do it every time.  You absolutely can not throw lethargic pitches and then leave them up with the game on the line.  That is a complete recipe for disaster.

The first batter that Paps faced doubled.  An RBI single followed.  Then came a grounder off Paps’s left foot that bounced away, and Paps had no idea where it was, and the runners took the  corners with nobody out.

But this time, there would be no first-pitch double play.  Paps struck out Snider, but that was merely setting up false hope.  The very next batter hit an RBI double to tie the game.  Then, with runners on second and third, Paps intentionally walked Overbay.  Then he promptly handed the ball to Bard with one out and the bases loaded.

To review, Jonathan Papelbon, our closer, not only blew the save and took the loss, but he left in the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, and the game tied, and handed the ball to the setup man.  I mean, what? Never before in his entire career has Paps walked off the mound in the ninth in a tie.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stay tied for long.  Lewis hit a sac fly for the walkoff.  And that was the only time the Jays enjoyed a lead in the entire series.  But that’s a bad time for the Jays to enjoy a lead because that lead was permanent.  And I refuse to say that Bard entered an impossible situation because he has entered that situation before, and in New York no less, and gotten out of it.

A win would have swept Toronto.  A win would have cut our deficit in the Wild Card standings.  A win would have kept pace with New York.  And we had that win.  But then we didn’t win.  We lost.  We lost the day before we start a three-game set with the Rangers.  One thing’s for sure: we absolutely can not afford to have this win slow us down.  We can’t.  Not when we’re facing the Rangers for three games on the road before a day off and a homestand. We absolutely can not.  Tonight is yet another must-win, and it is essential that we get it back together and win us a ballgame.  Beckett’s got it.

Getty Images

Read Full Post »

Happy Pitchers and Catchers, everybody! They officially reported on Thursday.  Soon Spring Training will be in full swing, and before you know it, we’ll be gearing up for Opening Day.  (I mean Opening Night.  Again, thank you, ESPN.) I’m telling you, spring is definitely in the air.  When the pitchers and catchers head south, it’s time to start getting ready for the regular season, which is about a month away! It’s so close, I can almost hear the cracks of bats already.  Get psyched.

Guys to keep an eye on so far: the prospects, Bonser, Kelly, Wakefield, Delcarmen, and Papelbon.  Jed Lowrie and Lars Anderson, especially, are going to look to bounce back in an absolutely huge way, and if they do, watch out.  Bonser has a lot to prove.  Kelly has to show us what he’s got.  Wakefield needs to secure a spot in the rotation.  Delcarmen needs to bounce back.  And Papelbon, well, we all know he’s got work to do.

Speaking of Jonathan Papelbon, the New York Post just stated flat-out that Papelbon “may be closing for the Yankees sooner than you think.” Arrogant much? Papelbon said in an interview that he doesn’t know how his future played out.  He’d also said in another interview that, once his career in Boston is over, he’d be open to signing with another team.  So between those two comments, somehow we have Papelbon closing for the Yankees imminently? No.  What we have is a dictionary with the definition of “arrogant” and a picture of the New York Post next to it.  That’s what we have.  Please.  Papelbon is not pitching for the New York Yankees.  In case you haven’t noticed, he’s still very much with Boston.  Need he remind you of that fact with numerous crushing saves against you during the regular season.  No, but he’ll do it anyway.

In the latest chapter of the Dice-K saga, he was shut down until Friday with a sore upper back.  That better be the extent of it.  We need him healthy this year, and I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we won’t be very happy with a repeat of last season’s performance.  If he’s got a sore back and he sits out at first, fine, but his conditioning better ensure that he’s ready to go.  And none of these communication issues, either, because that was just sad.  Luckily, he passed his physical on Friday, and he’ll be throwing imminently.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

Jacoby Ellsbury is no longer No. 46; he’s taken No. 2.  That used to be Brad Mills’s number, but now that he’s with the Astros, it’s free.  It was Ellsbury’s in high school, and it was Jerry Remy’s when he was playing.  I’ll be good to have a No. 2 back on the team.

That’s a wrap.  All we can do is play the waiting game for another month and a half until the real action begins.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

Read Full Post »

We now have more to deal with this offseason than we bargained for.  We all expected Theo to have his hands full with fixing this team, which obviously has holes in it.  That’s hard enough.  But in addition to that the front office and coaching staff just took two huge hits.

Brad Mills is now the manager of the Houston Astros.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  To be honest, Mills achieving success at our expense isn’t likely.  Mills will have his hands full down there, because the Astros haven’t exactly been World Series material year in and year out.  But I will say that after spending time in the dugout with Tito, Mills will have learned from the best.  Still, I don’t expect the Astros to suddenly become some sort of threat.  Of course, now we have to find a new bench coach, one who’s as good or better than Mills.

It’s finally official: Jed Hoyer is now the general manager of the San Diego Padres.  Congratulations and good wishes for success, though not at our expense.  That leaves Ben Cherington as our sole assistant GM, but I think he can handle it.  More importantly, this has profoundly positive implications for a possible Adrian Gonzalez trade.

Speaking of player additions, I wouldn’t be too surprised if our front office attempts to do business with Ben Sheets.  As Theo said, it would be a low-price, low-risk move that could pay off big dividends down the road.  And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.  No harm done.  Besides, it’s not like Sheets can afford to be as proud as he used to be.  After all the injuries he’s had, he’d be lucky to be in uniform for a contender next year.

Dean Jones, Jr. of the Baltimore Sun says that John Henry is the best owner in Major League Baseball.  Can’t say I disagree.  Pedro Martinez and his ego took advantage of a second visit to the World Series stage when he revisited the Don Zimmer incident.  He agreed with Zimmer that it was Zimmer’s fault.  Also can’t say I disagree.  Speaking of the World Series, the Yanks lead it two to one.  Let me just say that the region of New England will not be very happy with the city of Philadelphia if the Phillies fail to decimate.

And that’s a perfect segue into some extremely disturbing developments.  On Wednesday, Red Sox Nation and I visited the Boston Globe to read Tony Massarotti’s column, just like we always do.  But we were in for a profoundly rude surprise.  Mazz urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees in the World Series because apparently a Yankees win would reinstate New England’s competitive fire.  I literally had to do a double-take.  Tony Massarotti, one of New England’s most trusted sports writers, was recommending the ultimate crime.  The ultimate blasphemy.  The ultimate act of treachery and betrayal.  First of all, let me take this opportunity to affirm in writing that I will not, nor have I ever, nor will I ever, root for the New York Yankees.  It is impossible for me to do so.  I am a Red Sox fan.  I loathe the New York Yankees with every fiber of my being and will in no way and at no time even consider the possibility of remotely supporting their organization.  And I think I can safely say that Red Sox Nation wholeheartedly agrees with me on this one.  You should have seen the comments on this column.  There were hundreds of them.  I assure you that you would be hard-pressed to find one that agrees with him.  Secondly, I was not aware of the fact that we lacked competitive fire.  We’re Red Sox Nation.  We’re the greatest fans in all of baseball.  You don’t get much more competitive fire than that.  So Mazz insults us, he insults our history, and he insults our loyalty.  I’m not sure Red Sox Nation and I will be able to read his columns in quite the same way again.

Furthermore, an article appeared yesterday in the New York Times by lifelong Red Sox fan Joe Nocera.  Same story.  He urged Red Sox Nation to root for the Yankees because they’re the underdogs.  Let me say something right now.  The New York Yankees are never underdogs.  How can a team be an underdog if they attempt to buy a championship every single year? What, they don’t win a World Series in eight years and all of a sudden they’re the victims of the rest of the league? There is a huge difference between a drought of eight years and a drought of eighty-six years.  And this article offends me personally because the author is a Red Sox fan behind enemy lines.  The New York chapter of Red Sox Nation has more fight than any other, and now he’s suddenly okay with the Yankees winning a twenty-seventh title? This is incredibly insulting.  Remember where you come from.  Remember the Royal Rooters.  Remember those eighty-six years.  And never forget 2004.

Nico Savidge of the Daily Cardinal wrote an article with the headline, “Yankees represent everything wrong with baseball.” I couldn’t agree more.  I suggest that both Mazz and Nocera read this as a reality check.  Let’s not forget that the Yankees are the Evil Empire, a business crushing opponents with its oversized wallet.  And don’t even get me started on the steroids, the ticket prices, and the broadcasters.  Seriously.

And that brings us to Tuesday.  On Tuesday of this past week, we celebrated the five-year anniversary of the 2004 World Series victory of the Boston Red Sox.  That was the greatest day in the history of the franchise.  It vindicated a Nation and set an entire region of the United States of America free.  I can’t even begin to describe the elation of that victory.  There’s only one way to sum it up:

“Back to Foulke! Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are world champions!”

Red Sox fans around the world were glued to their television sets on the night of October 27, 2004.  Generations of diehards achieved peace with that final out.  No victory meant more to a fan base than this victory meant to us.  And that’s why, even though this October didn’t turn out as we’d planned, five years later we’re still on top of the world.

The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 35-7.  We get a bye this week.  The Bruins lost to the Devils and shut out the Oilers yesterday.  With Lucic and Savard both on the injured reserve, I’m just glad we’re still putting W’s on the board.

The Onion

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »