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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Yastrzemski’

It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans
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We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

Sports Then And Now

 

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Wow.  So much awesomeness in this game.  Where to start? The beginning.

Lackey.  Lackey picked up his fourth consecutive win.  He was shaky at first; I didn’t know if he would make it through.  In the first, he made a mistake; he gave up a three-run shot, and I was thinking back to our pathetic loss to open the series and how much I really did not want to see a repeat performance, ever.  But he settled down after that.  He allowed another home run in the fifth, a solo shot, but that was it for the rest of his night.

All told, he tossed five and two-thirds innings.  He gave up four runs on eleven hits, but only three of those runs were earned; Youk, who returned to the lineup a day ahead of schedule, made a fielding error, which never happens.  Just to be clear, I don’t think he made a fielding error because he returned to the lineup a day ahead of schedule.  Anyway, Lackey walked only one and struck out three.  Objectively, his start wasn’t great, but we’ll take anything we can get from him as long as he gets on the path to long-term consistent success.  With the two-seam, four-seam, and cutter working as well as they did last night, he should have no problem getting there, although his changeup, slider, and curveball may prove to be stumbling blocks; although they’re excellent, they need to hit their spots more consistently.  One mistake and you could have a night like the one Lackey just had where you allow two home runs.  Granted, one of those was on a fastball, but still.  Worth mentioning was his third inning: three up, three down, nine pitches.  Done.  Williams and Wheeler finished the game.  Nobody earned a save because, trust me, it was nowhere near a save situation.

The offense all began with back-to-back home runs by Ellsbury and Pedroia.  That was as good an indication as any of the explosive run barrage that was to follow.  Ellsbury hit his on the second pitch he saw last night.  It was a sinker, and he bounced it off the Pesky Pole.  It was a laser after Pedroia’s own heart.  He saw that ball as clear as day, and it got out in a hurry.  Pedroia, on the other hand, duked it out with Bruce Chen.  He hit his home run on his seventh pitch, an inside fastball.  Don was right; that ball had more than enough to get out of the park.  On Monday night, he was a homer shy of the cycle, and late in the game he actually almost hit one out.  So what does he do during his first time up last night? He hits one out beyond the shadow of a doubt.  It was a laser in every sense of the word.  To the Monster in a hurry.  Pedroia’s hitting streak now stands at twenty-four games, the longest of any Red Sox second baseman ever.

The bases were loaded for Ellsbury in the second.  Ellsbury walked, Pedroia hit a sac fly, and Gonzalez grounded out.  All of that brought in three more.

But we really blew the game wide open in the fourth.  McDonald doubled and scored on a single by Navarro.  Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out and stood at first.  Pedroia singled and Ellsbury tried to score but was thrown out at the plate.  Gonzalez and Youk then singled.  So the bases were loaded for Papi.

When the table is set, Big Papi knows how to feast.

It was the fifth pitch of the at-bat.  So far, Papi had received a fastball, two sinkers, and a slider.  The count was 3-1.  Chen dealt another slider belt-high.  And the ball ended up in the seats behind the bullpen.  Big Papi hit his tenth grand slam and batted in his thousandth run for Boston.  The only other players who have batted in a thousand runs for Boston are Yaz, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dwight Evans, and Jim Rice; Papi now finds himself among the headiest company.  Think about it.  They spent their whole careers here; he’s reached that milestone in his ninth year.  That’s a big accomplishment.  And it was against a southpaw.  The ball was absolutely crushed.  He unleashed massive power and just skinned it.  Big Papi hit a grand slam.

Ellsbury and Pedroia led off the sixth with a double and a single, respectively, so Gonzalez brought in another run with a single.  The Royals picked up another run in the eighth, but Gonzalez got it back in the bottom of the inning with another RBI single.

McDonald and Navarro went two for four.  Gonzalez went three for five.  Ellsbury and Pedroia both went three for four.  Five extra-base hits: two doubles and three homers.

And that’s how we came to win, 12-5.  That, my friends, is how it’s done.

Grand Slam

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Turns out it wasn’t too much to ask after all.

Home.  Home is where the heart is.  Home is also where the wins are.  Yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

The Opening Ceremonies, as always, were very well done.  From the team introductions to the national anthem to the F16 flyover to paying respects to Lou Gorman to watching Yaz throw out the first pitch, it really gave you a sense of how far our storied team has come, and it reminded you of why we love this game and this team in the first place.  It really did feel like we started the season yesterday and every game we played before that was still part of Spring Training.  By the way, we have won every game before which Yaz has thrown out the first pitch.  So maybe that’s something to keep in mind if we have another losing streak.  Either way, before the game even started, you could smell the win in the air.

We completed the Year X Improvements project this winter.  Offseason additions to the park include expanded concessions and souvenir options, three Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision high definition LED screens, more concourse TVS, a new ticket booth at Gate D, and general repairs in the seating area.  All of the construction and repairs were green, using recycled materials and such.  The bad news? One of the LED screens, which is absolutely huge, replaced the John Hancock jumbotron in center field.  That jumbotron may have been old, but that’s where multiple generations of Red Sox fans looked when they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  That jumbotron projected a world of badness and a world of greatness.  I guess the only solution is to inaugurate the new one with a World Series win.  I have to say that everything looks fantastic.  Major improvements have been made during the offseason for the last ten years, and yet every year it looks like nothing has changed at all.  They’ve done a brilliant job working with the park and integrating everything.  It looks awesome.

We entered the game after having made some changes.  Matt Albers is on the fifteen-day DL with a strained right lat muscle, so we recalled Alfredo Aceves.  We also designated Reyes for assignment and activated Felix Doubront.  We batted Crawford in leadoff, moved everyone up, and inserted Ellsbury into the eighth spot in the lineup.

So then the game starts.  Lackey’s first pitch was a strike to Brett Gardner in an at-bat that quickly turned into a leadoff walk.  And you could just tell that he wasn’t on.  Sure enough, with two out in the first, A-Rod walked, and when Cano doubled to center field, two runs were in.  The Evil Empire would score a run in each of the next four innings until Lackey was removed.  He failed to hold a single lead.

So he pitched five innings, gave up six runs on seven hits, walked two, and struck out two.  He gave up a home run to A-Rod of all people.  He threw ninety-one pitches, fifty-one for strikes.  He threw mostly curveballs and cutters, the former being more effective than the latter.  He threw all of his off-speed pitches for strikes at least fifty percent of the time.  His cut fastball was particularly nasty, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  But his straight-up fastballs were not effective.  Luckily, he got in on their hands and pitched inside, and he kept his per-inning pitch counts low, going up to twenty-two in the first and again in the fourth at the highest.  His last inning was also his best; he threw twelve pitches, eight for strikes.

Pedroia, as he is wont to do, got the entire team going.  He smacked a huge solo shot into the first two rows of the Monster about ten feet to the right of the Fisk pole in the first inning, cutting our deficit in half.  It was a curveball that didn’t curve.  He literally swung that bat with his entire body.  He did whatever it took to get that ball out, and Red Sox Nation sighed in relief as one.  After a losing streak like ours to begin the season, the longer you go without some sort of definitive offensive display, the harder it is to get one going.  I knew going into this game that if we didn’t do something, anything, early, it would be that much more difficult to do it in the later innings.  That home run was exactly what we needed.

After the Yankees tied it back up, we let loose with our best and biggest inning of the season to date.  Five runs in the second.  We tied our highest run total for an entire game so far in that single frame.  I was so unused to seeing hits being strung together, I almost felt like I was witnessing some sort of mythical feat.  Scutaro grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored one run.  Pedroia singled in two more and moved to second on a fielding error.  Gonzalez singled him in.  And Papi singled him in.  What you just witnessed was our first run manufacture of 2011.  And that, my friends, was the end of Phil Hughes.

Bartolo Colon came on after that and shut us down until the seventh.  By that time, the Yankees had tied the game.  And who should come through but Salty, who doubled in Youk after Papi failed to be called out thanks to another fielding error, and that established a lead that would stand permanently.

After that, Girardi lifted Colon in favor of Boone Logan because Papi and Drew, back-to-back lefties, were coming up.  In a fine display of hitting and reassurance that our lefty-heavy lineup can’t be shut down by a simple call to the bullpen, it made absolutely no difference.  They both came through.  Drew ended up singling in Gonzalez and Papi.

Where Lackey failed, the bullpen didn’t.  Our relievers shut down the Yanks for the last four innings.  We had one effective shutout frame each, each worth a hold, from Aceves, Jenks, and even Bard.  Bard and Paps each threw eleven pitches, eight for strikes.  Paps registered his first save of the season in the ninth.  They mowed them down like grass, overgrown and overblown.

In total, we amassed twelve hits.  Double digits.  Five members of our lineup had multi-hit games; Salty, Drew, and Papi each went two for four while Gonzalez went two for five and Pedroia, the man of the hour, went three for five.  We left six on base and went six for ten with runners in scoring position, which means that we put runners in scoring position and then brought them home.  The best part? We scored nine runs.  Nine to their six.  That’s what it feels like to have the offense back the pitcher.  That’s what it feels like to score a sufficient amount of runs in order to deal with it if the pitcher has an off day.  Cue “Dirty Water.” Ladies and gentlemen, we are now one and six!

This was our hundredth home opener, and we have now won seven straight.  With the frustrating exception of Lackey, we were absolutely brilliant in every way.  The hitters were hitting.  The fielders were fielding.  (With the second frustrating exception being Crawford, who at one point looked just sad when he couldn’t have been in a worse position to play a ball off the Monster.  I can understand that; it’s his first season, and he has to get used to it.  It’s not an easy left field to play.  It’s just that historically, even as an opponent on a visiting team, he’s always played the wall well.  I was surprised.) And the relievers were relieving.  Hopefully tomorrow the starter will be starting.

Make no mistake, folks: you just witnessed one of the most satisfying wins we’re going to have this year.  I repeat: yesterday was the first day of the rest of our 2011 baseball lives.

One other thing.  Manny Ramirez announced his retirement today.  It came after he was told of “an issue” that came up under Major League Baseball’s drug policy.  This is not difficult to figure out.  He tested positive four years after testing went into effect, was suspended for fifty games, cleaned up, came back, and comparatively speaking he pretty much failed as a hitter.  Lately he’s been reduced to being happy with singles.  We’re talking a drop in average as well as on-base percentage of upwards of a hundred points.  Recently, he failed another drug test; the suspension for a second transgression doubles, so it would be a hundred games, which is two-thirds of a season.  Not wanting to deal with that suspension, he retired instead.  That’s why it’s always good when a baseball player knows when it’s time to call it quits in every sense.  He did wonderful things when he was here in Boston, but we were on the receiving end of some pretty bad ugliness from him as well.  He was often funny but never easy.  It’s just sad that rather than recognizing when his time was up, he felt so compelled to follow such a course of action.  When Curt Schilling started to age, he prolonged his career by converting power to finesse in an incredible show of integrity, strength, and discipline.  Manny Ramirez was known throughout baseball for his intense work ethic but inconsistent-at-best personality.  Since he first failed four years after testing went into effect, and during those years he still posted numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame, he probably eventually saw the beginnings of a decline due to age and wanted to try to avoid it the bad way.  He thought he could play the game by his own rules but got caught when those rules were at odds with everyone else’s.  For now that’s all we know, and we’ll just have to wait and see what else happens.  Thanks for good memories, good times, and good laughs, Manny.  We’ll remember you as you were.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Last night was just bad.  Really bad.  Really, really bad.

Let’s start with Lackey.  After those first three starts after the break, I was convinced this one was going to be even better.  It certainly started out that way; Lackey fanned six of his first eleven batters.  But things quickly unraveled starting in the fourth, his worst inning for pitch count with twenty-six.  He had two outs with nobody on base, and the entire game just got away from him with a single, another single, and an RBI double.  Thankfully Kalish ended it with an excellent and pinpoint throw to the plate.

After that, Lackey was terrible.  He lacked almost everything a dominant pitcher should have.  He was inefficient; he threw 107 pitches during his five and one-third innings.  He was not effective; he gave up six runs on nine hits while walking five.  He was mediocre: his best pitches were his slider and cutter, while his curveball, changeup, and fastball left much to be desired.  He did get his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour, and he did strike out seven, but that’s not really helpful after presenting your team with a deficit that large.  By the time he came out of the game, he had allowed three runs to score in the sixth while recording only one out.

The relief corps was excellent.  Delcarmen, Richardson, Wakefield, and Bard pitched the rest of the game.  While Lackey was busy taking the loss, the four relievers were busy showing the world why it wasn’t technically all that necessary for Theo to go all out at the deadline for another reliever.

So that’s one high point.  That was the only high point.

Papi scored on Beltre’s sac fly in the second.  That was it for us until the seventh inning.  Again with the missed opportunities.  Scutaro was gunned down at the plate.  We had runners at the corners with nobody out in the fifth and failed to do something with it.

And of course there was the third, when Youk left the game.  He had jammed his right thumb in the first while lining to short and tried to play through it but ultimately couldn’t.  V-Mart moved to first, Cash moved behind the plate, and Red Sox Nation moved their hands to their mouths in complete and total disbelief.  I mean, seriously? Is this for real? We had a ton of very significant injuries, we were just starting to get healthy again, and now this happens? And to make matters worse, Cameron is back on the DL with abdominal issues.  Technically we should be happy about that.  He’s been playing the past few months in pain.  Not days.  Not weeks.  Months.  Nobody knows his status for the rest of the season.  So we recalled Nava.  But all of this begs the question of Ellsbury, who’s played in four minor league games and in his most recent one made an extremely difficult jumping catch over the fence in classic Ellsbury style.  Nobody but Ellsbury knows what he’s feeling, but if Cameron can see Major League action for months with a muscle tear, and Youk can stay in the game until the pain becomes unbearable, and V-Mart can return to action the split-second he’s feeling fine, I would expect Ellsbury to return to action very soon if he’s making catches like that.  Of course, a rib issue is more serious than other issues, but we need him.  We really need him.

Then in the seventh, Beltre homered into the Monster seats on an offspeed.  And then I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we all had a comeback on our minds.  We were losing, we entered the last third of the ballgame, and given our performance in recent games, we had every reason to expect something to happen.  Something did happen, but not what we had in mind.  Nava pinch-hit for Patterson and hit a single, so Kalish was waved around.  Santana was waiting with the ball.  They collided; Kalish was out, and so was Santana with an injury.  But the hit was completely clean.  Kalish was pretty shaken by it, as a rookie is wont to be.  Also, that was a bad decision on Bogar’s part.  We have one out in the inning and we’re losing by four runs, and he sends the runner on that hit? Not a good idea at all.

Still, Beltre raised our hopes even further with two out in the eighth, with his three-run blast, also into the Monster seats, also on an offspeed: a hanging slider.

Then it’s a one-run game heading into the ninth.  It’s crazy.  And now we’re really thinking we’re going to do something here.  We’re going to lock this up.  We’re going to start the series off right.  We’re going to show this team who’s boss.  It’s going to be epic.  It’s going to be the third walkoff in a row.  Isn’t it?

No.

Kalish went three for three, Papi went two for four, and Scutaro went two for five.  But Beltre alone batted in all of our runs, scoring two of them himself.  He finished the night two for three.  For one night, Adrian Beltre played Yaz carrying the entire team on his shoulders.  And we all know what happened in 1967: we were almost there, but we lost to the Cards in seven games in the World Series.  Similarly, last night we were almost able to overtake the Indians, but in the end we couldn’t do it.

We’re six and a half games behind the Rays and the Yankees, who are now tied for first.  There’s really not much to say.  We need wins.  We need them in abundance.  And we need them now.  Seriously.  Every game from this point on is a must-win.  Beckett takes the hill tonight opposite David Huff.  It must start tonight.  We must win.  Tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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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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In baseball, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.  In baseball, when something happens in Vegas we know about it.  Especially if it’s something big.  Like CC Sabathia signing with the Yankees for seven years.  To tell you the truth, I don’t know what possessed him.  I don’t know what made him do it.  Maybe it was the uniforms.  Maybe it was Girardi.  Or maybe it was the $160 million, the richest pitcher’s contract in baseball history.

I’m actually not that worried about it.  When Randy Johnson came to the Yankees, he was supposed to be their savior.  In 2005 he was halfway decent, but in 2006 it was just sad.  Next thing you know, he’s back in Arizona.  Who’s to say that won’t happen to CC? Yes, CC’s younger, but he’s filling a similar role; he’s joining a Yankees club that hasn’t won a World Series since 2000 and didn’t even make the playoffs last year.  One guy isn’t going to fix a whole team’s problems, and one guy certainly isn’t going to single-handedly deliver a World Series trophy to the Bronx.  (I mean if Yaz couldn’t do it for Boston, there’s just no way CC can do it for New York.) Besides, a team can pitch and pitch till the cows come home, but unless runners cross the plate it won’t win anything.  In short I don’t think CC will change the fact that the Yankees aren’t going anywhere in October except the golf course.

The Mets also made a bit of a splash by signing K-Rod.  I’m just glad he’s out of the American League.  And Texas dealt catcher Gerald Laird to Detroit for some prospects, which doesn’t seem like that big of a deal unless you consider that we were thinking of making a deal with Texas for a catcher.  We were thinking Taylor Teagarden or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but now that Laird’s gone they’re basically all Texas has left.  So they’re asking for Buchholz in return, and naturally that’s not going to happen, but meanwhile Varitek refused arbitration and we’re contemplating a Dusty Brown-George Kottaras solution.  I’m telling you, the market for catchers this year is a complete and total disaster.

Our other negotiations are taking on a more positive note.  AJ Burnett’s agent has stated that he’s had “significant dialogue” with us, and why not? AJ Burnett is 31 years old.  His main priority at this point is winning, and he wants to play with a club that’s going to give him the best chance of doing that.  And I’ll give you one guess who that might be.  We’ve been to the ALCS four times in the last six years and won the World Series twice in the last five.  And we’re stepping up our efforts with Mark Teixeira.  He’s 28 and in his prime, and if we sign him it’s Lowell on the block.  Apparently Lowell’s making a fantastic recovery from right hip surgery, so things could get a little complicated, but I have to stick with my original opinion and go with Tex.  Lowell’s contract is up in two seasons, and because of his age it’s unlikely he’ll make much of an impact after that.  Why not import a young player now and let him acclimate himself to the clubhouse? Even though it’s a very difficult decision, at the end of the day it’s about what’s best for the team, and I think the addition of Tex could put us over the top.  It’s not that Lowell is bad, it’s that Tex is just that good.

But through it all Theo doesn’t think anything groundbreaking will take place at the Winter Meetings.  Of course, as he said, some of the biggest deals take place outside the Winter Meetings (I refer you to our acquisition of Jason Bay).  We did, however, accomplish something with one of our own: we’ve secured Dustin Pedroia through 2014 with an option for 2015.  What’s the best part? He probably would’ve made more money going year to year on contracts but signed the extension anyway.  And for once Theo didn’t have to deal with Boras, because Pedroia the Destroyah chose different representation.  Smart man.  (Sam and Seth Levinson, by the way, are his agents.) And if this deal ends up being our biggest accomplishment this offseason, that’s alright with me.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we agree with Theo’s statement that Dusty “really embodies just about everything we look for in a Red Sox player.”

In other news, the Pats narrowly defeated the Seahawks, 24-21, and the Bruins are just on fire, winning nine of their last ten games and leading the Eastern Conference with 42 points.  That’s good for second in the league behind the Sharks’ 46.  I’m telling you, hockey in Boston this year just keeps getting better and better.

Chris Speakman

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