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Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Beltran’

That’s the funny thing about the World Series.  We spend the entirety of a long season trying to win it, and then we do win it, and then it’s over.  And then it’s suddenly back to business as usual, trying to do the things that will make it possible for us to win it again.

We acquired righty Burke Badenhop from the Brewers.  Basically, he’s a workhorse in the bullpen, so he’ll add some nice depth and dependability, especially down the stretch.  So far, we’ve shown interest in Corey Hart and Carlos Beltran, and supposedly we’re keeping an open mind as far as alternative options behind the plate are concerned.  Pedroia won an incredibly well-deserved Heart and Hustle Award.

In other news, the B’s beat the Canes, 4-1, and Rangers, 2-1.  We also lost to the Blues, 3-2, in a shootout but beat the Canes again yesterday, 3-2.  The Pats dropped a nailbiter to the Panthers, 24-20.

Gammons Daily
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2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Goodbye, I guess.  It’s just a lot to take in and deal with at once.  I have confidence in Ben, but it just seems like he keeps adding to his workload rather than making some definitive decisions.  I’m sure we’ll see those soon, but it would be nice to halt the farewell train.  I think we’ve had enough.

The Phillies called Paps but then seemed to agree to terms with Ryan Madson.  The good news was that we could have still sign him; the bad news was that Paps was now salivating over Madson’s brand-new four-year, forty-plus-million-dollar theoretical contract.  The bright side in was that he’s represented by Seth and Sam Levinson.  Can you imagine if Paps of all people were represented by Scott Boras? That would be absolutely hellish.  Ben made contact with Paps’s camp, but he didn’t expect them to give him any time to match an offer from another club if the offer was to Paps’s liking.

And it was.  Congratulations, Paps.  You have just set the record for closer compensation.  He has accepted an offer from the Phillies for a four-year, fifty-million-dollar deal including a fifth-year vesting option.  Ben wasn’t going to match that, and the Levinsons knew it.  They knew Ben’s dislike of deals for closers longer than three years, and they certainly knew Ben’s dislike for dishing out that kind of money.  We may all rest assured that the only reason why Ben felt comfortable letting Paps go is that there are other options out there, and good ones.  This is not me trying to justify our new leadership and make myself feel better.  This is fact.  Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Joe Nathan (a risky move, but it’s been about a year since his Tommy John surgery, so this should be the time when his command returns), and, oh, yeah, Daniel Bard all make the list.  Not too shabby.  Not too shabby at all.  Ben and I can agree on the fact that Daniel Bard probably shouldn’t be closing just yet.  He was very clearly built to be one of the best closers in the game, but I personally would give it another year or two and bring in a veteran closer first.  Ideally, during that year or two, Bard would see significant pitching time in the ninth inning throughout the season to groom him for that role.  While the one-two punch of Bard in the eighth and a lights-out closer in the ninth would be impossible to resist, when the time comes we’ll face the choice of having to find a reliable set-up man, which arguably may be more difficult, or having to let Bard walk away.  One could make the case that we’re seeing something like Bard walking away now with Paps.  Quite frankly, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to do it more than once.  Regarding Bard specifically, you don’t let a one-hundred-mile-per-hour fastball walk out that door.  You just don’t.

What will infuriate me is if Ben feels compelled to offer more than three years to one of these other closers because Paps basically just revolutionized the closer market overnight.  If other teams will be ready to provide that fourth year, Ben will be out of luck.  All the reports of drama and all the rebuilding to be done this year aren’t exactly helping our cause; Paps is eager to go to the Phillies for several reasons, not the least of which I imagine is that, if you thought he wreaked havoc on AL hitters, he’s going to be the prophet of pitching in the NL, and it looks like the Phillies are a team that could potentially win, despite the fact that everyone said that about them, just as they were saying it about us, earlier this year only to watch them flame out in the playoffs.

And now, the tribute.

Paps started his career here.  He came up through our system and even won a cow-milking contest when he was with the Lowell Spinners.  He played our game both on and off the field because his personality was one-of-a-kind.  He was always a dependable notable quotable, but it was much more than that.  He was a leader and a force in the clubhouse.  He was crazy and insane, but only in the best of ways.  He was a Boston baseball guy.  He lived the baseball experience here, embraced it wholly, and took it to the absolute extreme.  He did the jig en route to the championship and redefined “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by The Dropkick Murphys.  I don’t think he’ll have as much fun anywhere else as he did here.  Seriously, all you had to do was hear those two drumbeats that start the song in the eighth or ninth inning and you know that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the winning that will obviously ensue with Paps on the mound. Granted, it technically wasn’t always like that.  He did blow his share of saves.  He didn’t blow many, but it seemed like most of the ones he blew were doozies indeed.  He was immediately responsible for our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs; he blew his save in Game Three of the ALDS, and that was the last playoff game we were in.  And he struggled in 2010 with eight blown saves.  But looking at the big picture, he more than made up for it.  He attacked the closing job with remarkable intensity; that stare of his could strike fear into the heart of any hitter.  In his career, he has an ERA of 2.33 and a WHIP of 1.02.  He’s amassed 219 saves and posted 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings.  He’s blown a grand total of only twenty-nine saves, and only three of those came during this past season, compared to thirty-one converted opportunities.  And I don’t think any one of us will ever forget Tek jumping into his arms after he closed out Game Four of the 2007 World Series in Denver.  Not once in our long and illustrious history had we ever had a mainstay closer as long as we had Paps.  He was the best we’d ever seen, and he’s still in his prime.  So here’s to you.  Here’s to everything you’ve done for us through the years, both the much-needed saves and the much-needed smiles.  Here’s to you as a player and as a person, a goofy closer who still showed remarkable leadership in the clubhouse.  Here’s an enormous understatement: we’re going to miss you, Paps, and it’s been ridiculously fun.

Ben has also been in contact with the camps of Papi, Wake, and Tek.  I don’t think that I’d be able to watch any of those guys playing for another team.  It would be too surreal.  Like I said, one is quite enough, thank you.

Supposedly we’re interested in a two-year deal with Carlos Beltran.  He’s made it clear that he only wants to play in the National League and that he refuses to DH, but we’ve been attached to Beltran in the media for a long time.  But wait; the plot thickens.  We haven’t even called Beltran yet; instead, we’ve called Grady Sizemore and Michael Cuddyer.

There are also rumors that we’re interested in Mark Buehrle.  This is the first time in his career that he’s a free agent, and competition for him is stiff.  Supposedly we were also on hand to observe the workout of Yoenis Cespedes, who defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic.  Supposedly he’s amazing, and he’s going to set off a major cash fight.  Think Aroldis Chapman.

Mike Maddux has withdrawn his candidacy due to “personal reasons.” That’s in quotes because he’s still on the Cubs’ list.  Obviously.  This should not surprise anybody.  We added Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo and Detroit third base coach Gene Lamont.  If the names sound familiar, that’s because they are.  Lovullo manage the PawSox before going to Toronto, and Lamont was our third base coach in 2001.  And that, supposedly, is going to be it for candidates.  Our list and the Cubs’ list share three candidates: Alomar, Mackanin, and Sveum.  I think it’s fairly obvious that Maddux is going to Chicago.  Incidentally, throughout this process, I’ve been having this thought: Theo’s relationship with Larry was shaky but ultimately productive.  It was shaky because Theo basically wanted his own job plus Larry’s job.  He wanted more control over baseball operations; he didn’t want to be just the general manager, which is why he’s not the Cubs’ general manager.  Theo brought in Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs’ general manager, and it will be interesting to see if Theo actually restricts himself to his higher role and doesn’t conduct himself with Hoyer the same way that Larry conducted himself with Theo.  If he doesn’t, Hoyer may take issue.  Oh, the potential irony.

Gonzalez will appear on the cover of this “MLB 12 The Show.” Pedroia did it in 2009.  Heady company.

On Wednesday, MLB Network aired a two-hour special on the Buckner game.  John McNamara insists that, after the seventh inning, Roger Clemens told him that he was done because of a cut on his finger; Clemens maintains that McNamara pinch-hit for him and the cut on his finger was not an obstruction to continuing to perform.  Whatever it was that really happened destroyed their relationship.  McNamara also stated that he went with Buckner, who was obviously not fit to field, because he was the best first baseman on the roster; he didn’t go with Dave Stapleton because he supposedly had earned the nickname “Shaky.” But Bruce Hurst said that he never heard anyone call Stapleton shaky.  Honestly, the whole thing was just the epitome of devastation, drama or no drama, and what I would personally like to avoid is similar devastation in the future and similar subsequent drama.

Tito is interviewing with the Cards.  Jerry Remy was surprised; he, and I think most of us, naturally assumed that Tito would take some time off before jumping right back into it.

In other news, the Pats dropped a very close one to the Giants, 24-20.  Oh, and we released Albert Haynesworth.  It’s not like we all didn’t see that coming when the signing was made.  The B’s played the Islanders, Oilers, and Sabres this week and beat all of them by almost the exact same score: the Isles and Sabres by 6-2 and the Oilers by 6-3.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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On Sunday, Bowden gave up two runs on three hits with a walk over two innings against the Mets, who won, 6-5.  Okajima’s inning went one-two-three, and Rich Hill retired his six batters.  Reddick hit a homer.  Beltran went one for two and is preparing to return to right field.

On Monday, Lester threw a simulated game: fifty pitches, almost no solid contact.  And we beat the Orioles, 6-5.  Lackey allowed a leadoff single to start the game.  Then he retired his next twelve batters.  Four shutout innings.  Drew, Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Youk all had hits.  Youk and Crawford had a double steal.  And Crawford had an RBI single.  So now Crawford has his first hit, his first steal, and his first RBI in a Red Sox uniform, and the season hasn’t even started.  I’m psyched.  Wheeler gave up two runs.  Not so psyched about that.

We played two split-squad games on Tuesday.  First, we beat the Cards, 8-7; Ellsbury doubled, McDonald singled, and then we blew it open.  And then we beat the Astros, 3-2.  Beckett allowed one run on three hits over three and two-thirds innings of work.  He threw thirty of fifty-five pitches for strikes, walked one, and struck out four.  I’d say he’s almost as good as new.  Paps and Bard each delivered quality frames.  Salty’s first at-bat yielded a double.

On Wednesday, we signed fifteen guys, including Buchholz, Bard, Lowrie, and McDonald, to one-year deals.  The rest were prospects.  But I guarantee you that those deals for those first three are steals in every sense of the word.  We won’t be able to sign them again for anything close to the figures we offered.  Speaking of Buchholz, he remains scoreless in Spring Training, firing off four innings of four-hit, three-strike ball.  Drew homered and singled, Jenks turned in a one-two-three fifth, Pedroia shone at second, and with the game tied and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Yamaico Navarro brought home the winning run when he was hit by a pitch.  We won, 2-1.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs on Tuesday.  1-4.  It wasn’t good.

I’ll be taking a break of about a week.  I have full confidence that, within that time, Spring Training will proceed according to plan, with lots of contests, improvements, and battles for roster spots.  Most importantly, we’ll be that much closer to Opening Day!

AP Photo

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Making sense of the Beltre deal.  Which is not at all as easy as it sounds.

Let’s review, shall we?

Stage One: Theo Epstein looks to trade Mike Lowell to the Rangers for catching prospect Max Ramirez.  This makes sense.  Mike Lowell had a tough year last year, and it’s only going to get tougher.  It’s true that he showed flashes brilliance in the field, but that was in Anaheim, where the weather is nice and warm.  Not so in Boston.  In Boston, it’s either freezing cold or scorching hot.  Lowell would’ve flourished in Texas, with its mild climate and considerably less pressure-cooker-like atmosphere, and the Rangers’ catching prospect would’ve been put to good use in our system, where he would’ve been groomed to give Tek some days off.

Stage Two: The deal is called on account of Mike Lowell’s right thumb.  To emphasize, it was the thumb, not the hip.  Let me repeat: thumb, problem; hip, not so much.  This makes sense.  From Lowell’s performance toward the end of last season, it was clear that his hip was no longer a big issue.  (That is to say, it’s still an issue but not a focus.) Given the right atmosphere, environment, and amount of days off, all signs pointed to a fairly productive year, both at the plate and in the field.  This, however, was with the understanding that Lowell’s thumb was sprained, not injured.  After he failed the physical, what Texas basically had on their hands was a choice between keeping tMax Ramirez or trading him for a third baseman who, in addition to a well-established health concern, would need surgery.  And that wasn’t a gamble Texas was willing to make.  From their perspective, they didn’t want to chance having to start someone at the hot corner who was slated to make multiple trips to the DL, not to mention the fact that the hip affects Lowell’s defense more than his offense.  The thumb would affect Lowell’s defense as well as his offense.  Simply put, no thumb, no swing, no runs, no deal.

Stage Three: Mike Lowell’s surgery is a success.  Red Sox players, staff, fans, and writers welcome Mike Lowell back into the fold.  Red Sox Nation is urged to table our wishes for infielders named Adrian.  Lou Merloni writes a column urging us to separate Mike Lowell from the Edgar Renterias of the baseball world.  As in, when did Mike Lowell reach that point where he was dragging us down to the point where exploring other options became a necessity at all costs? (I mean that literally.  Moving Lowell would necessitate us eating a big chunk of his salary.) I mean, teams routinely field much worse than Mike Lowell.  Presumably, with additional days off in the form of Youk-Lowell shifting to Kotchman-Youk, Lowell would be able to minimize the effects of his hip on his range and maximize his plate appearances.  Recovery from his surgery is fairly brief, and only one or two weeks of Spring Training would be missed.  So not the end of the world.

Stage Four: In complete defiance of Scott Boras’s obsession with long-term contracts, Theo Epstein signs Adrian Beltre to a one-year deal.  Let’s walk through it. The deal is worth nine million dollars with a player option worth six million that will increase to ten million if he makes 640 plate appearances.  The deal was contingent on a physical, which Beltre passed, despite last season’s left shoulder issues.  The deal was a product of interest that’s been expressed since November.  And the deal is very consistent with Theo’s commitment to a major defensive upgrade.  He is expected to bat in the bottom third of the lineup.  (Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Papi, Drew, Cameron, Beltre, Scutaro.  Bang.)

Stage Five: Theo Epstein trades Casey Kotchman to the Mariners for utility man Bill Hall, a prospect to be named later, and cash.  Kotchman is happy to reunite with good friend Chone Figgins.  Lou Merloni writes a column in which he changes his mind, citing the flexibility and ability that a one-year deal with Beltre gives us.

Before we get to the confusing part, let’s take a moment to celebrate what we’re getting.  Beltre put up barely decent numbers at Safeco and Dodger Stadium, so coming to a park that’s friendly to right-handed power hitters promises a nice statistical boost.  Home numbers: .253 average, .311 on-base percentage, .416 slugging percentage.  Road numbers: .287, .338, .488, respectively.  Now, check out the similarity between that latter series and Lowell’s career stats: .280, .343, .468, respectively.  And just to leave no stone unturned, in 162 games Lowell hits on average forty doubles, twenty-three home runs, and ninety-eight RBIs.  Compare that to Beltre’s average thirty-nine doubles, twenty-six homers and ninety-nine RBIs in 162 road games.  Coincidence? I think not.  Also, the deal, coupled with the Kotchman transaction, will have minimal impact on our finances.  And it kept Boras off our backs because, after said statistical boost, Beltre’s marketing value will increase substantially.  The brevity of the contract keeps the Major League option open for our top prospects.  So our defense goes through the roof, our pitching is way too solid for words, our offense will in all likelihood defy expectations, our top prospects stay in our organization, and we maintain flexibility, both financially and baseball-wise.

But in light of Lowell’s remainder with us, the fourth and fifth stages of this saga aren’t easy to explain.  After Lowell-to-Texas failed, everyone more or less accepted the fact that Lowell would be the face of Fenway’s third base in 2010.  That thought process was fueled by the fact that we’ve had our foot in Beltre’s door since November; we wanted to trade Lowell to make room for Beltre, so as soon as Lowell wasn’t going anywhere, it seemed pretty obvious that neither was Beltre.  Then we suddenly signed Beltre and made room for him by shipping Kotchman across the country.  What’s unclear to me is the effect this will have on Lowell’s role.  Will playing time be split fifty-fifty, sixty-forty, or eighty-twenty? It’s a Crisp-y situation; once it became apparent that Ellsbury was about to start in center field, Coco Crisp was allowed to walk, and rightly so.  Coco Crisp is a starter, not a benchwarmer.  Same with Lowell, but also with Beltre.  What do you do when you have two starters, one of whom was explicitly acquired to replace the other before the other left the picture, a state of affairs that received extra emphasis when Kotchman was shipped off? With all eyes on Beltre, what is Lowell’s fate in 2010?

That’s actually a fairly easy question to answer.  We’ll either move him or we won’t.  If we don’t, he’d contribute in the field when he’s called upon and wouldn’t when he isn’t.  And he’d see a good amount of time at the plate as a pinch-hitter.  The upside of this is that it builds in much-needed rest time for Lowell and gives us a considerable upgrade in defense and age in Beltre.  And one thing that we can’t altogether rule out if we keep Lowell is the possibility that Beltre may turn out to be a chip for Adrian Gonzalez come the trading deadline.  It would be swapping one corner infielder for another, but Youk’s versatility would allow us to do that.  Besides, when you’re talking about someone like Adrian Gonzalez, you trade first and maneuver later.

Our last piece of big news is our outfield situation.  Ellsbury has officially been moved to left in order to make more room for Cameron in center.  This is way better than having Ellsbury in center than Cameron in left, even though having Ellsbury in left is a complete waste of his talents.  Whatever; when Cameron leaves Boston, Ellsbury goes back to center.  Meanwhile, it’s a wise choice.  Cameron’s only start in left was in 2000, and he hasn’t been in either corner since that nasty collision he had with Carlos Beltran back in ’05.  Meanwhile, Ellsbury is young, skilled, adaptable, and flexible.  He’s so good that he could handle any of the three outfield positions.  In fact, the relative ease of playing left as opposed to center decreases his risk of injury, and the decrease in covered territory could translate to an increased application of his abilities to the basepaths.  Basically, it comes down to the fact that Ellsbury would be infinitely better in left than Cameron but would be less better, though still better, than Cameron in center, while Cameron’s performance in left would presumably be abysmal to his performance in center.

Loose ends for the week: Josh Beckett will be gold this year because he’s up for contract, Papi will be feeling the offensive pressure (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it means a really good workout regimen), and Randy Johnson finally retired.  Also, congratulations to three New Haven County, Connecticut communities that successfully pressured Cablevision into adding NESN to its basic lineup in those markets.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Rangers, beat the Sens, got smoked by the Blackhawks, and lost to the Rangers again.  The Patriots continue to power through the loss of Wes Welker as the postseason starts tomorrow with a confrontation with the Ravens.

Fire Brand of the American League

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Last night was exactly what Girardi didn’t want and exactly what the Red Sox, Terry Francona, the front office, and Red Sox Nation did want.  AJ Burnett was horrible.  I hope the Yankees enjoy four and a half more years of his mediocrity.  His delivery was too fast, he looked like he was in a rush, and to be completely frank it looked like he let go of the ball and had no idea where it was going.  His ball-to-strike ratio was about fifty percent.  He threw more balls than strikes.  And he’s delusional if he thinks he’d ever be able to get away with that in Fenway Park.  He only lasted 2.2 innings, and with New York’s bullpen as bad as it is and Chien-Ming Wang throwing tomorrow, that’s the time to ask if it could possibly get worse.  Oh, wait.  It did.  During that time we scored five runs, three of them earned (thank you, A-Roid and Posada; so much for the Yankees’ errorless streak, which stopped at eighteen).  After that they had to use three pitchers: Brett Tomko, who gave up another run, Jose Veras, who gave up another run, and David Robertson, who was the only one to not allow any runs.

Let’s compare that to our pitching, shall we? Josh Beckett started.  And dominated.  And won.  He one-hit the Yankees through six and no-hit them into the fourth.  To be frank, yes, I was thinking no-hitter.  But then the bid was broken up by Robinson Cano, who hit a line drive on the ground to the left of Youk.  Pedroia ran that down beautifully and caught the ball but couldn’t make the throw.  So you could make the argument that Beckett had back-to-back bids.  Scary.  Two walks, eight strikeouts, no runs.  He’s won all of his last five decisions.  Delcarmen, Ramirez, and Bard held the fort in a similar fashion. Since May 10 and heading into last night, our bullpen had an ERA of 1.84.  I don’t even want to think about how low it is now.  The final score was 7-0.  A shutout in which New York had absolutely no chance.  I love it.  It was fantastic.  One other thing: Boston pitching gave up four walks.  Four.  New York pitching gave up seven.  We’re second in the American League in walks.  Not a good combination for New York.  So that’s pretty much the compare and contrast.  Speaks for itself, no?

As for the offense, we can compare and contrast that too.  It was a shutout, so offense for the Yanks was nonexistant.  We, however, were a different story.  Pedroia went hitless but walked.  Drew hit a nice two-run double.  Youk went two for four, walked, and scored.  Bay hit, walked, and took a pitch in the ribs.  Ouch.  I don’t know how Bay likes his ribs, but I’m sure he doesn’t like them bruised and sore.  Lowell hit, walked twice, scored, and batted in two.  Tek walked and scored.  And now we get to the fun part.  David Ortiz.  Always been a Yankee killer.  And you’d think his slump would affect that.  Not so, my friends, not so.  In his first at-bat of the game, he hit his third home run of the year.  Huge.  Two-run shot with Lowell on base after walking.  And this was the best and most powerfully hit of the three.  It sailed right into the center field bleachers, a few feet from the center field wall.  No “inches from the pole” or “inches from the field.” This was out by a good margin.  The problems causing the slump do not include bat speed.  Ortiz has plenty of bat speed.  He’s just setting up late.  But there was no lateness on that swing.  None whatsoever.  So he’s showing progress.  And against the Yankees.  Awesome.  Nick Green followed that with a home run of his own.  A solo shot in the seventh for our last run of the game.  Youk stole, and Lowell got caught by a mile.

The draft started yesterday, and with their first overall pick the Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg, a right-handed pitcher from San Diego State University.  His fastball reaches 103 miles per hour.  I don’t even want to know what that looks like.  And his breaking ball is very sharp.  Tossed a no-hitter in his last home start and played for the U.S. in the Olympics in Beijing.  Congratulations, kid! You were passed over in high school but went to college, stuck with it, wanted that Number One selection, and got it.  We look forward to seeing you pitch in the Majors, as long as you don’t pitch against us if you’re good.  We drafted twenty-eighth, and we selected Reymond Fuentes, an outfielder from Fernando Callejo High School in Puerto Rico.  He’s mostly played center field, is very quick, and has a very healthy swing.  He’s actually Carlos Beltran’s cousin.  I agree with that; I think Theo and scouting director Jason McLeod chose wisely.  We could use another bat in the lineup, and a solid outfielder is always helpful.  We already know Theo is a baseball genius; I’m sure in some years down the road we’ll see this choice come through.  Before the day was done, we also drafted pitcher Alex Wilson and shortstop-pitcher David Renfoe.  Not bad.

So we take game one of the three-game set, tying us with New York in first place.  Wakefield is pitching tonight and has the advantage of the contrast between Beckett’s fastball and his knuckleball.  He’s pitching against Wang, as I said, who’ll be making his second start since coming off the DL.  Needless to say, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we’re looking forward to this one.  Joe Girardi went on record on Mondays saying that this series, despite being early in the season, is crucial and that the Yankees have to take at least two out of three to prove to us that they’re better.  Yeah, right.  Since last year, we’ve won seven straight against the Yankees.  And that streak isn’t going to end with Chien-Ming Wang.

Surviving Grady

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