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Posts Tagged ‘Carlton Fisk’

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.  Wow, wow, wow.  To say that last night was awesome would be the understatement of the century.

What a thrill! Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ladies and gentlemen! We haven’t seen a walkoff in a really long time; it was our first walkoff win this year and only our tenth comeback win of the year.  It was Salty’s first walkoff homer, and it was just what we needed to lift our spirits.  I hope the spirit-lift lasts, but in the meantime, we can bask in our own glory.  Because it was awesome in every way.

Just because Salty hit a walkoff doesn’t mean that our pitching staff didn’t pull its weight.  Beckett delivered a very, very quality start.  He gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings while walking none and striking out five.  He threw ninety-one pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes.  Good command, good control, good variation of speeds, good heat, good, good, good.  He was masterful.  He looked like the ace we always expect him to be.  It was fantastic.

Even though his line was better in every other respect than that of David Price, Beckett did give up one more run than Price did, and that’s what put us in the position of needing a walkoff.  But what kept us in that position were shutout innings from Miller and Hill.  Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, Beckett didn’t get the win; Hill got it.  But you could argue that both deserved it because without quality appearances from both the starter and the bullpen, the team would have lost, which we know from way too much experience this year.

Meanwhile, the offense did a whole lot of nothing until the sixth inning, but we were actually the first to get on the board.  We didn’t even put up much of a fight in those innings either.  In the sixth, Pedroia walked, Papi singled, Youk lined out, and Pedroia tried to score on a single by Gonzalez but was thrown out at the plate.  Middlebrooks then singled in Papi for our first run.  Then, in the top of the seventh, our one-run lead was promptly erased.  Beckett gave up two consecutive singles to start it off, and then two runs scored via a sac fly followed by another single.

Obviously we know that both teams kept quiet until the bottom of the ninth with one out.  The stage was set.  A new pitcher, Fernando Rodney, came on.  Nava walked on eight pitches, and then Punto came in to hit for Shoppach.  He hit a sac fly, moving Nava to second.  (It was fitting, by the way, that Nava was about to score the tying run since it was partially Nava’s fault that the Rays were one run ahead of us; he threw to the plate on the sac fly that tied the game, which ended up moving the runner still on base to second, which then enabled another run to score.) Little did Punto know that that would not be necessary.

It was Byrd’s turn to bat, but Bobby V. had other plans.  He put Salty in.

And Salty took a ninety-seven mile-per-hour fastball for a strike and then smacked a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball, the second pitch of the at-bat, out of the park.  It didn’t even land in the bullpen.  It landed beyond the bullpen.

The crowd was deafening.  The ball was lofting.  The record is back at .500.  The final score was 3-2.

Clearly Carlton Fisk’s presence during the pregame ceremony was inspirational.  It was one of those things where you were least expecting it because you knew that you needed it most.  And all of a sudden you knew that you had it.  A home run to put us over the top, to slam the door on the game without the Rays having a chance to answer back.  As soon as you heard the bat and the ball make contact, you knew that it was going out.  And it did.  And the team mobbed Salty at the plate, which the team apparently calls “the shredder,” because it was he, after all, who brought the pepper.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Happy one hundredth birthday, Fenway Park! It really his America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, and for good reason.  No other ballpark is this old or – let’s face it – this totally awesome.  When you watch a game there, you really have this overwhelming sense of the history that’s gone down, and you wonder what the walls would say if they could talk.  That park saw everything.  For hundred years, most of them culminating in postseason disappointment so profoundly gut-wrenching that your first instinct would be to think that somebody had to have planned it that way, this park bore witness to the lives and times of the players who played, the managers who managed, and the fans who supported, day in and day out, no matter how good or bad it got.  Standing like a sentinel right in the middle of Boston, it has seen everything that’s happened, both in and out of baseball, in that city in the last hundred years.  Think about that for a minute.  If the walls could talk, what would they say? In addition to the regular lot, this park has seen Major League baseball players, minor league baseball players, National League baseball players, college baseball players, high school baseball players, football players, hockey players, basketball players, soccer players, boxers, musicians, soldiers, fans from every walk of life, wins, losses, World Series, no-hitters, a five-hundred-foot home run, more than ten thousand home runs total, the tallest wall in any ballpark in the United States, the first foul ball screen ever used, the only in-play ladder in Major League Baseball, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s last political speech, and so much more.

This park is alive with character.  Every part of the park has a story: the Green Monster that now stands in place of Duffy’s Cliff, the Pesky Pole, the Fisk Pole, the retired numbers, Willamsburg, the bullpens.  Everything.  It’s small, and the seats don’t have cushions, and you can’t order gourmet food behind home plate.  But seriously, who wants to go to a baseball game just to feel like you’re watching the game on television or at a restaurant? No, you want to feel the park and to live the experience.  We’ve got the best fans in all of sport, I’d say, and we’ve got the best venue to match.

If April 20, 1912 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park got married, then April 20, 2012 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park renewed their vows.  I can’t even bear the thought that several years ago we almost lost Fenway Park forever, and I can bear the thought even less that there weren’t more people interested in saving it.  It’s truly a gem of a ballpark, and it’s one of every Red Sox fan’s favorite places in the whole world.

But what would a family affair be without a little token drama? Apparently all living uniformed personnel were invited, but apparently Theo wasn’t invited until Thursday and declined to go.  Curt Schilling, who has made no secret of his criticism of Bobby V., declined an invitation due to a commitment to his business.  It was speculated that Tito wouldn’t be there, but after all he was.  It’s really a shame that all this drama has to get in the way of such a great day in the history of what’s brought all these diverse people together.  I know it’s corny, but why can’t we all just get along, just for one day? Obviously we weren’t there for any of the drama, so we can’t really know how bad or not-so-bad it was, but anyway it would have been nice to have these individuals, who’ve been so crucial to bringing about what is (“is,” and hopefully not “was”) arguably a golden age in our club’s history.

Anyway, here are the details.  There was an introduction that basically said that the constant throughout history is baseball, and the constant throughout baseball is Fenway, and the constant throughout us disparate fans is this team.  Then John Williams conducted the Boston Pops in playing “Fanfare for Fenway,” his new composition.  There was the national anthem.  There was the flyover, which always gets me.  Then there was a steady stream of past players in their uniforms; they all congregated in the parts of the field that they played.  Most of the who’s-who as well as the unknowns of Red Sox history was there, those that could barely walk and those who recently retired.  It was really just beautiful to see generations of players represented before generations of fans.  You could acutely feel that you were witnessing history not only by bearing witness to the occasion but also by remembering that each and every one of those players had borne witness to Red Sox Nation.  (Incidentally, the whole procession received continuous applause and a standing ovation.  Terry Francona’s applause and name-chanting was deafeningly thunderous, as it should have been.  Nomar, Pedro, Yaz, and Pesky also received substantial thunder.  And also Wake, Tek, Bobby Doerr, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Kevin Millar, and a host of others too numerous to name.) Then there was a toast with grape juice, supplied at every seat for every fan of every age, led by Pedro and Millar, which as you can imagine was highly, highly entertaining and completely brought you back to 2004.  It was literally the largest toast in one venue, as in a new world record.  But hey, that’s the strength of Red Sox Nation for you.

The first pitch was thrown from the row of seats behind the first base dugout by the mayor of Boston, just like it was one hundred years ago.  This year, Thomas Menino was joined by Caroline Kennedy and Thomas Fitzgerald, two descendants of 1912 Boston’s Mayor John Fitzgerald.

I have to say, the throwback uniforms were a real treat.  How fortuitous that the schedule allowed us to play the exact same team, too.  I have to admit, even though the score a hundred years ago was 7-6 in eleven innings, I was hoping for a big more of a thrashing, as close as a close game would have been to the original may have been.  Ultimately, a win to preserve the history would have been very much appreciated and appropriate.

Sadly, a win was not to be.  Buchholz allowed home run after home run after home run.  Now that he and Beckett have both allowed five home runs in one game this season, the 2012 club becomes one of only three teams in Major League history to carry two starters who have given up five home runs each in one game in one season.  (Incidentally, one of the other two was the 2009 club, and Buchholz and Beckett were both at fault then too.) He gave up six runs, five earned (you can thank Pedroia for dropping a routine popup, a rare sight indeed), on nine hits, five of which were home runs.  All of the home runs were solo shots, and three of them led off innings.  He only allowed one other extra-base hit, a double.  He lasted six innings, walked two, and struck out two.

Buchholz used four pitches: a four-seam, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup.  His four-seam got up to ninety-five miles per hour and was his most abundant and effective pitch; he threw it for strikes more than eighty percent of the time.  The others were thrown for strikes less than sixty percent of the time, which is unfortunate since the majority of his pitches category-wise were off-speeds.

Atchison pitched the seventh, Thomas and Tazawa teamed up for the eighth, and Tazawa pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second when Papi homered to the Green Monster.  The ball, a fastball, bounced off of the very top of the wall and was ruled a double before it came under review and was rightly overturned.  In the fifth, a pair of doubles by Ross and Aviles scored another run.  That was all we managed.  Don’t even think for  second that you weren’t thinking that the stage may have been set for something truly epic: a recreation of the original final score.  Our final score ended up being 6-2, but just imagine if we could have somehow scored four more runs to tie it, gone to the eleventh inning, and then scored one more run?

It seemed like every single one of our rallies was killed before it got started.  Aviles and Papi each had two hits for the only multi-hit performances of the day.  In addition to the home run and those two doubles, we hit two more, and that was it for extra bases.  Not one member of our lineup walked.  Repko made a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch.  I hope Bobby V. paid attention to the “We Want Tito” chant in the ninth; we have the lowest team ERA in the Majors and are now on a four-game losing streak overall and a four-game home losing streak for the first time since 2010 with a record of four and nine.

At any rate, one hundred years of Fenway Park have come and gone, so here’s to the next hundred.  Here’s to a happy birthday to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.  Fenway Park, all that you’ve seen and all that you mean, we forever salute you!

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps, 2-1.

Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

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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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So yesterday I called for a win.  A win is not what we got.  A win is epically not what we got.  A win is so far from what we got, the entire team forgot what winning meant and had to look it up in the dictionary before preparing for tonight.  In short, yesterday’s game was exactly like Friday’s game with one important difference: it was worse.

The final score was 14-3; the Yanks scored four more runs and we recorded one less hit.  Cue the frustration and despair.  Times ten.

Buchholz was not on.  You could tell after the first at-bat that this was going to be a long afternoon.  He gave up five earned runs on nine hits over nine hits, including a home run, with five walks and one strikeout.  He threw ninety-four pitches.  He managed to keep his ERA under four because he’s been doing well up to this point, but wow.  He had absolutely no command whatsoever.  His fastball topped out at about ninety-six miles per hour, which was good, and it was decently effective for strikes, but he’s an off-speed pitcher.  And none of his off-speed pitches were very effective, period.  As far as location is concerned, there pretty much wasn’t any.  He focused on the left half of the zone, with many of his pitches ending up outside it or below it.  Five walks in five innings.  He threw almost as many balls as strikes.  He threw at least twelve pitches in every inning he pitched, throwing a game high of twenty-six in the fifth.  But his least effective inning was definitely the fourth, when less than half of his pitches were strikes.  So that was pretty much his entire problem: he lost his command completely.  And when that happens, between the walks and the hits, you’re going to relinquish a good amount of runs.  He took the loss.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.  Delcarmen had a decent inning.  Ramirez threw three pitches, the second of which was hit out by Teixeira and the third of which was a ball to A-Rod.  He failed to record an out.  Turns out he had a right triceps strain.  Fortunately, it’s not very bad.  Not that he’s been pitching especially well this season but we need all the relievers we can get.  Schoeneweis allowed four runs on three hits with three walks and two K’s.  Bard allowed one run on two hits with a walk en route to recording an out.  Which meant that we exhausted almost the entire bullpen, and why waste a perfectly good arm at the end of a slaughter, so Van Every took the hill and tossed an inning.  He gave up two runs on two hits with one strikeout and is the proud owner of an ERA of 2.00, which is better than most of our relievers.  But that strikeout was one of the highlights of the game.  Think about it: some Yankee got struck out by a backup outfielder.  Ouch.

Again, there wasn’t much offense to speak of.  In the third, McDonald went deep to center, and V-Mart hit one into the Monster seats with Pedroia aboard.  The end.  Those were our only extra-base hits.  Youk went two for three with a walk; that was our only multi-hit game.  In another show of squandered opportunities, we left nine on base.  Lowell was in the lineup because Sabathia is a lefty, but he didn’t do much.  Tek is sore but won’t miss time.  He didn’t do much either.

With the exception of Beltre’s throwing error, we had some flashes of brilliance in the field.  McDonald recorded two assists, we turned three double plays, and we had some nice throws home.  That was the only silver lining to the whole affair that I could find.

To be honest, I thought that rain delay would give us a break.  It lasted for at least an hour and chased Sabathia, so I thought we’d just have our way with the Yanks’ bullpen.  That did not happen.  Before the delay, we were losing, 6-3, and after the delay, they just piled it on.  Seriously.  Two more in the seventh, four more in the eighth, and two more in the ninth.  By the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around, all you wanted was to make it stop because the site of seeing so many Yankees cross the plate was just excruciating.  Teixeira alone brought five of them home and went deep three times.  Teixeira, who came into the game batting only .181 with two home runs, had his way with us.  It was disgusting.  The first time up, he grounded into a double play.  The next time up was a completely different story.  (So was the fastball that was fired out of position.)

Carlton Fisk was on hand to witness the destruction.  So were many Yankee fans, more Yankee fans than I remember seeing a Sox-Yanks game at Fenway in recent memory.  That’s an insult to Red Sox Nation.  There’s no way we should be able to pack the house so full that there’s hardly room for anyone else.  We’ve been doing it for years.  That’s why the team has historically played so well at home.  Usually opposing cheers from the crowd aren’t even audible.  It was painful to hear, “Let’s go Yankees.” Just painful.  The whole thing in every way was just…painful.

Say goodbye to .500.  They’ve taken four of five from us this season, and the worst part is that all five of those have been at home.  Getting beaten at home by the Yanks is the worst.  On the bright side, I don’t think this will last.  The Yanks are too old and too hurt to be too good for too long.  But before we come to that point of their demise, we need to end our own demise.  Starting with tonight.  Lester will get the start opposite Burnett, and if there is one team by which we absolutely can not afford to be swept, it’s the New York Yankees.  We absolutely need this win.  This is our arch-enemy; a win tonight would galvanize the team and raise the morale a bit.  That’s important, considering they haven’t been able to sustain an ounce of momentum all season long.  We can’t keep playing like this, where we’re gold in one series and Baltimore-esque the next.  We need to snap out of it.  Starting with tonight: a strong, solid, and deep performance by Lester and a strong, solid, and deep showing of the bats will set the tone for the following week.

Plunking Gomez

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I think we’re not on Opening Day anymore.  Although if we had to lose one game in this series, I’m glad it wasn’t that one.  But it would’ve been good to put the Evil Empire in their place early so they don’t walk around thinking they can waltz into first place just because their laundry says “New York.”

Am I annoyed that we lost? Clearly.  We lost by two; I was gunning for a sweep.  We all were.  We can still take the series, though, which will put us ahead of them anyway.  Although it’s important to remember to fight the urge to look at the standings until at least seven games into the season.  The only reason why I’m annoyed and not fuming that we lost to the Yankees is because it’s the second game of the season, and as much as I absolutely can not stand conceding anything to New York, I have to take a step back and wait for us to officially get our footing for 2010.

Youk hit a sac fly in the first to score Ellsbury, who undoubtedly was still smarting from his nonexistent performance on Sunday.  He went 0 for 5 on Opening Day, and that probably festered in his mind during the day off yesterday.  Not a great way to head into an off day, unless it riles you up, which it appears to have done, somewhat.  He went two for five with a double and a steal last night and looked like a pro in left field.  Seems to like a shallow left, which is a relief; many visitors play deep because they don’t know the angles well.

Victor Martinez homered in the third inning.  The ball just flew off his bat and eventually bounced into the bullpen.  Brought two runs in.  Say hello to the first of many in 2010! I’m pretty sure he’s our hittingest catcher since Carlton Fisk.  He also doubled in the fifth for another RBI, which proves my point.  That double was off the wall.  Pedroia was on first at the time and was watching it as he approached second base; before you know it, he was running across home for another run.  Home field advantage said he knew that ball was off the wall halfway through its trajectory, so he went for it.  So that made V-Mart two for three with three RBIs on the night.  Not bad for the second game of the season.

Beltre went two for four with a steal.  He is on an absolute tear.  Naysayers lose even more points.

I would like to point out that Teixeira was not safe in the top of the fifth.  He was out.  Youk kept his foot on the bag and the ball was in his glove before Tex even got there.

No, Papi didn’t get any hits last night, but at least he still prompts pitcher-catcher conferences.  Everyone needs to just relax.  He’s 0 for 7, not 0 for 107.

Lester exited after five.  Four runs on five hits with three walks and four K’s, and he was done.  Ninety-four pitches, fifty-three of them for strikes.  As usual, about half were four-seams, topping out at ninety-eight miles per hour.  He didn’t throw any two-seams but relied on his sinker and curve instead, with some changes and cutters and one slider thrown in.  Definitely not his best outing.  We’ve seen much better.  What’s interesting is that only seven of his pitches were thrown for swinging strikes.  It’s not that unusual for a reliever to have few of those, but for a starter, that seems pretty low.  I would guess it’s because he puts a lot of movement on most of his pitches, but also the speed of his pitches.  He cuts most of his fastballs, which he still throws in the high nineties.  I mean, Beckett on Sunday threw only one swinging strike.  At this point, though, I’d say that’s a function of the fact that we’re only two games into the season and the batters have yet to assume their usual bravado at the plate.  It’ll be interesting to see if that continues.  Lester doesn’t usually have a good April anyway.  Although as usual I was hoping he’d break that trend.

Delcarmen did not allow a run, barely.  Neither did Bard.  Okajima allowed one unearned and took the loss.  He was about to work himself out of the inning when, with two on and two out, Jeter grounded to short and Scutaro made a throwing error to first and loaded the bases.  Johnson worked a bases-loaded walk.  And that was the beginning of the end because it was the end of the tie.  We acquired Scutaro specifically to avoid those exact situations.  Oh, the irony.  Atchison let Cano take him yard.  And that was the ballgame.

Ladies and gentlemen, Beckett is officially locked through 2014.  At four years and $68 million, that’s a sweet deal.  Beckett isn’t one for free agency; he just wants to play where he’s happy, and he’s happy here, so what does it matter if he could’ve made a few extra million dollars? This isn’t the first time he’s signed an extension with us.  He’s loyal, he has a crazy work ethic, and he’s perfect for this town.  It’s good for the game to have people like that.

So our pitching was down, our hitting was comparatively down, and our defense was apparently down.  All three of our strengths, the three strengths that all baseball teams are supposed to have, were down.  When I put it like that, of course we lost.  I guess technically we can’t actually win ‘em all (although that would be incredible as well as history-making and record-breaking).  Again, let’s remember that it’s only the second game of the season.  Let the entire rotation get at least two games under its belt, and then the real parsing can begin.  For now, we’ll settle for a series win.  Tonight is important, because tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is when Lackey toes the Fenway rubber for the first time in his Boston career.  He starts opposite Pettitte.  This is most definitely not a game you want to miss.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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One week and three signings later, Theo Epstein is still arbitration-free! Do you know how hard a streak that is to maintain in this day and age? I’m telling you, that’s truly impressive.  On Tuesday, we agreed to terms with Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and none other than the notable quotable himself: Jonathan Papelbon.

Paps got his raise, alright.  For the second straight season, we signed him to a one-year deal.  Except this one is worth $9.35 million.  You read right.  $9.35 million.  That’s a $3.1 million raise.  I don’t even want to imagine what his raise would’ve been had he not completely bombed Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS.  With this raise, he’s a relief pitcher being paid the salary of a position player.  The question is, does he deserve it?

Last season, K-Rod made about $9.2 million and posted an ERA of 3.71.  Joe Nathan made about $11.3 million and posted an ERA of 2.10.  Jonathan Papelbon made $6.25 million and posted an ERA of 1.85.  That’s lower than K-Rod’s and lower than Nathan’s who both made more than he did.  So what if Paps is younger? He’s better.  So, at least on paper, that’s a point in favor of the raise.

Now, it was painfully obvious to us that, even with that low ERA, Paps had an off-year last year.  Why? He walked more batters than usual.  More walks means more pitches means fatigue means less sharp means more blown saves.  But this is not a situation where we have a closer who has a meltdown for no apparent reason.  We know exactly what the problem was, which means we can fix it, which means that Paps’s inferior performance last year wasn’t permanent.  That’s another point in favor of the raise.

Short-term deals are better for the team and worse for the player, so it’s interesting that Paps hasn’t wanted a big contract.  I suspect that’s because he wants to keep Theo on his toes.  If every year is a contract year and Paps continually proves himself, he puts the onus on Theo to make the next movie.  Presumably, Theo would have no choice but to give him a raise every year, thus allowing him to earn more than he might have if he just agreed to one static figure.  From Theo’s perspective, this isn’t going to last long; he can only appease Paps for so many years until he’s eligible for free agency, and then all bets are off.  Meanwhile, Theo very neatly avoided arbitration; in Paps’s case, that was more crucial than ever, and no doubt the fat raise had something to do with it.  I would rather have given Paps a substantial raise and avoided arbitration than have gone through that ordeal with him.  Here’s why.

We also know that Paps is, as I said, a notable quotable.  The man isn’t quiet.  When there’s an opportunity to voice an opinion, you can bet he’ll be first in line, and you can bet that whatever he says will turn heads.  Putting him in a situation where he has to prove he’s worthy of the raise while Theo tries to prove that he isn’t is a horrible, horrible idea.  Given who Paps is, it would severely damage his relationship with the organization and the club.  As someone who relies so much on excited energy and jolts of adrenaline to get his job done, that could significantly impact his performance on the field, not to mention the performance of the whole club.  Case in point: Manny Ramirez.  That’s yet another point in favor of the raise.

But like I said, this won’t last forever, another point in favor.  Word on the street is that, when Paps hits free agency, he’ll take the first train out of Boston to wherever he finds the most green.  But there are some things that would provide serious and humbling deterrents to that course of action.  First of all, because he’s a notable quotable, he’s not a closer who can fit in anywhere.  Here, he came up through the system and the fans love the guy.  Elsewhere, with the possible exception of L.A., his antics might alienate him from his teammates and fan base.  Troubles off the field yield troubles on the field; again, I refer you to Manny Ramirez.  Point being, he might not be as successful elsewhere.

Also, we can expect that before Paps hits the market, he and Theo will have a talk, man to man.  During that talk Theo will say something like, “You and I both know you’re an elite closer.  You’ve had your fun throwing your weight around and making us jack up your paychecks by living on a year-to-year basis.  But now we’re not going to pay you more than you’re worth.  If you want to pull a Jason Bay and make a demand, chase it at all costs, and end up in a situation that’s not as sweet as you thought, go ahead.  But good luck winning a ring and being tolerated elsewhere.” And during this conversation, a very promising closer of the future named Daniel Bard will undoubtedly be on hand, just so that Papelbon knows that Theo isn’t playing games.  Because Papelbon needs to acknowledge, once and for all, that we’ve got another closer waiting in the wings, if necessary.  Papelbon may be good, and he may be great, but he’s not the only great.

I guess what I’m saying is that the raise was a sort of necessary annoyance.  It was exorbitant, to be sure, but there was no getting around it, given the circumstances.  In the future, the circumstances will change and permit us to avoid it.  All we have to do is hold out until then and see if Papelbon has learned anything along the way.  And if he hasn’t, no one would be able to say we didn’t try our hardest to keep him on board.  I for one am not too thrilled about the raise; he’s going to have to do a lot to earn it.  But the fact that I think he will earn it with flying colors makes it easier to bear.

Jeremy Hermida has yet to reach agreement; he wants $3.85 million, but we’re offering 2.95.  I have to say, I’m a big fan of the 2.95.  It would be just sad if Theo avoided arbitration with the likes of Paps only to have to enter into it with Hermida.

Jose Offerman, manager of the Dominican Winter League Licey Tigers, was banned from the league for life after punching umpire Daniel Rayburn.  He came onto the field to argue about an ejection made by Jayson Bradley, the plate umpire, and things got out of hand pretty quickly.  Now, I understand that sometimes the game can get dicey; you see something you don’t like, your temper flares up, and whatnot.  Fine.  But you do not, and when I say “ do not” I mean “do not,” punch an umpire.  I just reread that and it sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true.  You just don’t.  Rayburn, Bradley, and fellow crew members Justin Vogel and Barry Larson all resigned from the league and left the country within hours of reporting the incident.  Offerman could see battery charges if Rayburn pursues this further.

We’ve all heard Mark McGwire’s long-overdue confession.  And we’ve all heard reactions from pretty much everybody.  But I like Carlton Fisk’s the best, and not just because he’s Carlton Fisk.  This is what said to the Chicago Tribune in response to McGwire’s claim that steroids didn’t help him hit those seventy homers in ’98:

“That’s a crock.  There’s a reason they call it performance-enhancing drugs. That’s what it does – performance enhancement. You can be good, but it’s going to make you better…Some guys who went that route got their five-year, $35 million contracts and now are off into the sunset somewhere. Because once they can’t use [steroids] anymore, they can’t play anymore.  And steroids, during that time, probably did as much to escalate players’ salaries as did free agency, as did arbitration, and all of that stuff. It did more than just put home runs up on the board or money in the guys’ pocket.”

Not only is the man well-spoken and to-the-point, but he’s also one hundred percent correct.  Ultimately, McGwire’s claim can be shattered by sheer science, by the physics of the impact that steroids have on home runs.

Roger Tobin, a professor of physics and the chairman of the physics department at Tufts University, wrote a paper called, “On the potential of a chemical Bonds: Possible effects of steroids on home run production in baseball.” The long and short of this paper is the following.  Anabolic androgenic steroids increase lean muscle mass, which increases the hitter’s force on the bat, which increases the work that the bat performs on the ball, which results in a three percent increase in bat speed.  That doesn’t seem like much, but consider the fact that home runs are infrequent and determined by a defined either/or threshold: it’s a home run if it goes over the fence; if it doesn’t, it isn’t.  Requiring a ten percent home run rate, that is, a rate of one out of every ten balls hit going over the fence (derived as a baseline from the pre-steroid era), using the bound that less than five percent of home runs are longer than 460 feet, and combining those two things with physical analysis, Tobin proves that, for an elite slugger like Mark McGwire, that small increase in bat speed would in fact lead to a thirty to seventy percent increase in home run rate.  Bang.

Point being that, no matter what he claims, Mark McGwire’s performance was enhanced significantly.  And I personally would never, under any circumstances, offer a user a standing ovation for a confession more than ten years late.  But that’s just me.  If St. Louis wants to give their new coach a standing ovation and maybe even get him to suit up and play, that’s their business.

The Bruins lost to the Sens and Blue Jackets, and we lost our must-win against the Sens yesterday.  We don’t play the Sens anymore this season, and we drop to fourth place in the division and ninth in the conference, which means that, if it stays like that, we’re not going to the playoffs.  And to add insult to injury, guess who we’re playing this evening: the Canes.  Great.

Dinosaurs Never Existed

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