Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘CC Sabathia’

So, last night we were officially eliminated.  For the first time since 2006 and the second time in the last eight years.  The Evil Empire and the Rays both clinched.  It was torturous.  Every time the Yankees scored another run, you still held out hope but knew that it would be dramatically less and less likely for Toronto to come back.  Sabathia pitched eight innings; Rivera pitched the ninth.  Technically, we should have been prepared for this.  Technically, we should have been expecting this.  But technically is technically, and in reality, the Royal Rooter in each of us told us to believe no matter how steep the odds were.  And to be completely honest with you, last weekend when we were leading the Yankees on Sunday night, it looked like we had it in the bag.  It looked like we were going to go to the playoffs.  But it turned out that that game would give us the only taste of the thrills of October that we would experience this year.  So the moral of the story is that you can prepare and brace yourself all you want, but when elimination comes, you’re still going to hurt big time.

I don’t know if the fact that it isn’t our fault is the best or worst part of it.  We had no control over outfielders colliding with Beltre’s knee, with sprains, with broken bones, with mono, with any of that.  There was nothing we could have done differently to have prevented it.  It’s the nature of the game that injuries will happen.  It’s not necessarily the nature of the game that so many will befall a team at once, and we can feel good and proud of the fact that we are where we are.  It’s a miracle that we were even in the running this long when you consider the fact that our disabled list this year was itself an All-Star team.  And for that, there is something seriously and horribly wrong with the world if Terry Francona does not win Manager of the Year this year.  But I just feel like, with all the injuries, the 2010 Red Sox never got a chance to show anyone what they were working with.  If we had stayed healthy, we would have won the World Series.  Before the All-Star break, before the onslaught of injuries seriously hit, we were about to land ourselves in first place.  We had started to play great baseball.  Then we lost all the guys who were playing that great baseball, many of them for the rest of the season.  Ellsbury played in only eighteen games this year.  Cameron played in forty-eight.  Pedroia played in seventy-five.  Youk played in 102.  All of them ended up out for the year.  The whole situation just begs the huge question of what might have been had we stayed healthy.

One thing’s for sure: next weekend, I hope we do untold damage to the Evil Empire’s hopes of even thinking about winning the division.  I hope we go out with dignity and give the world a taste of what they can expect from us next year, because next year we’re winning the World Series.  We’ll have the overwhelming majority of the team coming back.  In 2006, we didn’t make the playoffs because the team was injured and we won the World Series the next year.  So if we were even more injured this year, it stands to reason that next year we’ll be even more dominant than we were in 2007.  I’m psyched.  Meanwhile, I hurt.  It’s going to be a long, cold winter, folks.  A long, cold, baseball-less winter.  I feel crushed.  Seriously.  That’s the only way I can explain it.  It just…hurts.

It also hurts because, for some guys, these are the last Major League games they’ll ever play.  Lowell already announced his retirement after this season, and Tek, who has never played a Major League game for any other team, wants to keep playing but apparently it’s unclear whether the front office will be interested.  I personally think that Tek should stay with us as some sort of coach instead of going somewhere like Kansas City or Baltimore or Pittsburgh, but if he wants to play, he wants to play.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  But he’s the backbone of this team both on and off the field.  He wears that “C” for a reason, and I just wish that, for guys like Lowell and Tek, who should go out in blazing glory, and obviously also for the whole team and all of Red Sox Nation, that we had more baseball to play.

And as if last night couldn’t possibly have gotten any worse, our bullpen blew our lead against the Other Sox.

Lackey tossed six frames.  He gave up two runs on three hits, walked two, and struck out five.  That’s decent.  He used 108 pitches to do it.  That’s slightly inefficient.  He used five pitches; four of them, the fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup, were thrown very effectively for strikes.  His slider wasn’t so great, but he didn’t use too many of those.  He started the game by throwing twenty-three pitches in the first inning, so you knew he wouldn’t last that long.  Even so, he one-hit Chicago over the first three innings.  When he did pitch, he pitched very well and put us in position to win.  This was the fourth time in his last five starts that he’s done so.  So it’s also sad that the season is ending so early for players like Lackey, Lester, Buchholz, Belre, V-Mart, and Papi, guys that are on hot streaks and having fantastic years who could have unleashed a world of dominance in the playoffs.

The offense didn’t disappoint.  In the first, Lowrie doubled in Beltre.  In the third, Drew smashed a solo shot, and V-Mart scored on Beltre’s sac fly.  In the sixth, Papi smashed a solo shot.

But that would be it for us.  The Other Sox would score one run in each of the next three innings.  Atchison allowed a run via Hill.  Hill allowed his inherited runner to score and received a hold.  Bard allowed a run and received a blown save; he opened the eighth with an eleven-pitch walk to who but Manny Ramirez.  Bowden allowed the walkoff and took the loss.  There was a one-out single, which chased Bowden.  Richardson came on, and there were two steals to third and a walk.  Then Fox came on, and there was a single that barely eluded Nava, and there was a walkoff, and there was a loss, but it didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things anymore because, by that time, New York had already won.

We have five games left in the 2010 season: two more in Chicago, and three at home against the Yankees this weekend.  It’s going to be Beckett today and Lester tomorrow, and we’ll have to wait for the official starter schedule for the weekend.  Let’s make these last five games, five games to remember.  The team can relax now and just have fun playing the game.  The Nation can watch every minute of baseball we can to see the team off for the winter.  And let’s just go out there and provide a preview of 2011.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Last night’s game was as fun as it was immensely satisfying as it was incredibly necessary.  Ladies and gentlemen, we trounced the Evil Empire in the first game of four! In the Bronx! So many things to feel great about in that game.  Man, that game was good.  I love watching us win, but I especially love watching us beat the Yankees, especially when it helps us in the standings.

And one of the best parts of the game was that part of it was us beating the Yanks, and part of it was the Yanks beating themselves, which is also obviously always fun to watch.

Buchholz wasn’t as dominant as he could have been, but he was just dominant enough.  He pitched seven and a third innings.  He gave up three runs on nine hits.  He didn’t walk anybody and didn’t even throw three balls to a single batter until the seventh.  And he struck out four.  He gave up a home run and the lead to Teixeira in the first, which was decidedly unpleasant, but he settled down after that.  Don’t let the high hit total fool you; he was efficient, getting through his entire start with only ninety-seven pitches, sixty-five of which were strikes.  He threw at most eighteen and at least eight in each of his full innings.

Most of those pitches were fastballs, which were excellent, but his outstanding pitches were his changeup and slider.  Seven of his strikes were swinging.  Three of his strikeouts were swinging.  His first striking of the night was a swinging strikeout to end the fourth; his second was a swinging strikeout to start the fifth.  He essentially did not use the top quarter of the strike zone, and he concentrated mostly on the left three-quarters of it.  His movement was excellent.

He got the win, passing Lester for the team lead, and lowered his ERA to 2.66.  And what a time for him personally to get the big win; last night was his first start since his wife gave birth to their daughter earlier in the week.  Congratulations to the Buchholz family!

Buchholz left in the eighth after giving up a double, but Bard came in and shut them down with a lot of help from Ellsbury, who dove face-first to the ground, right on his left ribs, to turn a potential RBI hit into a flyout.  Bard picked up a hold.  Paps did the same in the ninth and picked up the save after a twelve-pitch at-bat to Jeter that ended with a walk on a pitch that should’ve been a called third strike.  It was absolutely a strike.  In the end it didn’t matter because Paps got Swisher to fly out, but I’m just saying.  It was a strike.

That’s only half the good news, the other half of course being the offense.  We won the game, 6-3, and here’s how.

With two out on a full count in the first, Papi let rip a rocket home run behind the center field fence.  The irony is that it was a fastball low and down the middle, and it was the only pitch Vazquez threw in that at-bat that was actually a strike.  The other two were borderline but technically balls.  And you know when that happens that you and the home plate umpire are looking at a long night.  But if you ask me, that’s the way I’d want to start any series with the Yanks: a Big Papi long ball.

Then in the second, we broke the tie with the help of the Yankees themselves.  That whole half-inning was a big embarrassment for New York.  So let’s talk about it.  Beltre led off with a double.  After Drew’s out, Lowell hit a popup about halfway to first base.  Cervelli and Vazquez both gave chase; Cervelli called for it while the two of them were basically right on top of each other and then dropped it, which isn’t surprising since he actually closed his eyes right before the ball reached his glove.  So Lowell was safe at first and Beltre was safe at third.  Kalish struck out, and Lowrie walked on nine pitches to load the bases.  Then Vazquez walked in a run.  Ouch.  Then he proceeded to give up a double to Scutaro, with the bases still loaded, that scored two and atoned for his throwing error.

The Yanks got one back in the fifth, but it wouldn’t matter for long because in the sixth, Ryan Kalish hit his first Major League home run! After striking out twice on a grand total of six pitches, he smacked that low fastball into the bullpen for two runs.  It was beautiful.  He’s going to remember that forever.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the ballgame.  We beat the Yankees.  Let me say that again: we beat the Yankees!

We add yet again to the disabled list; Okajima is out with a strained right hamstring.  Good.  I’d rather have a reliever be out than be in a game and lose it for us.  Speaking of the disabled list, Theo gave Carlos Delgado a workout before last night’s game.  I’m not sure Theo will acquire him; he was a great hitter before his hip issues overtook him, so we’d basically be acquiring a younger version of Mike Lowell, and not even because Mike Lowell seems to be doing fine so far.  Delgado would need time in the minors before he’d be able to help us out, and by the time he’d be ready, Lowell would probably have worked himself into some sort of groove.  So I’m not sure Delgado would be the best answer.

So the Yankees obviously lost, but so did the Rays, which means we’re now five games back, the fewest since the All-Star break.  Hopefully we’ll keep it going and beat the Yankees again tonight.  We need the win for the standings, but we also need the win because it’s just fun to beat the Yankees.  It’s really fun.  It’s awesome.  So let’s do it.  Sabathia is currently undefeated at home; Lackey changes that tonight.

Reuters Photo

Read Full Post »

Wow.  Okay.  Where do I start? The beginning.  Sometimes the end result isn’t nearly as significant as the road to get there.  Then again, sometimes they’re equally significant but you have to start from the beginning anyway because if you don’t you’ll just jump right to the good part and the whole discussion will be a mess.

The most important thing to keep in mind here is that this win was tremendous.  It was tremendous because it was a win and we needed a win for the standings and for our morale.  But it was also tremendous because this win required a relentless, night-long effort.  We couldn’t have afforded to give up even once, even for a second.  And we didn’t.  And it paid off.  We ground it out and were rewarded for our efforts.  (Just like we would’ve been for the previous two nights as well had the bullpen not completely ruined everything, but that’s not the point.) The spirit of this win reveals a very valuable quality embodied by this team: the spirit of never say die.  This team absolutely refuses to let go.  We may be off to our worst start of the decade this season, but nobody can say we haven’t been trying to dig ourselves out.  I like the fight of this team.  This win shows that, when we dig ourselves out of this hole, we are going to be one seriously difficult team to beat.

Now down to business.

So.  Beckett.  Beckett wasn’t good.  He left after recording two outs in the fifth.  He allowed five runs on five hits, only three of which were earned, and you can thank Marco Scutaro, who channeled Julio Lugo’s spirit, and his two fielding errors for the two unearned runs.  The first one was just a complete miss of a sure-fire double play that probably would’ve saved a few important runs.  The ball never got off the ground.  The second occurred in the ninth, which we’ll talk about later.

Beckett walked three and struck out one.  He allowed a solo shot in the fourth.  He threw mostly two-seams and a fair amount of changeups with some cutters, curveballs, and four-seams thrown in.  His cutter and four-seam were his most effective pitches; the rest of his pitches weren’t thrown for strikes very often.  Indeed, he fired 101 pitches and almost an equal number of balls and strikes.  He threw at least fourteen pitches in each of his innings; that minimum was good enough to get out of the first, which was his only one-two-three inning as well as his most effective.  Everything pretty much went downhill from there.  He fired a game high of twenty-seven in fifth before he left, or in other words, in an inning he didn’t even complete.

His strike zone was very clearly shifted downward.   By that I mean that he did throw in a concentrated area, but that area extended downward beyond the strike zone and ignored the top of it.  The amount of balls he threw down and to the sides in the bottom half of the zone were concentrated enough that it actually looks like he somehow redefined the zone for himself to include those areas.  That would explain the three walks in almost five innings as well as the low strike rate of most of his pitches.  Also, he just didn’t throw as hard as we know he can.  He barely topped out at ninety-three miles per hour even though we’re all well aware of the fact that he can easily throw at least ninety-five.

Fortunately, we may have an answer as to why Beckett’s been funky lately.  He left the game with back tightness.  He missed his previous start with back spasms.  Coincidence? I think not.  I also don’t think the weather helped any.  The weather was terrible.  It was raining, it was windy, and it was just a raw day.  The mound was disgusting.  The start of the game was delayed by about an hour.  But I hope this isn’t a repeat of a few years ago when his back made him awful for the entire year.  Here’s a man who needs to thank the bullpen profusely for pulling him through.

Meanwhile, after Beckett left, as a pathetic last-ditch effort, Joe Girardi declared that the Yankees would continue to play under protest, claiming that Beckett wasn’t really injured and that we called the bullpen before we removed him.  But because Beckett obviously was injured, walking off the mound with assistant trainer Greg Barajas, the umpires game Delcarmen as much time as he needed to get loose.  Girardi was annoyed that Delcarmen got all the time he needed instead of the usual eight pitches allowed.  If you ask me, he’s just whining.  Girardi knew the mound was bad because Sabathia had it fixed when he went out there.

Delcarmen finished the fifth and recorded an out in the sixth, somehow working around three walks.  Okajima picked up a hit and a walk while striking out two.  Bard recorded the last out of the eighth and ended up with the win.

The offense didn’t kick in until the sixth inning, after which point, with the exception of the bottom of the ninth, we owned and proceeded to claw our way out of a five-run deficit.  Youk started it off right with a home run to left field.  Coming into the game, Youk was batting .381 against Sabathia and now has a homer against him to his credit.  Fastball down and in and it was out.

But we really took off in the eighth, when we scored four runs against Joba Chamberlain.  Scutaro reached on A-Rod’s throwing error and scored on Drew’s opposite-field double.  Youk tapped a bloop single with the middle of his bat to right that scored two.  That brought us within a run, and Papi tied it with a powerful RBI single on a slider off the wall in right-center field.  The ball was hit so hard and looked so much like a home run that Papi essentially pulled a Manny Ramirez and watched it go.  That hesitation was what caused him to be out at second; had he hustled from the plate immediately, he would’ve had second easily.  Pedroia did tell him not to stretch it, but did he listen? No.  He learned a lesson for next time.

But let’s concentrate on the fact that he got a hit with runners on base against Sabathia, because Papi and Sabathia are both lefties and, as a result, Papi traditionally would’ve sat out.  The fact that he started the game at DH tells you that his bat is just on fire and Tito trusted him to get the job done against a tough southpaw.  Tito turned out to be right, as he often is.  Sabathia has been tougher on righties lately, and Papi in the past has been able to read him well.  So as if you needed even more proof that Papi is his old self again, that was it.  But that has obvious implications for Mike Lowell, who expressed ample frustration before the game to the media about his lack of playing time and had an animated conversation with Tito in the dugout probably concerning that as well.  Lowell explicitly stated that there’s no place for him on this team anymore, that because he’s not playing, he’s just taking up a roster spot that could be filled by someone else, and that maybe the team would be better off without him.  If you ask me, I think that, at this point, it’s him who’d be better off without the team.  Let’s face it: Lowell was guaranteed a spot in the lineup opposite every lefty we faced, but only as long as Papi was slumping.  Now, Papi is no longer slumping, and Cameron and Ellsbury very close to coming off the DL.  Once they return, the reserves that have been replacing them will need playing time, which could come in the form of DH if Papi slumps in the future.  Lowell, ever the classy guy, was careful to emphasize that he’d never root against Papi, which I appreciated.  But it’s a very difficult situation.  Tito is obviously also very frustrated; if he gets through this, he should definitely be up for manager of the year or something.  We just need to find a solution that would benefit both the club and the player; I think Lowell’s name will end up coming up around the trading deadline if nothing ground-breaking affects the situation before then.  The problem, of course, is that he’s still an offensive threat, and because he can’t play defense, he’ll have to DH, which means we’ll have to deal with his bat in an American League lineup.  But such is life in baseball.  I think he’s handling the situation as best as anyone could, and I applaud him for that.  I don’t doubt that something will be worked out soon.

Returning to the action, we’re now at the top of the ninth.  With the game tied and very much on the line, Mariano Rivera came on.  With one out, McDonald singled.  Scutaro reached base when Thames couldn’t catch your average fly.  Now, Drew tweaked his right hamstring in the previous inning, so he left (he’s sure he’ll be able to start tonight, though) in favor of Hermida.  Hermida proceeded to crush a cutter that stayed over the plate for an opposite-field, line-drive, hard-hit double over Winn’s head that scored two to give us a lead.  A lead we would not, in fact, relinquish.  Believe it or not, that’s quietly been business as usual for Hermida, who leads the league with seventeen RBIs with two outs.  What did Drew have to say?

I told those guys I’m a smart kind of player like that.  I take myself out just in time for Hermida to hit a big double like that.  It worked out ultimately for the best.

Thank you for the quip, sir! The truth of the matter is that Chamberlain and Rivera were both terrible.  Fortunately, that seems to be the theme against us.  Speaking of closers, we now come to the bottom of the ninth, which I hereby entitle Papelbon’s Redemption.  It was a save, but it was by no means a clean one.  I’m a big fan of his competitive spirit; he was chomping at the bit for another chance to get that ball, go out there, and prove himself:

I was hoping all night long that I’d get another chance tonight.  I just want to show my team it’s a heavyweight title fight.  You might get one good blow on me, but you ain’t going to knock me out. I just wanted to prove that to my teammates tonight.

But he induced Nation-wide breath-holding in the process.  It took him twenty-eight pitches to barely escape, and he didn’t exactly escape unscathed.  A-Rod scored on a double by Cano.  But with runners at the corners, Miranda hit a one-hop single up the middle.  Paps nabbed it, checked A-Rod at third, and fired to first for out number two.  Then, he finally struck out Winn on eight pitches to seal the deal by pitch and by glove.  The final score was 7-6 and, ladies and gentlemen, it was in our favor!

Besides Lowell’s frustration, the other controversial side story was the fact that Dice-K and V-Mart just did not agree on Monday night, and V-Mart was frustrated because was trying to guide Dice-K and help him out, but like he said, ultimately Dice-K is the one with the ball, so he has the last word.  Dice-K shook him off numerous times, and both of them were miffed afterwards.  Before last night’s epic battle, Tito sat down with them to try to talk things out.  As Tito said, the shaking-off itself wasn’t so much the issue because if a pitcher feels that a certain pitch is right and should be thrown, if he throws it with confidence and locates it properly, it’ll probably be effective even if it’s not what the catcher called for.  It’s interesting to note that the one good start that Dice-K has had this season, the only one without a noticeably abysmal inning, was caught by Tek.  Whatever Tito decides to do about it, I think something central will be off-field as well as on-field work between them.  They have the potential to be a good battery and we need V-Mart’s bat in there so he can heat up properly, so the sooner they work it out, the better.

I would also like to point out that, if the team were winning and doing really well, neither Lowell nor V-Mart would’ve expressed as much frustration as they did or in the explicit manner in which they did.  Because when the team is winning, the attitude is that everything is working and there’s obviously nothing to fix, so why fix something that’s not broken.  But with the team losing and morale taking a hit, side conflicts like this fester and come to the surface.  Of course, we can feel fortunate that, at the very least, neither of these things is going to blow up in our faces like the Manny Ramirez debacle.  Lowell is way too classy to let that happen.

So four hours and nine minutes after starting the game an hour late, we got ourselves a win! It was really an incredible show of spirit and determination.  What a game.  It was like all of a sudden we decided that we just weren’t going to lose it.  We just weren’t.  So we won it instead.  Really incredible stuff.  Those types of wins do a lot to lift a clubhouse.

We’re now back at .500, eight and a half games out of first and five and a half games out of second, occupied by New York.  Our record is twenty and twenty.  But like I’ve been saying all along, we need to start somewhere, and this tough schedule may be just the ticket to bring out that spark that may have been missing up to this point.  Tonight Buchholz confronts Baker and the Twins at home.  Yet another series it would behoove us to start on the right foot.

AP Photo

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Two huge news items this week: the rotation and Mauer.  I’ll talk about the rotation first because it’s awesome.

Ladies and gentlemen, your starting five: Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wakefield, Buchholz.  In that order.  Beckett gets the nod to start the fifth Opening Day game of his career, the second of his career with us.  And let me tell you that I am looking forward to some serious, ice-cold domination over the Evil Empire because it’s going to be real interesting to see exactly how they intend to beat him.  He’s Beckett.  Beckett the Unbeatable, if you will.  He’ll start opposite Sabathia.  Then we get a day off before Lester’s start, and Lackey will make his Boston debut in the third and hopefully final sweeping game in that series against New York.  Then it’s off to Kansas City (a city I’m still having serious trouble thinking of without the 2012 All-Star Game coming to mind), where Wake will open the series, followed by Beckett who’ll be on regular rest due to the day off, followed by Buchholz, who’ll close it out.  After that it’s back to a regular rotation.

If I weren’t a Red Sox fan, I would be shaking in my shoes when I read about that rotation.  Make no mistake: that is, hands down, without a doubt, the best starting rotation in all of Major League Baseball.  If I sound confident, it’s because I am.  With a rotation like that, who wouldn’t be? Beyond that, I really don’t think there’s much to say.  Except to expect us in the World Series, which has “Boston” written all over it.

But seriously, folks: I like this rotation.  Last season was a fluke for Beckett; if he’s right this year, he belongs at the top of the rotation.  The one-two punch of Beckett and Lester has been proven deadly for the opposition, and I like having a lefty between Beckett and Lackey.  Wake is of course tried and true, and we’ll see how Buchholz fairs.  Overall, one of the strengths of this rotation is its versatility.  It includes heat, power, cunning, and some nasty off-speeds.  We’re going to win some games with these arms, trust me.

By the way, we’re officially not offering Beckett a fifth year in his contract extension.  Faced with a right shoulder like his, I agree with that.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t pay him well, though.  We probably will, but for not as much time.

Big news item number two: In what was perhaps the greatest display of loyalty in the last decade, Joe Mauer, born and raised in Minnesota, signed an eight-year contract extension with a full no-trade clause that averages about $23 million a year.  Personally, I was surprised that the Twins can afford that.  It’s the fourth-largest contract in the history of the Major Leagues, but don’t let that fool you: if he pursued free agency, he almost certainly would’ve been able to command more.  It’s safe to say that he would’ve set off a bidding war between us and New York that could’ve raised his total salary to above $200 million.  But he didn’t, and there wasn’t.  I mean, you can’t get much more loyal than an extension with a no-trade clause.  Would I have loved to see the dynamic offensive catching duo of V-Mart and Mauer split time behind the dish at Fenway Park? You bet.  But this is the next-best thing, and not just because it keeps him out of the division.  And not just because it saves us considerable money since a bidding war with the Yankees is now moot.  It means there’s some hope yet in this game for loyalty like that, even with free agency.  You have to be some special stuff to exercise it, but at least we know it’s still there.  His standing ovation on Tuesday was pretty impressive.

What does this mean for us? It means we’re going to have to get ready to shell out to V-Mart when the time comes, provided he spends more time behind the dish than at the bag and still maintains his high level of play.  Keep in mind that we haven’t yet seen him be our starting catcher for a full season.  For starters, he really needs to work on throwing people out.  But even with that current shortcoming, his high offensive output at a position notorious for week hitters makes him worth it.  Besides, he knows he’ll never be able to serve a team at first or DH as well as he can at catcher, and his price decreases significantly if he pursues either of those routes, so either way he has an incentive to improve.

And now for the usual schedule recap.

On Sunday, we lost to Houston, 7-10.  Six of those ten runs were allowed by Paps, and to top it all off, the game was cut short by rain.  Apparently, he had a migraine before he went out there, so he took some medication and felt a bit drowsy.  He had no energy and proceeded to look like he was pitching to, well, not Major Leaguers.  At least it’s nothing serious, but it would be really great if this doesn’t become some sort of recurring problem.

On Tuesday, we lost to Minnesota, 7-2.  This one was on Buchholz.  In a decidedly 2008-esque performance, he allowed six runs, three walks, and three wild pitches in less than two innings.  Only half of his pitches were strikes.  Not that the offense was any help at all; we scored our first run in the eighth.  Paps did pitch a scoreless inning, though, to bounce back.  Delcmaren enjoyed a nice inning of his own, a one-two-three frame, amidst repeated delivery changes.  But Pedroia left in the bottom of the second with a sprained left wrist.  He’s fine; they benched him on Friday to be cautious, and he started yesterday.

On Wednesday, we beat the Pirates by two.  V-Mart smashed his first Spring Training home run.  Beckett completed his longest start of Spring Training: five innings of dominance during which he relinquished only one run on three hits with two walks.  Also on Wednesday, Embree debuted in a minor league contest and threw a scoreless inning.  Eleven of his twelve pitches were strikes.  It’s good to have you back, buddy.

On Thursday, we beat the Marlins, 6-4, and there were plenty of good offensive performances to go around.  Wake threw six frames and gave up three runs on six hits with two walks and five punchouts.  Fifty-one of his seventy-three pitches were strikes.  I think he’s some kind of Benjamin Button of baseball because it’s uncanny how he keeps it up every year.  I mean, he’s a knuckleballer, but still.  The bigger news was Dice-K’s successful two innings of work.  He gave up a run on two hits with no walks or punchouts in twenty-five pitches.  And he looked good! Cue: sigh of relief.  He’ll miss the first few weeks of the season because the Red Sox want pitchers to throw twenty-five innings before beginning regular season work.  But I’ll live if it means he won’t be a total bust this year.

On Friday, we barely beat the Jays.  Tek and Reddick had our only hits until a three-run ninth that included an RBI single by Papi.  Lowell fouled a ball off his knee in the first; x-rays were negative but he’s day-to-day.  He’s confident he’ll be ready by Opening Day, though.  And this just as he was getting comfortable at first base.  Lester gave up no unearned runs over six innings with five punchouts.  Paps allowed two hits and a walk but no runs.

Yesterday, we lost to the Orioles.  Pedroia and Lackey both looked fantastic, but Embree didn’t.  Hermida left with a tight hamstring.

Opening Day is one week away.  Only one week away.  That means that in one week, we’ll be in the process of watching the first win of a season that’ll probably take us all the way to the top.  (Provided everyone stops thinking our offense is non-existent, of course.) After all, we are Red Sox Nation, and that means we gotta believe.  And it all starts on Sunday at Fenway against New York.  Seven days.  Only seven days.

The Bruins lost to the Rangers and Lightning and shut out the Thrashers and Flames.  This means we’ve moved up to the seventh seed and are currently tied with the Flyers.  Savard is still on the injured reserve.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Okay.  That didn’t exactly go as planned, and that’s putting it lightly.  We knew it had to happen sometime, but it would’ve been fine by me if it didn’t happen for an incredibly long time.  The New York Yankees won the 2009 World Series.  Wow, that was excruciatingly painful to say.  So basically the Angels wounded us and the Yankees finished us off.  Of all the bad things that could possibly have happened to Red Sox Nation this year, it had to be New York coming out on top at the end of the decade.  Suffice it to say that the region of New England and the city of Philadelphia are brothers in grief, but as I said, the region of New England isn’t very happy.  To be fair, the Phillies gave it their all and put up a good fight, forcing a Game Six and whatnot.  But to be completely honest with you, I’m still furious and bitter about the whole thing.  Words can not describe the anger and frustration I experienced.  I’m sure you can relate.  And don’t even get me started on what it felt like to see pictures of the victory parade.  Viscerally painful.

What does this mean for Red Sox Nation? Does it mean we’re back where we started? No.  Absolutely not.  The curse is long gone.  (Speaking of curses, so much for that valiant attempt to hex the new Yankee Stadium with that Ortiz jersey.) So we don’t have to worry about that anymore.  So what does it mean? Well, quite frankly, it means we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  It doesn’t mean we have something to prove because 2004 and 2007 have already taken care of that.  In its simplest terms, it literally means we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Alex Speier of WEEI ranked the World Series winners of the decade.  He put the 2004 Red Sox at third, the 2007 Red Sox at second, and the 2009 Yankees first.  This is something I’m having a very hard time believing.  The Yankees didn’t win the World Series.  They bought it.  Just like they bought their previous twenty-six World Series wins.  The Phillies were beaten, more than anything else, by the Yankees organization’s abnormally huge wallet.  Their 2009 payroll was $209 million.  That’s a full fifty percent more than the Red Sox, Tigers, and Mets, who were all more or less tied for second this past season.  (So to all the Yankee fans out there who favor the you’re-one-to-talk line, don’t even try it.)

To that end, in response to “Remember Who You Are,” Jeremy pointed out:

CC Sabathia made $3906 per pitch this season.  AJ Burnett made $4391 per pitch.  Mariano Rivera made $12,500 per pitch. I think I’m going to be sick.

Believe me, we share that sentiment.  Those figures are absolutely grotesque.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so disgustingly exorbitant in my baseball life.  This is what ruins the sport.  This is what alienates and disillusions.  It’s just sad and pathetic that New York has to go out and poach their talent in fiscally irresponsible ways.  Signing a pitcher for seven years for that amount of money is completely irresponsible.  The dude could snap his arm tomorrow and never be the same again.  Why would anyone ever sink that much capital into a less-than-stable investment? Similarly, why do you sign a pitcher for five years who’s known to make multiple trips to the DL? I don’t understand what they were thinking.  Burnett is a huge medical liability, not to mention the fact that his consistency isn’t worth his currently salary at all.  One of the reasons they locked Burnett was probably to keep him away from us, and that should never be the basis of any decision, but that’s just what they do.  As far as Mariano is concerned, he is especially not worth it.  For a team so worried about their archrival (remember when they acquired Mike Meyers for the explicit and sole purpose of pitching to David Ortiz?), they’re placing a premium on a closer whose only Achilles’ heel is that same team.  And to pay him that much at his age when other closers just as good and younger are making less should signal the lack of sensibility in their approach to the market.  That organization just does not make sense.  At all.  It’s stupefying.  Every time I read something about Brian Cashman and any Steinbrenner, I feel my powers of common sense drain out.

By the way, Bronx leaders are considering naming the soon-to-be-constructed the East 153rd Street bridge after Derek Jeter.  I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.  We have the Ted Williams Tunnel because Ted William was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a soldier in combat for the United States in two major wars during the prime of his baseball career, and an avid supporter of the Jimmy Fund.  He was a local, regional, and national hero.  Derek Jeter is a shortstop.  There is a huge difference.

Now that the Yankees have, you know, won and all, I think we need to move forward constructively.  An instrumental part of that will be making peace with Jonathan Papelbon.  He may have disappointed us, and he may have humiliated us, and he may have been as porous in his pitching as a slice of Swiss cheese, but at the end of the day he’s still our closer.  And let’s face it: there’s nothing more dangerous than a closer with something to prove.  And I’d say that’s doubly true in Papelbon’s case.  Putting his last appearance aside, he’s a beast.  He’s one of the biggest competitors on the team.  Essentially, he was born to close.  He’s got the power, he’s got the movement, and he’s got the crazy attitude to get the job done.  In the past, when Papelbon got hungry, he went out and he sealed the deal.  And I fully expect him to be back to form this coming season.

Speaking of big competitors, here’s a story that’s been downplayed in light of other impending free agency filings: this coming season is a contract year for Beckett.  After that, he’ll be eligible to become a free agent for the first time in his career.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t expect him to walk away.  Free agency for this year has already begun; notable filings include John Lackey, Matt Holliday, and (you guessed it) Jason Bay.  Other filings included Carlos Delgado, Marlon Byrd, and Adrian Beltre.

Make no mistake: the stove is about to get hot for Theo Epstein.  In fact, he’s already started his move-making.  We acquired right fielder Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins for southpaws Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.  This could obviously have implications for Rocco Baldelli’s future with us.

We still need a bench coach.  Tito wants to replace from within.  I know technically you’re supposed to take a few years off to transition from player to coach, but Jason Varitek wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So that’s where we’re at.  We have double the pain to conquer now: the experience of an extremely brief October and the surge of the Evil Empire.  Obviously, we’ll get through it.  We always do.  I’m just saying I wish I didn’t have to have this to get through.  It would’ve been so infinitely better if we won the World Series.  And that’s exactly what 2010 is for.

The Bruins aren’t exactly helping our cause.  We were shut out by the Rangers and Devils earlier this week, and being shut out twice in a row isn’t easy.  So that’s bad.  To make matters worse, we lost to the Habs in overtime.  But we ended the week on a high note when we defeated the division-leading Sabres, 4-2.  The problem is that we don’t have a goal-scorer because he’s off playing for the Leafs now.   That’s a problem.  Someone’s going to have to step up and start putting pucks in nets if we’re going to get anywhere this year.

 

Center Field

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »