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Posts Tagged ‘Cy Young’

Well, it’s been to the headlines and back by now, and anyone familiar with how baseball works would know that there was no chance in the world that this was going to stay quiet until the formalities were taken care of.  So let’s talk about it.

We just sent most of our core to the Dodgers, in keeping with their doubling as the Los Angeles Blue Sox.  And when I say that it was most of our core, I mean that literally.  Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto.  They all involved waivers.  All but one of those were starters for us, and Punto did see more than his fair share of playing time as a utility man off the bench.  In return, we will receive four prospects (right-hander Allen Webster, infielder Ryan De Jesus, and two more to be named), a first baseman (Jason Loney), and financial flexibility.  There is no question about the fact that this is one of the largest waiver deals ever and certainly the largest in recent baseball history.

Obviously this is a huge deal, both literally and figuratively.  Beckett has obviously struggled this year, as have Crawford and Gonzalez and Punto, although much less than Beckett.  So if Ben wanted to make some sort of wave by getting rid of somebody big, he could have just gotten rid of Beckett and have been done with it.  That would have been the obvious action, if there were one at all.  But to ship out all four of these guys, especially Gonzalez? Was that really necessary? Regardless of who these prospects might be and what this flexibility might look like, is this really the best thing for our future? Or is it a short-term quick fix to show the Nation that the brass is at least doing something and that this really was a bridge year? Furthermore, does this mean that the brass has sided with Bobby V. rather than the players regarding the issue of his managerial style, or does this have nothing to do with that at all because it’s based strictly on performance, or lack thereof? But if it does have to do with that, how certain are the brass that the solution indeed involved the players rather than the manager and coaches?

Punto finishes his lone season with us, which wasn’t even a whole season, with a batting average of .200, an on-base percentage of .301, and a slugging percentage of .272.  He has had 125 at-bats in sixty-five games; he has twenty-five hits to his credit as well as ten RBIs and fourteen runs.  He has walked nineteen times and stolen five bases.  He has played every infield position this year and has made only two errors.

Crawford departs after having played almost two season here.  Last season was better in terms of playing time, while this season was better in terms of performance.  He finishes this season with us with a batting average of .282, an on-base percentage of .306, and a slugging percentage of .479.  He has had 117 at-bats in thirty-one games; he has thirty-three hits to his credit as well as nineteen RBIs and twenty-three runs.  He has walked three times and stolen five bases.  He has made only one error in the field.

Gonzalez also departs after having played almost two seasons here, but it feels like so much more because he has so easily become a fixture on this team.  He historically has been known for his great leadership and team presence, both in the clubhouse and on the field.  He always seemed to be really enthusiastic about playing here, and he usually let his production do the talking.  And it talked a lot.  His average last year was a cool .338, and it was hard to imagine him not getting up there and whacking some ball for extra bases every time.  He certainly did struggle at the beginning of the season but has since started to bounce back quite nicely.  His average is now at .300, and he has an on-base percentage of .343 and slugging percentage of .469.  He’s had 484 at-bats in 123 games; he has 145 hits to his credit as well as eighty-six RBIs and sixty-three runs.  He has walked thirty-one times and stolen no bases, but that’s alright because his job, unlike Crawford’s, is not even partially to steal bases.  His job is to hit for extra bases, and that he can do.  He hasn’t hit any triples, but he’s hit thirty-seven doubles and fifteen home runs.  And in addition to first base he has also played right field this year because he’s a team player, and when the team needed him, he didn’t ask questions; he just slid right in there, and he did an impressive job at that.  He made four errors this year, two in right and two at first.

Beckett, of course, is the most storied of the four.  He’s certainly been here the longest, so he’s given us more memories, some good and some bad but all unique.  He came here in 2006 and had a subpar season.  In 2007 he went twenty and seven, and everyone but those in the position to award the Cy Young knew that he was the one who deserved it, regardless of the fact that he was a huge reason why we won the World Series that year.  His start in Game One was phenomenal.  It was a real gem.  He retired nine batters, including his first four, and gave up only one run.  2008 was another mediocre year, but 2009 saw him largely back to his old self, finishing the season with a record of seventeen and six.  2010 was an abysmal year, and of course last year was decent; his record was thirteen and seven, so he won almost twice as many games as he lost.  And then we have this year.  This year he’s five and eleven with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.  He’s pitched 127.1 innings and given up seventy-four earned runs on 131 hits, sixteen of which were home runs; incidentally, he’s only allowed one unearned run.  He has given up thirty-eight walks as well.  So, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not like every single season he’s been here except for this one has been an unabashed success.  Far from it.  But when he’s been successful, he’s been really, really, really successful.  And of course there’s his personality.  Rumor had it that he was partly if not completely responsible for the deterioration of our clubhouse and has been widely associated with the instigation of beer-drinking and whatnot within it.  As I said at the time when all of this was news, none of us were actually there, and we can’t know what really went on.  All we know is that, despite his mile-wide competitive streak and work ethic, Beckett has not been performing well at all on the mound.

On the eve of the departures of these players, we salute their commitment to this team and the accomplishments that they achieved during their stay here.  In the spirit of the tribute, therefore, Punto, Crawford, and of course Gonzalez as well as Beckett, we’ll miss you and we salute you.  Now, as far as the implications of the deal and what it all means, there are things I said and there are things I didn’t necessarily overtly say.  But in reality I said a lot.  Ultimately, our task now is to see what we end up doing during our offseason.

We lost to the Royals in extras last night, but it really wasn’t Cook’s fault.  Cook, for his part, did an extremely admirable job, especially when you consider the fact that he made this start on three days’ rest.  He gave up three runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out none over six innings.  He gave up all three runs in the first thanks to a double that brought in two and then a single that brought in one.  He then cruised for the remainder of his outing.  Meanwhile, our hitters put us on top.  The Royals may have scored three runs, but we answered with four in the second.  Gomez hit a solo shot, the first homer of his Major League career, and then Salty and Lavarnway hit back-to-back singles to set the table for Aviles, who went yard on the first pitch he saw, sending the ball out toward the Monster.  And the third inning only served to solidify the fact that we were in control.  Pedroia doubled, Ellsbury walked, and Ross singled to load the bases; thanks to a single by Gomez as well as a Royals error, we scored another two runs plus a third thanks to a sac fly by Salty.  We just kept piling it on in the fourth; Ciriaco walked, and Ellsbury singled two outs later.  Ross and Gomez added their consecutive singles to Ellsbury’s to go back-to-back-to-back and plate two more runs.

So by the time Cook’s appearance came to an end, we were leading, 9-3.  And I have to say, I was feeling pretty comfortable with how I expected this game to turn out.  I mean, we just scored nine runs, and we did it with everything: long ball, small ball; you name it, we did it.  And we had a six-run lead to boot.  But I should have expected that no lead would possibly have been safe.

Because then the seventh inning happened, and the seventh inning was when our entire relief corps ruined it completely, imploded totally, and embodied the epitome of an epic fail.  First, it was Miller, who allowed a groundout, a single, a strikeout, two consecutive walks, and an RBI single that scored two.  Then Melancon came on and gave up an RBI double and an RBI single.  Then Breslow came on and gave up a triple that scored two and then managed to finish the inning with an intentional walk followed by a groundout.

Breslow pitched the eighth, Bailey pitched the ninth, Padilla pitched the tenth, and Tazawa pitched the eleventh and most of the twelfth.  He gave up a walk, a double, and finally the single that scored the winning run.  Mortensen replaced him after that and ended the inning.  And we threatened a bit in the eighth, when Ellsbury got himself to third with two out, and in the tenth, when Ciriaco was thrown out at home.  But we didn’t score since the fourth, so we allowed our lead to be completely squandered and lost, 10-9, even though we outhit them, 20-14.

And as an added reflection of the badness of our entire situation, Aceves reportedly slammed the door on his way into Bobby V.’s office after Friday’s game and has been suspended for three games for conduct detrimental to the team.

AP Photo

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Pitchers and catchers officially reported on Sunday.  Fortunately, since we have a lot of badness to put behind us, most of our key pitchers were already down there, and that’s the way it should be.  The season isn’t going to win itself.  But we as Red Sox Nation can be ecstatic about that because it means that we’re one step closer to Spring Training, which is one step closer to the regular season, which is one step closer to having baseball return after a long winter and to putting last season behind us.

Compensation for Theo has officially been hammered out.  We’re getting Chris Carpenter – the prospect, not the Cy Young winner – and a player to be named later in exchange for a player to be named later.  Congratulations.  It only took four months to get this done.

Speaking of Theo, John Henry apologized to Crawford for stating on WEEI that he was against signing Crawford but did it anyway because Theo wanted to.  Crawford apparently apologized to John Henry for his horrendous season in return.  The brass also took ownership of last season’s collapse.  Well, apologies are all well and good, and it’s nice that people are owning up to things and being accountable, but we’ve got a new season on our hands that I think we should get to focusing on.

Rich Hill is on the roster.  Lackey is on the sixty-day DL.

In other news, the B’s were shut out by the Wild but bounced back with wins over the Blues and Sens; we also lost a shootout to the Sabres but at least we got a point out of it.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Even this late in the game (pun intended), we’ve got more goodbyes to say.  This time, we’ve got to say goodbye to someone who’s been there for most of everything that’s happened in our most recent baseball memory: Tim Wakefield, who retired on Friday at Spring Training.  Here’s the tribute.

Obviously I’m one of the world’s biggest sabermetrics fans, but even with sabermetrics, it’s hard to determine how a signing will turn out, and of course it was even harder to do so before baseball professionals saw its light.  After what Wake has given us, it’s hard to believe that we picked him up in 1995 after he was released from a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him in 1988 as a first baseman, if you can believe it.  At the time, the signing was a low-risk move, and I doubt that anyone had the foresight to predict what would happen next.

In 1995, his first season with us, he won all but one of his decisions, and thus began one of the best relationships between a pitcher and a team in a long, long time.  He’s played all but two of his Major League seasons with us; his career spans nineteen years old, and he retires at the age of forty-five.  It’s hard to come by anyone else who embodies the term “veteran” so completely.  He has started 463 games and pitched in 627.  He has hurled 3,226.2 innings.  Those start and inning totals are the highest of any pitcher in club history.  He finishes his career with a 4.41 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, and finally, both literally and figuratively as we all know, two hundred wins.  His two hundredth win was the last game he will ever have played: September 13, 2011 at home.  His 186 wins in a Boston uniform leave him seven shy of breaking the club record, currently held by both Roger Clemens and Cy Young.

But that’s what’s special about a guy like Wake.  He, like Mike Lowell, is the utmost of class and professionalism.  Seven wins and breaking the record mattered less to him than bowing out gracefully when his time had come.  To me, that demonstrates a heightened sense of self-awareness and self-security with what he accomplished.  He feels happy about what he’s done and who he has become; for him, baseball was both a game and a career.  And I think the club handled this one wisely.  The front office didn’t offer him a contract but also wouldn’t allow a pitcher of his standing and status to compete for a spot during Spring Training like some untested kid.  More than that, he was as active off the field as he was on the field.  On the field, his skills were always apparent; even on his bad days, you know the next time out he’d have a good day.  His knuckleball was second to none; he was a specialist to the utmost and executed his pitch as surgically as he could possibly have executed it (which doesn’t say much, since most of the mechanics of the knuckleball must be left up to chance, but still, if anyone could execute it surgically, he could).  He was a competitor, a leader, and a rock who always did what was best for the team, including moving to the bullpen when it became clear that the sun had set on his role as a regular starter.  And he took that in stride, and it says something that that was his attitude under five different managers.  His dependability and versatility in terms of his role made him absolutely invaluable throughout even the last moments of his career, and it’s rare to be able to make that statement.  It’s unclear whether anybody else in his position would have been able to do the same.  He was also a rock in the clubhouse who, at all times, exhibited sportsmanship, leadership, and friendship, but he was also a fixture in charity work in the Boston area and made a real difference in the lives of the less fortunate.  Nobody deserved the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award more than he did.

And of course we can’t forget what he gave to this city in October.  One of the lowest points of my entire baseball life was Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS when Wake gave up the you-know-what to you-know-who.  But he bounced all the way back during the following season and, as we know, carried that momentum right through to the finish.  We were losing Game Three of the 2004 ALCS, but if Wake hadn’t sacrificed his start during the following game by volunteering to take the mound in relief in order to preserve the bullpen, who knows what would have happened? We might still be without a championship, for all we know.  And that right there, that nondescript simple act in which there was nothing for Wake himself, exemplified what kind of a teammate and a man he really was.  Then of course those three shutout innings he delivered in Game Five were simply crucial; he won that fourteen-inning epic saga of a contest as a result.  And when we won the World Series three years later, Wake had himself seventeen wins that season and became an All-Star for the first time two years after that.

Throughout his career, it was always apparent that he loved it here, and this was where he was meant to play.  And he knew it and enjoyed every minute of it.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that, even though he had his fair share of doozies, we were behind him every step of the way.  Even when he was losing, you could always tell that he was trying and that he was just as disappointed in himself as we were in him.  He was a real ballplayer in every sense of the world, and he was with us every step of the way.  It was here that he started his success and here that he always wanted to finish it:

I just think the time is now.  I never wanted to pitch for another team.  I always said that I wanted to retire a Red Sox, and today I’m able to do that.

Rare indeed in this day and age of the game is the ballplayer who possesses any sort of special attachment to a particular team that is so deep that he’ll make a statement like this.  So here’s to you, Wake.  We doff our caps to you like you’ve done to us so many times over the years.  Here’s to the elation and grief that your knuckleball has caused, and here’s to what you’ve accomplished over the many years of your venerable career.  Here’s to the fact that you were happiest when you were playing here, in this city, for us.  We’ll never forget what you’ve done for us and for your team.  You’ll most certainly be missed, but the strength of your character shows even in the manner of your retirement.  So here’s to you.  Congratulations!

Wow.  Talk about close calls.  That, my friends, was a close call.  That was a really close call.  Hours before the arbitration hearing was scheduled to take place on Monday, Papi signed a one-year deal worth $14.575 million.  That figure is halfway between what he wanted and what we originally offered, and it’s still a raise up from the $12.5 million he earned last season.  And it’s still the highest salary ever intended for a DH.  It’s a fair deal.  He gets a raise, and we maintain our flexibility.  Plus, anytime you avoid arbitration, it’s automatically a win-win.  We avoided the mudslinging that was sure to come from both sides and, as Ben said, it’s better in the long run to have just resolved it.  The no-arbitration streak continues since 2002.

Beckett and Buchholz have reported; today is officially Pitchers and Catchers.  As is the case with any good, dedicated team that expects itself to vie seriously for a title, by the time Pitchers and Catchers has rolled around, most of the pitchers and catchers are already down there.  For everyone who’s down there, this year’s Spring Training is going to be a bucket of cold water.  Bobby V. is a demanding guy who doesn’t take no for an answer.  His regimens are strict.  He wants to lengthen some games and add others to the schedule.  It could be what the team needs, or it could be badness.  As always with the changes expected of Bobby V., we’ll see.

Crawford is expected to miss the first few weeks of the regular season as his recovery from wrist surgery continues.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Rangers and Jets but squeaked by the Habs in a 4-3 close one.

Getty Images

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Wow.  Just, wow.   I mean, what? But in a good way.

Yes, I am completely aware that that made absolutely no sense.  It’s just hard not to be too pumped for words after last night’s game.  It was epic.  Not only were we at home, but we won.  Not only did we win, but we won against the Yankees.  Not only did we win against the Yankees, but we won against the Yankees because Josh Beckett came home again.  Everything about that game was immensely satisfying.

The phrase you’re going to hear in almost every article you read about last night’s game is “vintage Beckett.” What does that mean? That means he made a start the likes of which he hasn’t made since 2009, when he went seventeen and six with a 3.86 ERA.  Before 2009, he hadn’t made a start like this since 2007, the year CC Sabathia stole his Cy Young.  I guess he’s on some sort of strange two-year cycle.  Last night, he had his revenge.  Last night, he looked every bit like a Cy Young winner, and he stole the W from Sabathia.

Beckett was wolf-like in his ruthlessness and his ability to detect fear in opposing batters.  He shook of Tek, not because they weren’t on the same page, but because he had the number of every hitter he faced, and he knew exactly what he needed to do to get them out.  And once Tek realized that letting him command his own game would not result in a ridiculous amount of runs, he let him.  The results speak for themselves.

Eight shutout innings.  Two hits.  One walk.  Ten strikeouts.  103 pitches.  Sixty-eight strikes.

That was his first double-digit strikeout total since July 27, 2009.  Back problems? What back problems? Shoulder problems? What shoulder problems? He went out there and he attacked the strike zone like a strike-throwing machine.  He pulled out some nasty stuff.  His fastball was formidable, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour and in for a strike about eighty percent of the time.  His curveball was unhittable and perfectly located.  His cutter was sharp.  His two-seam put away Mark Teixeira.  But his changeup was the real evidence of his return to form.  His arm was so alive that he threw his changeup at an average speed of eighty-eight and a top speed of ninety.  Most pitchers in the Major Leagues are lucky to throw a fastball at that speed.  And the hitters could do absolutely nothing with it.

He threw nineteen pitches in the first inning and only improved from there.  During his last two innings, he needed just eight pitches to secure the three outs.  His speeds varied.  His release point tightened as the game went on.  The strike zone? Peppered.  This was, without a doubt, one of the best starts I have ever seen from him.  Ever.

Fortunately, it didn’t go to waste.  We loaded the bases in the third with nobody out.  Then there was a double play that scored a run.  Then second base umpire Mark Wagner retracted the run and called the post-double play runners back to their bases because Youk apparently “interfered” with the play.  Basically, Youk obstructed Jeter’s ability to field when he slid into second.  But that slide is a slide you see all the time.  It was one of those that prompts a jump by whoever’s covering second in order to clear the bag in time.  It’s a very obscure rule; since this sort of thing happens almost every day, nobody really enforces the rule.  In this particular situation, we fortunately didn’t have to be livid for long.  Cameron managed to eke out an infield hit, and Pedroia came home.

And guess what? Beckett held that lead.  The score was 1-0, and Beckett held it.  He held it through numerous terribly frustrating abandonments of men on base and of prime opportunities squandered in such an irksome fashion that it reminded you that on Saturday we went one for seventeen with runners in scoring position.  But then who should come up big with the bases loaded in the seventh but Marco Scutaro, who smacked a ninety-three mile-per-hour four-seam for a two-run double that looked so natural and so confident that it made you wonder, for that moment, what he was doing batting ninth, until you remembered that placing a hitter who has moments reminiscent of a leadoff man in the ninth spot lengthens your innings because it means you’ve got basically two leadoff hitters in a row.  The ball ended up in left and rolled all the way to the Monster.  Now would be a good time to mention that he’s nine for sixteen with the bases loaded over the course of his Boston career.  Who knew?

And Beckett held that lead until the eighth, when Papi increased it with a one-run double on an eighty-three mile-per-hour slider that was perhaps one of the most powerfully hit doubles Fenway has ever had the pleasure of witnessing.  It bounced off the very top of the wall in right-center field.  As in, pretty much exactly at the 420-foot mark.  We’re talking inches away from a home run.

So Scutaro went two for two, Papi went two for four, and Pedroia went three for four last night and nine for thirteen in the series.  He read Yankees pitching like a book this weekend.  Paps didn’t necessarily come on during a save opportunity, but the moment was just as suspenseful.  He handled it beautifully.  Three up, three down.  Two strikeouts.  Twelve pitches.  Done.  4-0.

The only bad news is that Sabathia drilled Gonzalez’s hands on an inside pitch in the fifth.  The ball landed squarely on his left pinky and ring finger.  He took his base and, instead of squeezing his batting gloves in both hands, as some baserunners are wont to do to create some extra cushioning to avoid injury, he held both of his gloves in his right hand.  He didn’t swing especially hard after that, but he did stay in the game, and after the game he said he felt fine.  We dodged one serious bullet right there.  Now would be a good time to mention the fact that more batters have been hit during our games with the Yankees than have been hit in games between any other two teams.

Two more counts of good news: the infield at Fenway is brand new, so bounces are truer and fielding is cleaner.  But let’s not forget to tell everyone that, so we don’t have situations like Lowrie had where he expected the ball to bounce as it would on the old infield when instead it actually bounced correctly.  And we signed Buchholz to a four-year extension.  In its most basic form, it’s worth thirty million dollars, but it includes two club options that together are worth about twenty-seven million.  For a pitcher of that caliber, that’s a steal.

Yes, we left sixteen men on base.  Yes, we only went three for fourteen with runners in scoring position.  But we win the series! It’s amazing how different your perception of those things becomes when you win.  But that’s natural, because if you win, at least in the short term it really doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the three, not the fourteen.  The long term is a different story, but we haven’t seen this club get into any sort of groove that would indicate that the lineup won’t be able to produce with runners in scoring position in the long term.

Wow.  Josh Beckett, man.  Josh Beckett.  Welcome back.  It’s good to see you.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Devils.  An anticlimactic way to end an awesome season.  Which isn’t over yet.  Our first playoff game is Thursday against the Habs.  I’m psyched.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Okay.  Spring Training is officially in full swing.  We can say that because now the entire roster is officially in Fort Myers.  In reality, most of the entire roster has been down there for some time because they were early.  Like I said, this is a good thing.  It may have made Tuesday, when all the position players were supposed to report which would mark the definitive moment when the team started preparing for what is supposed to be a championship season, pretty anticlimactic, but it means they’ll get some extra training in, which is obviously good.

But now that everyone’s there and ready to get going, it’s finally time to talk about what we want to see from each of them this year.

I want to see at least thirty starts from Beckett, Lackey, and Dice-K.  Lester and Buchholz absolutely can not be expected to shoulder the load of an entire season.  So at least thirty starts each.  Especially from Beckett.  Beckett decided to tweak is offseason training regimen, focusing this winter on core stability.  He lost some weight, he feels great, and he looks good, which is a huge relief, because his last season was abysmal.  Lackey also switched up his offseason routine; he got a new trainer, and ran more and focused on cardio exercises.  So he’s also lost some weight, he’s moving around better, and of course he’s heading into his sophomore season with us, which is when new Boston pitchers really get going.  So I expect some seriously stellar stuff from him.  He’s starting our first Grapefruit League game today.  As far as Dice-K is concerned, there’s not much to say.  2007 was a miracle year for him.  I call it a miracle year because he hasn’t been able to duplicate it in Boston since.  He’s had about as many issues with durability and consistency as anyone could possibly tolerate, and all I want to see from him this year is health.  I only want to see him not go on the DL.  That’s all I want.  At this point, that really shouldn’t be too much to ask.  He looks good in camp as well so far.  Most of the rotation threw thirty pitches in their first side session.  He threw forty-five.  If he can support that work, that’s fine.  I just want to see him penciled into every fifth start for an entire year.

As far as Lester and Buchholz are concerned, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already.  From Lester, I want to see two things: a better month of April and a lower walk total.  Every year without fail, his Aprils are terrible.  And last season may have been a good one for him overall, but it also was marked by eighty-three walks, a career high.  He’s going to fix that problem with brute focus.  In baseball, you can never afford to take it easy and assume an out.  So turn up the voltage in April and turn down the walks, and we’re talking Cy Young.  And while he’s at it, twenty wins would be nice too.  Regarding Buchholz, like I said, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already.  He’s not setting any statistical goals for himself this year.  But I’m not him, so I say twenty wins from him as well also be nice.

I want to see at least forty-five saves from Paps.  He’s had a sub-par year, but he’s still an elite closer.  But if he wants to keep that title, he’s got some work to do.  He blew too many saves we couldn’t afford to blow.  He’s surpassed the forty-save mark before, in 2008 with forty-one, but after some of the numbers he put up last season, in an ideal world I’d like to see something spectacular from him.

From the bullpen collectively, I want to see it pick up slack.  I want it to be a sturdy, viable go-to option for Tito in any scenario.  Our bullpen is powerful, capable, and diverse, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be able to sustain a season’s worth of work, giving starters and closer a day off here and there, bailing them out when necessary, and still have plenty of health in the tank.  This year, I want to not hold my breath when I see Tito pick up that phone.

From Adrian Gonzalez, I want to see everything we’re hoping for: good defense and good offense over the long term.  It’s pretty basic.  We acquired him for a reason.  This is his first year with us, and he had the surgery on his right shoulder, so he may not be at his one-hundred-percent best, but I want to see something pretty close.  Something in the ballpark (pun intended) of upwards of 130 RBIs.  This is obviously a stretch.  Obviously.  But at Fenway, I don’t think it’s as much of a stretch as it would be elsewhere.  Adrian Gonzalez was born to step up to the plate in a close game and just take batting practice off the Green Monster.

From Pedroia, I’m going for playing time.  He’s one of our toughest players, and I want to see him spend as much time as he possibly can on the field and at the plate.  I still don’t even like thinking about that foul ball that just happened to hit that one spot on the top of his foot (what are the chances?), and all I want is for him to be back and action.  Let’s say 650 plate appearances.  He’s done it before, and he can do it again.

From Scutaro, I want to see an increase in offensive production across the board.  I want him to not be a weak link in the otherwise strong chain of our lineup.  I don’t want him to be a sigh of relief for opposing pitchers, especially since his durability is really solid; he made a career-high 632 plate appearances last season, and that with his own fair share of various ailments.  From Scutaro and also from Varitek, I want to see an OPS close to .800.  From Salty, I want to see reassurance in some form that he’ll be able to not only do his job but do his job well.  Because, to be honest with you, he worries me.

From Youk on the field, I want to see what I saw at first base, at third.  And I want to see him reach his self-set goal of posting a .980 OPS this year.  He was close last year.  This isn’t an unrealistic expectation.

Papi needs to increase his production on southpaws.  Last season, this was a noticeable fault, and it created problems not just for the team and its ability to win but also for his own ability to succeed.  If he continues to be weak against lefties, he’ll have to be taken out of the lineup against lefties.  That means that any roll he happens to be on at the moment will be interrupted.  That happened last season, and it wasn’t good.  With everyone pressuring him with all their negative expectations, he’s fighting a psychological battle that won’t be helped by time on the bench.

When it comes to Crawford, I’m thinking about runs scored.  Runs scored is an interesting statistic because it’s affected by so many things: hits, walks, and steals.  With the emphasis on that last one for this guy.  His speed will play a very intriguing role in his ability to score runs, and I’m looking for at least a hundred.  He scored 110 last season, good for seventh in the Majors.  Put someone like that on the base paths with a potent lineup like ours, and it should be a walk in the park.  Pun obviously intended.  He’ll be debuting Monday against the Twins.

Let’s talk about Ellsbury.  Ellsbury had the entire season and offseason to rest, recover, and recoup from his injury.  And he is now officially completely healthy.  He has absolutely no restrictions on his movement and is fully prepared for Spring Training.  He’s going back to center field where he belongs, so I want to see plenty of classic diving catches on the run.  He’ll probably bat first, so I want to see good production in leadoff right out of the gate.  And, since no conversation about Ellsbury would ever be complete without a mention of steals, I’d like to see him steal something like sixty bags this year.

Put together my goals for Dice-K and Papi and you have my goal for Drew: stay off the disabled list and increase production against southpaws.  He has the potential to be a great hitter; he’s shown himself to be such in the past.  But he’s not going to have much of an impact if he spends a lot of time on the bench or if he doesn’t seize at-bats against lefties as his times to shine.  By the way, his left hamstring is doing much better, and he’s out on the field, which is a good sign.  Also, this year is actually a contract year.  He’s at the end of his five-year deal.  So maybe he’ll pick it up a notch.

Last but certainly not least, from the team as a whole I want to see a picture of health, at least fifty wins at home, at least one hundred wins overall, and a World Series.  Boom.  Done.  What could be better than that?

The team has already had its first official full workout.  It went very well.  And it started with a standing ovation for the ownership group, honoring the moves they made this winter.  That’s extremely unusual.  Players don’t give standing ovations to the front office and the brass just because they went out and made some acquisitions.  But as usual, in Boston we know how to do it right, and that was right.  We one-hit Boston College, beating them for the twenty-first time yesterday, and we crushed Northeastern, 13-2, in the nightcap.  Clearly we’re off to a proper start.

In other news, the Bruins signed defenseman Shane Hnidy.  And we won both of our games this week, the first against the Flames, the last against the Canucks, and we’re playing the Oilers tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Awards season has come and gone and left disappointment and injustice in its wake.  Seriously.  I can’t even talk about it.  This goes beyond even Sabathia stealing Beckett’s Cy Young and Guerrero stealing Papi’s Silver Slugger.  This time, it’s personal.

Lester and Buchholz both finished in the top six in the AL Cy Young voting, but both ultimately lost to Felix Hernandez, who won it with his numbers alone since the Mariners didn’t offer any help of any sort at any time.  And if a Cy Young were awarded to best one-two punch, Lester and Buchholz would totally sweep that vote.

A new award was introduced this year: the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence.  We won it, and I can’t think of any team more deserving.  The Red Sox Foundation now gets ten thousand dollars.  I have to say, if any award is worth winning, this one is obviously most definitely up there.

So, obviously, that’s not where the disappointment and injustice come in, although I will say that both Lester and Buchholz were spectacular this past year, and I’d be very surprised if neither wins at least one Cy Young in each of their careers.  No.  All of that comes in here: Tito did not win Manager of the Year; cue the disappointment.  Furthermore, he finished fourth in the voting; cue the injustice.  We won eighty-nine games last year with half our starting lineup ending up being out for the season, more than 136 different batting orders, and a majority of our starters out of Spring Training on the DL by the end of it.  And you’re telling me that’s not Manager of the Year material right there? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a very long time.  All three managers who finished ahead of Tito, perhaps not coincidentally, had teams that ended up in the playoffs.  But that’s not supposed to be what this is about.  Putting a team in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily indicate a good manager; it indicates a good team with a good schedule.  And I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly frustrated I am with any system that could possibly have resulted in this outcome.  Tony La Russa even said in print that it should unquestionably be Tito as AL Manager of the Year.  And not only does he not get it, but he finishes fourth? That is complete insanity if I’ve ever seen it, ever.

That’s a pretty bold statement, but it’s true.  The three managers who finished ahead of him were Ron Gardenhire, Ron Washington, and Joe Maddon, all worthy opponents and all perennial appearance-makers in votes for this award.  All of them obviously had to deal with major injuries to major players at inopportune times this past year, Gardenhire much more than the other two.  And they all get their usual credit for maintaining stability in the clubhouse, handling big personalities, and just generally being good at what they do.  But only one of them did it with some of the biggest of the big personalities in one of the most pressurized of cookers called Major League Baseball teams every single day for an entire season during which the team, on any given day, looked entirely different.  It’s incredibly difficult to sustain morale in that kind of competition environment with that kind of scenario going on, and yet Tito made it look like a walk in the park (pun intended).  Maddon arguably had it easiest of the four, following by Washington.  So we’re talking Tito and Gardenhire, but at least Gardenhire had more peace and quiet in which to conduct his business and less potential clubhouse drama to worry about.  We’re talking about the man who managed a minor league baseball team that had Michael Jordan on its roster, and don’t even get me started on Manny Ramirez.  Obviously, neither of those two episodes had bearing on this year, but they’re just great testimonies to his managerial abilities.

All I’m saying is that Tito will have another spectacular year this coming year, and even then he probably won’t have any Manager of the Year award to show for it, but one of the reasons he deserves such an award is that he doesn’t do any of what he does with the award in mind.  He does it anyway, day in and day out, injuries or no injuries.  So here’s to you, Tito.  We all know who the real Manager of the Year is.

The GM meetings have also come and gone, hopefully having greased the skids for the Winter Meetings next month.  Cue the rumors.  We are one of three teams in hot pursuit of Carl Crawford, and we might trade Paps.  The former is true; the latter couldn’t be more false.  Lou Merloni is all in favor of taking the plunge, making the trade for some elite relievers, and giving Bard the closer’s job.  I don’t think that’s prudent at this point.  When Paps first burst onto the scene, he looked a lot like Bard: a new phenom nobody had seen and everybody loved because his fastball found triple-digit speeds.  If we give the ball to Bard too early, we could have another Paps on our hands.  Paps had a bad year this past year, but let’s see how he does this coming year before we just give away our closer in favor of a young guy who isn’t yet tried-and-true in that role on a regular basis.

And finally, last but totally not least, we have some news from Bud Selig, who is obviously trying to make waves before he retires.  He wants to add another Wild Card to each league in order to expand the playoffs from eight teams to ten.  I mean, what? I guess the Wild Card teams would play each other to determine the Wild Card champion, and then everything would return to business as usual? And then the Wild Card champion would of course be able to sell untold amounts of shirts, hats, and other merchandise? He wants to implement this change by next season, which convinces me that he’s doing this to leave his mark.  Rob Manfred, executive vice president for labor relations of Major League Baseball, basically said that’s not in the cards (pun intended) due to collective bargaining issues.  Michael Weiner, the head of the player’s union, says the players aren’t necessarily opposed to the potential change, but the union hasn’t been approached formally yet.

I am not in favor.  Selig claims that eight is a fair number of total teams, and so is ten; therefore, why not ten? I would counter that with the age-old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The playoffs are a whole month long with eight teams as it is, and baseball should not be played in November.  Also, how would you approach the scenario of one of these newly added Wild Card teams winning the World Series? It’s similar to the steroids issue.  Does the juiced player who breaks a record go into the books with or without an asterisk, or does he not go into the books at all? Similarly, this new team wouldn’t even have made the playoffs under the old system, so do we really consider them World Series champions or don’t we? Granted, the current organization of the playoffs isn’t that old; expansion was voted on and passed in 1993.  But because this format is so new, let’s let it get its footing first.  There are those who point out that expansion would have gotten us into the playoffs this year.  But then we’d have more levels of competition to clear once we get there, so it’s not necessarily all that helpful.  Like I said, there’s been no indication so far that it needs fixing by the addition of two teams.  This is Selig wanting to make waves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been having some nice talks with the networks about it too.  I’m just saying that I think he’s proposing this change for all the wrong reasons, and there are no clear benefits from a baseball standpoint.

Also, Selig’s second in command and right-hand man, Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer, resigned last month.  What’s up with that.

We claimed Taylor Buchholz.  Yes, he is Clay’s cousin.

In other news, the B’s shut out the Devils and Panthers this week, with the help of Lucic’s hat trick in the latter, and bested the Rangers by one goal.  We lost to the Kings yesterday by one goal, but it was in overtime, so we still get a point.  The Pats beat the Steelers last week.  In Pittsburgh.  39-26.  It was nothing short of awesome.

AP Photo

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a shutout.  That’s pretty much as solid as you can possibly be, and since Lester is on pace to have a twenty-win season, I would be very surprised if both he and Buchholz are not in the running for this year’s AL Cy Young.  And I fully expect the absence of the Beckett injustice, where he clearly should have won it but didn’t for some unfathomable reason.  As it is, the eighteen wins is a new career high.  Anyway, the point is, Lester blinded the Jays with his supreme brilliance, and by the time they could see what was going on, the game was over and they lost.

He pitched seven innings.  He gave up four hits.  He walked four.  He struck out four.  And that was it.  He lowered his ERA to 3.06.  That’s ridiculous.  If he continues like this, he’s going to end up with a closer’s ERA by the end of the season.  He threw 112 pitches, sixty-eight of which were strikes.  We’re talking filthy cut fastball at ninety-six miles per hour.  Nobody can hit that.  Nobody can hit his sinker, either.  His changeup and curveball were good enough, but honestly that cut fastball and that sinker were just absolutely filthy.  His release point was nice and tight, and his zone was packed to the gills.  He recorded his highest inning pitch total in the third with twenty-five, but obviously he escaped all of his jams unscathed.  And it’s not like there were that many to begin with.

But there was two, and they were huge.  One of the advantages of disposing with opposing hitters efficiently is that you don’t have to see them too often.  But Lester had to face Bautista twice.  With the bases loaded.  Twice.  In that inflated third inning, Bautista stepped up after back-to-back walks.  He grounded out.  Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.

An inning later, it was like instant replay.  Another groundout, which fed a force out to end the fourth.  And again, Red Sox Nation sighs in relief as one.  And may I just say that Lester is officially a rock; you’d have to be a rock to maintain such composure in those situations.  He rolled out his entire repertoire for both of those at-bats so that Bautista didn’t know what was coming.  And if you think about it, that wasn’t even Lester’s best day.  If that were Lester on a good day, he probably would’ve gone the distance, and we may have seen a no-hitter.

It’s almost like our offense was too tense from the two Bautista encounters to do anything, and only after that did they join in the relief-sighing and loosen up enough to back the gem.  V-Mart homered to right in the fourth, Pesky-style.  It was a slider.  You know what they say: to the Victor go the spoils.  We would only score again in the fifth, but it was more than enough.  We put up a five-spot.  Lowrie scored on Nava’s ground-rule double, Navarro hit an RBI single, and Drew blasted a two-run shot.  And it was a shot.  The ball ended up in the seats in right center, past the bullpen.  It was an eighty-seven mile-per-hour fastball he hooked right out of there.  The final score? Six-zip.

Beltre injured his left wrist diving for a ground ball in the fourth on Saturday, so he was out yesterday and expected to play today.  All I’m saying is that now even Beltre has been bitten by the injury bug.  This is completely unprecedented, and I don’t really know what to tell you.

That was a great game.  It was a great game because it showed what we’re capable of.  It showed how good our pitching can really be and how potent our bats really are.  I think we all needed to watch a game like that after the first two of this series.  Standings-wise, every little win helps.  By the way, as long as we’re on the subject of the standings, I would just like to point out that the Rays are the problem here.  If the Rays stayed the course and continued to be that team that every other team beat up on in order to boost themselves in the standings and our record against them were reversed, say eleven and seven instead of seven and eleven, we would be leading the Wild Card above the next team by about the same number of games the Rays are currently leading it over us.  I’m just saying.  Anyway, we’re hosting the Orioles next.  Apparently they’ve managed to orchestrate some sort of resurgence.  I say we need to remind them who they’re dealing with.  The O’s are one team to whom we can not lose.  Dice-K is kicking off the series.  Let’s open with a W.

In other news, the Pats dropped the second game of the regular season to the Jets, 28-14.  I don’t care what sport it is: I really do not appreciate losing to New York.  I just don’t.

Getty Images

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